Saturday, September 19, 2015

Close up photography experimentation

A couple of nights ago I was experimenting a bit with close up photography, but without just taking a photograph from close up. The rules of my experiment was that I was not allowed to manipulate the photograph in post-processing—Photoshop—apart from sharpening, contrast and saturation. So, no special effects were to be added! The following photo is the result of this fun and games exercise.

Close up Experimentation
 marbles_in_water_settings

When I started off with this, all I knew was that I wanted water, a mirror in the water and candles for lighting, and something to take photos of in this setup. My wife offered me a rose shaped, creamy coloured candle as my subject. It was simply too bland. Then she hauled out a bunch of marbles of different colours: gold, green, blue, transparent, etc.

I first tried with the gold marbles, but they came out too uni-coloured with the flame colour of the candles. Then I started playing around with the different marbles and moved the lighting candles around for the best position.

Nothing really gave me that sparkle that I needed, and then it hit me! So far, the water was not moving and the marbles were on top of the mirror, but they were just… there! I needed to make the water move while I played around with a slow shutter speed.

So, how did I do it?

Here are the tools I used to accomplish this:

  • Deep cooking tray
  • Mirror
  • Water to cover the mirror
  • 3 candles for lighting
  • 2 teaspoons
  • A wife
  • Camera

I set up the cooking tray close to the edge of the kitchen counter. I know! I know! But, you can do more than just cooking in the kitchen! I put a large square mirror at the bottom of the cooking tray, and then added enough water to cover the mirror. The water almost covered the bottom layer of marbles completely. Next, I arranged the marbles in the centre of the mirror. I positioned two of the candles on the front corners of the tray closest to the camera. I positioned the third candle exactly opposite the camera, but so that the flame reflection was actually under the marbles where the camera couldn’t see it directly. I made no use of main lights for this experiment. Without the candle light it would essentially be dark. My camera’s settings were set as the graph shows below the photo above: shutter speed – 2s, ISO 200, aperture – f10. My wife stood on the right with a teaspoon and I was on the left with a teaspoon. I set the camera on a 2 second delay before it took the photograph. In these 2 seconds before the shutter release, both my wife and I started stirring the water back and forth and kept it going until the photo was finally captured. The camera was angled somewhere between 45° and 60° relative to the marbles.

The continual movement of the water over the two seconds that the shutter was open, caused amazing light refraction patterns. Some of the patterns are soft, smoky looking while others look like small lightning bolts which can be seen on the green and blue marbles on the right of the photograph.

Experimentation in photography can produce surprising results! Sometimes it can produce satisfying results and at other times disappointing results. I think this photograph came out quite satisfying. I just need to do some more experimentation to perfect the image.