Monday, January 07, 2013

Tablets, light tables and wax crayons

click photo to enlarge
When I was young a comic that I bought often featured a quiz. One of the popular categories consisted of photographs or drawings of everyday objects seen from unusual angles. A ball point pen, for example, might be shown from a viewpoint where the tip pointed directly at you and would consist of a hexagon enclosing a large circle with a couple of smaller concentric circles inside. A teapot seen from directly above would be a large circle (the body) with two smaller circles within it (the lid and the central lid handle), and a couple of bars projecting from opposite sides (the spout and the handle). You get the idea. I recall competing against friends to see who could draw a commonly found object in such a way that its identity couldn't be guessed. Simple pleasures, happy days!

We have in our house, at the moment, a new, clear plastic tub of short, wide, wax crayons. They are for some young children to use. When I looked at the tub from above the other day I was reminded of that childhood game and an idea for a photograph popped into my mind. A photograph from directly above might have colour, shape and interest if I lit it imaginatively. And with that thought, particularly the word "imaginatively", I made a connection with something I'd been pondering for a while. We have an Android tablet and it had occurred to me recently that it would make a useful light table for photographing small objects. The problem was I didn't know how to make it display a completely white screen. However, that little problem was solved in a eureka moment when I realised that if I opened a PDF and turned to a blank page I'd have just what I wanted. There must be a more elegant solution to that problem but I was entirely happy with my easy-to-realise answer.

So, here is the resulting photograph. It was taken quickly, hand-held. It's not the best macro shot I've ever done, but is a useful forerunner and test for what I hope will be better images using the tablet as a light table.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 80 sec
ISO: 1250
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On