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August 2015

Photography Thoughts

Creative Process of a Still Life | Michael Rose & Mineh Ishida

August 5, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Creative Process of a Still Life - Michael Rose and Mineh Ishida

Creativity is an interesting beast. Many people talk about the “Aha” moment or the sudden strike of inspiration, but most artists I know don’t work this way.  Almost every artist I admire starts with an idea, and massages that idea through many iterations until it reaches fruition.

For quite some time, Michael Rose (a close friend and incredible photographer), and I have been talking about photography and the ingredients for creativity.  We, like many photographers before us believe that a good way to explore art and creative process is to learn from painters. Painters by nature of their craft have to produce their images so much more slowly than we do.  They have to consider their light and recreate every specular highlight, every shadow.  Whether the light is soft or hard, warm or cool, they need to consider that in every stroke of their painting.

Thus when we decided to study light and composition, we decided to start with a still life as a day project.

We started with some online research in Google.  We found a painting that struck us and we decided to use it as the basis to start our project. The painting we selected was from an artist in Holland by the name of Jos Van Riswick from his Postcard from Holland series.  We chose this painting:

Still life bowl of apples, Jul 3, 2009, 45x44cm - Artist Jos van Riswick

Still life bowl of apples, Jul 3, 2009, 45x44cm – Artist Jos van Riswick

We ran around town collecting the pieces.  A trip to Whole Foods for some apples, the local Chinese grocery store for a suitable bowl, and a few other items here and there. We setup the scene and did some quick tests:

Still life first attempts - Mineh Ishida and Michael Rose

We started with Apples on black velvet, but the lack of shadows and reflections made the images less interesting. We switched to white fabric and used a gridded soft box camera right and a reflector for fill.

Still life Apples - Mineh Ishida and Michael Rose

Upon completion of this phase, we looked at the other item’s we had picked up.  We had a bottle of sparkling wine and a loaf of bread from Whole foods.  We set up the scene with these additional items, but didn’t feel the composition was correct, so we made another trip to the Asian grocery store where they had some fresh grapes. Adding the grapes allowed us to create a pleasing composition with 3 distinct levels, a good triangle composition, and repetition in form and color.

Again, we started with a few test shots and slowly built our lighting one light at a time. Initially we played with the placement of the soft box and reflectors.  Then we added a backdrop separation light, changed one element at a time. This process was probably 20 different iterations, each adding or modifying an element or light in the scene.  Here are some of the first attempts:

Initial attempts at still life scene. Photography by Mineh Ishida and Michael Rose

Initial attempts at still life scene. Photography by Mineh Ishida and Michael Rose

Many iterations later, we figured out what we considered to be our best lighting. It involved 3 strobe units and a reflector.  Even then, we could not get the bottle lit quite right, so we decided to do a composite where we lit the bottle separately.

Final component shots of still life by Mineh Ishida and Michael Rose

Final component shots of still life by Mineh Ishida and Michael Rose

Once we finished the final shots, we began the work in Lightroom to finish the image.  A lot of clean up and dodging and burning was done, and much adjustment of proportions, color and contrast.  Over all the entire image from conception to completion was a 5 hour project. with 203 test shots where different modifications were tested. After all was said and done, we ended up with this final image:

Still Life by Michael Rose and Mineh Ishida

High fives and fist bumps! This image met our goal for the day’s project.

Both Michael and I learned a lot doing this still life, both about photography and also about the nature of creativity. The many iterations to take a photograph from concept and idea to final product taught us a lot about how we approach projects. We learned a lot from each other, as well as the project itself.  Truth is, there was never an “Aha” moment in this project.  Just many small victories that led to the ultimate realization of our shared vision.  Many people may create in a different process, but for us, and most of the artists we know, the process of iteration has served us well.


I made a friend today… Meet my buddy, the Osprey. – Mineh Ishida

August 2, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Osprey Portrait - by Mineh Ishida

Today, I was driving around in Feather Sound when I saw this guy just hanging out.  It looked like a young osprey to my untrained eyes.  Noting the behavior was a little abnormal, I decided to stop the car and check to see if it was ok.  I couldn’t see any signs of injury, so I just stayed and watched for a while.

Osprey on the Side of the Road - Photograph by Mineh Ishida

Osprey on the Side of the Road – Photograph by Mineh Ishida

Over time, he grew accustomed to me, and his alarm changed to casual wariness.  I slowly began to approach him, being careful to watch for any signs of alarm.  Over the course of 30 minutes, I was able to get within a few feet.

It’s amazing when a wild animal decides to accept you.  Their behavior changes drastically, and you can feel the difference.  Maybe it’s just me anthropomorphizing, but it really is a magical experience to build a relationship with animals outside of confinement.

Getting Closer to the Osprey - Photo by Mineh Ishida

Over the course of 30 minutes I was able to get closer to the Osprey – Photo by Mineh Ishida


When we reached a reasonable  comfortable level with one another, I was literally 3 ft away from this beautiful bird.  His wariness gave way to curiosity and he posed beautifully for my camera. I stayed there for probably an hour just sitting next to this Osprey in the rain. I think I understand why ancient people worshiped nature.  It’s truly a spiritual experience.

Osprey Portrait - Photograph by Mineh Ishida

He posed quite nicely for the camera don’t you think? Photograph by Mineh Ishida

Curious Osprey - Photograph by Mineh Ishida

We sat there and stared at each other at a distance of 3ft. I was so amazed by his curiosity. Photograph by Mineh Ishida


I was really amused by this face… You can almost hear him saying “OMG Mineh… What is that thing? A Camera?  WHAAAAAATTTTT?”

Osprey says: OMG - Photograph by Mineh Ishida

Osprey says: “OMG Mineh… What is that thing? A Camera? WHAAAAAATTTTT?” Photograph by Mineh Ishida