The new Studio!

Eric Group

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#1
A couple months ago I got a new camera, which was step 1 towards taking better bonsai pics... Well.. actually step 1 was getting betterr bonsai I guess... But now that I have a few trees I like, I wanted to be able to take some good pics of them. The use of natural light and the flash is limiting.. and after reading all Grouper's posts about proper Bonsai photography, and seeing what a well planned/executed pic of a tree can do to improve the look of that tree on the forum.. I decided it was time to finally get my little garage studio going. Been planning to do this since I bought the camera and just got around to it today! Total investment was less than $50 for lighting and everything, and set up time was nominal.

Had to take a few shots to find the best combo of settings, lighting, angles.. But I can tell a drastic improvement already. My big issue right now- my back drop sheet is too "satiny" and needs to be ironed... so, I will fix that eventually.. I plan on adding a white sheet to the mix one day and maybe a grey one too.
This was one of the first pics I took after I found a good aperture range.. Still needed to get better lighting on the pot and front...
DSC01534.JPG
This Boxwood came out pretty good I thought, but I need a tripod (the next upgrade coming soon).. my hands are not steady enough for indoor shooting most the time:
DSC01587.JPG
A cool little azalea: Satsuki "Gumbi" DSC01601.JPG
Some detail shots- a piece of wood widening the gap between some branches on the Gumbi, and that Juni from the first pic, after it was back outside.. just wanted to get all macro on the mushroom. DSC01607.JPG DSC01609.JPG

So, not pro caliber I know, but it was fun for me to do.. and was a fun/fast/cheap upgrade! I have a solid background (a 4 year DEGREE) in FILM, so I am qualified to take better pics. I just thought it was time to start DOING IT.

Please let me know what you think.
 
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#2
Looks good! I just want a better place in the garden...maybe even just a portable backdrop so I don't have to move some of these back breakers.
 
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#4
Nice naturalistic lighting! When I shoot still life's I use a piece of "good" cotton velvet for the background and roll it up (so I don't have to iron it) it maybe a little expensive but should last a long time. It might help to fabricate something to stop light falling on the background.
 

Eric Group

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Nice naturalistic lighting! When I shoot still life's I use a piece of "good" cotton velvet for the background and roll it up (so I don't have to iron it) it maybe a little expensive but should last a long time. It might help to fabricate something to stop light falling on the background.
You mean like.. diffuse the light so it doesn't reflect as hard? Or shade the light from the lamp on top to keep it from hitting the backdrop?
 
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#6
Eric, you could do both. If you have the room you could increase the distance between the tree and the background that would help to. You just have to experiment.
 

Eric Group

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Looks good! I just want a better place in the garden...maybe even just a portable backdrop so I don't have to move some of these back breakers.
BTW, could you tell the big change I made on that Gumbi? :)

Well.. In case it isn't as big of a change as I thought.. There is a large branch in the middle removed, and it was planted at a little more of an angle, gives it more of an informal upright lean than it had I guess.. I really like this tree John and cannot thank you enough for passing it on to me!
 

Eric Group

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#8
Eric, you could do both. If you have the room you could increase the distance between the tree and the background that would help to. You just have to experiment.
I thought about moving it up from the backdrop some more and will give that a try today. Good tip, thanks!
 

Eric Group

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#9
Took some more shots last night after fireworks (and a couple beers... Happy Birthday AMERICA!!)
Big ole Boxwood- front
DSC01611.JPG Back
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Trunk Detail:
DSC01617.JPG
Chinese Elm: DSC01619.JPG DSC01625.JPG
 

JudyB

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#10
Eric, these are looking pretty good. I did the same thing last year, got sick of poor documentation photos. I got a pop up backdrop that barrosinc suggested, was cheap and has white one side and black the other. Wrinkle free for the most part, and pretty big. (not johng big...) Will look for a link if you want.
 

MACH5

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Eric yes move your bkg. away from your trees. Try and light your trees and keep your bkg. as much in the dark as possible. It you wanted to go a step further you can always do some post work in Photoshop or other similar programs.

Nice trees BTW :)
 

coh

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#13
I bought some black felt and white felt fabric from Joanne's and those work pretty well as backgrounds - they cut way back on the amount of reflection. Which reminds me, I need to get some larger pieces.
 

Vin

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#14
Great work Eric! I struggled with back shadows as well until I realized all I had to do was move the backdrop further away :) I really like the second Boxy. As a nice aged trunk to it.
 

Eric Group

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Eric yes move your bkg. away from your trees. Try and light your trees and keep your bkg. as much in the dark as possible. It you wanted to go a step further you can always do some post work in Photoshop or other similar programs.

Nice trees BTW :)
Thank Mach.
Yeah, I am going to drop them into PS once I am completely happy with the raw images. I am just trying to rain it in as best I can before I put them in post.

My favorite part of all this.., the crazy looks and jokes my wife keeps dropping on me! She thinks I went too far! I keep telling her there are others out there doing the same thing (and a lot MORE) just to get good pics of their trees.
 
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Eric Group

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#16
Thanks! This looks like a good option... I am happy to say my whole current set up (lights, bulbs, and backdrop) cost about what this one item goes for!

Doesn't mean I won't get one.. Just saying I will think about it a bit first. I know what I would need for a "professional" set up- more powerful lights, reflectors, diffusers, filters... One of those huge paper rolls for a back drop, stands, clamps, tripod and a trigger for the camera so I don't have to touch it to take the pic... But I really would be in trouble with the wife if I got even HALF of all that stuff! :)
 

Eric Group

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#17
Great work Eric! I struggled with back shadows as well until I realized all I had to do was move the backdrop further away :) I really like the second Boxy. As a nice aged trunk to it.
Thanks Vin!

That Boxwood is one of the best in my collection. All of these trees photographed so far were passed on to me by friends- I know how fortunate I am to have such generous people helping me advance in Bonsai- I cannot take credit for much of the development on these. I have only had them for a year or two and though I have done some restyling, repotting... Most are very similar in shape and size to how I received them.
 
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#18
Congrats on your new photo setup. Looking good! I, too, especially like your boxwood, but IMHO, I think the back makes a better front. You can see the trunk line and branching ramification better.
 

Eric Group

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#19
Congrats on your new photo setup. Looking good! I, too, especially like your boxwood, but IMHO, I think the back makes a better front. You can see the trunk line and branching ramification better.
I agree the back makes a fine front, but I do not like the branches/layers as well on that side... It would need some major restyle to make the tree as a whole look as good from that side IMO, but the lower trunk looks best on that side, no question. I like both sides though, which is why I showed both and when I repotted this year, I stuck with the oval pot so it can be displayed from pretty much any angle without issue.
 

Eric Group

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#20
This is a dwarf Pyracantha I styled from nursery stock earlier this year. Had to include one of my own, right? Did just some minor tweaks in PS on this one to get the color tone and contrast better, but the biggest change is I ironed the wrinkles out of the back drop!
DSC01657c.jpg
 

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