Sunday, August 9, 2009

Have you ever licked a photograph?

One of the biggest challenges of photography is invoking, or shall we say activating, the other senses. Let’s face it. The only sense truly involved in seeing a photograph is sight. I suppose you could say the sense of touch is also involved when you pick up a print, but all you’re ever going to feel is paper—never the subject itself.

But the more senses you can manage to activate, the stronger and more realistic your photo will seem. My corn on the cob photo certainly brings in the sense of smell, which automatically links to taste, and, at least for this picture, perhaps also the sense of hot and cold.

The corn was cooked indoors in a pot of water. Upon completion three ears were heaped on a plate and placed on a counter. I wasn't planning to take a picture at this point--just to chomp on some fresh corn. But the island counter I placed the corn on was backlit by the evening sun coming through the kitchen window. What did that achieve? Two things: It emphasized the steam rising off the corn and it delayed everyone's meal as I now had to grab the camera and quickly take some pictures of this serendipitous event.

The steam makes the picture. At just a glance, you see the steam and know that fresh, tasty corn is about to be eaten. As an added bonus, the kernels were nice and shiny from the water which made them look like they had just been buttered—but that was still a few minutes away.

To show steam rising—be it from corn on the cob or a cup of fresh brewed coffee—I like to use a shutter speed between 1/60 and 1/125 second. It’s fast enough to almost stop the rising steam and give it a definite steam form but slow enough to gently blur it so it looks like it’s rising.

Now, would you please pass the salt?

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