Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Blue Ice

Blue Ice

I was going through photo withdrawl and it was icky cold outside, so I went on a scouting trip through the house looking for things to take photos of. I played with some alternative ways of lighting a model car, which worked well, but not well enough to post, so I got bored with that and started looking for something else. I'm not sure why, but I had this feeling that I wanted to do something abstract and macro. As I thought about it, salt came to mind. I've always been fascinated by how each grain of salt is a cube if you look close enough. So, I ran downstairs and grabbed the salt shaker (which I've yet to return to the kitchen) and one of our dark blue plates to use as the background (which I also haven't returned to the kitchen yet).

I grabbed one of my bendy floor lamps with 100W daylight-balanced CFL's in it and positioned it to light the scene from directly above. I didn't use my light tent for this one because glare, shadows, and reflections weren't really an issue here. Then I turned the plate upside-down because the bottom was less scratched than the top, and I sprinkled some salt on the surface. Next I giggled the plate, trying to figure out what part would look most interesting, and I started trying to line something up in the viewfinder. This scene appealed to me because it's off-center, which makes it more interesting, and I liked the grain in the lower left corner as well as the trailing off of the grains to the right across the frame.

Once I found the area to shoot, I started snapping photos with my Canon 30D and a Canon 100mm f/2.8 on a tripod, using a remote shutter release to eliminate camera shake. I believe mirror lockup was also enabled to eliminate that source of shake as well so that I could get the sharpest photo possible. I started at f/4, took about 4 shots, then 4 more at f/8, and 4 more at f/16. Afterwards, I ran downstairs and checked the results. They were ok. The best one was a bit blurry and I wished for a few tweaks in the pattern of salt grains, so I ran back upstairs and hand-picked some bigger salt grains to trail off right, and was a bit more careful about camera shake on this set as well. When I was done, I ran back downstairs and this time I was happy with the results.

The original photo showed the blotchy glaze job on the plate, which was kindof ugly and distracting, so I darkened the photo up in Digital Photo Pro to make the blue plate appear black, then used curves to brighten up the salt again afterwards. I cranked the contrast up a bit to make the salt really stand out from the background, then I converted the RAW photo to jpeg and imported it into Gimp.

My first thought in Gimp was color. It was dull in black and white, so I clicked on the "Colorize" tool. By default it opens to a color that's either exactly this hue or very close to it. I played around looking at reds and purples, but in the end this ice blue look appealed to me the most. That's it. I saved it and that was that. The whole thing start to finish took less than an hour.

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