One from the archive - Pasta, Rice & Grains

Sadly I've neglected this blog as my personal project documenting British Wine Makers is becoming a larger project than anticipated with the rapid growth of wine making in UK.

I've had a small clear-out & came across a few transparencies shot on 120 roll & 5"x4" sheet film during the mid-1990s.

Pasta, Rice & Grains was created for the cover of Natural Products News to a very specific brief - a blue shadowless background whilst maintaining the shape & colour of the different pasta, rice & grains in the shot.

I'll not take credit for arranging the food stuff on the glass, that was down to the art director. It was up to me to light the frame and not trash the set in the process, which incidentally was no more than 16 x 20in overall.

I decided to shoot on 5"x4" transparency (positive) film for in camera control from front & rear standards. The camera would have been set-up before the image was arranged on the glass!

Lighting was simple - Elinchrom EL500 mains mono bloc flash heads giving me precise control over exposure as they feature sliding potentiometer output of flash & modelling light. With transparency film accurate colour temperature is important and Elinchrom did and still does give accurate colour balance frame to frame. With film we didn't have the luxury of tweaking the white balance in post!

No fancy radio triggers here, flash was connected directly to the shutter by means of a PC cable.

The light to frame right was a open face undiffused 21cm 50ยบ reflector. To the left a 1m square soft box. Lights were positioned so reflections didn't record. See Family of Angles, Light: Science & Magic by Hunter, Biver and Fuqua (Focal Press). You can read more here:

Black & white Polaroid instant film sheets were shot to judge composition, exposure and give an idea of sharpness. Accurate focus was checked with the lens stopped down to the working aperture, with a 10x magnifying loupe under a black cloth to exclude all ambient light.

Multiple sheets of film would have been shot - the first would have been processed normally with no compensation for under or over exposure (push/pull). Then, if any exposure compensations required a second sheet would be processed with the appropriate compensation applied during the film processing.

Once processed, the exposed film would be delivered to the client and they'd arrange repro - in other words drum scanning. Occasionally I'd process a spare sheet if I thought the image worthy of retention.

I still have the Combo SC & the EL500 heads, which after 20 plus years they still function, although they don't get much use as I now favour portable battery flash for much of my work.

Elinchrom flash is available from The Flash Centre - I deal with Brian at the Birmingham branch. A top man and he and the team offer a raft of experience, insight and great customer service.


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