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Geekgirl Photo: The Art of Tea

by Geekgirl » May 30th 09 11:37 pm

Pardon me GeekgirlUnveiled for posting here in your original post.

Moderator comment. Per rule #4 of TeawareArtisans Guidelines, I have invited our own "Geek" to particpate in this subforum,
normally reserved for makers of teaware. I hope you agree that her photographs are a great compliment to TeawareArtisans.

I bid you welcome to TeawareArtisans, GeekgirlUnveiled

Many years ago, I took up photography as a hobby. It was a high school thing, I used my dad's SLR (a Minolta SRT-101,) and took the photography class from the art department. It was largely an unstructured thing, focused mostly on learning to use a darkroom.

I shot avidly for about a year and a half, then I graduated. No longer having access to the darkroom at the school, I stopped shooting "real" film, and mostly just used a point and shoot, occasionally and not to very good effect.

A little over 2 years ago, I took up shooting "for serious." We purchased a digital SLR (Canon Rebel XTi,) and I gradually added a couple of nicer lenses. I spent many hours in the Chinese and Japanese Gardens here in Portland, in other parks, in my yard. I got some nice photos, but I never felt like anything was really "stand out." I did learn how to handle a camera, about lighting, composition, and other elements of photography. What I really wanted to do was tell a story, evoke a mood, portray an idea.

Mid year, last year, I discovered two things that changed the art for me: Tea, and Poppets. You all have seen some of each on this DB. In this thread, I'd like to share some of my photos inspired by the Art of Tea. I hope you'll find them evocative.

To get things off on the right foot, and make sure I retain my sense of humor, and keep my ego in check, I have a couple of little friends who would like to say something about the Art of Tea. I believe their expressions are all the words necessary.


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by Geekgirl » May 30th 09 11:42 pm

These images are in use on a vendor site.







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by Geekgirl » May 30th 09 11:54 pm

Since people ask this question, I'll answer here in advance:

What equipment are you currently using?

I shoot all Canon equipment, not out of some type of brand loyalty, but because it was easier to get and a bit more affordable at the time I started purchasing my equipment. My current equipment list follows (might be edited as I remember what I'm using. Ha!):

Canon 7D
24-105mm 4.0L zoom
50mm 1.4
100mm 2.8 macro
Lensbaby Composer with macro kit, shaped aperture kit
Speedlite 430ex
RC5 remote shutter trigger
Bogen-Manfrotto 728B tripod
B & W Haze filters,
Hoya HMC CPL (circular polarizing filter)

For post-processing, I use Adobe Lightroom 3 almost exclusively, with occasional touchups on which is an astonishingly powerful online photo-editing tool, especially in the paid version. ($25/year)

Other cameras:

The original Minolta SRT-101 35mm film camera, with a 50mm 1.7 Rokkor lens
Minolta XE-7 35mm film camera, with a 50mm 1.4 Rokkor lens, Vivitar 200mm telephoto, and Vivitar 2x teleconverter. Haze Filter and CPL - Vivitar.

I also have a list of equipment that didn't quite fit the bill. For the whats and whys, feel free to ask, if you're interested.
Last edited by Geekgirl on Jul 19th 10 7:24 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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by Victoria » May 30th 09 11:57 pm

Ohhhhh very nice Geek!

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by Geekgirl » May 31st 09 12:14 am

Thanks V!

irresistible addiction

Most of my photos were not made for art's sake, but to document my enjoyment, both of tea, and the tea journey. Tea and photos have been a near simultaneous learning curve for me.

You can see the learning curve in the next photo. I wanted the backlight effect, with the bright/blown spots of bokeh, but I didn't anticipate that one of them would be a large blown-out triangle sitting right on the back of the cup. :lol:


This one was an interesting lesson to me, regarding food photography and authenticity. You can see in this photo that the scoop is irregular, and there's a compaction crack through the matcha. This is what happens when you actually use the chashaku to scoop the powder from the natsume. In food photography, to make it look "nice," the powder would have been sifted onto the chashaku, and sifted into the natsume, then positioned to look as though it had just been scooped. Thus the powder on the chashaku would look light and fluffy. "Natural" is not always realistic.

here's the scoop, baby
Last edited by Geekgirl on May 31st 09 2:27 am, edited 2 times in total.

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by hooksie » May 31st 09 2:00 am

Beautiful pictures Geekgirl! I especially like the chasan shot.

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by Moss » May 31st 09 4:30 am

Beautiful. Poster clear and interesting. Nice shooting.
Matt Brown
Moss Beach Ceramics

Available at Teance tea room, Berkeley, California

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by chicagopotter » May 31st 09 5:13 am

Geek -- Your photos are absolutely amazing! Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent with us!

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by coloradopu » May 31st 09 5:58 am

outstanding just outstanding. you must continue this thread with more photos especially the tea stuff and the names you give them.the choices of names is in its self outstanding. excuse me please continue

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by Geekgirl » May 31st 09 6:24 am

Thanks all. (Special thanks to colorado for noticing my titles. :) ) I will continue with other additions from my archive on Flickr. I want to post these with a little information about the photos. Maybe a little self-critique, or my thoughts on the image or the tea session.

Of course, I welcome comments and suggestions. We have some actual Photography Pros semi-incognito here on the forums, and I don't pretend to be such, so any tips are appreciated. Sometimes, after I look at an image a few times, I think it would have been better with a different crop, or maybe a bit of a color tone added in post-processing..

This is one such image. In retrospect I would have liked some golden tones added to the highlights.

when using koicha do not drive or operate heavy machinery

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by iannon » May 31st 09 6:43 am

love those Chasen pics! very cool

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by tenuki » May 31st 09 9:34 am

Wonderful! :)
Do something different, something different will happen. ( Gong Fu Garden )

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by Chip » May 31st 09 8:18 pm

Thank you Geek for setting the stage so nicely for us. On with the show ... 8) Matcha Beach is such an entertaining photo and shows that your approach while serious can be light as well.
blah blah blah SENCHA blah blah blah!!!

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by Geekgirl » May 31st 09 10:02 pm

The next one is a bit image heavy, since I was working on a project. There's a part of me that would like to eventually do some professional photography, so I've been open to picking up little "jobs" or "commissions" on the side here or there, for trade or fun.

The commission turned out to be a little more intensive and stressful than I anticipated - partly because the scope of the project was very open-ended, and partly because I was under a lot of pressure from my real life and job. (This economy has not been kind to small businesses that rely on discretionary income - although I'm still doing okay, and have taken much less of a hit than many of my colleagues.)

The next three images were part of this project for a vendor. The first was my first real attempt at commercial images. There are several things that I'd do differently next time. First, my depth of field is too shallow, so the faces of the tins are not all sharp. Second, I only used a single reflector with the directional and natural light source. While I prefer directional lighting, and used a reflector to highlight the faces of the tins, in this case the composition would have benefited from a second reflector to throw a little more light on the left side of the red tin.


The vendor was not looking for a product shot as much as a "mood" shot though, and preferred this earlier image with split-toning. I added golden hues to the highlights and royal blue to the shadows. And again, I could have used a second reflector to bring the light up just a touch on the left side.


"Product" shots are not as easy as they look. Between color correction, proper lighting and exactly the right depth of field... it's much more difficult than Art, or even "art." It's fun in it's own way, but it's work, too. I plan on spending a little time learning about "product shots" and will probably build a lightbox eventually.

After a bit of research, this is what resulted:


This one worked better because I switched to a longer lens, used a different reflector set up, AND I wasn't as stressed. :lol:

Back to fun... this is another shot from trying to capture a mood. This last month has been a bit stressful, with some mild health issues, lots of unexpected tasks on my to-do list, some remodeling projects, in addition to the already mentioned "real job."

I bid on this Deishi chawan on ebay, never expecting to win it. Lucky day! and just as needed too. The morning I shot this, I had a half day free, and was feeling somber. The froth on my matcha turned out like a dream, and it was so beautiful against the perfect white of this glaze.

chase my blues away

Sometimes my tea setting and mood invites other ideas, or makes me think of songs or things I've read.

If I could change the world
Click the poppet image to hear my inspiration for these two shots.

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by Riene » May 31st 09 11:52 pm

The photography is wonderful, GeekGirl! I'm enjoying the imagery and the information with it. Hope to see more soon!

On a side note, macha tea always looks so interesting. I'd love to try some someday.
Although my neighbors are all barbarians,
And you, you are a thousand miles away,
There are always two cups on my table.
--Tang Dynasty