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Thread: Mirror, Mirror...

  1. #1
    DeepWater's Avatar
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    Mirror, Mirror...

    Mike started a thread ("Four glasses on a shelf") on Dec 23. In one of his shots he used a mirror. Since I have been playing around with a mirror and with low key shots lately thought I would post this for you to consider.

    I wanted to use a mirror to get a reflected image, but did not want the light (from flash) reflecting off the mirror - I wanted a black look. I came up with the idea of suspending a black cloth above the mirror, and then positioning my light (one light set up) as I wanted. Had my ISO on 50 and shutter at 250 - manual power at around 100 so flash was minimal. Here is what I came up with. What do you think?

    I really like this idea, because you can totally change the look of your background by suspending a different surface above the mirror.
    James

    Mirror, Mirror...

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    Re: Mirror, Mirror...

    This image works really well for me, James. I like the dark background and that the shadows are deep but soft. This combination makes for a dramatic presentation of the rose without being edgy.

    Another appealing characteristic is that that the reflection appears just a bit softer than the rose itself. Is that because you used a depth of field that was small enough to render the reflection a little out of focus? Part of the reason I ask is that Science: Light and Magic suggests misting the mirror when the reflection would otherwise cause confusion.

    For others who try your method (I'm sure I will someday), the look was created not just because you placed black material above the mirror. It's just as important that you used a light source that was small enough that you could position it so none of its light is within the family of angles. Otherwise, some of the reflection of the mirror would be of your light source rather than the black material.

    In fact, when you want a white background, one method (rather than suspending white material above the mirror) is to use a light source so large -- it would have to be quite large relative to the part of the mirror being photographed -- that the entire family of angles is filled directly with that light. The downside of that method in the example of your rose is that there would be no reflection of the flower because the mirror would instead reflect the light source. The upside is that the mirror would produce a large amount of fill light from beneath the flower, which is often difficult to do when when using an opaque tabletop that is not shiny.

    You suggested changing the color of the material being reflected in the mirror. In this case, that would work well because the subject is producing mostly diffuse reflections, which do not reflect much light. However, if you chose a flower that has a waxy surface or if the plant included leaves, those surfaces produce much more direct reflections. Those reflections could problematically reflect the color of the material that is suspended above the mirror.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 26th December 2012 at 04:48 AM.

  3. #3
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    Re: Mirror, Mirror...

    Mike, thanks for your input and comments - much appreciated. From your comments I can tell that you have done a lot more of this than I!
    You are right about the light source - I had my flash pointed away from the subject at around a 45 deg angle and bounced the light off a very light green material so that the light that reached the subject was very soft and indirect.
    As to the reflection being softer, that was a total accident, but one that I like! I believe that it is the result of the material I hung above the mirror. The mirror is reflecting the material (suede) and the rose, thus the reflection is softer - a happy accident but one that I will take!

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    Re: Mirror, Mirror...

    Quote Originally Posted by DeepWater View Post
    From your comments I can tell that you have done a lot more of this than I!
    Perhaps not. I've photographed a certain amount of glass recently, but my knowledge of most of the stuff we're discussing here comes only from repeatedly reading about the issues.

    You are right about the light source - I had my flash pointed away from the subject at around a 45 deg angle and bounced the light off a very light green material so that the light that reached the subject was very soft and indirect.
    That explains the almost eery color of the rose that is very appealing. If you had bounced the flash off a pure white material, the image probably would have been more ordinary.

    However, your lighting setup that used only indirect light doesn't necessarily explain in itself that it was not included in the family of angles. My point is that whether the light is direct or indirect doesn't have anything to do with whether it falls within the family of angles. That makes me wonder if you're as unfamiliar with the family of angles as I was before I read Science: Light and Magic. I had actually never heard of the family of angles. If you have an interest in doing this kind of photography on a consistent basis, I strongly recommend the book.

    I believe that [the softer reflection] is the result of the material I hung above the mirror. The mirror is reflecting the material (suede) and the rose, thus the reflection is softer
    I don't think the texture of the material being reflected as the background in the mirror has anything to do with the softness of the reflection of the rose. If it did, that would mean that the mirror was reflecting two objects at the same time in the very same spot from the perspective of the camera, which I don't think is possible. I'm not sure, but I think that is also a matter of angles: the angle of reflection always equals the angle of incidence. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable of the physics of light can set us straight about this.

    I see that you used a D300 and a 50mm lens shooting at f/5. If the camera was close enough to the flower, that could have easily rendered the reflection a little out of focus. Remember that the light being reflected in the mirror is always farther away from the camera than the mirror itself. (An extreme example would be if a friend held a mirror and if a mountain one mile away was being reflected in the mirror. You would have to use a comparatively large depth of field to keep both your friend and the reflection of the mountain in focus.) In this case, the rose and its reflection are almost the same distance from the camera but not quite, at least if I understand everything correctly. Again, hopefully someone can set us straight on these details using lay terms that I could understand.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 26th December 2012 at 12:23 PM.

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    Re: Mirror, Mirror...

    Hey Mike
    Well, you are right about the "family of angles" - shoot ! I thought you said a "family of angels", and I just figured someone was lookin after me But seriously, I will look into the book - sounds like a better understanding could be very beneficial and I'm always up for learning, and anything that helps you improve your lighting is going to make you a better photographer.

    Your explanation re the softness of the reflection sounds like it is more plausible than mine - mine was just a guess but it was the only thing I could figure. I will have to try this out with other materials and see if I get a similar result.

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    Re: Mirror, Mirror...

    Great explanations. Just put the book on hold at the library.Wonderful picture.

    What is the name of the rose?

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    Re: Mirror, Mirror...

    Connie,

    When you check out the book at the library, be aware that the latest edition is the fourth edition released earlier this year. It may not matter if the library has only an earlier edition, but I wanted you to know about the latest edition.

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    Re: Mirror, Mirror...

    Well well, if you guys are only at the start, I can't even find the way to the start line.

    But I am enjoying reading up what you "magicians" are up to.

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    Re: Mirror, Mirror...

    Haven't got a clue Connie - was just one of the many in my wife's rose garden - she had picked some that day and they were in the house in a vase - just grabbed one that looked good and went with it. Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by CLK View Post
    What is the name of the rose?

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    Re: Mirror, Mirror...

    I did notice that and put a hold on the newest edition. I am willing to bet I am not going to understand much when I get into it and will be as baffled as I am now.

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    Re: Mirror, Mirror...

    I don't want to hijack the thread discussing the book or the family of angles, so click here to see three photos I made five months ago that replicate examples provided in the book. Reading about it was absolutely fascinating. Doing it completely altered my approach to certain types of photography.

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