“Still Life”: a photography collection


For my ED 659 (Multimedia Tools for Educator’s) class, I have been tasked with composing 6 digital photos that share a common theme and are manipulated as necessary to create the desired effect.

The title of my collection is “Still Life.” I am using this title as a play on words because there is motion around me most of the time, from my family, pets, and even from the landscape. I tried to capture “still” moments that are also representative of the essence of the subject.

The six photos are designed for use as follows:

  1. Proper use in printing
  2. Monitor display
  3. Web publication

I took all of the photos using my cellphone, which is a Samsung j7. There is nothing exceptional about this phone or its camera. The camera is decent for basic use, but it has no frills. I chose to use only my phone because I wanted the challenge of working with a device of limited capacity.

I edited my photos using a free app called Aviary. I was very pleased with the app. There are a lot of different ways it can be used to manipulate, edit, and otherwise enhance the photos. Some of the enhancements included things like adding frames, text, or memes, but I mostly avoided these as they just seemed silly.

Instead I made use of the more directive editing tools which allowed me to adjust things such as brightness, contrast, saturation, and fade. I also played with adjusting the sharpness and focus. I wanted the photos to look polished without being too over the top.

Proper Use in Printing


This is a photo of one of my dogs, Taiga. It was shot in the morning, with the sun against his back. I like the intensity of his expression and the way the light contrasts with his fur. I consider this to be a “still life” because he is quite young and is very energetic. I’m actually very surprised I was able to capture him this still.

The most obvious edit I made was to overlay a circular frame. This is the only picture I used a frame on. I did it in part to experiment with frames, but also to crop out some of the sun. In the original the sun above his head was very visible, and as a result dominated the photo.

I was drawn to this photo also because I liked the contrast of the solid lines of porch and pole against the more fluid shape of his fur. He simultaneously stands out (with his shape contrast) and blends into the photo (with his coloration).

This is a photo of my husband, who like my dog, does not like to sit still to be photographed. It is taken in our bedroom, just before bed, with his bedside lamp in the background. After I took this photo, I was struck by the similarity of it to the one of my dog Taiga.

They both have a similar turn to their heads, and although the place and time of day were very different, the light plays a similar role in the composition. When I edited this photo, I really wanted to focus on the intensity of his gaze.

I played with the sharpness and contrast so that I could emphasize his eyes and head against the background. I also played with the use of shadow. I wanted the light to play a significant role, but I did not want it to overpower the composition.

Finally, I played with the focus. Of all the photos I experimented with, I felt that the focus on this one ended up being the most successful. When you look at the photo, you are drawn to his eyes and face, not to what is around him. I considered cropping part of the image, but I decided the background was a useful way to create contrast with face.

Monitor display

I took this photo in the morning, around 8:30 A.M.  Dawn has passed, but the light is still not fully developed. Although this landscape looks still, that is deceiving. Many animals live and move on it, such as snakes, coyotes, lizards, and jack rabbits.

The plants themselves are also deceiving. This is high desert, so much of the palate looks green, yellow, and brown. However, nearly every plant and cactus blooms at some point in the year. It will rain one day, and suddenly everywhere you look will be a riot of color.

I like the composition of this photo because of the way the lines of the road and side posts lead your eye to the mountains. I also appreciate the contrast between the relatively flat landscape at the front of the photo and the Sandia Mountains in the distance.

When I edited this photo, I did not make a lot of changes. I selected the scenery enhancement and I played some with the brightness and contrast. I liked the was the light comes from the top left, and i did not want to diminish the play of the shadows juxtaposed with the more dominant lines of the road.

I particularly appreciate the grandness of the bright blue sky and the sense of depth you get when looking at the photo.

Although I live in a desert, there are trees here, like this cottonwood which helps to support the foot bridge. We have a surprising number of natural springs in our area, which provides pockets of true greenery and attracts all types of wildlife. The stillness here make the bridge one of my favorite places on our property.

I took this photo in the early morning, around 6:30 A.M. This bridge crosses an aroyo behind my house. When I took this shot the rising sun was at my back, and so the light still feels filtered. this bridge is always a little shady, especially in the early morning.

I really like how the quality of the light makes the textures of the image pop. Looking at the photo, you can almost feel the difference between the rough bark of the tree and the smooth planks of the bridge.

I also appreciate the way the supporting tree frames the image, and how the angle creates depth with the bridge. The straight lines of the bridge itself draw a viewer’s eye up onto the hills beyond, which are starting to be touched by the morning light.

When I edited this photo, I enhanced it using the landscape setting. I also played with the shadow contrast and the sharpness. I wanted the textures to really stand out, but I did not want the picture to become muted or unnatural. I love the early morning light and wanted to stay as true to it as possible.

Web publication

This photo is taken in my yard at twilight. My girls were outside playing after dinner. Although I took many photos of them moving, this unscripted moment of calm caught my eye. I love the contrast between the greenery surrounding the center image and the bright, unnatural blue of the trampoline cover.

I appreciate the juxtaposition between the chaos of nature and the symmetry of the structures we have placed in the environment.  Because it is late evening, you can see the sun heading off in the distance. When I edited this, I played with manipulating the shadows. I wanted to use deeper shadows to emphasize the vibrancy of the environment, but I did not want to darken the image too much.

In the original, my daughters features were more easily seen, but as I edited for vibrancy and exposure, I realized that they were not the center of the image. Instead, this image was appealing to me because of the way all of the elements work together to create a narrative. You do not need to see the people in the image clearly to imagine a story about them.

This photo was taken of my cat August, who we recently adopted from the animal shelter. He has decided that I am his, and so I had to put a bed for him on my desk. I work from home, so he can often be found there, under the glow of my lamps.

In this image, he is being lighted from three directions. There are lamps to his left and right, and high above, behind where I am taking the picture, there is recessed ceiling lighting. This is a true example of still life because this is a cat who loves to be in motion. He follows me from room to room, and takes breaks from supervising to run laps around the house.

August is an orange tabby with a somewhat strange pattern. He is a mixture of stripes and spots. I wanted to emphasize the vibrancy of his coloration in this image. His being lighted from multiple angles helped to give him an almost golden appearance.

I like the composition of this image because of the fairly unconventional angles. There are straight lines from the pages in the background, and they contrast with the fluidity of his body. I also particularly like the angle of the image, as it feels surprisingly close to a viewer.

When I edited this photo, I used the portrait setting. I also played with contrast, shadows, saturation, and brightness. I wanted to place emphasis on his interesting pattern and coloration, without making the subject unrecognizable. I played with the focus as well, so that I could mute the background and draw a viewer’s eye to the way the light played against his fur.

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5 Responses to “Still Life”: a photography collection

  1. Cherie says:

    I love the photo of your dog. The sunlight in the photo allows the viewer to see individual hairs. I live in the desert too (Las Vegas), where do you live? Your footbridge photo is my favorite. I immediately noticed the textures. You did a great job of bringing them out in your editing of the photo. I could see that print hanging in someone’s house. Great job!

  2. Amy Rogan says:

    Great photos! You sound like you know what you are doing! I like what you did with the first photo how you made it round. I wish I had thought of doing something like that!

  3. Bob Heath says:


    I particularly liked the image of the cat. That was framed and lighted quite artistically. As well I liked the scenery of New Mexico, the bridge, and the road, thematically echo each other. It might have been interesting to mess with other lines of sight/travel as well. What size images, fstop, and aperture does you phone default too? And as well did you do any particular edits with the Aviary app?

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