3 Breakfast

Medicines, and a lot of them, are part of the daily routine.



I was staggered by the volume of medicines prescribed for my father in law; his repeat prescription list alone runs to three pages never mind any one-off prescriptions for transient ailments. I wanted to express this within an image (as well as across several images) and also show that taking a large number of pills is a regular feature throughout the day.

As many medicines are taken with breakfast I decided to make it a part of the image. Rather than portraying a breakfast scene with a little dish of pills alongside the breakfast (which is what happens in practice), I thought it would have more impact if I included them within the breakfast dish.

In early Christian painting grains of wheat were symbolic of the cycle of seasons and the cycle of life. Wheat grains aren’t eaten at breakfast now, but wheat based cereals are, so I used this (and the packet with its pictures of wheat grain) in the photo as a symbol of the cycle of life and the use of medicines to prolong it. I chose some brightly coloured pills (most of the actual pills taken are small and white) to show up against the background of the cereal.

Originally I just had the bowl, cereals and pills in the scene but then added the packet, coffee cup, spoon and medicine box which I thought made the scene more realistic as a breakfast setting and also made the image more attractive and better balanced. I arranged the bowl, cup and box to form a triangle within the scene.

I had set this up in my own kitchen and was using a flashgun to provide the lighting. Again I mounted the flashgun on a tripod and tried pointing it at the scene (as in the previous photograph) I didn’t think this worked as well – perhaps because the camera was closer to the breakfast scene. I then fixed the flash to the camera and bounced it off the ceiling, using the camera’s iTTL to determine the exposure.

I then had the idea of milk being poured from the jug into the bowl. I looked through the viewfinder as I held the jug in different parts of the frame and decided that the best effect would be obtained by having the jug at the top left corner of the frame, pouring milk into the bowl. I deliberately excluded most of the milk jug and parts of the cereal box from the frame as I thought this gave more of a sense of things happening outside the photo as well as within it.

I thought that I might get some interesting effects as the milk splashed into the bowl. In fact the best image was where the milk had formed a curve as it was poured from the jug and a small bead had formed at the end of the stream and before it hit the bowl. I think that this adds a sense of movement or action to the scene.

My intention in this photo was to suggest that for some people medicines form a large part of the daily ritual, a part of the diet almost.


Technical alternatives

I used the camera’s iTTL system to determine the exposure for this shot which on reflection was a mistake. The Programmed Auto function selected an aperture of f4 and a shutter speed of 1/60 second. The shutter speed wasn’t really a problem as the camera was mounted on a tripod and I was using a cable release. The wider aperture has given a narrower depth of field than I would have liked and I think I would have been better off with manual setting and choosing an aperture around f11.

Technical information

Lens: VR 35mm f/1.8G

Focal Length: 35mm

Aperture: F/4

Shutter Speed: 1/60s

Exposure Mode: Programmed Auto

Flash gun: Nikon SB700

No adjustments have been made to the image.


How could this image be improved?

In addition to my comments about using iTTL to determine exposure I think that the final image could be improved if the Weetabix box was moved further back so it occupied the whole of the top right corner of the frame. At present there is a triangle of space behind the box in the top right corner which is a little distracting.

What have I learned from taking this photograph?

I took a lot of time setting up this shot, paying particular attention to the layout of the objects within the scene. I think it has helped me to take better photos of still life, just so long as I remember not to use iTTL each time!

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