13016.06 Udon noodles
Uncooked Japanese udon noodles straight out of the packet...Manfrotto.It was a food assignment, studio work, a cookery book for Wagamama, a successful chain of restaurants in London specializing in many kinds of Asian noodle dishes. Part of it, because these were early Photoshop days and we were experimenting with assembling images, involved photographing the ingredients one by one. Udon are the thick chewy Japanese noodles, and the ones I had came in small brock-like packets (I think they were freeze-dried). Not expecting anything interesting, I opened one, thinking we would need to cook it slightly before shooting, but found, to my delight, a wonderfully sculpted object - this one, below. How wonderful that something so plain and utilitarian could look so good. Imagine if you had actually wanted to create an object like this. What a complicated effort it would have been. But here it came, ready-packaged food and art, all in one...￼But to do it justice, it needed lighting. As I usually do with an object that I’m going to shoot as a still-life, I turned it around, held it in different lighting. I soon realized that backlit, the off-white noodles had a special glow, which also bounced off the interwoven white surfaces. This was the way to go, with soft frontal lighting and a background that disappeared, leaving the noodle brick floating alone....For true absence of background, featureless white is the ultimate, and this was one of those occasions when I wanted only the subject in shot. For this, I needed white, pure and simple, with none of the shadows that a regular white surface would pick up...White without shadows called for backlighting, and this is a key technique in still-life photography. The principle is that the background should be translucent or transparent, and at least one light placed behind, shining onto it in the direction of the camera and subject. It takes a little effort to perfect such a set-up, because you need to be able to light the background brightly and evenly. This makes the quality of the background material important, as it must be smooth, free from any visible defects, and thick enough to diffuse the light strongly. Milky, translucent perspex/plexiglass is the standard, and it should be at least 3 mm in thickness. For strong diffusion, which spreads the light out more evenly across the surface when it is backlit, the thicker the better, up to say 8 mm, but this also reduces the amount of light drastically...Shooting vertically down solves the problem of supporting the object, but it also means that the surface has to be high enough, at least a meter off the floor, to fit a studio light underneath, pointing upward. This in turn means shooting from a high camera position, and I used a large tripod and a stepladder for me. For the frontal lighting I used a well-diffused mains flash unit through a softbox measuring 1 meter x 2/3 meter, from one side and high, but with a silver foil reflector opposite to even out the illumination. I shot on medium-format film, which in these lighting conditions is so much more forgiving than digital. Yes, I know there are many ways of shooting this digitally and recovering everything, but film was much simpler and more tolerant. I bracketed the exposures for safety, but once the film was back from the lab, I simply had to pick the exposure I liked and that was that. Nothing else to do..
© Michael Freeman-
Mpixels (50 MB uncompressed) - 3534x4944 pixels (11.7x16.4 in / 29.9x41.9 cm at 300 ppi)
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