I found this dry skeletonized leaf of Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) tree in my backyard. Trying to photograph this naturally disintegrated leaf posed a problem as I wanted to highlight the veins which are still intact. I took the leaf and arranged a light box so that I can back light the photo. Here you can see the result. The light box I use for this is different from the light tent which is used for product shots which need seamless lighting with no shadows. We will explore light tent in future articles.
To photograph this leaf, I used simple contraption of self made lightbox. I had one large Polystyrene packaging box. This was a rectangular box size of A4 paper. It had a lid on one side. I removed the lid and made a hole on the on the shorter side big enough for my flash head. I placed a sheet of white writing paper on the opening where the lid was supposed to sit. I placed the dry leaf on this sheet of paper. Result as almost like the X-ray viewing box you see in Hospitals.
I used Canon EOS 7D as I wanted to fire the flash using its wireless flash controller. I set my Canon Speedlite 580EX II flash in slave mode and used the setting on 7D to control it. Now it is just trial and error to get right exposure. Even though there was ETTL on my flash I prefer to use Manual so I set my flash on 1/8 power and adjusted aperture to get optimum results.
Few early lessons in photography teaches that the photographer should make sure that the sun is always behind photographer’s back when they take photos so the subject is front lit. This is why many of us are afraid to experiment with back lighting which can give you a great opportunity to explore light. Back lighting adds drama to an image. It can can highlight details on the edges of subjects and reveal textures that might previously have been hidden. In Macros it can show delicate transparent or translucent things. It can transform the image in such a different way that you may be astonished. Silhouettes are great example of nice use of back lighting.
If you plan to explore like glass, leaf, jewelery this light box can be of nice assistance. Sliced translucent fruits are great subject to your still life collection.
If you want to skeletonize leaf yourself place leaves, a couple at a time, in a large beaker with ethanol (at least 70% ethanol) and bring to a boil. Allow the leaves to boil until they become pale or clear. The chlorophyll dissolves in the ethanol, so the ethanol in the beaker will turn green. Different types of leaves will take different lengths of time to clear. A half hour might do the trick. Rememember not to let the leaves boil dry – more ethanol can be added to replace the volume boiled off. After the leaves are pale/clear, place them in a warm (56°C) solution of 5-10% NaOH. They may then be removed, rinsed with water and can be used for the photography. As always, be certain to follow appropriate lab safety procedures when handling solutions of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or boiling flammable liquids such as 70% ethanol 😉
This year I plan to introduce several short articles on technique of taking certain types of photographs. I have been conducting workshops on photography which seems to benefit only the people who attended my workshop. Several persons contacted me to conduct workshops so that they can attend, Due to to my profession, busy schedule as well as the hassle of organizing one good workshop I have refrained from entertaining their request.
Internet is a vast sea of resources. Writing on my blog will allow an opportunity for wider audience to learn from my technique. It also gives me opportunity to refine, revise and revisit my methods of photography. I have been photographing for last 25 years right from the early days of my medical school in 1984 using various cameras. I am self taught photographer. Being a voracious reader I could digest lot of theory of photography from the books I read. But putting them to practical was different ball game.