October 2019 | Issue no. 38 | by mark shaiken

In this issue, do :: or :: diso tackles the weird stuff. What to shoot when you are feeling a little bit different; the world is full of . . . well . . . different opportunities to grow your creative juices. There is so very much in the world to use to create an image. Emphasis:  create the image; don’t just take a picture.  Much of it is right before your eyes, or right above your line of sight. For example, take this wine pour image:

                      Nikon D700 | ISO 250 | 70-200mm lens at 200mm | f / 16 | 1/250 second.

Actually, it is a pour of red water into a champagne glass.  Life is far too short to waste good wine.  The image was taken in our family room with lots of WalMart towels on the floor to mop up the mess.  The glass base, out of the shot, is held on a tripod with some museum putty at a tilt approximating a 45 degree angle.  Red dye in the water; two SB900 Speedlights around the glass triggered by PocketWizard Flex TT5s; a pure white background; a remote trigger. As I poured the water into the glass, I squeezed the trigger and this is the shot.  In post, drag the white slider in Lightroom to make the background pure white, and play with the red sliders for luminescence and saturation and you have it.  The result is a glass with a rim that is more of a suggestion.  Why take the shot?  It was fun.  No other reason.  And, it was snowing outside so my need to make an image had to move to an inside project.

Here is another cold day indoor shot creating something that looks like strawberries tumbling through the air:

                           Nikon D700 | ISO 200 | 105mm macro lens | f / 22 | 1/200 second.

This shot was created with a white laundry basket, lined with white construction paper, covered with a white translucent piece of acrylic.   Inside the basket, I put two SB900 Speedlights with one flash pointed upward to the acrylic and one bounced off the construction paper.  Distribute the strawberry halves on top of the acrylic.  Use two more SB900s outside the basket pointed down on the strawberries.  The Speedlights were all triggered by Pocket Wizard Flex TT5s.  Then, focus on the strawberries, and take the shot as the flashes fire.  In effect, the four flashes created a bath of light with only the strawberries showing – a high key portrait of the fruit.  In post, drag the white slider in Lightroom to make the background pure white, and play with the red sliders for fruit luminescence and saturation and this is what you get.

Here is another shot from around the house. For this one, I bought some yellow roses and borrowed a piece of my wife’s jewelry.

                             Nikon D700 | ISO 250 | 200mm macro lens | f / 36 | 1/250 second.

I am not an avid flower photographer, but they serve a purpose when the options to shoot are limited by outdoor weather.  Here, the setup was identical to that used in the previous strawberries shot – same basket, acrylic, Pocket Wizards, and Speedlights.  Same post and I added the star to the topaz with the Topaz Star Effects plugin (how fitting) which works with Lightroom and Photoshop.  Might make a nice Valentines Day card.

And, just to further illustrate the make shift light box, here are some tumbling flash cubes and a flash bulb from the olden days of photography:

                           Nikon D700 | ISO 200 | 70-200mm lens at 62mm | f / 9.0 | 1/200 second.

              Nikon D700 | ISO 250 | 70-200mm lens at 58mm | f / 22 | 1/250 second.

Both were the same light box setup and post.

How about a cheese grater?

                             Nikon D700 | ISO 250 | 200mm macro lens | f / 25 | 1/250 second.

For this shot, I bought a small, red, white and blue piece of cloth and set up the cloth on the kitchen counter to reflect in the mirror-like surface of the grater. Some flashes triggered by the same Pocket Wizards, some playing with angles to eliminate too much flash reflection and to maximize the red white and blue colors.  And, inside the cheese grater is a small, blue gelled flashlight, and there you have it.

Then there are fish tank antics illustrated by strawberries in a fish tank and the cover shot of this article.

                              Nikon D4 | ISO 500 | 70-200mm lens at 190mm | f / 16 | 1/250 second.

Here, a trip to PetsMart yielded a small, inexpensive fish tank that I filled with water.  Camera on a tripod focused where I would drop several strawberries into the water.  The focus trick I used was to have my son put his fingers into the water about where the strawberries would be, focus on his fingers and then switch to manual focus mode.  Some Speedlights on the sides of the tank, Pocket Wizard Flex TT5s, a remote trigger, and drop the fruit and shoot.  Towels on the floor again.  The timing takes a little work, but the results are fun.  A little selective saturation in post as well as clarity to emphasize the water splash.  I have dropped many different fruits, veggies, and other items into the fish tank.  Experiment and see what you think.

What to do in an out of town hotel room during a business trip with no meetings until tomorrow?

   Nikon D600 | ISO 200 | 28-300mm lens at 68mm | f / 5.6 | 1/160 second.

The cubes in the glass are fake ice that I packed along with my camera, one lens, one SB700 Speedlight, a piece of silver reflection foil, and Pocket Wizards.  The table is the glass-topped desk on the hotel room.  The utensil is from the hotel ice bucket.  The background is downtown Minneapolis.  Flash on one side of the glass, and foil on the other to reflect light back onto the glass and ice.  Lower the white balance temperature just a bit to accentuate some of the blues.  Some playing around to make sure the flash did not create a reflection.  Increase clarity in post to enhance the ice cubes and there you have it.

I was hired by a Kansas City boxing product company to shoot their gloves for an installation in their office conference room.  On one of the shots, I decided to get a little goofy.

                       Nikon  D600 | ISO 250 | 14-24mm lens at 24mm | f / 16 | 1/250 second. 

The gloves were lit by one SB 900 Speedlight triggered by  a Pocket Wizard Flex TT5.  But, where to place the gloves?  How about on a rock overlooking downtown Kansas City?  I added the moon in post and I figured this would be the throw away shot that I had fun taking, but would not be of interest to the company management.  It ended up in the conference room so I guess they liked that it was different.

You can also look for things that are different as you tour around the country or walk around the city.


This is the famous key at Alcatraz prison, and below is an example of looking up when you are out and about in the city.

Have some photography fun with what the world gives you. And try to see things a little differently.



Mark Shaiken skylineDenver based, mark shaiken :: photography
contact me at: markshaiken@fastmail.com
or by calling 913.530.6539