The company that I work for had a lot of empty space on the walls in their corridors. A colleague of mine is a photography enthusiast like myself, and runs the occasional photography challenge, where themes are set and then the best of the entries are framed and hung on the wall (with the company's permission, of course).
This time the theme is "colours". I've always quite liked the cliche images of pencils close up, with their vibrant colours and pin sharp detail, but I've never attempted to take one of my own because they are so common. I saw this as a reason to try my own version, so I set about rummaging for some pencils.
After looking at colour wheels on Google I spent quite some time trying to find just the right colours in the box. After that I spent even longer trying to sharpen these pencils to a perfect point, becoming quite frustrated each time the tip snapped off!
I decided that the key to these bright colourful images is the bright white background, which is crisp and free from any marks. To get this background I placed a piece of plain white A4 paper on the dining room table, and arranged two big white soft boxes above and to the sides, to try and keep any shadows to a minimum.
The next challenge was arranging the pencils perfectly, as if they were even a fraction of a millimeter off in position, it would be very obvious on the end image. This is actually much trickier than I expected, as every time I touched a pencil to move it, my fat thumbs would nudge one and knock them all out of position. Eventually I got to a point where I was happy with the layout, and set the camera above on a tripod, looking directly downwards.
The bright white background initially threw off the meter in the camera, so I dialed in in +2 stops of compensation so ensure that the background was not only white, but brilliantly bright and clear.
One feature of my DSLR that makes this sort of work so much easier than with a film camera, is live view mode. I turned this on and zoomed in to x5, which meant that the tip of a single pencil took up the whole screen and made focusing much easier. The depth of field of a 105mm lens on a Canon EOS 5DmkII set to f/11 at a distance of 30cm, is only a wafer thin 3.6mm, so critical focus is very important to making sure that the detailed parts of the pencils are sharp.
After uploading the photos to Lightroom, I just did some basic adjustments to white balance, contrast and saturation, and I was almost there. The last step was removing any dust on the paper or blemishes to the pencils; This took a surprisingly long time!
I'm actually really pleased with the image, it's exactly how I had hoped and planned that it would look. Definitely worth the few hours on a Saturday morning!
What do you think? Let me know your comments in the section below.