The theme for last night’s photography club competition was “That Stinks”. I thought long and hard about all things stinky until finally settling on the idea of burnt popcorn. I thought, “This should be pretty easy. Just burn a bag of popcorn, set it up, shoot it, done.”
You know where this is going, right? Yes, once again photography reality hits me square in the face like a 2×4 when I discover that this “easy peasy photo shoot” requires a whole lot more thought and effort to make a compelling competition worthy image. My first and second attempts to photograph the scene were utter failures. Here’s how the whole thing went down.
Day one on the shoot it was just me, a stinky, burnt bag of popcorn, my camera, my tripod, and an off-camera flash. Fail.
Day two on the shoot, in addition to all the usual subjects, I had the brilliant idea to include smoke for some added interest. So I introduced a burning incense cone to the scene and attempted to waft it to make it to make it appear to be coming from inside the bag. (I was too chicken to put the burning incense cone in the bag lest I burn the house down!) Another fail.
At this point I have countless images of burnt popcorn and decide I am over the whole noxious project so I picked one mediocre image and decided to run with it.
But in the fourth quarter with seconds to go, a friend commented that my “prized” popcorn image just didn’t appear sharply focused and you can’t win photography contests with fuzzy images. Ugh! Seriously? I knew what I had to do but, man I didn’t want to do it!
But the competitor in me just had to give it another shot. So, I burned another bag of popcorn and grabbed the usual subjects, though this time I opted for a different lens. I considered lens compression might work to my advantage so I pulled out the big guns and went with my 70-200mm. I also threw caution to the wind and put the burning incense cone inside the bag! (Not to worry… I put it in a tea light holder.) I also added a couple supporting actors to the scene by way of a can of pop and a DVD. And since I had to stand half-way across the room to shoot because of the long lens, I enlisted the help of my teenage son to assist with the wafting.
I took a ridiculous amount of images for this simple popcorn shoot, and burned through many incense cones. Between the stench of the burnt popcorn and the copious amount of foul-smelling incense smoke, I was sick with a headache by days-end. But alas I finally had an image I was proud to submit for my themed entry. I am happy to report that the image took a second place ribbon in the competition and I venture to say that any of the images from the first two shoots wouldn’t have even placed. So here it is…
The Last Bag