This picture is so simple there’s almost not much to say: it’s a jar of peach syrup given to me and my wife by a friend of ours. She and her family spent a Saturday morning not too far from our town picking peaches, and a few days later she had several jars of syrup as a result. Originally she had planned on making peach jam but accidentally used the wrong kind of pectin which meant the sweet concoction would not set up properly. Not one to let things go to waste, she went ahead with the jam-making operation and instead ended up with several jars of syrup instead, and gave a couple to us. Since we’re big fans of homemade pancakes at my house we certainly didn’t mind having syrup instead of jam one bit :)
Something about the way the morning sunlight hit this jar struck a chord with me, and I thought it would make an interesting study in photographic minimalism. I liked the long shadow being cast from the low sun, and part of what I hope to convey in this picture is a sense of warmth and comfort as the sun rises early in the morning. (I’m not sure if that comes through or not, but it’s what I was going for.) Two weeks ago I posted a picture of a girl dancing next to an indoor sculpture and mentioned that such a situation was not very well suited to a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera, but this shot is almost the polar opposite: a small jar on a table is an ideal subject for the ol’ nifty fifty. What you see here is almost exactly what was captured in camera, with no cropping of any kind. A wider lens would have put too much of the table in the shot and a more telephoto lens would have isolated the jar too much. But that 50mm lens in a situation like this…oh man, it’s smooth as butter. Or jam. Or possibly even syrup :)
I want to end this post with a bit of a challenge to anyone reading this (or listening to the audio feed): take a picture of an ordinary everyday thing, but try to do it in an interesting or compelling way. Post your results in the comment section below and let’s see what we can all come up with :)
Reminds me of my childhood days and my mom’s canning. Really like the morning sun. Gives me a feeling of contentment!
I know what you mean, Lisa! My mom used to can all sorts of stuff when I was a kid, and taking this picture kind of brought me back to those times too :)
Terry Olsen says
I’m a subscriber and reader of your blog and thought it was time to comment. I love photography, especially landscape photography, but don’t have many opportunities to travel. So, I also look for interesting ways to shoot the ordinary and mundane. I have a photo to share with you but don’t know how to attach it, so I’ve included a link. I shot this a few weeks ago. It’s a yellow footpad thing that embedded in a lot of sidewalks where they meet the street. For traction, I suppose. It’s bright yellow and seems to made of some type of plastic or rubber. I see this on my way to work every morning and I was really attracted to the textures and shadows and thought it would make a good blacka dnwhite image. I shot this with my Fuji X-T1 and an 18-55mm lens.
I really enjoy your blog and the creative ways to find to use your 50mm lens.
Here’s the link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/terryleeo/20819373779/
Thanks for the pic, Terry! My goodness, something about the stark texture and brilliant contrast makes that photo look much more interesting than just a simple piece of sidewalk traction hardware. Very well done, sir! When I was out driving this morning I was looking for those same pads on sidewalks here and thinking about photographing them too, thanks to your picture :)
Just got back from a hearing this morning and went to this site. It never ceases to amaze me how you can take an otherwise boring and nondescript subject and turn it into a great lesson in photography! The composition is classic Rule of Thirds. But! You caught the shadow from the jar moving from left to right in its entirety. Moreover, the other shadows complement the picture and help focus the viewers attention on the jar. Also nice is the way you caught the sunlight shining off of the left side of the jar and cap. It really sets things off. What a good challenge you put out for us. Search for a mundane and ordinary item and work to present it in an pleasing or unusual way. All this with a 50mm! Okay, where is that D7100 of mine?
I hope the hearing went well, David! And thank you, as always, for your kind words about my W50 photos :) You’re right that this is the classic Rule of Thirds, and for some reason I really enjoy composing shots like this. I know some people think it’s kind of a cliché to use the Rule of Thirds, but I like it. I’m looking forward to your picture!
Carl Rella says
I discovered your column a few weeks ago when you published your very nice photo of a toy train against a homemade boken board. Since then I’ve experimented with my own homemade bokeh board and, like you, have been using my dining room table for my “studio”. When I saw your challenge to get an interesting shot of an everyday object I decided to see what I could readily come up with. For this shot, I placed an inexpensive glass charm which we had picked up over the weekend on a rippled glass pitcher which had been gathering dust in the basement and used a colorful cardboard wrapper from my 2015 wall calendar for the background. Not yet having a 50mm prime, I took the shot with an Olympus XZ-2 at f/ 2.5 zoomed in on the charm. I thought the combination of the distortion introduced by the pitcher’s thick rippled glass and the bokeh of the background created a pretty nice effect, Like your toy train, a very simple and basically no cost set up which took just a few minutes from start to finish.I’d like to post the photo but unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to attach the photo to this comment. Perhaps one of your readers will be kind enough to explain the process to me so I can have the photo to you by the end of the day. Thanks for your column and the inspiration! Carl
Thanks for your kind words, Carl! I’m glad you like the blog, and that photo of the glass charm looks incredible. It certainly doesn’t look like it only cost a few bucks and only took a few minutes. You’re right about the combination of the distortion + bokeh creating a nice effect, and maybe I’ll keep my eyes open the next time I’m at a thrift store to see if I can come up with something similar. I like how you have created art and beauty out of something quite ordinary. Well done, sir! :)
Tried my hand at it. I have this small watering pot which I love the way it looks. First tried shooting it outside with some morning sun. Then brought it back in and put it back where I normally keep it, which is a cool looking place due to the pot, plant, lamp height combination. Then I put the camera away for a while and came back with a different idea of shooting it from straight down, I happened to move it to the edge of my TV. Whoa I like this, the hard diagonal edges of the console meeting the smoothness of the pot. So yeah here ya go. http://imgur.com/a/YNeuW
It’s funny you mentioned the last shot was your favorite Tom, because it was mine too. I actually skipped reading most of your comment because I wanted to see the images at the link, and my first reaction was “Whoa, that last one is really cool!” Then I went back and read your comment and saw you thought the same thing :) Now you’ve given me a few new ideas to try. Thanks!
Carl Rella says
Added link to photo of glass charm: https://www.flickr.com/photos/125086242@N04/21212404372/in/dateposted-public/
Almost every photo I take is of an everyday object, but I try to make it interesting in some way. Sometimes that’s just sharing the story behind the photo, and sometimes it’s presenting it without much commentary (except Instagram hashtags, of course!). Lately, I’m really into droplet photography, which sounds weird, until you get into the crazy awesome droplet photography accounts on Instagram. One of my favorite recent photos of mine is, of course, of droplets on some grass that has gone to seed (flowery looking stuff), partly because it’s so simple and so beautiful simultaneously–and most people would just walk over this, but I basically sat on a sidewalk for 10 minutes to get this photo. ;)
Droplet Photography…now that’s a cool sub-genre I had not thought about before, Beth. I’ve taken some droplet pics in the past but I didn’t think about how there might be an entire community of droplet-photo-lovers out there. That is a gorgeous photo, and you’re right: it’s something most people would just walk by and ignore.
One thing you bring up that is so nice about this type of photography is how it puts you more in touch with the world around you. Taking a closer look at simple things like a few blades of grass can not only yield some incredible pictures, but help you notice and appreciate the majesty of creation :)