Art, Photography, Still LIfe

Experimenting and New Things

This Saturday, I am teaching another class at Living & Learning Nillumbik in Eltham and the class is about learning to use your DSLR.  As part of the class I need some photos that show depth of field, so this afternoon I set up a still life setting to help show it, and while it was up I took a photo for here as well.

Table Set for OneI don’t really know about it.  I’m not totally sure it works.  The idea was for a breakfast setting, or such, set for one.  They are waiting for their toast.  I wish I did more images like this.  I love setting them up and trying to work out what to do.  Notice the cup and saucer, and the plate, they were from my great grandmother.  I love those trio things.

This image was taken with an aperture of f8, the depth of field isn’t too bad.  It is also a HDR image processed in Photomatix Pro.  I used my 80-200mm lens to photograph it.  I think for depth of field images it works best using a lens like that.

I think the image is okay technically, but it isn’t pretty, which is alright.  It is a funny thing, can still life be basic?  It is a very basic setting.  Nothing is really pretty in the image, or no fantastic, fancy china ware.

While I had the set up, I took some of the stuff off and thought I would photograph our cat.  Seriously, how hard could it be?  Well, it was really hard.  He just wouldn’t co-operate.  I have some photos to show you and will finish the post with a gallery to Tiddles.

Marsha, if you are reading this, see the blanket he is on, my mum made it especially for him.


  1. Ahh..I wish I lived in Australia…what a lovely lesson you’re putting together! Love the siamese, he could replace any top model for posing ;-)

    • I hope the lesson will be good, as for the cat, well, I think he would be called too temperamental and wouldn’t get many jobs, LOL :)

      • Ah…a primadonna…but most cats are I guess! He looked collaborative here though.

      • Oh definitely and he wasn’t. He understands no, so every time he went to jump off I would say NO, he would look at me, so I would push him down. I even warmed up the blanket hoping he would stay, but he wouldn’t.

      • LOL…you my dear are a great photographer! I’ll have Sekhmet have a word with him for next time…but (sigh) alas, now-a-days, you know with this younger generation is, can’t guarantee anything…. ;-)

      • It seems I’m not great at photographing the cat, haha, he is getting on, but he just wanted to play.
        Yes, I know what you mean by the younger generation, Tiddles is getting on though, he will be 11 this year. :)

  2. Hanno Phenn says

    Great Cat Pictures.Maybe It would be nicer to have the still life taken from the other side ,the way you would sit .Just a thought,Hanno

    • I did consider that, but I like the chair behind it, so I went for that, but maybe I might try it that way next time. Thanks

  3. Herman says

    Hi Leanne! Well, the look on your cat’s face says it all. Being a photographer is a hard job…

  4. I loved all the pictures and the subtitles of course but the last one takes it all!!!

    • Thank you, that was probably the last photo I got and he really was “outta there”.

      • I can’t find the words to describe that look!! Thank you for making me laugh so much!!

      • You are very welcome, I’m glad you found it funny, that is what I was going for, it can’t always be serious.

  5. Hi Leanne. I wish i could attend your lessons. You’re an amazing photographer. Your cat is gorgeous and huge… his face is similar to a leopard or cheetah. Really cute :)

    • Thank you, that is lovely of you to say. We think he is gorgeous too, too spoiled though. I love his face, very friendly face. :)

    • Yes, probably, he loves his food. He is an indoor cat, so he doesn’t really get the exercise an outdoor cat does, and he knows how to annoy so you will feed him. They are clever animals.

  6. pincushionsandreflections says

    I love your kitty’s blanket…and am surprised that you had cooperation for so long… I’m lucky to get one shot before mine give up and walk away! I also wish I could have been there for your lesson…

    • Thank you, I wish he liked it, but I think it is growing on him. Yes, I was surprised too, but thought if I gave him enough attention he would sit there, but he just wanted to play, now he is trying to get between me and my computer.

  7. 1annecasey says

    The lighting in the tea-set photo is amazing. Very cute pussycat – so well-behaved!!

    • Thank you Anne, I wish he had been, then he would have posed nicely. Don’t worry you won’t see him on my blog too often.

      • 1annecasey says

        LOL – working with animals and small children… for fools or crazies hunh..?!! : ))

  8. Love the cat pictures! What kind of lighting were you using? I’ve read, and experienced firsthand, that the most important aspect of animal photography is patience on the part of the photographer. Well done!

    • I was just using light coming in from a window. I can understand that you would need a lot of patience, he really didn’t want to stay there. Thanks

  9. I loved your cat photographs, so lovely and amazing poses… Thank you dear Leanne Cole, love, nia

  10. Hmmm. DSLR. You cussing at us again? Simple is great, for still life. Some Old Masters did brilliant paintings of such things.
    You had remarkable success with the cat. With ours, the best poses always seem to be about a second before the actual picture was taken.

    • LOL, that is funny. I know what you mean, they did great paintings, and maybe I am out of practice, I should do more.
      I love what you said about your cat, it is so true though.

  11. First thanks vor visiting my New Blog! Second I think the First picture is right pretty! I enjoyed your lesson… :-) I stay tuned!

  12. artscottnet says

    Lovely shots, beautiful cat, and I love the captions :) good day to you ~Scott

    • Thank you, we think he is very beautiful. Haha, the captions, that was fun. Thank you Scott. :)

  13. I don’t understand depth of field, either, but I experimented through the years to figure out how to achieve the looks I wanted. I still have the 50mm lens with +1.5 adapter combination from my original manual Pentax SLR and can use it with my current Pentax DSLR to focus on an insect on a flower, or one person in a crowd, or just one of my kitty’s eyes–and yes, kitties are a challenge to photograph!

    • It can be a hard thing to understand, how wonderful you were able to figure it all out. Thank you.

  14. Tiddles and “his” comments are excellent!!! I have a point and shoot so the technical side of photography is pretty much beyond me…my Dad understood it…I admire people who do. I find your depth of field photo has mystery…who is the one person who’s going to have a cup of…something…if I was drawing it I’d leave in the plate, cup and pot, change the color of the pot or the tablecloth…I’d leave in the chair…it’s waiting for that unknown someone to come and give life to the tableau

    • Glad you enjoyed the images of Tiddles, he is a bit of a character. It is a hard concept to graps, depth of field, but once you have it, you never forget. You would change a lot of my still life, interesting. Yes, the feeling was meant to be that it was set up for someone, then toast would be brought to them. Thank you.

  15. oh my goodness…Tiddles had me laughing out loud during the series of photos, of course your commentary contributed! thank you for the enjoyment this morning!

    • Thank you Heather, I am so glad you enjoyed them. Photographing cats is hard. He stayed longer than I thought he would, so that was nice of him. On facebook he has his own page, you can look up Tiddles Cole, and there are some rather funny images of him there too.

  16. Oh my goodness I’m glad I’m not the only one with moody cats! HAHA! These are adorable! I love them all and the captions make them so much fun! lol

    • Yes, I think you are absolutely right, and I should think twice when I think of those words again, LOL.

  17. PS – You may want to call it “Depth of Focus” to make it easier for your students to understand.

  18. The cat looks super cool. I love the expression on the last photo. (I am imagining the cat saying: “what’cha looking at? Yes, I am fierce!”) :D

  19. Mr. Tiddles didn’t seem to be pleased during the photo session. I haven’t seen a cat with definite Siamese markings but without blue eyes. He’s very handsome.

    • He wasn’t pleased, he wanted to go and lie in the sun. Which is what he does most afternoons. He is a Burmese which would explain the lack of blue eyes. He is actually a pretty good cat, and yes, very handsome.

  20. Leanne, I’m a cat lover and therefore biassed -but that said, I LOVE these portraits of your’s, and your captions add a lot – very good stuff! Adrian

    • Haha, Adrian, I thought it would be good for a bit of fun, I had so much trouble doing it, worse then children, at least children understand when you say “stay”. Tiddles just looks at me and goes. I am glad you enjoyed them.

    • Thanks RoSy, I thought they showed his mood, his quilt is lovely, but he isn’t taken with it, which is a shame,

  21. I love that last cat photo. Great stuff.

    As for the other photo that you posted, well.. no, I don’t think that it totally works. But it almost does. There’s something wrong with the composition, I feel. I think it may be that teapot. It’s rather large and garish compared to the rest of the shot. The teapot on its own would have been a beautiful shot, but with everything else I don’t think it works. A smaller teapot of a lighter [or more .. neutral shade] probably would have worked better. Everything else works just fine, I believe. The teapot just makes things look a bit too busy and cluttered, it has too much gravity to it.

    When I take photos I hate it if people blindly compliment me or whatever for every shot I take so I hope that my thoughts aren’t too sharp, and so on. I like it when people point out to me the ‘flaws’ that I have so that I may improve upon them :)

    But anywho that cat photo is great. Love the eyes. The pose. The subtle bokeh effect and DOF. Wonderful!

    • The cat photos were a lot of fun.

      I think the problem with the still life is more that it isn’t pretty, and that is what we are used to seeing, it is more mundane than that. I think sometimes we expect everything to be pretty, but in reality, it would probably look like that, though probably even more mundane really.

      I think you have to be careful about just blindly telling people what you think too. I work on the old adage if you can’t say something don’t say anything at all. I’m not saying you were nasty or anything, but it is something you have to be really careful about. I won’t ever point out the flaws in people’s work unless I am invited to, that is how I am. It is also what you think is a flaw, other people don’t. It is all subjective, and someone might think they have a wonderful image, and I may think it isn’t, but I won’t say anything. It is like babies, you know, sometimes you see a baby and it is ugly, I mean really ugly, but you don’t go up the mother and say, hey your baby is so ugly, either you keep your mouth shut, or you find something that isn’t. Everyone’s images are their babies, and if they love them, then hey, who are we to criticise. That is just my view on it.

      Thanks again, the cat was hard work, he can just hang around the house looking cute from now on.

      • Sorry about that. I wasn’t thinking at the time that I posted, really. I didn’t mean to make it sound like I thought that the image was ugly.

        Your analogy rings true however there is one major difference, if the mother shows people the baby and then says ‘I’m not sure if my baby looks well today’ then I’m going to make a comment on what I think I can see to give some sort of insight based on that admittance. Otherwise – I would have said nothing. It’s not a particularly awful photo by any means. I like the sort of shot you were going for however I felt like the teapot cluttered things up slightly – not that it shouldn’t be there, but like you said – it would probably be more mundane.

        Sorry to offend, I do apologize. It’s very easy to hit a nerve when delivering any sort of critique, usually, and even easier to do so when doing so through the net.

        Well, he seems to be quite a cool cat :)

      • Hey you didn’t offend me, you gave me your opinion I gave you mine, no problems with me, I’m fine.
        You know that photo, when I put it together my main thought was, when I go up and the aperture range, are my students going to be able to tell what is in focus and what isn’t. I set it up hoping to show them how aperture and DoF works. I also though, hey it isn’t too bad, I will do my post on it today, kill 2 birds with the one stone, so to speak. I am not really attached to it, but I do wish I would do more, I quite enjoy doing them, setting them up. I think my cat was definitely the star of the show yesterday, and if I had of know he would be, I probably wouldn’t have put the still life up at all. LOL.
        He is a very cool cat, pain in the you know what at times, but we love him. He is asleep right now, why couldn’t he have done that yesterday when I was trying to photograph him. Umm.

      • Well, he’s a very good subject. When he’s willing to participate though, it seems, Lol. I’m glad you’re not offended. I wasn’t sure. One of the reasons I like art is that it allows for expression that is rather fluid and can get a point across without need for cumbersome misunderstandings. It’s a bit easier to show someone what you mean, I find ^_^

        We used to have something like 15 cats so I can understand the whole pain-in-the-so-and-so situation!

      • OMG 15 cats, how on earth did you cope. One is bad enough. Haha.
        Definitely not offended, I just have to create, it is something that I have to do, that is all I know really, if I’m not creating I am far from happy.

      • Not sure if we coped.. it was practically a zoo! Creating is good, I feel the same way about it.

  22. How cute! It looks like she put pictures of him on the blanket. I love blue! Tell your mum hi for me!

    • Not really pictures of him, but certainly very appropriate, I will say hi, thanks Marsha.

  23. Thanks so, Leanne, for my heartiest laughter in quite awhile! Your captions are soooo cat-like, too, matching expressions and poses perfectly! The last is the ultimate “I’ve had it with you!” attitude, which I’ve seen on any number of cats when they just get so fed up with us humans.

    I really like the ‘hominess’ of the still life…there’s a very ‘real’ quality about it…definitely not something out of a catalogue! It must feel awfully good to have some of your grandmother’s china…a wonderful reminder of the continuity of love.

    Oh, and the DOF is quite nice-looking, with the black background enhancing all the lovely details (no clutter to distract).

    • I was hoping people would get a laugh out of them, so that is brilliant.
      No definitely not catalogue at all, quite the opposite, almost 40’s or something, though the glass container doesn’t really match it. I might have to rethink it. Nice start though.
      I took a whole series of shots, so I hope my students get it.Thanks 1000

      • I think it was confusing, but I could tell by the end of it, they were getting it, I kept telling them it was all about practice.

      • Practice DOES make perfect, at least I’ve found it to be true, Leanne. So happy to hear they were getting it…and for you, a belated Happy Mother’s Day from Chicago, USA!

      • Thank you 1000, a quiet Mothers Day here. You are right, practice does make perfect. I also think photographing the same place over and over is great practice too. I like being able to do that.

      • Mine was quiet, too, kind of…I washed windows, made a huge pot of ‘kitchen sink’ soup, finally showered and had to run to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription….got so chilled, I was happy to make it back home!

        I enjoy re-visiting many places, as you may know, Leanne…each time, I try a somewhat different perspective OR I try for the same framing, especially when I photograph the ever-changing lake.

        Perhaps I should do some series?

      • Now that Spring cleaning finally ended with the windows, I have more time…plan to do some painting and other photo stuff I’ve been putting off for way to long. So many ideas running through my brain!

      • I am going to try some new stuff soon, and my head is swimming like you wouldn’t believe. It is so wonderful to be working on new stuff. Have fun.

  24. The cat pictures are so cute and funny — sometimes an uncooperative cat makes for the best pictures!

  25. Interesting table setting shot. As you said technically good, but perhaps it needed the toast or a little steam rising above the cup of tea to bring to scene to life more? Just a thought. :)

    The cat photos all very good – although the cat cat appeared a little grumpy in most ;) but at least they conveyed his personality – and the captions helped make it fun. Dogs can be quite hard too, although some are a little easier to order around than a cat. It brought to mind the saying “Dogs have owners whilst cats have staff!”

    • That is so true about cats, he was annoyed I think, he wanted his food, and then he thought well if I wouldn’t feed him, then I should play with him, he just didn’t get it. I thought the photos were fun, it is the first time I have tried to photograph him like that, will it be the last, we’ll see.
      I like that idea of the toast of steam, make it come alive more, maybe half eaten toast, like they left in a hurry, mmm, that’s got me thinking, could be along the lines of Monday’s post, thank you, I like that idea, I like it a lot.

    • Haha, it was quick and it seemed appropriate for how he was while I was taking the photos. :) LOL

  26. I don’t know what you have done to your cat … but he doesn’t look that happy *smile – just love his expressions. His eyes … tells a story – don’t want to play the boring game anymore. *smile Love his gallery – somebody with attitude and a very posh blanket. The china photo – excellent … still you’re a bit on the dark side. *smile Have a wonderful weekend now.

    • He wasn’t happy Viveka, he wanted me to give him some food, and then he wanted me to play with him. It was nice to do something for fun for a change. I am always going to be on the dark side, I don’t think that will ever change. Thanks Viveka.

      • I know .. you will always be on the dark side .. but that is your style. Yes, the poor cat he wasn’t very happy about the arrangement around his photo session.

  27. Cheerful Torture says

    Nice article. I enjoy articles about depth of field. For the photos I take it ends up playing an important part almost every time. One question about your first image. Is this the result of a single image processed in your software, or did you do multiple bracketed exposures and combine them? Thanks for sharing your knowledge and work.

    • I think the first image might have been a HDR, yes it was. So multiple bracketed shots. I used 4 in it. I think depth of field is an important thing in photography and an image thing to learn about. Thank you.

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