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Thread: It's alive!

  1. #1

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    It's alive! (new blossoms added)

    A friend gave my wife and me an orchid, not realizing that we have the blackest of black thumbs on the planet. Thinking that the orchid had died, my wife did a little research and learned that maybe it was still alive. She followed that up by taking care of the plant according to the stuff she had learned. More than a year after the plant was given to us, the branch shown below grew back and is now blossoming.

    So, I took the plant into my makeshift studio and tried out a lighting technique having to do with the background that I learned from Science: Light & Magic. The background is tracing paper taped to the rear of clear plexiglass. (White acrylic would have eliminated the need for the tracing paper and would have provided an original that would have required less touch-up in post-processing. I will order that this weekend.) A light placed behind the background is shining toward the plant. The main light is above and to the left of the plant. A white reflector is on the far right, brightening the shadows on the underside of far right blossom.

    EDIT: There are now several images in the thread showing various stages of blossoming.

    I'm new at this, so C&C is encouraged, though I don't have anything in particular to ask about.


    It's alive!
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 15th December 2012 at 04:29 AM.

  2. #2

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    Re: It's alive!

    Basic photography has worked well. The only problem which I can see is the white background being too similar to the flower.

    I suspect that a black background, if you could get the lighting correct, would have looked absolutely stunning.

  3. #3

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    Re: It's alive!

    Geoff,

    It would have been much easier to make this image with a black background. I didn't because I like the dreamy look of the light background, especially with the white flowers. Not everyone prefers the white-on-white look, but I love it. However, I might just shoot it with a black background before I take down the current lighting setup.

  4. #4

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    Re: It's alive!

    Great exposure, Mike. Especially the white on white. I also like the way you composed the shot. As you said it would have been easier on a black background, but you pulled this one off fantastically.

  5. #5
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    Re: It's alive!

    I like this composition and the lighting seems to be really good, although I'm not much of an expert in studio shots. I didn't even think about the white background until it was pointed out. I like it. It will be interesting to see black if you do it. Seems like with the black, your challenge will be to not lose the stem.

  6. #6

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    Re: It's alive!

    I promise to provide the black background, Terri. If I'm thinking things through properly, it shouldn't be a problem separating the stem from the background. We'll find out soon if I'm thinking things through properly.

    Quote Originally Posted by unmerited View Post
    Great exposure, Mike.
    Thanks, Sergio! That's easy to do using bracketing. On the one hand, I would like to be able to nail the exposure on the first shot. On the other hand, that's not important to me in the grand scheme of things.

  7. #7

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    Re: It's alive!

    Do you reckon that black-now-green thumbs have an osmosis effect and leak into partners? Handle carefully sir.

    White on white - interesting concept wise and a pretty decent shot.

  8. #8

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    Re: It's alive!

    As promised, this post provides the version with the black background. I had to change the main light slightly once it became the only light shining toward the plant. That's because the light on the white blossoms would have been too flat if I hadn't made the change. The background light is now shining away from the plant rather than toward it and can be seen ever so slightly only on the black background. (Even so, you probably will see it only when viewing the large image and only if your browser displays subtle changes in luminosity as accurately as Firefox.) No other lighting or compositional changes were made in the second version.

    I don't like this second version as much as the first one, perhaps because I envisioned the first one from the very beginning and can't get my mind away from how I originally conceived it. If I did like the concept of the second one as much as the first one, I would take the time and effort to change the position of the camera to allow separation between the tip of the small, curly part of the lowest flower and the rest of that flower. I'm not sure why, but I like the "connection" between those two parts in the first version even though I would prefer some separation in the second version.

    Notice that one of the blossoms that was closed in the first version has begun to open in the second version. That's because the second image was captured about 8 hours and 45 minutes later. Considering that it was in a room with no lit lights or open windows during most of that time, I'm surprised about that. On the other hand, I shouldn't be surprised, as I know absolutely nothing about plants.


    It's alive!
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 9th December 2012 at 04:16 AM.

  9. #9

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    Re: It's alive!

    Now that there is a comparison shot, would say that #1 does look better then #2 though the latter does appear overall sharper then the first.

    If you going to redo, please consider the issue of balance as the thing is dangling in the air without an anchor. Perhaps stem should be in the right bottom corner and the diagonal going directly towards the left top corner?

  10. #10

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    Re: It's alive!

    Interesting comment about the sharpness, Bobo. If the second one appears sharper, it's because of the increased contrast provided mostly by the dark background. The camera and flower are in the same position in both images. The aperture is at f/22 in both images and the manual focus is also the same.

    I'll think about your idea of changing the composition. Thanks for offering it!

  11. #11

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    Re: It's alive!

    I like both the black and the white. I think I like the white better because of the vignette. Maybe if you adjusting the lighting (spotlight the flowers) it would help the white version? I might have preferred the buds pointing towards instead of away to the camera, but I don't know how that would have affected viewing the flowers.

    It's fun to play this way isn't it?

    Thanks for posting.

  12. #12
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    Re: It's alive!

    Like Gretchen, I also like them both. They are very different and stand on their own. I can see what Bobo is saying about the black one looking sharper. It looks to me like the lighting provided more detail in the black one. Maybe that's why it looks sharper?

  13. #13

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    Re: It's alive!

    Quote Originally Posted by terrib View Post
    It looks to me like the lighting provided more detail in the black one. Maybe that's why it looks sharper?
    Exactly. Eliminating the back lighting that creates the light background in the first one increases the contrast. Notice that the dynamic range is much greater on the green buds in the second version. Another way of saying it is that the buds on the first version are softer and the buds on the second version have more pop.

    I believe it's a matter of which style each of us prefers for any given image. I get a little tired of the "pop" that is so prevalent, so I created the high-key image in the first version that by definition has less contrast, so less pop. I could have added more contrast during post-processing to the plant and actually considered it, but preferred the less contrasty, more dreamy style in the version that I posted. At least that's how I think of it.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 9th December 2012 at 03:08 PM.

  14. #14

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    Re: It's alive!

    A new day has brought a new fully opened blossom and a new perspective. If I were to caption this "More blossoms soon to arrive," would you feel that this image tells that story?


    It's alive!

  15. #15
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    Allen or "Lurchy" is fine

    Re: It's alive!

    Great photos, as always, for me i like the black background more, maybe because i prefer black, lol. And i believe you have portrayed the growth well.

    What is your makeshift studio like, and what does it entail in making your own? And if i may ask, a photo of your makeshift studio? I know its a stupid question, but im thinking of making a make shift studio, and want some pointers and advice to start.

  16. #16

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    Re: It's alive!

    Thanks for the feedback, Allen.

    I call it a makeshift studio because it is very small -- only 6 feet x 8 feet -- and is actually a storage room. Even so, it provides enough room to use the basics so long as I'm very careful not to knock anything when I walk among the setup being used at the time. It accommodates an elevated bar at one end that holds a roll of paper, two sawhorses that hold whatever tabletop and small background that I want to use, two light stands, a third stand that holds a boom, a small light stand for use with a floor-level background light, a large five-in-one diffuser/reflector and whatever black or white pieces of foam core are needed at the time. The one wall that isn't lined with storage shelves and nearly 30 years of accumulated stuff that my pack-rat wife won't let me get rid of is painted white for use as a large reflector.

    The characteristic that makes it truly my own, as you nicely mentioned, is that a 4' wide x 5' high x 8' long area of it can almost instantly be transformed into a black cubicle with the exception of the white wall. The other three sides are draped in black fabric. The floor has black carpet. A 4' x 8' piece of masonite painted black is lowered on a pulley system to provide the false ceiling. (I have since thought of a better way to accomplish the false ceiling.) I also drape black cloth over the sawhorses. Though that part of the setup was not needed for the photos made in this thread, it's needed to eliminate unwanted reflections on glass, which I regularly photograph.

    I would be happy to provide a photo of the area but I actually think the above description is more helpful. If it would be helpful to see a photo of the setup that I used to make the images posted in this thread, be sure to let me know.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 10th December 2012 at 11:26 AM.

  17. #17
    allenlennon's Avatar
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    Re: It's alive!

    Thank you mike. You have given me plenty of ideas for me to do the same. Thank you. Just need to get some fabric and background material as I need em. Got the rest laying around in the sheds.

  18. #18

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    Re: It's alive!

    Not only has the fourth blossom opened up, but my white acrylic has arrived. It's about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick, has a glossy finish, and allows 40% light transmission. I can't begin to tell you how much easier it is to achieve the look I want using the white acrylic as the background instead of using tracing paper taped to clear acrylic. That's because the white acrylic, unlike the tracing paper, has no change in texture. I can't wait to use this white acrylic background for photographing glass.

    Back to the orchid itself: For those of you who were disappointed in the lack of contrast in the other image that has the white background, I think you'll like the contrast in this one.


    It's alive!
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 14th December 2012 at 04:09 AM.

  19. #19

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    Re: It's alive!

    The fifth blossom started to open today and I couldn't resist using my new white acrylic background. That fifth blossom is on schedule to be fully open tomorrow. Can't wait to photograph it!


    It's alive!

  20. #20
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    Re: It's alive!

    That is a stunning image, Mike. I love it!

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