Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.

“Photography is truth.”
— Jean-Luc Godard

On the 16th March 2020 the Prime Minister introduced a national lockdown in light of the covid19 pandemic sweeping across the nation.

This came as quite shock to us all, especially those in the photography industry that were forced to close studios, refrain from non-essential work and remain at home.

Travel was restricted too; only essential travel permitted, and to date some of these restriction’s though be it temporary remain in force. I on the other hand wasn’t going to be stopped from practicing what I loved.

Whilst many budding and professional photographers packed up their gear and hoped all would go away. I shot still life and abstract images at home. Furthermore whilst we couldn’t travel over the borders I could still report on the pandemic to some degree, and continued to photograph the city and local vicinity safely obeying national lockdown restrictions.

For the past eight weeks I’ve been shooting tulips in my home studio using continuous lighting, low key, 1, 2, and 3 point lighting and I’ve thoroughly loved every minute of it.

I normally shoot landscapes, architecture, seascapes and riverscape, and I must admit I don’t know too much about studio photography despite having one. However the pandemic taught me new skills, so a positive has come out of this pandemic.

Tulipa Gesneriana. J. J. Williamson.

The image above was taken using one 135wt continuous soft box light with diffuse. I attached the tulip to a Wimberly plamp and snapped this with the Sony A7 using the F1.8 Sony 35mm lens.

Lockdown affected delivery of certain goods which I needed for these specific shots. So, I improvised here regarding the backdrop. Off I went to B&Q, purchasing 5 sheets of 3mm MDF board, 8′ x 4′ which I painted with a Dulux charcoal black paint.

I would have used fabric backdrops however, they’re often creased, difficult to iron, and have a tendency to mark and shine. Using a clean painted MDF board did the trick here. They’re easy to change colour wise, easy to transport, and they take up little room.

Tulipa Gesneriana. J. J. Williamson.

The black and white image above was shot using pretty much the same technique, though I did move the soft box up positioning the lamp with diffuse at a 45 degree angle. Shot with the Sony A7 and 35mm lens, I used a 150wt bulb here for this shot and a fill card just to pop the flower petals slightly. ISO320 f/4.5.

Tulipa Gesneriana. J. J. Williamson.

I wasn’t too sure if this image worked however it was liked thousands of times on social media like the other two above; so, clearly something looks nice. The leading lines and colour really do make this image shine, however, as explained I think it would have looked more appealing without the water. As with the other shots above I’ve used the same set up, though a different lens. I’ve used the Sony FE24-105mm G lens here which is a beast of a lens and jack of all trades. FLM tripod, f/5.0, 1/160 sec, 10 second timer delay.

Tulipa Gesneriana. J. J. Williamson.

Again, same set up, but this time the water droplets do seem to work here. I really should have flipped this image for a true black and white frame however, it works well. 35mm lens, Sony A7, 1/160 sec, f/1.4 and a ten second timer delay.

Tulipa Gesneriana. J. J. Williamson.

Sony A7, 10 second timer delay, f/4.0, 1/160 sec. One point lighting. Out of all the tulip shots I’ve taken over the past few months this one I love the most. It was about to to drop it’s petals however, I loved the look. Withered but still alluring.

Tulipa Gesneriana. J. J. Williamson.

The thing I loved the most about being isolated was finding more of my creative self within my home studio using limited materials available. There’s more to shining a light on a subject. You don’t always have to shine that light directly on the subject. Try different angles, elevations, up close and far away, higher and lower, from the bottom, sides, move the light about.

Every time you move that light, go check your camera view finder or LCD screen. If the subject looks good, shoot, and check the image on your desktop.

The image above was shot using pretty much the same techniques’ as above, however I wanted to install a little creativity because I was becoming bored of shooting the same thing.

I’ve used one boom light here. The light was positioned above the tulip and turned slightly inwards to cast light on the back thus highlighting the stem. The image looks great in colour but I wanted to remove that and keep the viewers eyes on the stem and its general beauty. So, mono was best. 24-105mm G lens, 29mmfl, f/5.0, ISO100, 1/125 sec, ten second timer delay, tripod, no flash and as with all my shots shot in RAW; processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic.

Today is the 5th April 2021 and the Prime Minister has began easing the restrictions, this doesn’t however mean we can all start partying, meeting up in large groups, and bending the few remaining rules.

As much as I loved shooting in isolation, I had no choice but to look for other ways to express my creativity. 23 months prior I was a functioning alcoholic, drinking over 90 units a day for a decade.

All therapy and counselling stopped on the 16th March 2020. Had it not been for my love of photography I do believe I’d have fallen off the wagon. So please, lets not be complacent, its not over yet, please continue to work safely.

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 “A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It doesn’t struggle to be different than a rose. It doesn’t have to. It is different. And there’s room in the garden for every flower. You didn’t have to struggle to make your face different than anyone else’s on earth. It just is. You are unique because you were created that way. Look at little children in kindergarten. They’re all different without trying to be. As long as they’re unselfconsciously being themselves, they can’t help but shine. It’s only later, when children are taught to compete, to strive to be better than others, that their natural light becomes distorted.”
― Marianne Williamson

Thank you for reading.

J. J. Williamson.

Photojournalist & Historian.

Published by J. J. Williamson

Prints, frames, stock images and portrait services.

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