Port­fo­lio review

We cri­tique an N-Photo reader’s se­lec­tion of fo­cus-stacked, light­box-lit, macro flower shots

NPhoto - - Contents -

Na­ture-based ab­stracts, move­ment and macro pho­tog­ra­phy fas­ci­nate me, and I love the post-pro­cess­ing phase as I get to ex­press my­self in the fin­ished im­age.

I am a huge fan of Irv­ing Penn’s Flow­ers se­ries, and I have been ex­per­i­ment­ing with some gor­geous pop­pies and pe­onies lit from above and below. My wife vol­un­teers with Flo­ral An­gels (a char­ity that re­cy­cles flow­ers do­nated from wed­dings and other glam­orous events to give to the com­mu­nity) and of­ten brings me amaz­ing stems from the flower mar­ket, but or­di­nary spec­i­mens can work just as well.

This kind of pho­tog­ra­phy is time-con­sum­ing and ap­peals to the ob­ses­sive in me. Just set­ting up the light­ing for each shot can take an hour or more. Even then shad­ows and re­flec­tions may not be ap­par­ent un­til you see them on the big screen.

The flow­ers are lit from above by in­ex­pen­sive lamps and torches (cost­ing £5-10), and with a light­box and LED ring light from below. All the im­ages were fo­cus-

This kind of pho­tog­ra­phy is time-con­sum­ing and ap­peals to the ob­ses­sive in me. Just set­ting up the light­ing for each shot can take an hour or more

stacked (10-20 im­ages for each shot) and then pro­cessed in Light­room. I’m not drawn to highly ma­nip­u­lated im­agery, so they’ve only been edited to bring out the best of what’s there. I use afo­cus slider to move the cam­era (and fo­cal point) to shoot a per­fectly aligned se­quence of im­ages, each with a slightly dif­fer­ent fo­cal point.

More than once a less-than-tight lock­ing nut has col­lapsed my set-up, and that means start­ing all over again! But thank­fully I’m re­tired and have the time to in­dulge my pas­sion.

N-Photo says

Steve, your light­box im­ages are won­der­ful. It’s clear that you have a strong un­der­stand­ing of macro pho­tog­ra­phy by us­ing tech­niques like fo­cus-stack­ing and macro rail slid­ers. Our favourite im­age is the tomatillo

[1]. The per­fectly white back­drop jux­ta­poses the dark black colour of the dried leaves, and the stone in the cen­tre is the much-needed splash of colour that this im­age calls out for. It’s sim­ple, clear and sharp. The com­po­si­tion works per­fectly with a square crop, and it doesn’t sit too close to the edge of the frame.

When look­ing up close we can clearly see that, in most of your im­ages, the en­tire flower is pin­sharp, from sta­men-tip to the deep­est petal crevice. Shoot­ing in ex­treme fo­cus like this is a chal­lenge, and ac­tu­ally not al­ways nec­es­sary as you have shown in your poppy shot [2]. The back and front of the poppy are thrown out of fo­cus, and it’s ac­tu­ally rather pleas­ing. This lack of depth of field

The ridges in the petals are so de­tailed that they look as if they’re made from tis­sue pa­per

forces us to take a look at the cen­tre of the poppy where the bril­liantly vi­brant yel­low sta­men re­side. The ridges in the petals are so de­tailed that it al­most looks as though they’re made from tis­sue pa­per. We can see some sta­men to the left and right of the cen­tre that are out of fo­cus, which ap­pears to be the re­sult of a missed fo­cus stack sec­tion, or it may be that the sta­men were so short that they were thrown out of fo­cus, too.

Your pe­ony im­age [3] again cap­tures the del­i­cate fi­bres in the pink­ish petals, but this time some­thing else takes our eye. Look­ing to the edges of the petals we can see a dis­tinct glow from the lights you are us­ing from above. The folded-back shape of the petals cre­ates a won­der­ful shadow in the cen­tre of the petals en­cir­cling the sta­men. That, com­bined with the shiny edge, gives the flower a silky tex­ture and makes it dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent to the poppy.

In all, they are a re­ally nice set of im­ages that made us want to grab some flow­ers and give it a go our­selves! Head to page 42 to check out Ja­son’s DIY light ta­ble project to take your own close-up na­ture shots.

1 Tomatillo Skin Nikon D750, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6, 1/80 sec, f/7.1, ISO200 2 Poppy Nikon D750, 90mm f/2.8 Macro, 1/200 sec, f/4, ISO280

3 Pe­ony Nikon D750, 90mm f/2.8 Macro, 1/80 sec, f/14, ISO140

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