Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack was glad he remembered to put on his grippy leather gloves before starting the climb up the beanstalk.

This was the first picture that I created on a whim about a fairy tale character.  Here is how it come into being:

September 2011.  I’d been learning about photography for about 8 months and was starting to look for things to photograph in everyday life.

For a couple of weeks, I’d been meaning to trim back this hanging plant, but hadn’t yet.  It reminded me of the beanstalk in Jack and the Beanstalk.  After a few days of not trimming the plant, it popped into my head that a Lego mini-fig would work as a Jack.

Once Jack was in place, I knew the shot I wanted: taken from below, a Lego Jack would be climbing the vine, in focus.  Above him, peering over the edge of the flower pot and slightly blurred, would be a giant.

I put a Lego ogre in the flower pot, peering over the edge, I relaxed on the floor, waiting for the plant to stop swinging…and took this picture:

And didn’t like it.  The bottom of the flower pot is ugly and distracting.  I moved the leaves around to try to cover the pot, tried a few more shots from that angle, but they all fell flat.

Maybe another angle.  From the side:

No, no, no.  There’s no “mood” to the picture.  It’s just a picture of a plant with toys stuck in it.  I took a few different side shots and they all turned out badly.

Maybe just Jack alone, through the leaves.  If I have enough zoom and if the aperture is set correctly, Jack will be clearly in focus and the leaves will be a blur around him.  Let’s try:

It didn’t work.  I couldn’t get my camera to cooperate.  My original camera (I call her Daisy Mae) wasn’t intended to be used for shots like this.  Daisy Mae would not focus on Jack.

Maybe just from the side..

I’m sooo close to getting the shot I want, I can feel it.  But I was forgetting something that people new to photography often forget:  the background–that window!

I closed the curtains and tried again….and got the shot that I ended up using.  I’ll post it here again, so you can see it:

Why this worked:  The curtains are shut, so there’s no distracting background.    The angle is pretty good–you’re close enough to Jack to feel part of the picture.   Jack is well placed on the vine and with a little imagination it almost looks like he’s climbing.

I posted my picture on Facebook and simply wrote, “Jack and the Beanstalk” as the description.  But later I wanted to make the caption more interesting.

Here’s how I wrote the caption:

Writing comes pretty easily to me.  Once I have a general idea to work with, I give my brain time to mull over the exact wording.  For this picture, it bothered me that Jack had a white face and black hands. But the black hands ended up being the inspiration. Jack’s hands aren’t black–he’s wearing gloves.  Jack owned a pair of rock climbing grippy gloves that he quickly slipped on before climbing the beanstalk.

With the new caption the picture felt complete.  It’s a simple picture and an accurate representation of my photography skills at the time.

It took 28 tries to get to the shot that I used.  I still wish I could have gotten the shot I originally wanted; from below with both the giant and Jack in it, but I doubt I’ll ever bother recreating the picture.

Kodak Z812, f 3.2, 1/50 second, 200 iso, no flash, auto white balance, I don’t know how to interpret the numbers on the picture information to see what the focal length was, or I’d include it here.


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