If It’s Not in Frame, It Doesn’t Exist

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 150mm — 1/250 sec, f/7.1, ISO 200
Nikon SB-800 at 1/128th power, full zoom, behind a paper behind the glass — full exif

Water #1a

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 150mm — 1/250 sec, f/7.1, ISO 200
Nikon SB-800 at 1/128th power, full zoom, behind a paper behind the glass — full exif

Water #1b

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 130mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200
Nikon SB-800 at 1/32nd power with built-in diffuser, behind a paper behind the glass — full exif

Water #2a

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 130mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200
Nikon SB-800 at 1/32nd power with built-in diffuser, behind a paper behind the glass — full exif

Water #2b

I've long known the old adage “if it's out of the frame (or can be cropped out), it doesn't exist.” Well, at least I've known the concept – the photographic equivalent of “out of sight, out of mind” – and so if they aren't an adage, they should be.

As I mentioned in one of my Kyoto fall-color previews a couple of weeks ago, that's one of the great challenges in photographing much of the beauty in Kyoto: to not photograph what is not beautiful that often intrudes into an otherwise photogenic scene (such as utility poles and wires). Out of necessity, I feel I've become quite the master at finely-creative framing, or put another way, lying with the camera.

Of course, when you can control the environment, such as when I did the clothing product shots the other day, you can lie even more, selectively showing what you want to be seen (the clothes) and hiding that which you don't want to be seen (everything else).

The four glass photos above were from my attempt to mimic a shot I saw on the web, which amazed me with its simplicity. I shot it in my kitchen last night, with this setup:


The Setup

(mouseover items in bold below to highlight in the photo above)

The glass is just sitting on my kitchen counter, along with whatever clutter happened to have been there. I suspended a sheet of paper behind the glass from one of those plastic sticks used to support up a tomato plant or the like. Behind the paper is the flash (Nikon MB-800) sitting on some boxes sitting on a drawer that I've pulled out to use as a support.

For the first pair of shots, the flash was on maximum zoom and the glass was quite a but further away from the paper than shown above. I also had the paper turned so that its long side was vertical.

However, after taking those shots, I noticed that the darkness beyond the paper was too visible in the refractions in the glass (especially in 1a), so to address that for the next pair of shots, I turned the paper sideways and put the glass closer, to where you see it in the setup photo.

I also put the flash into least-zoom mode, deployed its built in diffuser, and bumped up the power by a factor of four. This creates a much more even, smooth lighting. It turns out that I like the effect of the first way better, though.


View From Behind the Camera

(These “setup” pictures were taken with my point-n-shoot, which turns out to have had a big nasty fingerprint on the lens, which is why they are both fairly fuzzy).

To take the pictures, I turned off most of the room lights, and with one hand on the remote shutter release, I used the other to pour from the kettle into the glass, and snapped off a few shots.

In taking these, I was trying to mimic this shot, which I thought was a nice picture, but what really flabbergasted me was how simple and, er, “down home” the setup was. It shouldn't have surprised me in the least, but for whatever reason, I was just not prepared for it, so it had a notable eye-opening impact on me.

Even his idea of setting the white balance to incandescent light (which gives a flash-taken photo a blue color cast) has an effect whose strength is belied by its utter simplicity. Cool, in at least two senses of the word.

I just wish I had a better-looking glass, like the original. For my shots, I just grabbed the glass that I use each morning for my ice coffee.

I'd come across the glass photo because I'd followed Alexander Kiel's suggestion to check out strobist.com, a most-excellent flash-photography blog, which then led me to Flickr's Setups Mandatory group, which features photos and the setups in which they were created.

My kitchen is also where I took the picture of the fall-foliage beer can a month ago, but in that case I didn't use a flash, but instead a reading light and a mirror:


Setup for the Beer-Can Photo

I needed the mirror (tucked into the box of Band-Aids for support) to fill in light from the side. I think I'd tried a white sheet of paper, but it didn't reflect enough, so I moved to the mirror. I was very happy with the result.


All 4 comments so far, oldest first...

Hi Jeffrey, I love 1b the best. It’s amazing when enlarged. Thanks for the explanation. I have an sb-600 and would love to try something similar.

— comment by Jon on October 14th, 2007 at 5:02pm JST (10 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Very nicely done. And BTW, thanks for the tip on Andrei’s photoblog; Thanks to you two, I get a daily dose of beauty in the world. And that is a good thing.

— comment by mmk on October 14th, 2007 at 7:08pm JST (10 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,

Your post really inspired me to try a similar shot. I posted it to my gallery at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tzakiel/

Since you emulated another shot I didn’t feel too guilty doing the same. I did give you credit however! Thanks for the motivation!

Wow, yours are much nicer than mine. I really shouldn’t compare because I didn’t post intending to laud mine as a great work, but more along the lines of the post title, to demonstrate how simple it is to get a powerful effect. But still, yours are much nicer. I appreciate the credit, but it really should be to the guy I copied from, or, at least, to this specific post so that someone can click through to see my inspiration.

This is fun. I’m about to order a pair of SB-600s and then I’ll really have some fun 🙂 —Jeffrey

— comment by Jon on October 15th, 2007 at 2:41pm JST (10 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

I like the water glass pics!

— comment by Anne on September 7th, 2012 at 2:12pm JST (5 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink
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