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Beetle wings, photo question

This is an experiment in beetle wing and goldwork embroidery. These are wings from the Thai Jewel Beetle, Sternocera aequisignata. The goldwork design is based off of one I found online. Beetle wing embroidery was popular in parts of India and the East, and came to England during the Victorian period by way of the East India Company.

For those of you who know a lot about photography, I also have a question, behind the cut.

I pierced the wings with a sharps needle after steaming them for five minutes, and then attached them and the gold to a piece of felt-backed silk using invisible nylon thread. The gold is Kreinik #7 Japan Gold.

For some reason, once the camera *completely* focuses on the wings, it levels out the glare that makes the goldwork sparkle. In person, there are a lot more highlights. The first photo is just a tiny hair out of focus, and so it still has the light - but it tends to go away once it really locks in. Anybody know if there's a setting or something I can adjust? I tried taking a few on manual with a variety of settings, but it still auto-focuses, and does the same thing. The best images I was able to get, were outdoors in full sun - indoors, or outdoors in shade, were even more flat.

Using the flash wipes out most of the gold. It picks up a few sparkles, but most of it seems to blend into the red ground.

At certain angles, the beetle wings shift color - they can go toward an almost coppery orange, all the way to a blue purple.

The beetle wing color is actually made by irridescence, rather than pigment. The wings are about as strong as a fingernail; they can break with bending, but are fairly tough against scratching.


( 56 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 17th, 2006 08:03 pm (UTC)
wow. i like that a lot.
Dec. 17th, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC)
Very beautiful!
Dec. 17th, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC)
I don't know what kind of setup you use for your photography now, but I would pull a bunch of lights in the house into a white room, making sure there is no light *directly* pointed at the item, but as much diffuse light as possible. Then the camera should be mounted on a tripod. No flash. I would probably try fifteen to thirty shots, just playing with the focus and such.

Forgive me if you already surpass my dilettante photography abilities.
Dec. 17th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I tried working with a single lamp, but haven't yet tried multi-lights. The weird thing is, in the view finder, it's all brilliant and glowing, as the auto-focus zooms in... and then it suddenly goes flat the half-second before the shutter clicks. It's like it *wants* to level out the glare, which I'm sure is good for a lot of outdoor stuff - but it makes it frustrating to catch the sparkle!
Dec. 17th, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)
I think it's beautiful I saw a picture of a coat once that was covered in different colored beatle wings and embroider, it was very pretty.
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Dec. 17th, 2006 09:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'll keep playing with it.

I think the red silk may be contributing to the problem, too - once I started thinking about it, I remember having trouble with some other photos on it.
Dec. 17th, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC)
That's gorgeous. I think you are the most unique artist/crafter I've ever come across.
Dec. 17th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)
Dec. 17th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
It is beautiful, but on a personal level wearing insect bodyparts would freak me out.
Dec. 17th, 2006 10:37 pm (UTC)
I'm asking another online friend of mine to come look at this, he is a wonderful photographer and is especially good with light I think. Example here: http://sharq.livejournal.com/321281.html?nc=7. He is writing a book on macrophotography.
Dec. 17th, 2006 10:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I tried clicking through on the link, but I couldn't get there.

(no subject) - sharq - Dec. 17th, 2006 11:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oakenking - Dec. 17th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2006 10:47 pm (UTC)
wow! that's stunning! I'm assuming that's durable stuff those beetle wings?
Dec. 17th, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah - they're about as tough as fingernail. They will break if bent hard, but they don't scratch up easily.
(no subject) - jennybean42 - Dec. 18th, 2006 04:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - unluckymonkey - Dec. 18th, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oakenking - Dec. 18th, 2006 04:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fieryredhead - Dec. 18th, 2006 04:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oakenking - Dec. 18th, 2006 05:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fieryredhead - Dec. 18th, 2006 05:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oakenking - Dec. 18th, 2006 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fieryredhead - Dec. 18th, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oakenking - Dec. 18th, 2006 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fieryredhead - Dec. 18th, 2006 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - oakenking - Dec. 18th, 2006 05:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nice piece of goldwork - purplemermaid - Dec. 18th, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Nice piece of goldwork - oakenking - Dec. 18th, 2006 05:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - unluckymonkey - Dec. 18th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oakenking - Dec. 18th, 2006 10:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - unluckymonkey - Dec. 19th, 2006 01:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2006 10:58 pm (UTC)
You'll want to use a softbox to make sure you don't get the specular highlights you are experiencing. Put your camera on a firm tripod, use a large aperture and a long-ish shuttertime. Then, direct a flash through the softbox at your subject. That should help.

ALternatively, you could try painting with light for a more artistic approach.

The final way of trying it is to use an off-camera flash cord, and take the photo several times, moving the flashgun about 6 inches sideways for each photo. Then, in Photoshop, use the sampled data from the photos to replace the parts of the beetle wings that are burnt out.

You've found yourself one of the most difficult things to photograph (the only thing I can think of that is more difficult is a mirror ball, or a car with flip paint), but it's not impossible.

(I was directed here by momomom, who knows me because I'm a geek, and because I run www.photocritic.org)

Would you mind if I wrote an article for the blog on how you can photograph these types of things more efficiently?

Also, what type of camera and what flash equipment do you have available?


Dec. 17th, 2006 11:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the advice! I'll do my best to apply it, although I don't have a very sophisticated setup.

I have a Canon A630, no off-camera flash. I've got a tripod, though.

My main confusion is that it looks all sparkly in person (and I'm really trying to *catch* that sparkle, to show how it looks) - and the camera's screen shows the sparkle *right* up to the point where the focus sharpens. Many of the photos that came out blurry, show the sparkle really well. Like this:

I'd be happy to have you write about it - I'll send you the piece, if you want to play around with it yourself. This is just a learning sample for me, so it's got some inconsistencies, but overall it's OK.
(no subject) - sharq - Dec. 17th, 2006 11:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oakenking - Dec. 17th, 2006 11:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2006 11:13 pm (UTC)
Great handwork
Your hand work on that is pretty incredible. Your circles are so consistant.
As far as photographing them, one thing to remember: the flash is NOT your friend, especially with shiny objects. Try and bring the item close to a window with no direct sunlight, diffused is best. Can you take your camera into manual mode to focus and get away from auto? Use a tripod if at all possible. Use a few different exposures and see which works best. One last pointer, DON'T have your center of focus the darkest or lightest part of the object, seek out a middle range for your automatic settings.
Good luck
Dave Daniels
Dec. 17th, 2006 11:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Great handwork
Thanks for the suggestions! I enjoyed looking at your site.
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(no subject) - oakenking - Dec. 17th, 2006 11:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - oakenking - Dec. 18th, 2006 12:03 am (UTC) - Expand
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Dec. 18th, 2006 12:57 am (UTC)
That is really stunning work.

As to the photography - I've run into similar issues - anytime there are metallic threads in my embroidery or handspun yarns. I find that the best luck I had was a trickle of sunlight and no flash - and also setting the f-stop one to two stops down so the camera doesn't over-compensate for the lack of flash. Worth a shot...
Dec. 18th, 2006 03:03 am (UTC)
You are so amazingly talented!!

By the way, I have a 55gal drum of osage fruit waiting for spring!! :) ( I have no idea if you remember that lthread or not, but thought I would mention it none the less!!

Happy Holidays!!!
Dec. 18th, 2006 04:56 am (UTC)
I do remember it, now that you mention! It'll be interesting to see what comes of it.
(no subject) - greengrower - Dec. 18th, 2006 05:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 18th, 2006 03:04 am (UTC)
I hate flash. Flash is never good when trying to take anything other than photos of people at parties indoors.

The only way I could get a decent photo of this persimmon:

Was to wait until a sunny day and put them near a window with sunlight coming in.
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( 56 comments — Leave a comment )