10 Days of Pepper / by David Veldman

For the last three weeks, I have subjected myself to an unusual experiment. I decided to spend the month of January without using the internet for leisure, utilizing it only for emergencies and online banking.

Due to a professional obligation, I returned one week early, but I still experienced a rather isolated three weeks. Although I was born before the internet age, it has been a part of my daily life for many years now. As expected, communicating with family and friends was far more difficult, but in a way rewarding. I was forced to rediscover the telephone call, and I would say that if someone is important to you, you can find other ways to communicate besides social media. In fact, the majority of interaction on social media is often shallow and unfulfilling by nature.

What ultimately surprised me was the amount of free time I had on my hands. I believe that any person would be shocked to find how much of a time vampire the internet and social media can be. With this extra time on my hands, I decided to challenge myself to a photo series. Due to poor weather and general January malaise I was often trapped at home, so I decided to complete a set of still life images. 

I was inspired by the work of Edward Weston, who captured stunning images of Peppers. Weston supposedly saw feminine curves and qualities in the vegetable, and produced several memorable images that are valued to this day. While I did not expect to create pictures of such caliber, I wanted to focus on a single subject while experimenting with light.

All of my peppers were shot using a single light, a halogen work lamp that I propped up on a chair. For fill I used my five in one reflector, which at times resulted in awkward poses, one hand on the shutter, another trying to wrangle the reflector into the right position. 

I shot all of the images with my LX100, due to its close focusing abilities, and used the Square raw format which I then processed into black and white. 

The first shot was a simple one, as I learned how to use the lighting properly, and properly black out the background. I ultimately ended up using light to make the background (a patterned wall in my basement) disappear. 

 

A simple shot, with nice contrast. Next I moved on to explore the pepper from a different angle. 

I liked this one due to the 'rim' lighting. The next two shots were also exploratory, as I moved around the pepper, looking at it from all angles and in different lighting. 

The image above was likely my least favourite. 

Next I moved to a close up of the stem.

In the above picture I began using 'props' of a sort. I particularly like this shot, as the light part of the fabric provides a nice balance to the illuminated pepper. This is the only pepper shot naturally illuminated. I placed the setup on the floor underneath a window, and reflected the sunlight back onto the scene.

As time had gone on, my pepper was beginning to experience the ravages of time. I decided not to get another, but instead document the final day of an aging vegetable. So in the next image, the pepper met its destiny. 

 

As I am a fan of balanced images, particularly square ones, I used the knife to balance the pepper. Lighting both properly was more work than you might suppose.

Here the pepper experiences the beginning of the end. I quite like this shot, it may even be my favourite from the series.

Next, I got to display another side of the pepper - the inside. I lit this shot very carefully. The entirety of the light you see is reflected, with the main light sitting below, and off to the side of the subject. The setup looked and felt ridiculous, but I am pleased with the result. 

And lastly, before I laid the pepper to rest, a closeup of the flesh, and the amazing textures you don't think to observe when you're preparing a meal. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, I did not capture anything truly stunning, but I did learn a lot about using light indoors, and studying a subject to make the most of it. Most importantly, I gave myself a reason to keep shooting during an otherwise grey and uninspiring time of year. 

I truly did enjoy my time away from the turmoil and distraction of the online world, and I hope that in the future I'll remember that feeling of peacefulness and perhaps cut back on my internet usage.