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Where there’s Muck, there’s Brass Setup

Image by nickwheeleroz
Strobist Information:

I had been thinking about this assignment for a few days and had not come up with any real workable ideas when I was fetching something from the garage and spotted the green tin in the picture. It was originally a novelty plant pot and as soon as I saw it the idea for the picture popped into my head. If the light had to do double duty, then why not the topic?

The first problem I had was how to get the recycle symbol onto the tin. This turned out to be the hardest part of the whole project and ended up taking me two days! My first idea was to create a template and draw it on with a magic marker. I downloaded the recycle symbol from the internet and printed it out to the size I wanted. I then taped the paper to a sheet of sticky back plastic (the sort school children use to cover there exercise books) and then taped this to a sheet of cardboard. I carefully cut out the shape with a box cutter and popped out the individual pieces. I was left with a nice neat template that I could stick directly to the tin. With this in place, I filled in the holes with the magic marker and left it a couple of minutes to dry. Feeling pretty pleased with myself for coming up with such an ingenious solution I carefully peeled off the plastic to revel a complete mess! The magic marker had seeped under the plastic and left an unusable feathery mess on the tin. Oh dear, not quite what I had planned. Luckily, I still had the other side of the tin I could use, but I would have no more second chances, what ever I tried next would have to work.

I still had the template and wondered if I could draw the symbol by hand. I traced the outline using a pencil and was just about to start drawing when I thought better of it and decided to have a practice on the ruined side. Good job I did, as my attempts to draw the symbol by hand were a little disastrous to say the least. Time for another idea.

I thought about the problem for a while and then remembered I had some iron on t-shirt transfer inkjet paper. I wondered if this might work on the tin. I printed the symbol (reversed) onto a sheet of the special paper and fired up the iron. Again, I decided to try things out on the by now rather shabby looking side of the tin and again it was a good job I did. The transfers work great on cotton, on tin, not so well. The resultant sticky mess was not at all pleasing to the eye.

I was starting to run out of ideas, but then decided to try printing directly onto the sticky back plastic. I cut a sheet out to A4 size and feed it into the printer. Within seconds it was plainly obvious that this was a stupid idea as big globs of ink ran down the plastic all over my desk, my hands, my carpet and anything else within ten feet of the printer. I gave up and went to bed.

The next day I went to the local K-mart to see if I could find some sort of transfer paper that would work on the tin. No luck, but what I did find was a roll of black shiny sticky back plastic. Perfect! I took a roll home and created another template, this time keeping the parts I cut out and discarding the outline. I then stuck the individual pieces to the tin and what do you know, one very passable recycle symbol.

With the props sorted out it was time to put the picture together. First I filled the tin with crumpled up paper and then raided the piggy bank for every coin we had. I piled these up on top of the paper to make it look like the tin was full to overflowing.

Next I started building the set up. I knew I wanted the light to light the front of the tin, the coins on top and the background. The first thing to do was to raise the tin off the ground. I used my PW boxes to support a sheet of glass from a picture frame and put the tin on top of this. There was now enough room underneath it to start splitting up the light from the SB-28.

I placed the flash on its side just slightly in front of the tin pointing towards the background. I then put a small mirror at a 45 degree angle right up against the flash so that it split the flash head in half. I taped a purple gel to the bottom of the mirror so that it hung in front of the bottom half of the flash. This would be the light for the background.

The 45 degree mirror fired light upwards across the front of the tin but left the money in the top in the dark. To get some light on this, I clamped a mirror tile into a reflector holder and placed it above the tin just in front of it and angled back towards it slightly. I worked out the exact placement to get maximum light by replacing the flash with a small LED torch. I could see from this exactly where the light was going to fall.

The last step was to place the background. I used a large sheet of white card and hung it from a wooden rod clamped into a super clamp on a light stand. I hung the card so that the bottom rested on the table and allowed me to bend it slightly to give a nice graduation to the background colour.

With everything roughly in place I started taking pictures and made a few slight adjustments to tweak the lighting. I initially had the flash on full power thinking that splitting the light would cause it to loose a lot of power, but it was pretty obvious that half power was plenty for this shot.

The final setup ended up looking like an experiment in a particle physics lab and having two more SB-28’s in my camera bag next to me made all the adjustments to get the background, foreground and top lighting right seem like a lot of work, but it was very satisfying when the final shot came together!

Picture here: Where there’s Muck, there’s Brass

Learn how to light:

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