With the hot days of summer coming, I am starting to think about photography projects that will keep me in the nice cool indoors. Ironic, that one of my favorite new projects is making close-up images of fire cracked marbles. Below are some ways to get started chasing this squirrel.
I came across fire cracked marbles at a local art show. A jeweler had created the interesting cracked glass to insert into interchangeable rings. I quickly found out how fragile they are, when my first one shattered (no worries though, she had given me a pouch with 10 different colors). I thought it would be interesting to photograph the shards of the broken one, and then found myself spending hours working my way through the bag.
- I used my Canon 65mm 5x Macro lens. For people that have followed this blog for awhile, I have a love/hate relationship with this lens. It does not have a focusing ring, so you have to move the camera back and forth until you achieve focus, which can be so such a slight movement you can easily miss it. But I forget all of this when I see the images pop up on my LCD.
- Which brings me to the next piece of essential equipment, a tripod with focusing rails. The focusing rails allow you to turn a small knob that will make tiny changes to the distance of the lens from the subject. At 5x magnification the lens is almost touching the subject. After 30 minutes my hand gets so tired, I have to wait until the next day. If the subject isn’t round, sometimes I slide it back and forth toward the lens to achieve focus.
- For some of the images I placed the marbles on a small square mirror to get a reflection.
- I also tried using my gooseneck desk lamp to change the direction of the light, but found it created distracting hotspots on the glass.
- Lastly, the fire cracked marbles. I’m not sure if you can buy these, but when I Googled it, I found many resources describing how you can make them. Make sure you use solid glass marbles, without plastic. Someday I might try making my own, when the ones I have all shatter, or when I discover the need for a color I don’t have.
The process is fairly straight forward, I used natural light coming in from a window to my right, and made sure that the marbles were not in direct sunlight. I rotated the marbles while looking through my lens to find angles that could make a strong focal point and interesting shapes and lines.
It wasn’t until I started processing the images, that I started to get really excited. I found for some compositions it made sense to go with a more monochromatic style to streamline the visual clutter created by all the lines and cracks. I used Topaz’s Restyle plugin to change the color scheme. Sadly they don’t offer this product anymore; I would recommend trying Photoshop’s Gradient Adjustment Layer instead. After hours of staring at cracks in marbles, I was beginning to see things in the shapes like two young girls playing. When I posted a few on Instagram (pamphotographyus), many people saw cats or rabbits. I’ll end the post on that interesting note.