If this picture gives you a sense of Déjà vu, you might be on to something. Ever since I got my macro lens I have found myself revisiting pictures I shot years ago when I got a set of close-up filters—building on what I have learned, trying to take my photography farther, and adding to my own personal toolbox of photography techniques. This week’s picture is one of the first that I can recall that is designed to be a direct copy of an earlier composition, but better. And while I’m not entirely certain that I pulled off exactly what I was aiming for, I can say for certain that this shot shows evidence of learning and growth. And that, as you probably know, is what really matters to me.
For reference, here is my post from seven years ago with the original image of my pocket watch. I shot it with my 50mm lens and one or more close-up filters attached to the front, and all things considered it’s not a bad image. Not at all. It does pretty much about what I wanted it to do, which is show a close-up view of the watch face with hands set to roughly 10:10. Now that I have a true macro lens and a decent set of basic lights, I thought I could take a similar shot but do it much better, and with more intentionality, than the original. I think it worked, but again, the emphasis here is not on the final output but on the journey it took to get there. Hopefully if I revisit this same composition again years down the line the result will be improved even more.
When I took this shot I really wanted to pay attention to a few things that never even occurred to me on the original. First and foremost was lighting: I wanted to use my new Pavotubes to make the watch really shine in a way that the first picture lacked. First I tried making the composition using wild colors of light like purple, orange, red, etc. The results were bad. Really bad. Instead of causing the watch to shine, it just looked dingy and weird. Or maybe post-futuristic, like something out of Blade Runner. Either way, it was not, as they say in The Mandalorian, the way. I had to find a better option.
Then I realized that the Pavotubes have a pretty nifty option which I had heretofore entirely overlooked: you can set a custom white balance. Rather than experimenting with colors, I set the value of all three Pavotubes to basic white light with a temperature of 2700K. That transformed the shooting process entirely. I found myself going to a mental state where I was using the lights to highlight and accentuate the color of the watch rather than using lights to change or otherwise alter the color, as I had previously done with so many similar images.
My task, then, became an exploration of how to use the lights to best showcase the watch. I ended up with the setup that you can see below:
Each of the three lights was placed intentionally: the two on the sides created a rich glow on the outer bezel of the watch, and the light I am holding up with my hand made the face glow while also adding a spark to the tick marks at 1 and 7. It took a ton of experimentation to get the lighting just right, and I really just ended up taking dozens of shots until I found one that just worked. Editing was super simple too: I set the white balance of the RAW file in Lightroom to 2700K to match the lighting precisely, and all I did after that was use the Heal took to remove some spots and other imperfections.
Yeah, these lights are awesome :)