“Arrows and Umbrellas (Study in Yellow and Grey)” by Ron Schwager

As a commercial assignment photographer with a well equipped studio I sometimes find myself with idle hands. I take these opportunities to create self assignments that generally are more in the realm of fine art images. In this case I was intrigued with the colors yellow and grey, and decided to assemble a vast field of dark grey umbrellas with a solitary yellow one. I had used umbrellas in the past to spice up landscapes. I find their shapes and various properties relative to light to be interesting.

To convey the relationship of umbrellas to rain I first sprayed all the external fabric with two coats of Scotch Guard, allowing the appropriate drying time. This would create the surface tension I was looking for when applying “rain”. The water was applied via a course spray bottle distributed evenly. Because the image quality was important to me and I was not rushed or lacking for equipment, I opted to use a 4×5 Arca-Swiss camera with color transparency film. The lighting was powerful studio strobe testing with Polaroid film to achieve the texture of the fabric and water droplets.

When I was satisfied with the lighting and composition I loaded up film holders in the darkroom and began committing to film. After I got the chromes back from the lab I chose the favored image. I liked what I saw, but felt I could carry this a bit farther. I scanned the image and imported the large digitized file into PhotoShop. There I started to play.

The sole yellow umbrella was effective against the vast grey field, but I felt it was somewhat anti climactic. I chose to outline two arrows as graphic elements onto a couple of grey umbrellas to help with impact. Then it was just a matter of turning the arrows the exact shade of yellow as the sole yellow umbrella while maintaining the texture and character of the fabric and rain. I did not want my arrows to look like pasted on opaque shapes. The flexibility of the program allowed me to do these as layers giving me adjustability in a non destructive edit.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

As with all images, composition and lighting are of paramount importance. Concept is a major ingredient, but without composition and quality of light an image is dead.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

I’m not sure I would do anything different. The non destructive edit in the computer allows me to go back and give subjective changes or adjustments, but overall I am pleased.

Ron Schwager shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Ron Schwager, Chico, Calif, USA


Equipment and settings

The image was shot in my studio with large cyclorama wall. I used a studio stand with Arca-Swiss F series camera and Schneider normal lens set at f/22 with lens standard tilted down slightly. Lighting was a three thousand watt/second strobe through large soft box.

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