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Thread: B&W Glass Objects

  1. #1

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    B&W Glass Objects

    It's great to have friends who have such nice glass.

    The setup: Light shining from behind the subject through a large diffuser and around white poster board. The background (poster board) is lit from below by a lamp with a diffuser attached, not because the light needed diffusing but because the diffuser reduces the amount of light by about 1 to 1 1/2 stops. The subjects are on a mirror tabletop. Gobos very close to the lens on the left and right sides blocked the light that would have created awful flare.


    B&W Glass Objects


    B&W Glass Objects
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 5th August 2013 at 05:02 AM.

  2. #2
    rawill's Avatar
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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Mike
    I haven't said much about your glass, I do not know what to say.

    Simplicity itself, such clean lines and clear shots.
    I am in awe,

    especially when I read how you set up the shot.

    Simplicity, mmm, but then "not"!

    You are among those who are "converting me" to appreciate B/W.

  3. #3

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Thank you, Robin!

    Quote Originally Posted by rawill View Post
    Simplicity, mmm, but then "not"!
    Actually, not enough simplicity in my mind. In the first photo, the middle of the glass objects are too busy for my taste. That's caused by the objects being too far away from the horizon (the rear edge of the tabletop). That caused the horizon to be refracted in the middle of the glass.

    I added a second photo about an hour after you posted. In that photo, the glass objects are much closer to the horizon. The refracted horizon is now much lower in the glass, allowing more of the glass to be "clear." Another benefit is that by moving the glass objects closer to the horizon, they are also farther away from the camera. That allows the entire reflection to be included in the frame and allows each object to have some space around it, providing for yet more simplicity. Much nicer all around in my mind.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 5th August 2013 at 05:10 AM.

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Mike, the first photo doesn't really work for me, but the second photo is fantastic. The first is too busy and too dark for me. The second is simple, clean, has more brightness which I like for this photo...overall more pleasing. I like the texture on the background, regardless of whether it was intentional or not.

  5. #5
    rawill's Avatar
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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    Actually, not enough simplicity in my mind. In the first photo, the middle of the glass objects are too busy for my taste.

    I added a second photo about an hour after you posted.

    That allows the entire reflection to be included in the frame and allows each object to have some space around it, providing for yet more simplicity. Much nicer all around in my mind.
    And you are so right.

    If I had waited until you had posted your second photo I too would have voted for the second photo to be my first choice.

    I posted "simplicity and not!", because it was simple, clear, but then not!
    The "not" was related to the 'scenes' in each glass.

    However, in the second shot there is certainly a "less is more" approach.

    Enjoying your work.

    /R

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    It's good to see that both of you agree with my reasoning about why the second one is better than the first one.

    Matt: The background material has a little texture that normally would not be noticed. It's the light raking across the paper from almost immediately underneath it that brings out the texture. I like the effect here but I would like to have the option of not having the texture. One option would be to use a wider aperture to throw the background out of focus but it would also throw parts of the subject or reflection out of focus. Another option would be to use a background material that is perfectly smooth but I wouldn't want it to have any reflective properties, which is a combination of properties that is not easy to find. Any ideas?
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 5th August 2013 at 11:51 AM.

  7. #7
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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Just thinking out loud here Mike!

    If you have enough room on the bottom surface, what if you brought the glass out even more toward the camera than #1.

    Spot your BG Light possibly a bit higher up on the BG and maybe from above rather than below the table top. If you want the “vignette” you would have to control the beam (grid or snoot). Possibly position the camera at a bit higher angle.

    The goal: bringing the glass out and higher camera angle will take the horizon out of the equation. In effect the bottom surface would appear as the background. Set the light on the BG such that it will reflect off the bottom surface from behind much as it is doing now. You would have a solid light field instead of the horizon line and the shadow in the bottoms of the glass. You might also give you that smooth BG you are looking for.

    It would require some tweaking (what else is new!), but it just might be worth a shot!

    And as far as BG’s? White plexi is one suggestion. If you are going to light it, it shouldn’t reflect the table top. Also Savage puts out a Translum Diffusion roll. The only place I have found it is B&H and they are presently out of stock. I haven’t seen it personally yet but I’m going to try a roll when they get it in.

    In this shot there is no “BG” as such. The BG is the table top. It is lit from behind with a softbox. Unfortunately, the Client didn't want a reflecting surface but its kind of the same principle!

    B&W Glass Objects

    Anyway, just a Theory!
    Last edited by Loose Canon; 6th August 2013 at 04:53 AM.

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    WARNING: This post is probably going to be very boring to anyone other than Terry.

    Gorgeous image, Terry! It was so nice of you to share your thoughts that I'll respond to all of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    Spot your BG Light possibly a bit higher up on the BG and maybe from above rather than below the table top. If you want the “vignette” you would have to control the beam (grid or snoot).
    What's the easiest way to control the beam? I'm presently using a lamp that has an 8" reflector. The shape of the reflector makes the arch just perfectly from below. I'm guessing that it would be easier to use my speedlight if lighting the background from above.

    Possibly position the camera at a bit higher angle.
    The problem with doing that is that I have severe space limitations in my makeshift studio. I'm using a 35mm lens on a camera with a 1.5 crop factor and don't have enough space to use a longer focal length. When I raise the camera too much, major perspective issues come into play at that focal length. That's not to say that I couldn't have raised the camera at least a little bit higher in this photo, as I didn't try it.

    The goal: bringing the glass out and higher camera angle will take the horizon out of the equation. In effect the bottom surface would appear as the background. Set the light on the BG such that it will reflect off the bottom surface from behind much as it is doing now. You would have a solid light field instead of the horizon line and the shadow in the bottoms of the glass. You might also give you that smooth BG you are looking for.
    This could get a bit confusing, but the the physics of light I'm using here requires that the background exactly fills (no more and no less) the field of view as explained in Light: Science and Magic. When using a bright field and that principle, the edges of clear glass appear dark and the middle appears bright. When using a dark field, the edges of clear glass appear bright and the middle appears dark. (In this photo, I'm using both dark and bright fields. The basic set up is a dark field until I introduce the background light, which introduces a bright field into that portion of the image. I'm going to make another photo that doesn't include the background light to see if I prefer its greater simplicity.)

    Back to using a background that exactly fills the field of view: That requirement means that I can't increase the distance between the camera and background unless I also increase the size of the background. I'm considering doing that, though the limited size of my makeshift studio will probably prevent me from increasing the distance by more than about 12 inches.

    Finally (!) getting finally back to your idea of moving the subjects farther away from the tabletop's horizon line: To make that happen, I would have to leave the camera and subjects where they are now. I would move the tabletop farther away from the camera. I can do that only if I create more distance between the camera and background and have enough space to do that. I might or might not be able to make all of that happen given the very small size of my makeshift studio.

    On a related subject, I really do wonder how important it is to make sure the background exactly fills (nor more and no less) the field of view to obtain at least a similar effect. The reason I wonder is that I have been using a bright field in recent weeks by placing the subject(s) on a glass tabletop lit from beneath and shooting from above with the camera mounted on a boom. In that situation, the bright field was often considerably larger than the field of view. Yet I got the same or similar results as if the bright field had been only the size of the field of view. My point is that if I can be freed from having to make the background match the field of view, I'll have considerably more flexibility, especially considering the space limitations of my makeshift studio.

    White plexi is one suggestion. If you are going to light it, it shouldn’t reflect the table top.
    I have been concerned about it reflecting the camera and subjects. I'll eventually get around to trying it.

    Also Savage puts out a Translum Diffusion roll. The only place I have found it is B&H and they are presently out of stock. I haven’t seen it personally yet but I’m going to try a roll when they get it in.
    That's really great to know. If either of us sees that B&H has it in stock, we should notify each other. Alternatively, if you locate a local print shop probably called a reprographics shop that caters to the needs of engineers and architects, it will have rolls of mylar. The problem is that it will be far more expensive. As an example, the shop that I work for would sell a 24" x 36" sheet for about USD $12. Not a big expense in and of itself if that's all you need but relatively far more expensive than the rolls being sold at B&H.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 6th August 2013 at 12:08 PM.

  9. #9
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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Warning: If you thought Mikeís post was boring read no further!!

    Apologies Mike! The people I work for mistakenly think that if they pay me I need to actually perform some work for them! I havenít had the chance to get back online for a bit!

    For controlling the lamp. I wrap foam, posterboard, whatever is at hand usually into a snoot and tape it in place all the time! I also use grids when I want a more gradual falloff but a tight beam. Of course that if the lights arenít hot. Maybe your 8Ē reflector would work by itself.

    I wasnít aware of the space limitations in your studio. I can see what you mean if you are shooting that tight and maybe my theory wasnít appropriate.

    Mike, Iíll be honest. I havenít had the opportunity to shoot much ďartisticallyĒ yet like you do. I am very familiar with the L: S&M physics concept. Thatís how I decided I wanted to shoot glass. In the meantime I got involved with these glass blowers so I could. What happened was I became severely restricted to what they required in their shots rather than what I wanted to do. I found myself in the unenviable position of shooting for them instead of shooting for me. But I purposely put myself in this position (read: threw myself under the bus!).

    What I am getting at here is that I donít (canít) always follow the exact recipe. And I donít always shoot clear glass. I have colored translucent, opaque, solid clear spheres (what fun those are!) and glass that changes color/character when lit. With this I have to get a certain BG (gradient, etc.) in accordance with the ďClientĒ. So I donít always have my BG exactly filling the FoV. In fact rarely.

    So, as one example of what I do to get highlights, I will use white foamboard strips strategically placed on the table and bounce light off them. I use black to flag also strategically placed when I need a lack of light. I follow the L: S&M theories but have to also improvise, adapt, and overcome (hopefully)!

    I admire what you are doing, Mike. Beautiful stuff visually and technically way above par.

    B&H is supposed to email me when the Savage diffusion roll is in stock. Iíll send you a PM when they do if you donít see it first.

    I also wanted to mention that I have gravitated toward plexi for bottom surfaces when I want a reflection. It eliminates the double reflections. It makes for a very sharp reflection. Black, frosted, and clear are nice choices.

  10. #10

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    Warning: If you thought Mike’s post was boring read no further!!
    Okay. I won't because I know my post was boring.

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    I confess: I succumbed to the probability that I would learn a lot from your post so I read it after all.

    I'm glad I did because now I get to completely disagree with you. Your photos of the the hand-blown glass are terrific and I was actually wondering recently why you haven't been posting them. Just because you have photographing them to meet the exacting needs of your client doesn't mean that you haven't been doing so artistically. In that respect, you've been doing a better job than I've been doing; it's a lot easier to be "artistic" when the only needs being met are those of the photographer.

    It seems to me that you're using the Light:Science and Magic theories exactly as the authors would want you to use them -- to put the theories into practical use. I really admire you for doing that. In contrast to that, for the most part I, the patient, have been adhering exactly to what the doctors ordered, mostly because I'm a slow learner and need to learn how to use the rules before learning how, when and why to break them.

    I enjoy using the black plexiglass also. I've been using the mirror tabletop mostly when I want to minimize the horizon, though my above two photos aren't examples of that. (To help with minimizing the horizon when light is shining from beneath the mirror, I put black gaffer's tape on the thickness of the glass that is the horizon.)

    I'll consider making snoots. Thanks for the tips. My problems are that I don't enjoy that part of working in my makeshift studio and I'm not very good at it. The second part probably has a lot to do with the first part.

    What are your sources for plexiglass? I have been using Inventables.com and have been really surprised at how difficult it is to find plexiglass at traditional photo web sites.

    What typically drives your choice to use a black, frosted or clear plexiglass tabletop?
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 8th August 2013 at 12:50 AM.

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    All of us seem to prefer the second photo above compared to the first photo partly because of the cleaner look. I promised myself that I would try for an even cleaner look by eliminating the light shining on the background. I tried several compositions and settled on the third image shown below.

    I still prefer the second one mostly because I like the predominant use of the grey tones. However, there is a particular characteristic about this third image that I like: it reminds me of an old 1930s movie style depicting a mad scientist's laboratory with electricity shooting in and around everything.

    I mentioned in an earlier post to Terry that I like to minimize the horizon by using a mirror tabletop that has black tape on the edge that is the horizon. This image is a typical example of the results; the horizon is completely gone in this photo. That's a good thing because not only is it crooked, it's position, which is almost exactly in the middle of the image, would break up the curves of the glass in a very unattractive way.

    When I viewed the image in Live View at the largest magnification, I couldn't see the horizon. I was surprised when viewing it on my computer that it was still visible but very faint. When I post-processed the color image (before converting to monochrome), I had to move the black point from a value of zero only to a value of four to make the horizon disappear.

    As a reminder, the background of this image is white poster board. Hard to imagine, huh!


    B&W Glass Objects
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 8th August 2013 at 05:27 AM.

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Mike, the new shot is pretty awesome. I am really impressed with your studio work and lighting skill. I've heard you mention the Light: Science and Magic in a number of your posts. Typically I shoot nature, macro, wildlife, etc outdoors, on occasion I will use flash. I'm beginning to wonder if it would be of value for me to read that book, or if it would be a lot of time spent with little relevance to my shooting style. It sounds rather technical and kinda boring too No offense, of course! Anyway, great work, and I love seeing all of the cool things you come up with.

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Matt,

    I've admired your photos plenty enough to believe that I doubt that reading the book would add anything meaningful for you. Considering that the book explains the properties of light, there are always going to be properties that are helpful to know about whether working in a studio or outside to make the kind of photos that you make. As examples, the book explains polarized light, which is important to understand in almost every photographic situation involving glare, and the lighting conditions that create hard shadows and soft shadows, which is important to understand probably in all photographic situations. However, I get the sense that you already have a strong command of those and similarly basic properties of light and how to use them to your advantage.

    I should add for others reading this post that the book really is not at all technical. If it was, I wouldn't be able to understand it. In fact, I'm going to stop mentioning that it explains the physics of light because doing so probably leads people to think that the book is extremely technical. It's not; there is no mathematical formula in the entire book. So, from this point going forward I hope to remember to mention instead that the book explains the properties of light.

    I should add that I'm referring only to the latest version of the book, which is the fourth edition. I haven't read any of the earlier versions.

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Terry,

    I've been doing some more thinking about my reasons for using a mirror tabletop with black tape on the horizon edge to minimize the horizon in certain situations. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that clear glass or black acrylic (perhaps clear acrylic) should do just as good of a job with no need for tape. So, I looked up what the authors of Light: Science and Magic have to say about that. Sure enough, they recommend using clear glass or black acrylic as the best options for minimizing or eliminating the horizon. They then mention that using a mirror also does reasonably well, which I infer to mean that it doesn't work quite as well.

    I'm going to review all of the images that I have made of clear glass as well as the method that I used to make them. My guess is that I got at least a little confused because I was probably using a mirror tabletop before I had purchased the black acrylic. I don't remember why I chose the mirror tabletop over the glass tabletop in certain circumstances. So much to learn...and remember!
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 8th August 2013 at 06:31 AM.

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Mike, thanks for the reply. So, if I am understanding you correctly, I can probably skip this book for now. If that was not your point, then I ought to feel rather foolish at this point

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    You understood me correctly, Matt. Considering that I posted that message at 2:30am local time, I have to tell you that your correct understanding had to have been due to your reasoning capabilities rather than my communication capabilities.

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    The thing I donít like about mirrors for a surface is the double reflection or ďghostingĒ. If I were going to use one I would try to procure a first surface mirror. For me it is just too much trouble and expense to source one. I do, however, use cheap mirrors on a stand (obtained in the beauty dept. of most any drug store, dept. store, etc.) from time to time to reflect a highlight to certain areas of the composition.

    Iíve been using estreet plastics to source my plexi so far.

    Mike I really donít have any hard criteria regarding what type of plexi I use for any given circumstance. Well, except to say that if I want a nice clean hard reflection I will use opaque black. If I would rather a softer reflection I would use frosted clear plexi. If I want to light from below I might use clear or again the frosted since it helps diffuse the light.

    In the shot in this thread for example, I wanted that softer reflection so the bottom surface is the frosted plexi. Really more of a shadow with color so to speak!

    So Mike? If I may ask?

    In your latest shot here (which by the way is very nice) would you consider trying to get that nice highlight on the top rim of the glass along with the sides?

    With product shooting I have to be aware of a couple of things. One of the biggies is separation. The Clientís product absolutely must be separated in all respects from and pop off the BG for obvious reasons. This condition is non-negotiable in a given composition.

    Another biggie that relates to this is tangents. A tangent occurs when, in a product grouping, one item either touches the other or an edge is behind another item causing said tangent. This affects separation negatively and causes visual confusion. Or so the Theory goes!

    Separation I can certainly see as a must. No one wants their product disappearing into the BG. Tangents I watch for because it is technically correct. Iím not totally convinced that it is undesirable depending on the composition. But if Iím shooting for someone else then thatís the way it has to be!

    Having mentioned that, however, I rather like your composition. So much for Theories!

  19. #19

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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Thanks for the estreet plastics website, Terry. I compared the cost of two items with that of Inventables and estreet was 40% to 50% less expensive. This is a great source!

    If you're interested in a first surface acrylic mirror that isn't cheap, to put it mildly, check this out.

    I like the look of your soft reflection and haven't bought any frosted clear acrylic. That's now on my to-do list.

    I understand your (very diplomatically expressed ) point about the lack of separation on the top rim of the glass. Every once in a while I get that seemingly beyond my lighting control. I wonder if it's because of an inferior quality of glass but have no idea if that's the cause. Some of the photos in Light: Science and Magic display the same issue, causing me to wonder if this particular style of shooting has that compromise.

    I have corrected that issue in the past with rather extreme measures of post-processing but didn't try it with this image for two reasons. The most important one is that this image isn't of such high quality that it would be worth the considerable trouble required to make that correction. The other reason, at least in my mind, is that there seems to be a small range in which the mind's eye draws an imaginary line that creates the separation. In other words, if that imaginary line where there is no separation is very, very short, the mind literally "connects the dots" and people casually observing the image won't notice or at least won't be bothered by the lack of separation. The category of casual observers does not include those who photograph glass or surely at least some clients.

    Having said that, all of your images that I have seen are of colored glass and my guess is that in that scenario absolutely every edge of the glass must be separated from the background.

    It's clear to me that the stuff you mentioned about tangents is purely a matter of style. If you like a particular use of them, they're great. If not, they're not so great. I've seen lots of photos using tangents that I like and others that I dislike, including my own in that latter category. When part of a glass subject is behind another glass subject, the diffraction of the rear subject by the forward subject causes confusion in some cases and adds interest in other cases.

    Great discussion! I've gotta run to the dentist's office.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 8th August 2013 at 12:50 PM.

  20. #20
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    Re: B&W Glass Objects

    Excellent shots Mike; I really have to get back to shooting glass too; probably a winter project. My preference has tended to be white or black seamless, as I was to avoid the reflections, but you have nicely demonstrated how these can be an artistic element. It obviously also eliminates that horizon line issue too.

    The only issues I've had when working with acrylic / plexiglas is that the stuff is a dust magnet (especially during the winters when the humidity is low) and scratches all too easily, especially when you place a very hard material like glass on it. How are you coping with those two issues?

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