The Chilli tree

Don't sit under the chilli tree

Don't sit under the chilli tree

Don’t sit under the chilli tree with anyone else but me,
Anyone else but me, anyone else but me, NO NO NO!
Don’t sit under the chilli tree with anyone else but me
Till I come marching home.

The chilli Denise has been growing in our bathroom window, has recently decided to award us with 54 tiny, orange fruits (yes, I counted them!) It’s such a beautiful, fresh view which brightens up the bathroom to no end. In the mornings, as I have shave, I have repeatedly enjoyed the pretty plant and told myself I needed to grab a picture of it.

Homegrown chillies, high-key version

Homegrown chillies, high-key version

My first thought was to do a high key picture of the plant, with a bright, white background to emphasize the lightness of the green leaves and the light orange fruits. Making a background pure white, is simply a matter of throwing plenty of light at it, so I put a flash behind the plant, and aimed it at the wall. That nuked the wall and turned it into blinkies on my camera’s display. Good stuff! Then add a softbox from above right to emulate sunlight, and a piece of what paper underneath to fill in the shadows.

Having the high key macro shot “in the bag”, it was time to incorporate my shaker couple and make the background black to keep it in line with the other shaker pictures.

Lighting diagram for Don't Sit Under The Chille Tree

Lighting diagram for Don't Sit Under The Chilli Tree

With the chilli plant being significantly larger than my previous shaker props, I had to keep the light further back (compared to Make a wish and It must be love) to get it to cover the entire scene. It ended up being about 50cm to the right and above the plant (the direction is pretty clear from the highlights in the shaker people’s heads). This, in turn, resulted in light spill on the background, which now turned dark grey, rather than black. So I balanced another of my trusty black foam board cards as a gobo (go-between), to keep the light off the background. To keep definition on the left edge of the figures, and to try to balance the light a little, there is a white foam board reflector just outside the camera’s view on the left and a piece of ordinary white writing paper under the figures help brighten them up.

I like the brightness and boldness of the light green agains the black background. It’s very different from the high key version, even though the softbox-flash stayed at the same distance and power level between the two shots. The main reason for the difference must be the background light of the high key version which, in my small living room, was bouncing off the ceiling and spilling all over the place. The lesson I take away from this is that proper light separation, in pictures of anything larger than a salt shaker, requires more distance between subject and background (and/or more thought and practise).

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