Focus - Photo Challenge: A Very Small Object

July 02, 2013  •  1 Comment

A very small object. That was the theme for the week. I enjoy this kind of photography. When it comes to taking pictures of small items or an item up really close you need to have the right kind of lens. This kind of lens is called a macro. One of the best things about the type of lens is the ability to get very close to the subject and still be able to focus on it. Most lenses will allow you to focus on an object that is around 3 or 4 feet away (for a large zoom lens) up to about 12 inches (for a smaller zoom). With the macro I have, I can focus it 4 inches away from the subject. That's close. And it can yield some great detail. I have done a lot of flower and insect photos this way, but I wanted to try something different this time. I didn't do any flowers, but instead I did some indoor setup shots. I wanted to get some practice with lighting, so this seemed like a great time to work on it.

 

This first image needs some introduction and explanation. As I mentioned above, a macro lens is great for getting really close to an object. There is a downside though - a very small depth of field. If you want to understand a bit more about what effect the depth of field has then go check out the top half of this blog that I wrote a while back. Go read it. I'll wait... Foreground/Background in Focus. OK, to continue, a macro lens has a really narrow depth of field. That means if you are photographing something that extends back into the field of view it will be progressively out of focus. This can be a nice effect, but sometimes you want the entire object in focus. Well, too bad. That's just not possible. At least it's not possible with only one image. This photo of the pocketwatch is actually not one photo but eleven. Yes, eleven shots to create one image that looks like what you would expect to see. The technique to achieve this is called "focus stacking" or "focal stacking". The method is to photograph the object with the focus set to each area that you want to ultimately be in focus in the final image. In other words you focus on the area closest to the camera and take a shot. Then move the focus slightly farther out and take a shot. Continue this process until you reach as far into the frame as you want to be focused. Then all of those images can be combined into one image using the focused area from each shot. Here is an example of some of the images I took to create this one. I know the image is small, but you should be able to see how the focus moves from the front of the watch to the back in that series. This was a fun experiment and something I will definitely do again.

Focal stacking, Focus stacking, Pocket watch, Pocketwatch, WatchDSC_4615_6_7_8_9_1_2_3_4_5

 

 

Shot number two is just one image. This one was more for practicing lighting. Once again I got my toys out. Yep, my toys. These are the real thing too (anywhere from 25-35 years old). The Darth Vader in the foreground is from a tiny set. This guy is about an inch tall, so it's really a very small object. Darth Vader on the right is a 6" action figure. The one on the left is one of the 15" action figures (not a doll, mind you!). In the background is the Darth Vader carrying case for the small action figures. So here's the setup for this one. I had 2 flashes pointed at the tiny Vader to light him evenly (one from either side). With only those 2 lights he blended in with the rest of the black too much, so I had to add a 3rd flash that fired between him and the one behind him. This gave enough separation to keep it from being just a big, black blob. I used a somewhat narrow depth of field this time to show that the character at the front was the subject but still allow some detail to be seen in the background. If everything had been in focus it would have been too much happening in the photo with no strong focal point. Again, I really enjoyed doing this one and was really happy with the results.Action figure, Collectible toys, Darth Vader, Star Wars, Star Wars toys, Vader, Vintage toys, collectibles, toysDSC_4683

 

 

Setup number three was another lighting practice. This one was a bit more simple but took a lot of adjusting to get what I wanted. This is a small, travel chess set that I got for my son when I was in India. The pawns are about an inch tall. This was taken on my dining room table with no background of any kind. I had a flash about 3 feet behind the chess board and slightly above it. This light produced the nice sharp outline of the pieces with the bright highlights, the soft shadows on the board and the bright, blue highlight. The blue color is from a colored gel (thin, translucent, colored plastic) that goes over the bulb on the flash. Then I held another flash about 2 feet above the board at an angle. There was no colored gel on that flash, and it was set to a very low power so that it didn't wash out all the detail in the pieces. I really like how this one ended up, and I did almost no editing to it.

Chess set, Chess, Game pieces, GamesDSC_4765

 

While the objects were small, I think I created some big images. Macro photography is another fun field with endless possibilities. Leave a comment if you have other small object ideas.

 

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Comments

dianah thelen(non-registered)
Such neat effects. Our Star Wars dollars were well spent. They have endless value. This is a neat technique. Good job.
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