My new D800 just came in a few weeks ago, so I’m just learning some of the capabilities. I’ve paired it with an SB-910 flash, which is insanely powerful for a stock unit. I like to test things under controlled setups, but I don’t usually keep any kind of studio or table set up. That means when the bug bites, I make stuff up.
In this case, my son wanted me to get a picture of these really cool insect eggs attached to the bottom of a leaf. What a great excuse for a DIY macro studio!
So I set about looking for something easy to put together while pouring some milk into my coffee. I happened to use the last drop – how fortuitous. The carton of milk was just the right size to house my leaf. Grabbing a utility knife, I went to work opening the front with a fold-down flap, removing most of the back, and making a tiny ‘barn door’ in one side.
The front flap acts to reflect light from an overhead skylight. In the back, I placed some black foam core, and the slit on the side was to fake a dark field look. The carton has one of those screw-top closures so that’s where I’d suspend the leaf. Mounting the leaf took the most time, because I had to attach it to something that would keep it relatively still.
Plastic-coated garden wire, the same kind that used to come with trash bags to tie them up, was just the thing. I stripped off some of the plastic to expose the wire, and used white glue to attach it to the end of the leaf. This gave me both flexibility and just enough rigidity to pose the leaf. The wire was pushed up through the screw top opening and held with a tiny clamp.
Once the leaf was hanging, I set about placing the black backdrop and positioning the flash to fire through the slit in the side of the carton. This took a few test shots, and I had to end up flagging the front of the flash so it didn’t bleed to the lens. Once all that was ready, I set up the shot in camera and snapped a few different variations.
In the end, I wanted some light coming through the leaf, and a little highlight on the edges. Since the inside of the milk carton is a glossy off-white, this provided enough bounce from the far side to give a hint of highlight on the trailing edges. The leaf itself is translucent and has a curvy surface, so I knew I could play with the grazing angle of the flash to get different highlights and patterns.
What I ended up with in the attached image is a glowing side contrasted by the reflective surface of the egg patch. The softer glow from the leaf provides a nice visual balance to the specular highlights on the egg cases. And the little cut-away where somebody made a meal of the leaf gives an interesting tension to the jagged outline of the rest of the leaf’s edge.
Click the leaf thumbnail above to see a larger version in my gallery.