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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Photography: testing, trials and byways

I have plans for photography and print-informed fine art media in my research frameworks for this project. I spent time designing and making a fabric covered "photo booth" as a location for breaking my porcelain and photographing the process. This one was to be Mark #1 to trial the ideas before I scaled up to a portable, life-sized model.

It can also serve as a space to hold watercolour or printmaking paper as a backdrop and to trial mark-making by dropping shards onto soft paper to observe the bruising and creasing which might be created.

And I have plans to experiment with hard-ground and soft-ground copper plates which can be etched after the shards have scratched and penetrated the protective layer.

These experiments will be part of my Semester 2 work.

Meanwhile, when I got into the photography studio, I was presented with alternatives that didn't require me to make a bigger and better booth. The photography studio has a collection of large styrofoam "walls" with A-frame stands to support them. With the addition of my big blue drop sheets (only blue because these were the largest cost-efficient ones I could get at the big green box-hardware store) the studio itself became a safe self-contained photo booth that was easy enough to clean up. For the record, drop sheets and white sheet are being supported with C-stands and universal clamps.

I clipped a white sheet to the right side wall to help sort out the white balance which was getting a blue tinge. The background is a roll-down vinyl one that is a fixture of the studio and controlled by a chain mechanism at the top right. The ladder gives me access to the chain mechanism and enough height to drop my porcelain pieces to the ground. I have three Aputure lights set up. All three have spill kill and two of them with barn door attachments to manage the spread of light. My camera is controlled by a hand-held remote shutter on a lead because the wireless one wasn't working. The white pad in front of the background is to absorb the impact of my dropped pieces while I work out the parameters of my photography.

Now for the trials of my experience. I was fortunate to be able to book the space for a half-day and two full days, but I had a lot of learning and experimenting to do in that time. The physical set up took me several hours and couldn't be left in situ most of the time. To take each shot I would hold my remote lead in one hand, a porcelain piece in the other climb the ladder, start my remote shooting by squeezing the trigger before dropping the piece. Then I had to climb down the ladder, retrieve the dropped piece and check my camera to see if I had captured anything. At best I was getting one successful shot per drop because of the limitations of the frames-per-second which my camera was capable of capturing. And I wasn't too satisfied with the quality of my images. The freeze-frame effect on the falling bowls didn't give me the sense of motion I wanted, though catching the point of impact and breakage in this way could be effective. At this stage I'm not sure that I could time my shots successfully and I don't have enough pieces made to be able to risk it. I probably need a helper and/or a wireless shutter release because being tethered to the camera while climbing the ladder is precarious.

The good news is that I can work in the photo studio in the last week of the mid-year break. I've been told that using flash may help me to capture the moment more effectively than just relying on my shutter speed. And I played around in photoshop to combine several different drop captures into the one image. I don't love them, but they are a direction which might work. I will also go back to looking at blurred images with a longer shutter speed to capture the sense of movement. This will allow more light into the camera so I can turn down the ISO and improve the quality of my images.

All of this is a long story to say, I tried, I learned, I have more to try and to learn...

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