Can you make six strong images of one item?

As a photography instructor, I’ve assigned photography projects many times. Picking a single item and creating six strong images is a great challenge. Some complete the task in a very short time. Others take hours.

My grandson Julien was over for a visit after school one day recently. When it was time for him to pack up and go home, I spied his trumpet and asked if I could borrow it for a few days. “Sure!” came the quick reply. We had already established that he seldom practices it at home.

Soon after, I had my very favourite kind of day: one with no commitments. A whole day with just me, my camera and Julien’s trumpet. I decided I would make a series of images with the trumpet and keep going until the ideas ran out. I spent the whole day.

But I also gave myself a limitation: all of the images were created in a darkened room and the only light source was my flashlight. This is a technique known as light painting that I had been working on for other photography projects.

I wisely made no attempt to make music with the trumpet but I definitely set the mood with some bluesy background tunes that featured lots of trumpet.

trumpet keys, shallow depth of field
Starting with a simple composition, a very shallow depth of field is used so that only the first finger button is sharp, creating out of focus highlights in front and behind. The benefit of painting with light is that I can place the highlights exactly where I want them and create shadows in other areas.
By shifting the focus point to the mouthpiece, more of the trumpet exhibits the beautiful bokeh (out of focus highlights) created by the lens.
black and white trumpet compressed view
Time for a different perspective. Notice that the mouthpiece and bell of the trumpet are sharp. That requires a very deep depth of field. With my camera on a tripod pointing straight down, I made a series of images and then combined them to create this effect (focus stacking). The unusual perspective seems to flatten the trumpet and shows it in a unique way.
trumpet and music
Turning the trumpet with the bell pointing up, I again created an impression with shallow depth of field. The sheet music from Julien’s case was added afterward.
music flowing out of trumpet
The Sound of Music!
After making a few images, I had to scratch my head for new ideas. The light from my flashlight came from behind, allowing me to highlight the edges of the buttons and slides. The ‘sound waves’ were created by moving the camera over the trumpet while the shutter was open (intentional camera movement). Then, the two images were combined.
trumpet in storage box
At the end of the project, I had the idea to put the trumpet in some kind of box or case. Julien’s case didn’t offer the look I was after so this piece of furniture from our entry hall was called into service.

Why Photographic Projects?

I love photography projects and encourage students constantly to engage in them. There are many reasons to commit to a project:

  • a project forces the photographer to think ‘outside the box’. My first two compositions above were predictable views of a trumpet but then I was forced to come up with new ideas. Often this becomes difficult but always worth the effort. The result is that I created images I never would have thought of without this push.
  • When people use the word ‘creative’, what does it mean and where does creativity come from? One way to feel more ‘creative’ is to begin a project. This will most definitely result in pictures never seen before and may well fit the definition of creative.
  • When we are successful with a project, we grow in our confidence as a visual artist and are more willing to take on new challenges. Confidence adds to our belief in our own capabilities and this is the fuel that keeps the motor running.
  • Limitation is a key to creating original work. When we limit ourselves in some way, such as only one lens, one small location, just one item, etc, we are forced to think in new ways. Then the effort bears fruit. With my trumpet project, I was limited to one subject and one light source (flashlight).

Do I have other projects to share? Of course. Have a look at: