Photography for the Bored – What’s lying around your house?

Skull project 1

Ok. Here it is. I promised you I’d post today my little project with a skull. My partner brought me a present earlier this year. It’s a raccoon skull found as road kill and sold by a company specialising in such things. I know, it’s not what you’d want for your birthday, but I was thrilled with it. I’ve always been fascinated by biology, and in fact it helps inform me for my photography. I didn’t want to get just plain snapshots of it, so the zoom macro lens came out again, and I played with the lighting. A close up shot above looks quite interesting, and shows off those formidable teeth. But I wasn’t really happy with it. Turned it a little, moved the lighting. Then in photoshop, I used curves to get a bit more definition into the light and shadows for a bit more drama. Lastly, I cropped the shot square to really get you in close to the skull.

Skull project 2

Those teeth are really something, aren’t they? I became fascinated with them. As I’ve done some work for an agency selling to horror books, it occurred to me these might look good on a book cover…would you buy it?

Skull project 3

Then I started playing with the lighting, and decided that backlit, the object would look even more sinister and creepy. (I know, I’m weird!)

Skull project 4

But now, with this lighting, I’m really getting that sinister, and at the same time, abstract look I wanted. Here are a couple more I’m really pleased with.

Skull project 5

Skull project 6

See the different effects? The light levels, exposure time and angle can alter the image quite substantially. So does that bit of photoshopping to either soften effects or define them by deepening the shadows.  So as ever, the best way to find something new and creative in your pictures is to PLAY. I do not believe in taking myself too seriously, even when it comes to my passion. If it’s not fun, life is too short to spend agonising over it!

So, what do you have lying around that would make for an unusual macro subject? Pot pourri, like in my last post? Sea shells? Stones from the river or beach? Tools in the shed? Get in close, play with lighting, and you’d be amazed what you can come up with that’s unique and special and very likely really interesting to look at. Have a play. Let me see your results. I’d love to see what others can come up with. The days are short, the nights are long and brrrr it’s sooo cold. So get that camera out and raid the cupboards and shelves for something new. Do say hi if you stop by. I’d love to hear from you.

Macro Play For a Cold, Wet Day

experiment in macro 1

Well, I started thinking about those of you who can’t get out because of the snowdrifts, or don’t wish to go and freeze for the sake of a picture. I bought some pot pourri in a charity sale a few weeks ago that I’ve been displaying on my coffee table (smells gorgeous). And I’ve failed to get out today because the snow was too heavy and the sky too dark to get effective shots. Frustrating or what? So, I got my camera out, mounted it on my trusty tripod and put on my Tamron 300mm macro lens and started playing. I have a couple of small lamps fitted with daylight bulbs. I used one of them for these shots. I’m hoping my experiments will be useful to you, especially if you’re new to macro, your camera or just experimenting. I’m no technical genius. But I do know about looking, playing and learning from experimentation. So here goes. I’ve been wondering what these shapes would look like close up for a while and here was my chance to find out. It took several attempts to get the colour, depth of field and texture I wanted, but this shot (above) I’m really pleased with. Remember that your photos should please YOU. What you learn about your camera will be really useful when you take it out and want to get a good shot of, say, a mushroom close up, or a flower. It’s great practice.

For the techies, My camera was set at aperture f5.7, focal length 300mm, spot metering, no flash. I had the camera set to manual. Auto leaves no room for creativity, so ditch it and play! Otherwise you can’t control the results as the camera makes all your decisions for you.

I quickly moved on to more of the objects in my bowl. This next series of shots shows what happens if you play with your white balance settings. I’m looking for abstract images here, not accurate, real life rendering of the objects. In this next shot, the metering is set to pattern, flash auto, white balance auto, exposure auto. A dull, predictable result. It’s worth mentioning I’m looking for abstract, not perfect focus.

macro experiment 2

Now one with white balance set to cloudy weather. Note the huge difference in colour. If you were taking a life-like shot this would be unacceptable, but when you’re getting arty, what works is what works. I’m not sure this does, but it shows you what can be done.

macro experiment 3

And this next one, the white balance is set to tungsten.

macro experiment 4

In this last shot of the pine cone, I changed my approach completely and decided on a different angle, different focussing and different light balance. I’ve used the natural daylight setting, which is closest to the lighting I was using, so  rendering a more natural colour (the cone is dyed black and sprinkled with glitter). I was looking for the texture and pattern of the cone and more sharpness to define the edges. I think this one suceeds in my aims.

macro experiment 5

Satisfied,  I moved on to the next object.

macro experiment 6

I really liked the colours of this object as they were, so again the white balance is set to daylight. I’m not sure if the focus is as I’d like it, though, and may well have another go at this later. But the result is fairly pleasing, and I do like the diagonal flow of the pattern. It’s all about playing with what you’ve got. There are a lot more photos of these things, but I don’t want to bore you. So for this final shot I pulled back a bit and took a group shot of some of the contents of my bowl. Again, I’ll probably play some more before I decide I have my perfect shot. But I quite like this one.

macro experiment 7

Once I’d done all these, I got bored with the subject (that happens quite frequently to me) so I moved on to a skull my partner bought for me some time ago. It was from a company that finds road kill and natural death animals and cleans the skulls (so don’t worry, no cruelty involved). But that’s for my next blog and more about expermentation.

What have you got in your home you could get creative with? I’d love to know.

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