The display of winter squash at the National Heirloom Expo is daunting for a photographer – soooo many potential subjects. This year I decided to photograph all the pumpkins.
Grown by Durst Organic Growers, the main exhibit hall was filled with hundreds of fantastical gourds laid out in small groups on large rows of tables.
But indoors ? on white table cloths? how was I to make interesting photos ?
The easy way to start was the signature display – the massive gourd mountain of winter squash put together by Mac Condill. It is hard not to take a fun picture of that bejeweled pyramid.
The only real photo tip I can give here is to be careful in lining up the display between the banners on the wall and filling the frame with as much of the mound as possible. Afterwards, in the computer post production, I darkened the other displays and the people in the background.
But for the long display tables of the individual squash and pumpkins it was a little harder to find the photos. These guys weren’t exactly staged and styled for the camera. So I found myself composing tight shots and occasionally “adding” a little extra in Photoshop.
In this first shot of the ‘Arikira Knife River’ squash, notice the darks “holes” of the cement floor in the upper left.
I simply could not find an angle that managed to cover that hole in an otherwise strong composition. So I added a couple squash with Photoshop.
Next, on this ‘Iran’ pumpkin, which was all by itself on the table, I did a lot of “enhancing”. Can you find four “additions” ?
Did you find all four ? - the added pumpkin shapes in the upper left and lower right, the enlarged stem, and filled in rib leading the eye toward the stem.
These last two changes are not really important to the photo but since I was already in Photoshop filling in the empty spaces, I decided to play. I almost never do this sort of manipulation in my photojournalism work; there is simply not enough time, but occasionally an advertising client will want special treatment. And the camera always lies anyway…
As I went through the pumpkins on the photo shoot I always tried to find an angle that allowed a full composition and did not give away the location as a table at a show. Sometimes it was as simple as walking around the particular pumpkin, like with this ‘Solor’.
No Photoshop needed.
Sometimes I moved the pumpkins a bit, building a more interesting composition but even so, most often there was no way to eliminate holes peeking through.
I thought I made that white “hole” at the top of the photo small enough so as not to be a distraction, but now when I look at this picture all I see is the telltale white tablecloth. This is one photo where I may very well go back with Photoshop and “add” more pumpkin, probably picking up the yellowish one.
Let’s go through a few more together and imagine what might be done to “improve” the picture.
The very top of the ‘Golden Pumpkin’ composition has a dark gray hole. Pretty minor problem though, and not nearly as distracting as a white “hole”.
Next, look at this ‘Golden Hubbard’ pumpkin. See any distractions ?
Given the time I would get rid of the knobby squash in the back left and add more of the yellow ‘Navajo Cushaw’ Winter Squash in its place, and also fill the hole on the right side about 2/3 down.
That same knobby squash is behind the ‘Connecticut Field’ heirloom pumpkin in the next photo. What would improve this frame?
I don’t like the confusing shapes in the upper left so I would probably clone that knobby texture and add more of it, simplifying and calming the composition.
Would you get rid of the olive skinned squash behind?
And this stack of Heirloom French, Cinderella pumpkins ?
How about this stack of ‘Lady Godiva’ pumpkins?
Well this is what I did with it:
The Connecticut Field pumpkin from 5 photos above, reworked overnight.