What’s not there is important, too.

We have a piece of art by a South African artist, a portrait of a black leopard, very close-up of its face as if it’s looking you over as a possible morsel.  What attracted us is the effect created by the means she create the piece.  She blackened a canvas and then took a fine spatula (or some sort of tool) and scratched away the black, revealing the white underneath.  The lines are simple and sparse, yet the image of the cat jumps off the background seemingly in greater detail than is actually present.

I’ve played around with photographic effects trying to duplicate this appearance with images, but usually end up trying to get too much detail in the picture and spoiling the final composition.  The other night I tried again and this time I feel the result is closer to what I want to portray.

The eye/brain system is such a great pattern recognition and completion tool you really don’t need as much detail as you think to quickly identify an object, adding the missing parts and clarifying for yourself what you’re seeing.

What I like about this image is how the single light (a small strobe to the upper left of the flashlight) ends up in different aspects on the surface.  Where there is a truly smooth surface there’s the expected reflection yet where there is a matte surface the line of light is darkened and goes from white to grey.  And where the surface is jagged, the central reflection of light is broken into two halves, each running down the edge of the round surface.  Very cool.  Very noire.

I left the light on to show the bright spot at the front and the beam across the tabletop, helpful clues this is a flashlight and not just a finely milled steel rod.  A more traditional ‘catalog’ image would show a much brighter version of the object so you could see all the details but I feel this darker version does a better job of capturing the function of a flashlight.  A way to see in the dark.


4 thoughts on “What’s not there is important, too.

    • Thanks, Mike. Experimenting like this is how I keep all my table-top images from looking the same! Far too easy to fall into the same lighting and effects. Got to look beyond the subject sometime and see a different quality to the composition.


    • Kate,
      Lighting setup was very simple. Just one Olympus strobe to the upper left of the subject, slightly behind, probably 2 feet from the table. I dialed down the power so the black cloth wouldn’t show, then dragged the shutter a bit to get the light from the flashlight to show. That’s it.


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