Light from the Side for Texture

May 21, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

The cold temperatures continue to linger well into March here in the Chicago area. Rather than brave the cold again, I decided to stay in the house. My photo subject was an old baseball. As a long-time youth baseball coach, I probably have at least 200 of these baseballs in my garage!

The setup for this shot was simple. I sat the baseball on a desk and lit the subject with a desk lamp. My camera (Nikon D800) was secured to a tripod. I selected a macro lens--the Nikon 105VR. I also stacked three Kenko extension tubes between the lens and my camera to enable to lens to focus from a closer distance.

For shots like this--where the subject isn't moving--I always set the camera for mirror lock-up and use a cable release to trigger the shutter. That way, I remove the possibility of any camera vibration from pressing the shutter.

I wanted as much of the baseball to be in sharp focus as possible, so I selected a very narrow aperture of f/29. Using this small aperture, a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds was required to achieve the desired exposure at the base ISO setting of 100. I always use the camera's base ISO setting for stationary subjects in order to maximize image quality.

Since this is an old baseball, I wanted the emphasis of the picture to be on the texture of the seams and the cover of the ball. To highlight the texture, I moved the light (the desk lamp) to the side of the baseball. By side-lighting the subject, every little piece of elevated leather cast a shadow--making the baseball's cover appear rough. If I had moved the light to the front of the ball and lit it from the position of the lens, the light would have filled in most of the shadows and made the baseball appear smoother.

Baseball seams (sepia version) I used Lightroom 4 to process the raw file initially. The Clarity slider in Lightroom helps emphasize the texture. Then, I applied the Tonal Contrast filter within Nik's Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in. Generally, I first apply the default Tonal Contrast filter to the photo and then later dial down the opacity of the filter as appropriate. I also apply filters to the picture selectively by painting the effect into certain areas of the frame.



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