Week 01 - Simple Photo Essay - Black

A simple exploration of some of my photographic items with a common theme of my chosen colour, black.

Using the Sony ⍺7III camera on Program Mode, where the shutter and aperture are automatically controlled by the camera, I explored some of my photographic & videography equipment as subjects to fit in with my second chosen colour of black.

I undertook this exercise as an indoor activity, using the kitchen table top, which is a high gloss white and a foldable white background up against the wall behind this while exploring using a strobe that is new to me, the Godox 200, using its fresnel globe. I experimented with controlling the exposure of the strobe through the remote trigger and the camera, keeping the ratio between the ambient light and the strobe under control as to what look I was after for these black subjects.

A couple of manual lenses were used in this process, including a Samyang 85mm T1.5 Cine lens and a LensBaby Edge 50mm lens, which allowed the manipulating of focal planes across subjects as desired. I guess this could be considered a poor-man’s crude tilt lens of sorts, as it is the action of tilting the lens through the application of the Scheimpflug Principle where you achieve your desired plane of focus; just that it is achieved freehand rather than through more precise movements. Extension tubes were also utilised in several images to achieve closer focus than what the lenses were otherwise capable of.

The captures in this simple exploration were created with much more breathing room around them as compared to yesterdays brown explorations of relatively larger objects.

The settings I used are as follows:

  • Mode : Program
  • ISO : 125
  • WB : Flash & Cloudy
  • Metering : Centre and Whole Frame
  • Focus : Manual and Auto
  • Image : Jpeg
  • Quality : Fine
  • Exposure Compensation : As needed for both the camera & strobe
  • Shooting Mode : 2 Second Delay

The equipment I used were the following:

  • Camera : Sony ⍺7III
  • Lens : Sony 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS
  • Lens Housing : LensBaby Composer Pro 2
  • Lens Mount : LensBaby Edge 50mm f/3.2
  • Lens : Samyang 85mm T1.5 Cine
  • Extension Tubes : 10mm & 16mm
  • Strobe : Godox 200
  • Strobe Remote Trigger : X2T
  • Softbox : Godox 120cm Octabox
  • Stand : C-Stand
  • Background : Neewer Collapsible 150 x 200 cm Black & White Background
  • Mini RGB LED Panels : Falconeyes Pockeltlite F7
Here are the nine images I captured as a rudimentary exploration of familiarising myself with this camera & strobe in this highly automated mode.

Below is the setup I used for this simple exercise, the biggest thing I learnt on this initial exploration of using a strobe is the benefit of having one large curved or bent background so there is no seam line visible in any frames & so that there are no light colour differences as a result of the different white tones used. Oh, I may as well add another couple of things! I’ll remember in future to make sure the blinds out of frame behind me to the left here & the front door are closed to stop external light polluting the scene, & to not have anything within any close vicinity where its colour can reflect or alter the scene being captured, such as the microfibre yellow cloth here. I think I would also work with the 120cm octabox almost on top of the things being photographed to avoid shadows altogether, rather than having it in a traditional Rembrandt type position as I used here.

The next image is when I was photographing one of my favourite film cameras, the Mamiya 6 Foldout, a medium format 6x6cm camera harking back to around about 1947 or so for this model. I used one of my manual Cine lenses, the Samyang 85mm T1.5 (f/1.4 equivalent) that I discovered by accident makes an amazing portrait & product lens when used on this camera. So I thought I’d use it to get that extra reach needed here, in conjunction with a pair of extension tubes as well as manually overriding the aperture setting* to force it to the maximum of T/22 (which showed up all manner of dust on the sensor). The radio trigger for the strobe is a Godox X2T, which works flawlessly with most of the latest model Godox strobes & flashes.

* When in Program Mode you do have the ability to still manually control most everything of your camera & strobe if connected to one, including the aperture, shutter, ISO, white balance & exposure compensation for both the camera & strobe.

This following broken looking thing shoved on to some extension tubes is the LensBaby Composer Pro 2 fitted with the LensBaby Edge 50mm f3.2 lens. I love this as a setup for the ability to utilise tilt movements, even if in a crude manner as compared to a proper tilt lens or a technical camera like the Fujifilm GX 680 series or most any large format camera with technical movements. I have used this lens setup for many images where I can be rough and ready with the plane of focus throughout the scene, helping bring the eye to parts I want attention to be drawn to. This is something you can’t achieve with a normal lens, but does take a good understanding of how the Scheimpflug Principle works to get the results you might imagine.

The simplest way I can explain that is to think of the plane of focus from a normal lens, it runs flat & at a 90 degree angle to the direction the lens points at. Now imagine bending that at will, within a tolerance of about 13 degrees or so in whatever direction you want! That allowed me to align the plane of focus with just the top of the bellows on this camera when using the aperture barely opened up at all. With a normal lens you could achieve a shallow depth of focus, but not on this plane, it would have been parallel with the end of the capture lens as normal.

Interestingly, in this following image you can see the yellow reflection of the microfibre cloth on the side of the camera! I’ll definitely be making sure my shooting platform is completely free of anything other than the subject in future, not that I do a lot of this sort of photography.

Next up is a glimpse of the image with a few of my lenses going in order of size, where there is a plane of focus across the tops of all the lenses. You can see the indicators showing that the aperture used here is somewhere between f/3.2 and f/4.

Using this lens is an exercise in fine motor skills, if you are even in the slightest bit lacking in super subtle dexterity abilities I don’t recommend trying this sort of thing, you will be throwing the lens out the window within a few minutes of trying! I hear of so many people buying LensBaby lenses, but not realising that they all require subtlety of an inordinate manner to achieve nice image output & sadly, perhaps, those that create articles or video’s showing the use of them never seem to touch on this fact.

The plane of focus across the tops of the lenses can be seen in the following image, where the red bits on the camera screen are the focus peaking indications. This is a common technique with product image capture for advertising, but is normally achieved with a tilt-shift lens or with a technical body with a digital back on it. In this image there is a distance of over 25cm from the end to end of the smallest to the largest lenses & the camera is probably about 45cm away from the closest lens, this is definitely something you can’t achieve with a normal lens.

The last image now is a glimps of one of the arrangements I played with for the last image in this exploration with a stack of hardcases. The light from behind is a Falconeyes F7 RGB LED panel that is truly tiny & amazing, with the ability to create any colour of light you could want. I bought them with white dispersers to spread light softly & with honeycomb grids to direct light forward in a tighter throw. They have a great standard of light & colour accuracy for such a small & relatively cheap thing! That they are magnetic makes it interesting to be able to stick them to things, but they also have 1/4 20 holes for mounting on small tabletop tripods or onto mounting plates, etc. making them really handy to have & use. They can punch well above their weight in regards of output intensity too.

I ended up using both of these with no strobe for this image, eventually, with the white light to the right of the stack of hardcases turned right down low & the golden one to the left being up really close appearing in the end frame & with a much hotter output than the white one.

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