Taking photographs of suiseki and pots for us has been a real challenge. There always seems to be a struggle in setting things up and then shooting photos that didn’t need a lot of work in Photoshop to get the color reproduction correctly. Late last week we decided it was time to purchase some lights to help out in this process. I don’t know about you but attempting to figure out what lights would work best to some degree is like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack. There are so many options. We were looking for something that could be easily setup and that didn’t cost us a paycheck.
I think we finally found the right solution with Kühl Lites which can be found here. You can read all about these lights at their site but the thing we liked about them is they are small, a complete set, and very reasonably priced. However, all of that said the proof is in the photographs. We set everything up quickly this morning and took a variety of shots that we believed would test the lights well. The following photographs were shot in a two light setup using a Canon 5d digital camera. The camera was set to 5400K to match the light source.
So here we go. I hope you will take some time to give us some “tough” feedback. Some of these photos came out spot on in color. Others the background was a bit too gray (shooting against a white background) so some more experimentation will need to occur to get things just right. All of that said we were pleased with the first results and believe we can get even better photos with some more experimentation.
The first thing we noticed was that the color of this stone in the photo almost matches perfectly what this stone looks like. One can see the natural and true colors in the crop of this photo below.
The depth of field on this photo is not perfect in that the back of the stone is a bit out of focus but overall we like the look.
Washington State jade is a shiny almost black stone which can be very difficult to photograph. Trying to avoid hot spots can be tough while trying to obtain a good contrast with decent shadows. Overall we are pleased with this photo but what do you think?
We have posted about this stone before but thought this was another good example to shoot. Typically before in shooting the stones without decent lights, it would require a good 30 minutes of editing in Photoshop to remove the background and to lay in a new one such as shown above. Using better lighting, more seamless, it took literally three clicks to remove the white background! What an improvement. The blue sky effect was created using the gradient filter in Photoshop with the colors of blue and white. There were no residual pixels surrounding the stone therefore no “bit twiddling” to remove the artifacts from the background removal – thank goodness.
Well stones are difficult at best to shoot to get natural results. So we moved on to photographing a few pots in our collection. Pots under lights are notorious for hot spots. Some reflection is good as it gives the eyes/brain a sense of texture.
The new lighting helped to obtain a near accurate color capture of this pot. With its green and blue glaze we hoped to capture these colors as if shot in natural light.
I’m not sure how this glaze is created but I assume the potter adds some type of additive that gives it this mottled look. We have a smaller version of this pot by a different potter that we displayed a Zelkova in a few years back and it was a great match. The potter must be very skilled to obtain this effect and this particular potter did an excellent job in both texture, color matching with an overall pleasing visual effect.
This Tofukuji pot was purchased through an antique pot dealer in Japan in 2008. Similar versions can be seen in the Tofukuji pot book shown on this site but typically in single color glazes. We were very pleased with this photograph as it represents exactly what this pot looks like in day light. Here is a close up of the pot.
This is a Bunzan pot on a Chinese stand (new) which was given to us by Boon. The use of color is excellent for this small pot. We have more than 50 Bunzan pots in our collection mostly in the garden but not this one – it stays in the house.
We believe that Bunzan attempts to glaze his pots in the style of Tofukuji . You can decide how well he does this; however, we can tell you his pots are distinctive and quite frankly under priced for the quality. Many of his pot styles leave much to be desired but we do admire his square and rectangular pots more than his round ones.
A side view of this pot where you can see the symbolic representation of two people holding hands. We have three pots using this same design strategy modeled after a few famous Tofukuji pots. An example is shown below.
Well it was fun using our new lighting setup and we are pleased with the first results. We believe more work is required to obtain a cleaner background (more white over the gray gradient). We look forward to feedback and what you think about our first attempt to use these lights. Good photographs come through hard work and getting decent photographs requires patience and testing.