Sunday, October 29, 2006

Scenes from a restaurant table

We went out to dinner the other night to celebrate Zach's birthday. He chose Jack Astor's, which is a fairly typical family-style restaurant that differentiates itself with a kinda-fun, slightly irreverent attitude and tables covered with barely-recycled paper that invites kids and not-really-kids to draw all over the place with crayons.

It's far from fine dining. But the food's good, and It Absolutely Is Not McDonald's. So it was, by definition, a very good choice. Like many restaurants these days, they turn down the ambient lighting. Way down. Either they want to make it look more dramatic, or they want to hide the dirt. To compensate, they have bright, focused directional lighting over each table. The lighting fascinated me, so in the few minutes before our food arrived, I took my camera out and played a bit.

The three images below are all related topically. My only goal was to explore the light. The subject matter was decidedly regular. But that was the point.


Image #1 above was a fun one. I had forgotten to bring my tripod, but the lighting was too dim to allow handholding. I didn't want to use the flash - because that would pretty much defeat the entire purpose of exploring the neat lighting. So I balanced the camera and its rather longish lens on top of an upturned pile of bread plates. I used the shoulder strap to keep the thing from shifting, and finally used the self-timer to ensure a steady 2.5-second exposure.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I noticed a friendly face in the final result. Our daughter, who always takes the routine and makes it special, managed to do it with this image as well.


The glasses fascinated me because of their color and texture. Disclosure: they weren't glasses. Rather, they were plastic. But that didn't make them any less neat to look at, especially under that light. So I composed close-up and hoped for the best.


Salt and pepper shakers lead a sad little existence. We're usually in such a rush to prepare our food and wolf it down that we don't pay any attention to their form. I'm not a fan of salt and/or pepper, so I tend to pay even less attention to them. But under the light, these almost asked for a picture. I'll keep an eye out for more shakers in future: I like this one.

As I become more comfortable with the new camera (it's a Nikon D80, and most of my images are shot with the Nikon 18-135 ED lens), I'm starting to feel more happiness with the results I'm bringing home. The images are starting to more closely reflect what I originally set out to capture. The tool is starting to become familiar, and I've got to admit that I'm enjoying it immensely. I hope you are, too.

Your turn: I've enjoyed wrapping a blog entry around more than one picture; so much so that I'm going to try more explorations-of-the-ordinary in upcoming posts. Do you think this is a good idea? Did you enjoy this one? Do you have any routine kinds of topics that I should try in an upcoming post? Where should I take my camera and my pen next time out?

15 comments:

Mother of Invention said...

You have such clear images. Is that more pixels or just a way better camera? You made ordinary images look fabulous! Just peeked at all your others and they are beauty! (water drippimg on the twig is the best!)

Sandy said...

More? Carmi, I never tire of your photos or the commentary they inspire you to wrap around them. Keep them coming.

Virginia said...

Michele sent me here today. BEAUTIFUL pictures! I love taking everyday items and making them extraordinary!

colleen said...

Your photographs always inspire me to see the beauty in the common day stuff and to zoom in and look closer. Since getting my first good digital camera in May, I feel it's helped me to see with new eyes...the sky...the trees....I'm looking and appreciating more.

I love the first shot especailly....all those colors, shapes, and sizes. wow. via michele.

Catherine said...

Oh, absolutely take more pictures of everyday things. I have no suggestions though - I'm sure with your excellent eye you'll come up with something.
I did make it up that hill, I have posted a few pictures on my blog.

kenju said...

Carmi, I don't have any particular suggestions because I like anything you shoot and write about. You have the nicest way of bringing out whatever is special about the mundane aspects of the small things in our everyday lives.

On my kitchen table are the same salt and pepper shakers that you captured. I like them because they make it abundantly clear which is the salt and which is the pepper, unlike the previous ones I had, which were perfect little bundles of asparagus spears (ceramic) that always had everyone guessing what they contained. They were beautiful, but they were not very useful. The glass ones are beautiful in their simplicity and in the fact that they do so well what they were designed to do. You portray that beautifully.

MissMeliss said...

More, please? I love your work, text and photos, and when you combine them? Pure joy.

I'm always full of inspiration when I leave your blog.

Claire said...

As someone who is still discovering photography and still trying to find her feet and feel her way through taking pictures I think posts like this are great and very inspirational! I hope that one day I take good enough photo's to start doing the same!

Glenn Bishop "Bish The Magish" said...

Nice blog and nice pictures. To answer your question. Write about what YOU like.

That is the cool thing about the web is to have the freedom to write about the things that we like and enjoy.

Wordnerd said...

"Our daughter, who always takes the routine and makes it special..."

I think I know where she gets that from.

Terri said...

Incredible photos, Carmi. You certainly have a gifted eye. Amazing shots! Anything you share here with us would be fine with me....I love all of it! And that must be some camera....ALthough, a camera is ONLY as good as it's photographer!

Bulbboy said...

Lovely composition of yellows, blues and reds.

Is the plastic "glass" blue or just reflecting a blue neon light?

Yaeli said...

As always Carmi I love your posts, but how does Morah Mommy feel when her husband is getting his camera out everywhere you go??

I love the "glasses". Jack Astor sounds like a great birthday party venue. Happy Birthday to Zach!

Paige said...

I like the photos, especially the plastic "glass." I have a thing for texture & love it when you can see it and almost feel it in a photo.
Any where is good place for photos, pens & paper.

Pearl said...

Love the salt and pepper shakers. You make zen with your lens.