Violin Photos

Since borrowing more sturdy lighting equipment from Steve of the Saturday photo group, I got a chance to take more portraits. Unfortunately, the concept I had wanted to photograph really didn’t work out – in fact, I’m not even going to share a single attempt in that direction. But photographing Tyler with his violin was pretty fun all the same, and I think some of the photos came out well, even if they weren’t conforming to the intention of the shoot.


I was looking for a quote to start this post off, but the three violin-related songs I recalled didn’t seem really appropriate. However, I did get inspired listening to one of them:

honey twirled into the glass,
liquid crystalline gold:
sound the color of rosin.
tiny groans of vibration—
thread pulled taut or,
spiraling into the air,
curled wood shavings gone on the breeze—
blond sighing down into brown and black:
the life gone into making this
precise dance of physics
is risen newly in song.


I had two flashes – one set pretty short, to the left of him in the front, and one up over his right shoulder, kind of behind him. The one to his left I kept pointed into the umbrella as a fill light, and I played with the key light over his shoulder more, moving it around and sometimes bouncing off the reflector, sometimes just using it as a spotlight to get harder shadows. I also had a white umbrella as a reflector in front, in the hope of avoiding the really deep shadows I had last time I photographed him… so he was kind of surrounded by lighting/reflectors.


Above are some with both flashes bouncing off the umbrella reflectors – a much softer lighting setup, but I didn’t really like the shines it was making on his fingers, as that was what I was trying to photograph.


It was sort of challenging trying to photograph him with his violin because we were running into the paradox of needing him to actually be making noise with it to produce more dynamic pictures, but that also required that he move his bow … and I wasn’t able to back up far enough in my living room with my good 60mm lens for that. Unfortunately most of the pictures had to cut off something, and his bow had a tendency to leave the frame unexpectedly just as I was about to hit the shutter.


I did catch him with a bit of a smile sometimes. After a while, I reverted back to the harsh directional “Lincoln lighting” from Tyler’s favorite of the last shoot, but this time from behind him and with some slight fill light.


I think in the end though this was my favorite by a lot. It was kind of an accident, one of the early shots where the flashes failed to fire, and I was going to throw it out, but I tried one of the b/w presets on it just in case. I really like the perpendicular angled lines of violin, bow, and arms – it’s kind of an abstraction of him as a violinist, I think.


All but the last two were shot at 1/200, and those were set at 1/60. The soft lighting ones were at f4.5 and the hard shadows (b/w) ones were at f6.3.

10 Responses to “Violin Photos”

  1. Frances Harris
    | Reply

    These are lovely, Ellen! Come back and do a photo shoot for my band???

    • ellen
      | Reply

      Thank you, that means a lot to me – I would love to, Ms. Harris!! I actually thought of you guys recently for some reason, I forget if someone was talking about klezmer or what. :) I miss seeing you all at the market!

      • Frances Harris
        | Reply

        Well, if it makes you feel any better, we haven’t played at the market for a couple of seasons. Shade is too scarce! But we’re still at Strawberry Fields once a month. Sad to say that our accordion player has moved to Decatur :-(. He’ll join us when he can.

  2. Ariana
    | Reply

    My favorites are violining 4 and 9, probably because of the emotion in those two. (I like emotion, surprise surprise.) ;) Also great poem, as usual. :)

    • ellen
      | Reply

      Thank you, Ariana. I’m happy to hear you liked the poem, and if I do the idea again as my photo group suggests, I will probably be trying to take more showing emotions.

  3. Ariana
    | Reply

    The two that are my favorites are violining 4 and 9, probably because of the emotion in them. (I like emotion, surprise surprise.) ;) Also great poem, as usual. :)

    P.S. Sorry if a comment like this shows up several times… upon my first posting it told me that I already wrote “a comment like that”! I guess it doesn’t like me constantly talking about which ones are my favorites. ;)

  4. Ariana
    | Reply

    Yep, it doubled them. Oh well.

  5. Ruby Foote
    | Reply

    Ellen, love all, but my favorites, also, are 4 & 9, and you might know, I LOVE your “subject”. Lighting is an art,something that I never tried to learn. Thanks for sharing. Ruby

    • ellen
      | Reply

      Thank you! I’m definitely learning a lot each time I try doing lighting for these portraits.

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