Prucia Plum Wine from France, and Some Dramatic Lighting, and Rolling-Stones Beer
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Prucia Japanese plum wine, from France ( though it seems I've made it look like a perfume advertisement in this shot )  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 200 — image data
Prucia
Japanese plum wine, from France
( though it seems I've made it look like a perfume advertisement in this shot )

I mentioned the other day in a post about a minor heart episode that a local restaurant, Togiya, serves Prucia, a plum wine (umeshu梅酒) from France. I'd never seen a plum wine from outside Japan.

Well, in the store the other day to pick up some of the fiesta-in-a-bottle Sangria Peñasol that I mentioned in last month's “A Bunch Of Blurry Pictures of Folks Pouring Wine”, to my surprise I came across a bottle of Prucia on the shelf. In the name of research and public service, I brought it home with me.

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/40 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — image data

I've shown great restraint in letting it sit in the fridge, wanting to photograph the interesting bottle before actually partaking of its quirky liquid goodness. I finally got around to having it sit for a portrait for me, and in doing so had much better luck with the lighting than I did in yesterday's portraiture practice.

Make no mistake, I still have almost no clue what I'm doing, but bottles are a lot easier than people, and when you can immediately check the results on the back of the camera and make adjustments, just a bit of knowledge about light can go a very long way in guiding your experiments.

I read the most-excellent book “Light — Science and Magic” many years ago, and quite a bit has stuck with me. I've got it here on the shelf.. a re-read would certainly be time well spent.

Anyway, here's the setup for the “white” shot above:

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic DMC-TS3 at an effective 29mm — 1/50 sec, f/3.3, ISO 400 — image data

It's really quite simple... three craft-store white foam boards sitting on my kitchen table, and a flash directly off to the side (next to a bottle of a different kind of plum wine that we'll see later in this post).

The on-camera flash is up, but it was acting only as the commander for the on-table flash, and did not add to the photograph's lighting.

From the rear..

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic DMC-TS3 at an effective 29mm — 1/60 sec, f/3.3, ISO 100 — image data

Each of the two standing foam boards are held by simple little plastic store-display tag holders that I bought almost five years ago, just after the last time I tried any of this stuff. Back then I had these lighting-related articles:

After all that, I bought a bunch of clamps and stands and stuff, and used them to take up space in my closet for almost five years until I pulled them out today. Still, I was too lazy to use two stands per board, so I grabbed some CDs to keep the background board pressed snugly up against the floor board.

Before doing much with the flash, you want to see how much the ambient light will impact the shot, so here's one without any flash:

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/40 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — image data

I futzed around with all kinds of things, including minor adjustments in camera position, flash power, flash location, aperture, etc. Here's one from later, also without flash, from a slightly higher camera position, stopped down to f/4 to increase the depth of field:

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/20 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — image data

Each change is subtle, but gives quite a different mood.

Pulling the cold bottle from the fridge resulted in the expected photogenic sheen of sweat, and I tried various things to try to pull out that detail. Here I put the flash directly behind the bottle....

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/80 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — image data

That's a bit overpowering, so I moved the flash back a bit, and raised it up a bit as well....

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic DMC-TS3 at an effective 29mm — 1/50 sec, f/3.3, ISO 400 — image data

The result is a bit more balanced...

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — image data

With that last one, I groomed the light a bit, so to speak, in Lightroom, to increase the moodiness.

It's at this point I pulled the camera back to take the sort-of-dramatic perfume-advertisement-ish shot that opened this post. I increased the shutter speed and made the aperture smaller, thus killing the ambient light. (That is, making the non-flash light insufficient to register a photo; if I were to have taken a shot without the flash, it would have been black.)

So, I add the flash and set its power so that it gives the effect I wanted.

I tried all kinds of things. I placed the flash almost up against the side of the bottle...

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic DMC-TS3 at an effective 102mm — 1/20 sec, f/5.7, ISO 400 — image data

... to produce...

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/80 sec, f/8, ISO 320 — image data

I tried snooting the flash between some tissue boxes, in an effort to highlight the sweat beads from the side...

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic DMC-TS3 at an effective 29mm — 1/40 sec, f/3.3, ISO 400 — image data

... but it just produced this:

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/160 sec, f/8, ISO 200 — image data

I tried shooting from above down into the bottle, and also added some front fill via the on-camera flash

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic DMC-TS3 at an effective 29mm — 1/20 sec, f/3.3, ISO 400 — image data

... and got this:

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/160 sec, f/8, ISO 200 — image data

Before pulling the Prucia from the fridge, I wanted to practice with a non-cold bottle. Fumie likes the Kumano (熊野) plum wine from 熊平の梅, and having just gotten a bottle, I thought it was the perfect place to start.

“Kumano Plum Wine” from Kumahei no Ume  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/200 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — image data
“Kumano Plum Wine”
from Kumahei no Ume

It's a less expressive bottle, but I still futzed around with polarizer filters, flash placement, etc. Here's a slightly more sterile look I stumbled upon:

Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/40 sec, f/8, ISO 200 — image data

Many factors go into each shot, including some that are not recorded in the image Exif. The placement of the flash, whether the on-camera was used, the power each flash is fired at, whether a polarizer was used and if so its setting... all of this plays an important part in the final result, but since I was change these all around willy nilly and took no notes, I have only a vague memory of what actually applied to each shot, so it was a learning experience, but not as much of one as it could have been.

I guess I'll just have to do it again.

And finally, from the “only in Japan” files, here's a can of beer I just had to shoot:

Rolling Hop  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 200 — image data
Rolling Hop

In case you can't quite read that at the bottom, yes, it actually says:

“The rolling stones are the greatest rock 'n roll band in the world”  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
“The rolling stones are the greatest rock 'n roll band in the world”
( opinions expressed by the can do not necessarily reflect that of your blog author )

I wonder whether Suntory had to pay the Rolling Stones for the logo, or the Stones had to pay Suntory for the tagline.

I also wonder where this beer was produced. I don't recall it when I toured the local Suntory brewery this spring.


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

“I tried snooting the flash between boxes…..” I like the word “snooting”, but don’t really know what it means. 🙂
That first bottle is fantastic. The birds on the branches really appeal to me, as I’m sure the wine would, Lovely, lovely bottle with good marketing.

A snoot is a baffle, like blinders on a horse but on all four sides, to limit light to a particular area. I’ll bring some Prucia when I come next month. —Jeffy

— comment by Grandma Friedl, Ohio, USA on June 26th, 2012 at 10:51pm JST (5 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Thanks for sharing your experiences with product photography. You accomplished quite a bit with just one off-camera strobe and white boards. Do you have a second strobe? It would be interesting to use it together with gels to add color to the scene. Regards. Tom

I have an SB-800 and another SB-600 somewhere, but I can’t find them and the friends I might have loaned them to claim that they don’t have them, so I guess I need to clean my office. But I was happy to limit myself this time to just get a handle on some basics. —Jeffrey

— comment by Tom in SF on June 26th, 2012 at 11:53pm JST (5 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Nice post.

— comment by Boris on June 27th, 2012 at 7:20pm JST (5 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Thanks for sharing your results Jeffrey. I always find your down to earth posts interesting.

I struggled with product lighting (and still do) but I found the book Light – Science and Magic invaluable too. Heartily recommend it for anyone into photography as the lessons in it gave me a much greater understanding of what I’m looking at before I photograph it, and how to control light a bit better.

I keep trying anyway.

— comment by Matthew on June 27th, 2012 at 10:58pm JST (5 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

About the snoot – you might want to try with black cardboard/foamcore. I think the unexpected result was because of reflections on the white sides of the tissue boxes.

— comment by Olivier on August 6th, 2012 at 5:20am JST (5 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink
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