Today I took a short trip into the studio to play with an idea I’d come up with the day before. On a recent to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, I purchased a small chunk of amethyst in their gems gift store. This little piece cost me $5 and it was worth every cent.
After looking at it for a while I had started to see it as far off alien landscape. I decided that I could shoot a macro of it and place a painted sunset behind it to give it some more depth.
The first step was to paint the sunset as I didn’t have one small enough. The entire piece of amethyst is only about 2 inches long. So I cut off a small piece of canvas and used some acrylic paints to create my backdrop.
Then I set up my shot. I first tried a 50mm lens on a reversing ring with an extension tube, but found that I just didn’t get enough depth of field. I switched over to my 100mm macro lens and saw that I didn’t quite get close enough. With minimal experimentation, I ended up using 2 extension tubes (12mm and 20mm) between the camera and the lens.
Here’s the viewpoint I had:
I used ‘live view’ on the camera to help with focusing. Positioning was quite simple as I was using the full rock and width of the backdrop. The only real composition I was concerned with was the angle of shooting, which I decided to do as just straight across. I did have some choices for focus (due to the limited depth of field) so I focused on the crystal that stood highest against the background.
Lighting was straightforward, I used one 1000w studio light positioned to the left, plus some minimal incidental light. I used a custom white balance to get natural colors. Here’s the complete setup:
I took a few shots and felt that it needed just a little something else. So I grabbed a laser pointer and aimed at random places on the rock as I shot. The laser reflected off and through the various crystals, so each shot was a little different. Here’s the laser pointing at the table and on the rock:
With minimal Photoshoppery, here is the final image. I adjusted for curves and boosted the saturation slightly (I shoot with a neutral camera control). I removed a few dust spots and and sharpened it slightly.
If you have any questions about the technique, ask them below and I’ll answer them.
Thanks for reading.