Sunday, November 16, 2008

Warhol's Light Bulbs

I didn't plan to shoot light bulbs so that they looked like an Andy Warhol creation, but when you don't have a plan for your work, you just got to accept whatever result.

Getting the idea
I thought the Still-life set on my Flickr stream needed a little punch in terms of colors. I have a couple of cloth backgrounds with different colors and wanted to use them. Of course I needed a foreground object as well and the first thing I found was a light bulb. Fair enough.

The setup
I placed the 40 watts light bulb in the midde of the room and hung a cloth background about 1 meter behind it. I pointed a SB-600 at the background, placing it as close to the light bulb as possible to avoid shadows on the background caused by the uneven background cloth (no, I didn't do any ironing this time either). I mounted the camera as close I could get on a tripod and connected a remote control.

The problem was that the light bulb was too bright. At minimum x-sync speed shutter at 1/250 and f/45 I got a pleasing shot of the inside of the light bulb, but I didn't get any background color. The SB-600 was just not powerful enough.

But after connecting a IKEA dimmer things changed to the better. Using the lowest setting on the dimmer I could open up the aperture a lot, making the flash useful again. I reduced the flash power to 1/8.

This is the edited version of the photo.

Light bulb

I thought it was an OK shot, but not as colorful as I wanted it to be. So I moved the camera to get the whole bulb within the frame and rotated it to portrait orientation. Since it wasn't as important to get the whole tungsten thread in focus I could open up the aperture even more and reduce the flash power again.

Final settings:
Light bulb: Minimum power, according to IKEA
Flash: 1/128 power at 24mm zoom
Exposure: 1/250 @ f/4, ISO 200
Lens: Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro
Camera: Nikon D300

Shooting and processing
I shot one shot of the light bulb with a different background for each. It was during this I started thinking about Andy Worhol's work (collage of the same object in different colors). I did a reshoot, making sure that the camera didn't move. As mentioned I used a remote control for extra protection.

With four images of the same light bulb with different colors I imported them to Adobe Camera Raw and increased the exposure by 0.7 stop. The only editing I did in Photoshop was cropping, cutting and pasting (and a whole lot of cloning to remove the speculars from the commander flash on the camera, but that's another story).

The result:

Warhol's Light Bulbs

The coloring could easily been done in Photoshop too, but it was kind of fun to this the hard way, like Warhol:)


RyanM said...

Excellent work and fantastic result to boot ! Well done !

Steven said...

Fantastic final image, I love it, although I do hope your quip about Warhol is sarcastic. That guy got tons of college students to do his work, and just kept them high so they did not realize they were getting used... Thats the true "hard Way", ... I guess.