Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tabletop Photography – A Dried Flower Bud

A Bit of Fun with Tabletop Photography
Today I thought I would share last night's adventure on the tabletop. As you may know, I've been doing tabletop for some years now. There is always tiny something that can be photographed. Today's specimen comes from the great outdoors. Well, not exactly the wild, more like my wife's flower garden. I believe this is a failed rose bud from some miniature roses that haven't been too excited about this year's dank spring. Those little plants are fickle about their environment and have been making it clear that they are not impressed with Seattle weather.

Someone brought this little thing into the house and it sat on the banister for a few days before I looked at it long enough to figure out what it was. At first it looked like a nut or seed pod. Some additional staring (and magnifying glasses) revealed that it looks more like a flower bud that has dried and deteriorated all except a shell created from the veins. Perhaps the wind blew out the insides, or the rain washed it away. No matter how it got this way, it is an interesting formation. I knew that it would get photographed, but it has taken several days for me to finally just get on with the project.

About the only specialized item needed for macro photography is a macro lens. For this job I have the trusty Canon EF-S 60 f/2.8 macro. I find it is usually the perfect focal length for tabletop subjects and it can get very close when needed. On top of that, it is sharp even at f/2.8 and just gets better from there up to about f/16 where you begin to see some degradation from diffraction.

The Lighting setup - #1
My first inclination was to use hard light to emphasize the intricate detail of the leaf's veins. A snoot was chosen to turn my 300 WS monolight into a very small light source. Putting the light close gives some falloff, which creates the vignette effect (no photoshop for that). Sorry I didn't take a photo of the setup, but in the diagram above tells the story. Try to imagine the light above the camera with the snoot pointing down and its nose almost touching the lens hood. A white reflector at the right (my white balance disc) adds a little bit of fill.

The light was metered at f/22 to provide enough depth of field to keep the visible exterior in sharp focus. Using this small of an aperture with an APS sized sensor has a penalty in terms of diffraction. Later shots at f/16 have a little bit more detail. The shutter was at 1/180th second to keep within the camera's sync speed.

Here is the resulting photo without reworks. As you can see from the shadows, my snooted light is still giving fairly soft light. This of course is because it is still a relatively large light source compared to this tiny subject. I could have moved the light back, but then would loose the falloff and possibly run out of power for f/22. You might also notice that my shooting table could use a new surface. The scratches are showing along with a dot of something at the far right and will need to be retouched out. Using f/22 reveals that there is also some visible sensor dust. So much for Canon's ultrasonic sensor cleaning. Guess I need to clean my sensor.

Here is the retouched version for comparison. Not a whole lot done to it other than cleanup of the sensor dust and scratches, plus application of some local contrast enhancement (also known as unsharp mask with high radius, low amount), and a little bit of dodging and burning. Retouching is always a season to taste type of cooking, and you can see that I went light on the salt this time.

The Lighting setup - #2
Next experiment was to try soft light. Soft light requires a large light source, but large is with regard to the subject. I decided to try using a single CFL bulb in a reflector for this. The light is large enough to be a soft source, and continuous light means I can alter the aperture without having to change the lighting, I just let the camera do the metering. A few test shots and chimping allowed me to place the light in a position that put the shadows where I wanted them. I also added another small 12” folding silver reflector to brighten things up a little.

Here is the resulting photo from f/16 before retouching.

And the same photo after retouching.

I also tried shallow depth of field to view just a sliver of the front leaving everything else softly blurred. This was taken at f/2.8.

One last bit of fun was to put a gel filter in front of the light. Here we have it in blue (a bit of retouching done on this one).



and Green

Coming Next
That wraps this posting up. Haven't yet decided what to do next, but will think of something... and hopefully you will like it. :-)

Until then...


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