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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.

Design Photography Thoughts

Design comes full circle – Mineh Ishida

July 28, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Fuji Cameras by Mineh Ishida

It’s funny how design goes in cycles.

I recently added a new camera to my gear. It’s a Fuji X-E1, a modern digital camera in an old fashioned style. I needed a high quality camera that was small enough to carry in my day bag. The fuji was released a few years ago, so I was able to get it at a good price, and the image quality is fantastic.

I love the old fashioned aesthetic.  It really hit home when I went to get the camera and grabbed my Fujica 35 Auto-M by accident. Putting them side by side I marveled at how design aesthetics and functionality tend to repeat in cycles.  This modern camera sporting some of digital photography’s newest technologies has taken design cues, both stylistically and functionally from cameras from the 60s.

Another exciting part about this camera is that due to the new technologies, this camera can accept retro lenses.  I can’t wait to get an adapter and put some M-42 or Minolta lenses on this.  Old and new are really clashing together in this camera, and I really like it.

Anyway, my point is, design tends to cycle… Thats why I think it’s so important for artists and designers to study historic styles and designers.  Looks like it’s time for me to do some research!


It’s too early to quit – Mineh Ishida

July 24, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Siesta Key Beach by Mineh Ishida

Last weekend I went to Siesta Key to take some photos.  I wasn’t really too excited as it was a dreary day. The sky was grey and and the air was thick with humidity as only a Florida summer can provide. I figured I would at least scout the beaches for a location for a future shoot, so my friend Lou and I wandered around Siesta Key beach and Turtle Park. As the sun began to set, we decided to pack it up and head out for the night.  As I watched the sun dip in the horizon I had a thought.

“Mineh, how many times have you headed home early just to miss a gorgeous sunset?  Lets stick this one out and see…”

I chose a location, plopped down the tripod and sat back to watch nature’s light show. The sunset turned out to be a really nice one, so I snapped a few shots.

Sunset on Siesta Key Beach

Sunset on Siesta Key Beach – photo by Mineh Ishida


As the sun dipped out of sight, the crowd on the beach began to disperse. This was when I began to get excited.

It’s well known fact amongst photographers that the best time to watch sunset is in fact after the sun has already set. This is when all the beautiful colors light up the sky and you can get some really beautiful photos. Sitting on the beach enjoying the sound of the waves and the warm gulf breeze, I thought about how this is a great lesson for life.

Crescent Moon on Siesta Key Beach by Mineh Ishida

Crescent Moon on Siesta Key Beach by Mineh Ishida

Often I want to give up too early.  Right when I think things are finished, its time to give a final push.. to give it a little more effort.  Wait just a little bit longer. I guess I hope to learn from this that I should be patient.  Wait things out and see before I decide it’s time to give up. I think taking life a little more slowly, I’ll appreciate it a lot more.

Also, Lou and I found some sea urchins on the beach… how cool is that?


Sea Urchin on Siesta Key Beach by Mineh Ishida

Sea Urchin on Siesta Key Beach by Mineh Ishida


Turning Away from the World

July 16, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Turning from the world - Mineh Ishida

I was in a coffee shop in downtown Cincinnati when I saw this young lady sitting alone across the room. Whether she deliberately chose to sit next to the globe or not, the scene struck me.  I was moved by  the depth of emotion and solitude she was expressing with her body language. I wanted to go over and ask if everything was ok, but at the same time, could tell that she chose that empty spot, facing away from the room on purpose.  I was left to contemplate the scene in my imagination.

I found myself thinking of how sometimes we get so hurt by the people we know and the circumstances around us that we choose to turn away from the world.  We turn away from those that we love and who love us, and sometimes, that we fail to see the bigger picture. I know in times of stress, I too turn inward and away from the very people who might be able to help me.

I don’t know her story.  Maybe she was perfectly fine and just looking down at her phone… But in that coffee shop, whether she knew it or not, she moved me.

I stole a slice of her time with my camera, then left her undisturbed.  I wish I had asked her if everything was ok…maybe in that moment, I was too turned inward, and it was really me who had turned away from the world…

Photography Thoughts

Do More of What Makes You Happy

July 2, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Do more of what makes you happy

So, I was with my good friend Lou grabbing a bite to eat at a local greek restaurant called Taziki’s.  Outside, someone had taken the time to write this message and plant it by the door.  It came at a particularly good time in my life, as I’m in a place where I could use some thoughtful advice like this.

As we walked up to the sign I said to myself “Mineh Ishida, you have got to pay attention to this… Someone planted this sign just for you!”

Often, I get caught up in the projects, the work, the business, the million errands to run, and forget that to be the best me I can be, I need to find a balance between work and life.

I’m going to structure some time in daily to do at least one thing that brings me joy.  I need to spend more time reading and exploring the natural areas of Florida.  I also need to travel more for pleasure rather than work or obligation. I want to spend time working on my photography and revamping my site at Mineh Ishida Photography, and change the focus of my photography to a more personal work, rather than commercial. I’d also like more time to write my thoughts in this blog. To do all of these things, I’m going to need to put forth a conscious effort to set aside that time and keep my commitment to find this balance.

A big thank you to the person who decided to share such inspiring words! Whether they were just for me or not, they’ve definitely made an impact.

Photography Thoughts

Florida is so Beautiful

June 15, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Feather Sound at Sunset - Photo by Mineh Ishida

I’ve started walking for my health reasons. I’ve been walking 5 miles a day and have the benefit of living near the Feather Sound Country Club. My daily walk takes me around a 3 mile track that circles through the golf course and some beautiful wildlife areas.

The other day, I started my walk around 8pm, about 30 minutes before sunset. I almost didn’t go, because it was raining a little bit, but given the 90+ degree weather we’ve had lately, the rain seemed like a good way to avoid the heat.

About half way around the circle, the sun broke under the clouds, and a beautiful stream of golden light shot through the rain. It made a beautiful rainbow in the sky, but also, lit the golf course and created a stunning silhouette of this heron in the rain.

It was one of those moments where I wished I had a DSLR, but luckily I had my iPhone to capture the moment.

Who knew that trying to get healthy would expose me to so many beautiful moments in Florida.

Business Marketing Thoughts

Doing Business You’re Proud Of

May 20, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Letter from Frameworks to Mineh Ishida

One of the reasons my business partner and I started Arcturus Creative is so that we could work with companies and organizations we really believe in.  We’re lucky that every day we get the opportunity to work with such incredible organizations.  Recently, we began working on a new website for Frameworks of Tampa Bay.  They really moved me with their mission to teach emotional intelligence to children.  Their work has touched many lives, both students as well as their families.

Last month, we attended a luncheon for the organization where we had the opportunity to hear the stories of some of these kids.  It was inspirational to say the least.  They had 2 kids give short speeches, and also had a photo gallery from their student photo competition. These students were so talented and well spoken.   The program obviously made an enormous positive impact in the lives of these children.

Since attending, I feel even more strongly that doing work that positively impacts the world around us is just good business.  There is no reason that we can’t choose to do business with organizations and customers worthy of our time and energy.  By choosing our clients carefully, we directly influence the growth and economy of the world around us.

I’m really excited to be working with Frameworks, and all of the awesome non-profits we are proud to call clients.



Sunsets on Clearwater Beach

May 10, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Sunset on Clearwater Beach | Photograph by Mineh Ishida | Camera: iPhone 6

I remember the first day when I moved to Clearwater, Florida.  Prior to anything else, I went to the beach.  I hadn’t even entered my new apartment. I drove, car loaded with everything I own, straight to the beach.  I remember pulling up to Pier 60 and watching the sun go down into the Gulf of Mexico.  It seemed so perfect.  Since then, it’s been a number of years.  I have a more realistic perspective of the Tampa Bay area, both the good and less good, but somehow, the magic of watching the sunset from the beach hasn’t diminished in the slightest.

The cool feeling of the sand between my toes, the waves lapping against my shins, and the salty breeze coming off the water is the best therapy for a long day.  For an hour, I can sit and watch the sun drip down the horizon and disappear.  Then the sky transforms and beautiful azure hues mix with the light of the dying sun.  Every time, it’s mother natures unique light show.  It’s always breathtaking.

Of all of the things I’ve seen living in Florida, the sunsets on the gulf are consistently one of my favorite parts of life here.