Pasta Fire

Pasta Fire

If you read this blog with any regularity you know that most of the pics I post are of existing scenes and objects, with very little manipulation on my part. But this time I wanted to try something a bit different and create a scene specifically to be photographed. And though the overall concept was, I believe, a success, I am not particularly happy with the picture itself for a couple reasons I’ll get to in a bit. However, to me this is more of a proof-of-concept than a photo of which I am genuinely proud, and I hope to try this sort of thing a bit more in the coming months.

I was in the kitchen the other day and as I picked up a jar of pasta I thought it might make an interesting photograph if I could get the lighting right. I realized I could balance the entire jar on top of a flashlight, which meant the only tricky part would be finding a time to actually take the picture. The next morning I got up early, set the jar on the flashlight, positioned my camera on a tripod, and took a few shots. The light was so bright that a long exposure of eight seconds illuminated too much of the pasta, so I shortened the shutter speed in successive shots until I got what I wanted. This particular picture was a three-second exposure at f/4.8 and ISO 100, and I had to clean up dozens of smudges and fingerprints on the jar in Lightroom as well as bring out a bit of the shadow detail and some other minor adjustments. All in all it was a fun experiment, and as my coworker Gina suggested, maybe I could try filling the jar with other objects and see what happens when they, too, are lit from below. Hmm…so many possibilities… :)


  1. Simon

    How were you able to balance the jar on top of a flashlight?

    If you could help me with that then I think it would be a great project for me since I am 90 years old and like “in house” challenges!



    • Good question, Bert! I used a traditional Mag-Lite which is flat on the bottom, and very carefully set the pasta on top so it would stay in one place. It took a bit of practicing, but I like the end result. One thing I would like to try is simply cutting out a hole in a piece of plywood and mounting a light underneath so it shines through. Then I could set anything on top of it that I wanted to, and you could also try this type of setup as well. If you do, I would enjoy seeing what you come up with!

  2. I like how the pasta filters the light! Maybe Marbles would do something similar. Different Jars and gels might be neat as well.

    • Oh, good call about marbles. I’d like to try that, now that you mention it. I bet that wouldn’t be too expensive either.

  3. Simon, I still think this would make a fabulous series of photos! Bill’s idea of marbles made me think of the fragments of colored glass that I keep as scraps from my fusing projects. Those might be fun, too.

  4. It may not be exactly what you were going for, but I like it.

    Glass pebbles actually work really well, especially if you fill the glass with water too. I did a shot one time where I arranged a single red glass pebble in the middle of a glass full of mostly clear pebbles. Then in Lightroom, I desaturated all colors besides the reds. Might be something to try to. We picked up the glass pebbles in a local craft store.

    • I like your idea of using a single pebble in a jar of clear pebbles, Dave. Reading the comments on this post sure is giving me a lot to think about for new experiments to try!

  5. This is such a unique photo, I really think you should submit this to Valentino’s corporate office, calling it the “Fire Within,” or it’s “Pasta Time” you try our dining experience. They just might accept it as part of a new marketing plan. It is a very nice visual, the swirly pasta and the red glow of the illumination, very nice, Simon!

  6. Kirk Billingsley says

    Glad I found your site. My Nikon 50 is my favorite lens as well as my go to lens for small town America photos. I like shooting small downtown architecture around Wisconsin. The 50 allows me to get pretty much all of what I want but do have to use a 24 every once in a while as well.

    • As much as I like my 50, I get a lot of mileage out of my 35mm too. Having an even wider lens like your 24mm would be a lot of fun to play with, and I’m sure you get some good shots out of it. Do you have an online gallery with some of your photos of your small town architecture?

  7. Johnny Chapin says

    Love your work.

    Regarding your Digital Photography School lesson on 3 Questions to Ask Yourself . . . , one of the techniques of portrait photography taught me at first, and one that I’ve come to believe quite strongly in is to avoid crotch shots whenever possible.

  8. I love your pasta look and I need to try it myself, but I think I will use my flash with a grit on, and the placed under a glass plate :-) Thanks for alle your inspiring photos, words and thoughts. :-)

    I just got my 50 mm about a week ago, and only been using it (been using my 35mm for some years now)
    I’m rely looking forward to get some time to play with it. An I hope that I’m gonna be as happy for the 50 mm as I am for my 35 mm – witch I used on a entire holiday i Thailand back in October 2014.

    • If you do give it a try, I would sure like to see the results, Catarina! I’m glad you are enjoying your 50mm, and like you, I also get a lot of use from my 35mm as well. And to be honest, if I had to choose just one lens to take on vacation or any sort of trip it would probably be the latter. As much as I like my Nifty Fifty, I think a 35mm lens on a crop sensor camera is probably a bit more versatile.

  9. I loved it on that vacasion and if you like to some of them, you can see the here. (ther are more images inside each post)

    I’m sure that I will use the 50mm almost as much as the 35mm, when I’m getting started. ;-)

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