Sea Blue Lens


Still-life in Motion – Week 51

This week’s Be Still – 52 lesson was about creating a sense of movement in a still life — in other words, how to keep the viewer’s eye moving around within the photograph.

I’ve recently been inspired by Kim’s “Table and Chair” series to begin a similar series of my own featuring my antique maple writing desk and very old, mended Windsor chair. For this still life setup I added an armful of lilacs cut from the hedge at my daughter’s place and an assortment of treasures from that wonderful old house.


 My starting point, illuminated by late afternoon sunlight from my southwest facing window.  It’s a good thing I wasn’t really trying to concentrate on reading or writing. The scent of those lilacs was more than a little distracting. It was all I could do to keep my mind on my camera.


This little book is titled, in full, The Ladies’ and Gentlemens’ Letter-Writer, and Guide to Polite Behavior, Containing Also, Moral and Instructive Aphorisms, for Daily Use. It was published in Boston and does not have a copyright date, but the sample letters printed within it all bear the date of 1859, leading me to think it must have been published in or near that year. It is smaller than you might think from the photos, only 3-1/2 by 5-3/8 inches by about 1/2 inch thick, but packed full of oh-so-useful advice.

DSC_9360-2Guide to Politeness

The section the book is open to reads “Rules for Polite Behavior for Ladies and Gentlemen, with Instructions for Dress. Also, Brief Rules for Daily Use.” There follows a long essay on “American Etiquette” which covers clothing, personal grooming, table manners, conversation, etc. The “Brief Rules” include such advice as “Avoid egotism” and “Avoid rude expressions.” It’s quaint and utterly fascinating. All I can conclude is that society in the mid-nineteenth century was much more polite than today’s is. But oh, so many rules! While I’d love to see more civility in civilization, I don’t think I’d want to be as regimented as the culture of that day was.


 Kim’s Shadows preset really made magic happen with this one.

DSC_9372-2Resting My Eyes

It’s interesting how some presets just seem made for certain images. I’ve tried Kim’s kk_BeStill preset on quite a few photos before, but didn’t care for it. When I applied it to this one it just popped — it was exactly what I wanted before I even knew I wanted it!


Still one of my favorite presets — kk_Moody-ish. I liked this image but it felt a little flat straight from the camera. Now I love it!

My own eye finds movement in these images. I’ll be interested to see if yours does, too.


Pastel Perfect

I love color. I love bright colors, flower garden colors, but I’m especially drawn to pastels. This week’s Be Still assignment was to create a still life featuring pastels, in honor of springtime and Easter. I thought about dying eggs, but it didn’t interest me much. And it would have required buying things — white eggs and dye to color them with — specifically for the photo shoot, which is against the “rules” I have set for myself regarding Be Still, to use what I already have.

Besides, I had other ideas. A couple of them.

The first was fashion, something that relates both to Easter and spring, right?

IMG_9881-2Pearls and Lace

IMG_9880-2Pastel Pretties

I used my desk chair for all the photos in this post. It was backlit by the living room window, with a linen curtain pulled closed to filter the light. Rather than spot-metering, I overexposed the images to compensate for the bright back light. Both of the photos above were processed in Lightroom with Kim’s “Pastelhaze” preset. What it did to the images felt like magic!

Well, now that I’m all dressed up in my Easter finery, how about a nice springtime tea?


I found this irresistible little bird creamer the other day, and thought he’d pair well with my porcelain butterfly teapot, and that they would work nicely together for this pastel photo shoot. (See how arbitrary my “rules” are? But I loved him in his own right, so I wasn’t buying him just for a photo prop; therefore, it was okay. Besides, he was less than $3. I love TJ Maxx.)

DSC_8952-2Tea for Me

Both of the tea set images were processed with Kim’s “Breeze” preset. It gave me just the soft, glow-y mood I wanted.

I have actually learned quite a lot because of my silly, self-imposed rules and other logistical limitations. They have caused me to think creatively about how to adapt Kim’s prompts to my own life and style, and to come up with solutions for space and light problems. And I love finding ways to feature and highlight some of my own favorite possessions. It makes me happy to see my old keepsakes and everyday utilitarian objects become art!


Off the Hook

Task: incorporate a hanging bottle with “a posy” into a still life. I struggled with how to fulfill this assignment. I have a few old bottles, and I could tie some sort of cord around their necks, but where would I hang them? I live in a very plain apartment with limited light. No architectural details or interesting hooks. As for posies — well, it’s midwinter in Maine, so there’s nothing growing outside even if I had a garden, which I don’t. Nor did I have the extra funds this week to run to the store to buy flowers.

So after grumbling to myself for a few days (so much for breathing deeply and being still!) I decided to see what I could do with what I do have. I tied a piece of ribbon from my gift-wrap stash around the neck of a favorite antique bottle. I filled the bottle with water and tucked in a sprig of greenery from my lavender plant, and a couple of tiny flowers from my potted Oxalis (also known as shamrock plant). Then I started walking around the house looking for someplace to hang it.

DOF borderI suspended it from a window latch and experimented with depth of field, but didn’t care much for the result. Kinda boring. Next?

DSC_8112Out of the Closet

Hanging on the knob of a folding closet door. Still not very interesting.


Oops — maybe a little too interesting. This one includes half an unplanned selfie and the reflection of my unmade bed. I did like the light, though.

 DSC_8053Mirror Mirror

Better. This is the frame of my dresser mirror, adding some contrast and the warmth of old wood.


Then . . . finally . . . this:

DSC_8103Breathing Space

This photo makes me happy. Once again it combines everyday and favorite things — an over-the-door hook on the back of my bedroom door; a 20-year-old fleece shirt I keep there, ready to throw on for a bit of extra warmth and comfort at the end of the day; a little bottle I’ve had for 45 years. It’s a reflection of who I am, and also of the serene, still person I aspire to truly be on the inside.


Best of Props

DSC_8078Resting Place

This chair is one of my favorite props from the past year and will no doubt appear in many more photos in the future. I needed a desk chair, and I bought this one specifically because I thought it would be a great photo prop. It’s old and a bit rickety, and someone has done a pretty sloppy job of “antiquing” it. The paint is drippy, cracked, and chipping. But it does the job at my desk, and it photographs beautifully!

My goal has been to avoid buying things just for photo props, because I’m trying to get rid of stuff, not acquire more. But I have to admit that when I’m shopping for something I do need, the first thing I notice now is its potential as a prop. (Wait til you see the dish towels I just found at TJ Maxx!) I’m really enjoying using what I already have to create my still lifes for these lessons. But if there’s one photo prop I’m secretly lusting after, it’s that turquoise half-dozen egg crate at Anthropologie. I have absolutely no need for it, but oh, isn’t it pretty?!


Doing Laundry

I’m taking an online class on still life photography called Be Still – 52, taught by the lovely Kim Klassen. I’ve never thought of still life as “my thing,” but I enjoy Kim’s quiet but effective teaching style and have learned a lot from her about post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements.

The year-long course includes a focus on mindfulness and inner calm along with the technical lessons and photo prompts. The class began in mid-May, while I was in the throes of apartment hunting and packing and moving, and the idea of slowing down, breathing deeply, and finding a quiet place to be still  through my photography was tremendously appealing.

However, all that apartment hunting, packing, moving, and unpacking again meant that I fell far behind in the class. Now that I’m (more or less) settled, I’m busy trying to catch up on past lessons and not fall further behind with current ones. How’s that working for me? Well………let’s just say I have a ways to go.

Anyway, one of my favorite prompts so far was “Laundry time.” I was recently given some vintage linens which I thought would make lovely photo props. Unfortunately, they had some pretty serious vintage stains, and were stored in a plastic bin with some anti-insect stuff whose smell gave me a headache. Perfect subjects for a laundry exercise, right?

Here are a few images I took as I washed, dried, and folded them for putting into the linen closet.

DSC_6271Clean and Simple

DSC_6252Hung Out To Dry



Sadly, some were beyond redemption, but these and a few others turned out beautifully. You’ll probably be seeing more of them as time — and class — goes on.