Cake, coffee and cat

Telling stories with photographs is a way for photographers to learn to create narratives. After showing you an example recently, with birds, let me share another one now, with a cat and a cake.

A photograph tells a story. A series of photographs takes the experience a step further, allowing you to build a narrative. It does not always have to be that way, but sometimes it pays to take the extra step (and photos) and create something different.

Recently, I published at my Photography and Context publication an example, “The Slide”, a story about birds. Now it’s time to share another story, with my cat Yellow. It’s not a true story, let me say, because in the end the cat did not eat the cake. But when I saw the “story that could be” unfold right in front of my eyes, I decided to take the series of photographs that allowed me to build the sequence you’ll find here. Before I continue, though, let me explain more about the whole context of the series and why I decided this was a good story to publish both at my Photography and Context publication and also at my blog about cats, Cat Respect.

Whenever I am photographing at home, I’ve to let my cats, especially Yellow, wander freely around the set, which usually is a tabletop studio. I’ve shared before photographs of her not only probing the objects being photographed, but also, literally, sleeping on set. Check the articles “One Year Living with Yellow” and “Of flowers, cats and this blog” and you’ll find photographs that illustrate what I just wrote.

Yellow’s exploration of my “studio moments” gives me the opportunity to create unexpected images that enrich my collection and expand the memories I am amassing of our time together. It’s also, photographically speaking, an exercise that makes you learn a lot about light, being quick to grab shots or, on the other extreme, to slow down and see what happens. The photographs from this story and those from the previous one are examples of all those things: being ready to shoot, wait around for things to happen and… know your exposure so you don’t miss the important moments.

The images for this story were created while I was working on something completely different. I set up the scene for one article I am preparing about the use of a Manfrotto LED panel to create cinemagraphs. I had one cup of coffee and the cake on top of a table, with a dark background, and was capturing video to use as the starting point for my article. I took some reference shots, as usual, that will go along with the final cinemagraph.

Suddenly, I had one intruder on set: Yellow jumped on the table and started to explore. The cake attracted her, but more out of curiosity than anything else. Cats love to smell things, to better understand them. So she did smell the cake, but showed no further interest. My mind, though, was racing. I had already taken photographs of her approaching and smelling the cake and the story was building in my head. I knew my final image would be of the dish with crumbs with the cup of coffee beside it.

I needed a “hero shot”, though, and Yellow gave it to me. She decided to rest for a while on the back of the set, giving me the essential image to “glue” the whole story. I could not do better if I tried to pose her for me. It’s as if she knows the best angles to be a model. I only had to readjust the light and framing a bit and I got a few shots of her looking at the camera. Puuurrfect!

This session took place on the same day I found a comment on my Cat Respect blog. A visitor, Yuliya Kasinchuk, wrote, after checking my Of flowers, cats and this blog article: “Pictures are brilliant!!! I have a hard time to take a good one of my cats :)”.

I replied with this note: “Thanks for your comment. I am lucky because my cats, or at least one of them, likes to be photographed… or at least likes to walk all over my tabletop photography studio. A couple of hours ago I photographed a sequence I will publish one of these days, showing another example.

Taking good pictures of cats — not posed — means having the camera around all the time. And even then, many will not be what you expect. Still, it is the way to get some good photos. Give it a try. Part of the fun is having such an excuse to be with them. But don’t force, let them be cats… You’ll still have some good laughs. I know I did today. If you keep watching this space you’ll know why, soon. I will remember this exchange of words when I publish that story.

So, there you’ve it. As promised, here are the photographs, the story — and again, Yellow did not eat the cake, she prefers a good cat meal — and another article that might help you to find subjects to photograph. That’s the whole idea, if you’ve a camera. Take and create pictures, all around you!

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