Spoke & loopback frame
make for an original design

So when the olympus E620 body that I've been using for nearly 10 years crapped out and died on me earlier this summer, I grudgingly purchased a used one on eBay, that I quickly discovered was missing some features, such as the intermediate 6.3 & 7.1 f-stops & 1/160sec shutter speed. I've been meaning to upgrade, but there just didn't seem to be anything to match that fantastic zuiko 50mm prime macro lens (which of course is why I bought a camera manufactured to a standard that was already on its way out.)

french beaded flower built on a spoke base with modified loopback frame petals. Original design, summer 2018. Split exposure using tungsten lighting and blue gel; nikon D5100, 55–200mm telephoto lens...the flower was shot at f7.1 at 1 sec, lens at 85mm.[1]

Technology has moved a great deal since I last took a studio photography class at the local community college.[2] A chance remark revealed that my old teacher was still actively teaching this course. I made my favourite image ever in that class, and I figured, mebbe the teacher would have some ideas about replacing the olympus. (Spoiler: he didn't, but another student made a suggestion that, after some 3–4 years or more of waffling has finally led to a decision. I think.[3] )

One of the major time-sucks projects this summer[4] was teaching a french beaded flower class, and to that end, I myself was also playing with various ideas. This flower doesn't have any really new techniques, but it does combine spokes, basic frames and loopbacks.[5] My sister-in-law happens to be the only person amongst my family and friends who really likes these things, and since she likes blue, I made a lot of my test pieces in that colour. She picked this one for her collection, so I felt I needed to get it photographed.

She also kindly loaned me her camera, since I haven't got the 200mm telephoto recced for class. It's been a loooooooong time since I've used Nikons, though the fact that I mostly owned coolpixes meant that I adapted to the view-screen centric approach that some old-school photographers still wedded to the viewfinder find a little frustrating. I don't mind viewfinders, but don't much see the point of them when shooting in the studio. Now, if only it hadn't taken me about 10 minutes to figure out how to change the f-stop...[6]

Strictly speaking we weren't supposed to be shooting glass yet, which is why I filled the vase with black rocks. Since the teacher gave me the vase to style the flower, I figured I was good to go on that. This assignment was a so-called split exposure: light the subject with one shot (with light fall-off causing the background to be black), then shoot another silhouetting the subject & lighting the background behind it. We were encouraged to use gels to make the background a little more interesting, though it seems to me it would be just as easy, nowadays, to colour a plain version with an image editing program. But hey.

This image is actually composited from 3 shots—one exposed for the vase (highlight, actually), one for the flower, and one for the background. The school has adobe products, which allow you to combine this sort of thing with a single click, but the wizard had a sort of interesting approach: he pulled highlights only, multiplied them, then overlaid them ...quite a different approach, though I gathered luminosity profiles were being used somehow. —I had originally thought the class would give me the option of learning modern image editing techniques using Photoshop, which I figured I could translate to gimp.

It didn't take long for me to decide that I didn't like Bridge (I'm perfectly happy with digikam) and that I'd be just as happy learning the stuff direct in gimp. On the plus side, I found an open source tethering program that works with the nikon, and as that's been on my wish list for years I'm pretty excited about that.

Anyway. Wish I'd used a bigger f-stop so the whole flower was in focus—I'm not used to the DOF being that shallow from such a distance or relatively small aperture—but I have hopes that my images (and mebbe even my workflow) will substantially improve.

[1]Ugh, I just realized my horizon isn't level...

[2]For one thing, we don't have to mess around with film, and professional processing, which meant an hour drive to the lab, not to mention paying—once you added up professional film, processing, & bracketing—about $3/shot. The school appears to have a thriving b&w film program, but that's for making art.

[3]Nikon actually has reps going to local camera shops across the country to promote the roll-out of their new mirrorless Z series, that I attended. It was an hour plus of boredom—the presentation, since I'd already gleaned most of this stuff from dpreview—and five minutes handling the body. A week into class I was still too unfamiliar with Nikons to actually use the damn thing, but what I really wanted to know was whether it felt comparable to the E620, which when I bought it was one of the smallest DSLRs on the market. Well, it's heavier, but at least, didn't seem much bigger. Among its other interesting properties is a new lens mount that looks exciting. Now if only it catches on, instead of leaving me with yet another orphan...So: small size, full frame, powerful nearly pro features & a very short focal distance. And likely darktable support. Yee ha.

[4]Last summer was dyeing & henna...most of which is still undocumented on the site. Whoopsie.

[5]The latter technique is not, strictly speaking, a traditional off-the-spool, production oriented technique, but at least it's single pass. I'll see if I can't actually document the beadwork, as opposed to the photography, next time.

[6]I had so much trouble with the controls I could barely use the camera at all the first session. Since I have my eye on one of the new Nikon mirrorless full-frames, I guess it's just as well I'm learning how to control this thing, frustration and all.