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  #1  
Old 04-20-2008, 01:20 AM
MSWallace MSWallace is offline
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March of Dimes Collaboration Knife

I was the proud winner of this knife in the recent March of Dimes fund raiser. I've attempted a few photos and would like some input from you all.

I don't have much in the way of background materials so I used a scrap of grey upholstery fabric, left over from recovering the console on the Ford.

Let me know what you think, I'd love some tips on how to improve. I don't have PhotoShop, I have made some adjustments in Aperture (Apple), but my experience with the program is pretty much limited to storing my digital photos.













Thanks for your input.
Mike
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  #2  
Old 04-20-2008, 02:46 AM
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Buddy Thomason Buddy Thomason is offline
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Nice knife! I can see why you're proud to be it's winner/owner. And the pictures are very good. They portray every aspect of the knife and sheath accurately, clearly and they're pleasing to look at as well. I had to really look at them for a while to come up with anything useful to suggest.

One thing to consider would be how to soften the shadows. Without the details concerning your lighting set-up, it's difficult to make specific suggestions. There is a great book that explains how to create and control shadows and more. It's called LIGHT - Science & Magic by Hunter, Biver and Fuqua (3rd edition). It's put out by Focal Press, is easy to read and understand.

The other thing might be how to compose the sheath and knife in a more typically pleasing manner. On this subject a picture is worth a thousand words and I'd simply refer you to the web-sites of this forum's moderators, Terrill Hoffman and Jim Cooper. A quick trip through their respective knife photo galleries will convince most folks that there is probably a 'best' way to arrange a folder and sheath like the ones you have shown here, plus maybe one or two reasonable alternatives. I won't spoil the discovery by attempting a description.

What camera/lens settings are you using? Tripod or hand-held? What's the intended use for your pictures - internet vs print? These are also useful areas to explore.

Nice knife and nice pictures, Mike. Thanks for sharing them here. I'm sure you'll get some good input from othes who cruise this forum.


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  #3  
Old 04-20-2008, 02:47 PM
MSWallace MSWallace is offline
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Buddy, Thanks for the response and the suggestions.

My lighting setup is a bent piece of plastic fluorescent light cover clamped to my workbench. I got some great tips on the threads here, I purchased two of the Daylight bulbs mentioned in an earlier thread, and arranged my box so that I can shoot down from the top rather than from the front. I'll attach a photo of my set up, it was taken before the changes. The light cover material I'm using for my box isn't ideal. It's got a pattern that shows up when I photograph mirror finishes.

I see your point with regard to the hard shadows in my shots. I'm not bouncing the light, just letting it flood in. That's probably part of the problem. I just tried to soften the shadows on one of the photos using Aperture's "Dodge & Burn" plug-in. I wasn't successful, I need to read the tutorial rather than just messing around with it. I'm not even sure it's the proper tool for the job. I guess adjusting the lights on my box is the better solution.

My camera is a Sony Mavica MVC-CD400. I purchased it about 5 years ago. It's a 4 megapixel and the photos are stored on a mini CD in the camera. I have a newer Pentax Optio 6 megapixel, but the Sony seems to take better pictures, I think because its got a Carl Zeiss lens.

I leave the camera on the automatic setting and switch it to Macro. It selected the following on my latest shots: Aperture f/2, shutter speed 1/100, ISO 100. Not sure what it all means but that's whats listed under Metadata.

I don't have a camera tripod so I set up my building transit tripod and rest my arms on it when I shoot. It's a little goofy but I think it steadies me pretty good. You can see it set up in the photo below. I've visited the sites of the moderators and viewed their photos. I think I'm getting a better idea of composition, I'm going to out to try again now. Do you want to see my next attempt?

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  #4  
Old 04-20-2008, 03:20 PM
TomD TomD is offline
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Hand held, point and shoot camera, and no post processing to speak of? You have done marvelously. I think you have nicely captured the knife.

And speaking of the knife, wow! You won that? It far exceeds anything that I've won and that includes cumulatively.


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  #5  
Old 04-20-2008, 06:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSWallace
I need to read the tutorial rather than just messing around with it.I thought I was the only one with this problem. Reading will help and LIGHT - Science & Magic is still the best investment you could make right now.

I guess adjusting the lights on my box is the better solution.
You can try moving the lights around and that may help if you can get one light to cancel or lessen the shadows produced by the other. However, I suspect the diffusion material you're using might also be an issue.

Do you want to see my next attempt?
Yes, for sure!
.................................................. ....


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  #6  
Old 04-20-2008, 08:23 PM
MSWallace MSWallace is offline
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TomD....Thanks for the comments, and yeah, I'm not typically a lucky guy but I hit it big last week.

Buddy..I'll definitely check out the book, are there any libraries open any more? Here are a few more shots, smaller files this time. This is quite a challenge. I took about 40 shots and most of them have issues (maybe all of them). Out of focus somewhere, hot spots, reds showing up, damascus not showing......

I think you're right about my diffuser, it's got clear spots, not quite white. I'll have to find a replacement, the white trash bags maybe.

Different background this time, cork shelf liner, softens the shadows but kinda weird. It's odd how the colors change when I shift the lights around. The settings are the same: automatic, macro, but the colors come out different.

Composing the shots is obviously an art in itself, aside from the technical aspects of all this, I guess you have to develop an eye for it. I'll keep viewing the pros work and maybe get a clue, eventually. The collages I see seem to be an excellent way to display different aspects of the knife in one presentation....but one thing at a time.

Here's some more. I think my previous shots are better, I don't know why.











Got about an hour of sunlight left....gonna go dig in the yard and get my hands dirty. More comments, critiques welcome.

Mike
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  #7  
Old 04-21-2008, 12:27 AM
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Buddy Thomason Buddy Thomason is offline
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Mike - Frustrating, isn't it? Oh, I've lost my mind several times trying to make a good knife photo. But still, it's fun in kind of a sick way.

The last photo in the above post speaks volumes. The composition is improved; now the eye can more easily move around the photo. That'll get you more 'face time' with your viewers because people just move on (especially on the web) if the image presents any obstacles - without knowing or even caring why - click, gone. By the same token they'll pause and take a more relaxed look if you bow to the neurophysiology of seeing while composing, lighting and exposing your photo.

Also, while the dreaded symmetrical X arrangement is best avoided, the 'squeezed' or 'tilted' or otherwise altered X seems generally pleasing to most viewers. Tip bottom left is part of the equation too (of course there are exceptions but...).

AND... the same photo shows you why you need to move your lighting back so it hits the knife from the upper left, 'over the shoulder' if you will, and then place a small white card or piece of white foam board close to the knife either directly in front or to the right in order to bounce light back onto the tip, grind and edge. That's also how you can partially cancel out harsh shadows.

There can be many good compositions and lighting arrangements (I'm not talking about composite images - forget those for now), but it's truly hard to make the exceptions work without first knowing how to make the basic kife display poses work. I humbly admit I had to learn that the hard way, and still have to re-learn over and over... basics, basics, basics. Laziness and impulsivity coupled with lack of time are the constant enemies of my desire to make good photographic images.

So, don't be surprised if you actually get worse before you get better, as a result of actually trying to learn how to do this well. It can be frustrating but never give up and know that you too will someday be rich and famous like Coop and Terrill.


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Old 04-21-2008, 12:30 AM
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PS: Get a used copy of LIGHT - Science & Magic cheap, from Amazon.com or similar bookseller. If you check it out from a library you'll just wind up stealing it and get your library card revoked - because you'll need it for a lot longer than 2 weeks.


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Old 04-21-2008, 05:24 AM
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The dreaded symmetrical X composition:


The squeezed, tilted or somehow otherwise assymetric X composition:


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Old 04-21-2008, 04:47 PM
MSWallace MSWallace is offline
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The Battle Wages On

Buddy,
Thanks again for the comments. I checked Amazon for LIGHT - Science & Magic, it's about $30-35 used. I'll pick up a copy.

The "Dreaded Symmetrical X", I see your point. Odd how your second photo presents in a more pleasing way.

I've made another attempt. This time I went outside, it's sunny today in Santa Rosa. I jambed my diffuser between two deck boards and shot behind it. I tried using a white piece of poster board to reflect the light back to the blade, I was marginally successful. My wife lent me some colored paper she has for her scrap-booking projects to use as backgrounds.

This damascus blade seems to be a real challenge to photograph. It muddies up if the light doesn't hit it just right. These five shots a culled from approx. 110 attempts. Let me know what you think.....














Mike
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  #11  
Old 04-21-2008, 05:18 PM
TomD TomD is offline
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I like the last shot, the background is very complimentary, the blade nicely illuminated and the red stones in the handle seem to add disproportionately.

Also, for whatever reason, your later shots are much sharper than your initial series. It would have to be very anal to suggest this but I would rotate the knife 5 degrees clockwise so that the shot is oriented in your frame and the motifs in the knife are vertical relative to the holster. Hey, I'm a structural engineer, you want guys like me to be anal when your life is on the line.


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Last edited by TomD; 04-21-2008 at 06:15 PM.
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  #12  
Old 04-22-2008, 09:55 AM
MSWallace MSWallace is offline
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TomD, Thanks again for the comments. So, you're saying shift the knife so that the tip is pointing directly into the corner of the shot? I might be able to achieve that by cropping the photo differently. Don't think I want to get set up again to shift the sheath though.....

Structural Engineer, oh, the stories I could tell. I've been building houses in Napa and Sonoma counties (Calif) for years, Seismic Zone 4. I know you well.....

Mike
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Old 04-22-2008, 11:25 AM
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Mike - I agree with TomD. The last shot is the best. The following suggestion gets at what TomD is thinking, I think. To my eye, that image is cropped a bit too tightly on the top and bottom. In general, I try to leave roughly equal amounts of background (as measured by the distance from the furthest edge of the knife or sheath and the edge of the canvas) on all four sides. How much is debatable: Too little and it starts to look cramped, too much and the background starts to dominate.

Additionally, the camera angle is a little high, slightly distorting the handle/blade size relationship or 'perspective'. Do you see what I mean?

For examples of where to place the tip, perspective issues etc., in addition to Terrill and Coop's web-sites, check out my LooksXpensive link below AND take a look at Eric Eggly/Point7's knife image site: http://knifephoto.com/knifephoto_site.swf
I do this all the time so I can see how others might have dealt with the same issue, whatever it may be.

Good work, Mike!


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Old 04-22-2008, 01:22 PM
MSWallace MSWallace is offline
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Buddy, Thanks again for the tips. I see what you, and TomD, mean with regard to the background, I think I got a little carried away cropping. The distortion issue, I didn't even notice that. You're right, the blade appears too small in relation to the knife. I find myself moving the camera around until I get the blade looking right and then hitting the shutter. I wasn't even considering the effect it had on the perspective.

I'll give this one more try, more photos coming....

Wow!!!... the knives and photography on the knifephoto.com site and your site are amazing. I didn't get through all the shots, I'll be going back soon to look some more.
Mike
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Old 04-22-2008, 03:34 PM
MSWallace MSWallace is offline
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Here's a few more....can't accuse me of not being persistent. I'm not sure I'm getting the perspective correct yet, the blade still looks short.














Comments more than welcome,
Mike
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