I described here how my friend Jeffrey and I were asked to take some photographs for a flier of an exhibition of my friend Koji Kamada (鎌田幸二), who is known for his tenmoku (天目) pottery. I ended up getting an exquisite tea bowl out of the deal, which is the subject of these macro shots.
The other day my friend Jeffrey and I were enlisted by my friend Kouji Kamada, the potter, to take some photos of his work for fliers/invitations to an upcoming exhibit. He knows we are camera buffs (Jeffrey more so than I), so he figured we would enjoy the challenge. And boy, was it a challenge. Product photography is hard, especially when you don’t have a properly equipped studio.
Below are some of my favorite shots from the session. You’ll notice that the backgrounds we were using had quite a bit of dust etc. on them, but Jeffrey managed to remove that in post-processing.
This big pot was the hardest of all, both because it was large enough to require extra background, and because the glaze is so reflective. We had to move things on the far side of the room because they were visible in the reflections.
The next few shots are of an incense burner. The little holes in the lid are for the incense to come out of. Come to think of it, shooting this with incense smoke wafting elegantly out of those holes would make for some awesome images. Too bad we can’t use the products before they’re sold.
Here’s our setup in his workshop. Notice the broom hanging from the ceiling on the left with traditional Japanese paper attached to it to diffuse the light. His potter’s wheel is right under the boards of where the incense burner it.
Here’s a tea ceremony bowl.
Another tea ceremony bowl…
After we shot it, this last bowl fell over and got a 2 mm or so chip in the lip. Very minor, but obviously it wasn’t showable or sellable any longer. So, Kamada-san gave it to me. Bad luck for K-san, good luck for meeee!
Previous shots of his work here, here, and here.
I decided to take advantage of the new snowfall to go take some photos. And, since I almost always find the part more interesting than the whole, ended up with some macros. No surprise there. A big surprise was the fact that, shortly after taking these photos, I discovered my precious Voigtlander 125/2.5 was mechanically broken, and its barrel would not de-extend. I’m going to send it in to get it fixed, and pray these aren’t the last photos taken with this rare classic.
I’ve always loved pansies as much as I’ve hated the name. I like how, in this first one, the two new sprouts or whatever coming off the stem just happen to be in the 2-3 mm of the image in focus. Serendipity strikes.
This one deserves to be clicked and viewed enlarged. In fact, a friend of mine just got a new printer capable of huge A2 prints (23.4 x 16.5 in), so I think I’m going to have to make an egregiously large print of it.
And, though this buried petal screamed for attention, I didn’t get an image I really liked, despite a long time trying…
So I upgraded to a D7000 yesterday, giving my mom the old trusty D90 in trade. (Thanks mom!)
I want to play with it, but I have been swamped with work. So, today I found a fallen leaf on my way to Starbucks to do some translation, and snapped this photo in between paragraphs. I like the new camera a lot.
I have several new toys that are combined in this post. First, a new Voigtlander macro lens that I haven’t had much of a chance to experiment with. Second, a new piece of pottery from my friend Kamada-san (a bread and cheese platter). And, third, a piece of HDR software, Photomatix. It really isn’t suited much to this kind of shot, which doesn’t have such a high dynamic range anyway, but it does create a cool effect, I thought.
I’ve blogged often about my friend Kamada Koji (鎌田幸二), who has been kind enough to devote decades of his life to becoming a master potter in the Tenmoku (天目) style just so that I could take macros of his stuff. Last week he held a yearly show at Takashimaya, one of the fancier Japanese department stores. I would have loved to bring my tripod, kick everybody out, and adjust the light to my specifications, but any picture-taking at all is ordinarily forbidden. I had his special permission, but still felt it was a good idea to be as discreet and fast as possible.
Kamada-san pointing center, with his wife Kazumifull exif
It’s exceedingly difficult to capture the nuances of nearly all his glazes, but this particular one most of all, because in real life the colors are not only extremely subtle, but they shift mercurially (almost literally because they are metallic crystals) with small changes in light.
Last night the kids went to bed relatively early after a day of play and Maki had the night shift, so I stayed up and fooled around taking pictures, first from my balcony and then from my preferred studio (the kitchen table).
On the other side of that hill lies Kyotofull exif
I’m going to have to start thinking of better post titles. Today we went to the Kamada’s for dinner, and I got another little sake cup. I decided to use it as an opportunity to take more methodical shots, this time lit only by the light of a single candle. This little cup was ostensibly given to me for my past birthday, but every time I go over to his house and ostentatiously praise a piece of non-for-sale-pottery, there’s a decent chance I’ll end up taking it home, so I have to be careful to keep my mouth shut for fear of wearing out my welcome.
This first shot is a pretty good representation of how the cup actually looks (or about one centimeter of it lit by a candle, anyway). However, since the candlelight was so red, I had to yank the whitebalance in Lightroom all the way over to the blue to begin to approach reality.
The image below is much closer to how it came out of the camera. Kind of makes me think of the fiery pillars of hell, reminding me to help little old ladies across the street. I like this alternate take, it being so much more expressive than the first, cool shot. One interesting thing about this shot is that there is much more information left in the image. I didn’t have to yank the image so far over to the blue end of the spectrum that lots of the photons in the red channel got lost, so we see much more of the cup than otherwise.
And, I couldn’t resist a shot or two of the candle as well.
3 February 2010 “Flaw”
Getting back into some macro work. This is another cup made by my friend Koji Kamada (鎌田幸二) that I use for sake or scotch. That little dimple in the middle, about a millimeter or two across, is the reason I have this beautiful piece of pottery. It’s a flaw that prevented it from being sold. As my kids would say, “Thank you, mister flaw.” (No, not referring to me.)
This one really deserve to be seen full size
So today was the second day of my photography group’s exhibition, and my day to go and “mind the store.” It was the first time I saw my pieces printed and framed, and I was very pleased. Here I am hamming it up in front of my piece, Mountain Storm, which is an abstract macro of a piece of pottery about 5 mm (1/4″) across.
For a better view, click here.
Now that I have a mountain, I want to continue the series and see if I can make interesting depictions of rivers, oceans, or or the sky using similar techniques. The hard part is to make it interesting and somehow emotionally impactful. Yes I know that isn’t a word.
Here is my piece next to another tryptic of some Kabuki actors. I described the process of how these three photos were selected here. I like how they placed the most abstract piece next to the most dramatically human and concrete.
I like each of these photos, and I like them together.
This is the sensei’s piece. The location is Izumo Jinja, a huge shrine. The tree is white because people have tied thousands of fortunes to it. When you’re at a shrine or a temple in Japan, you often buy a fortune for a dollar or two. People usually bring the good fortunes home, but tie the bad ones onto a nearby tree, from which they are collected once a year and burned en masse.
“Where Spirits Reside,” by Kenji Sawafull exif
So, after I went to my photography teacher’s place with a single pottery macro and he told me to reshoot it as a nature-inspired tryptic, this is what I came up with. I won’t bother posting a thumbnail here, since the image is so long. Click on that link and then expand the browser window to see the whole thing.
The title of the piece is 山嵐, or “Mountain Storm,” although it sounds more dramatic in Japanese. Each piece in the tryptic will be printed on A3 size paper, which is 16.5 inches (420 mm) across. The length of the pottery shard (graciously given by my friend Koji Kamada (鎌田幸二)) pictured in all three frames is smaller than the width of my thumbnail.
I can’t wait to see them hanging on the wall along with everybody else’s pieces!
One challenge I had while shooting is that a very slight change in angle of the light (from an LED flashlight) completely changed the characteristics of the image, since the glaze has all different kinds of metallic crystals, reflections from which are very sensitive to changes in direction of light source.
I’ve got not one but two concerts tomorrow, so for good luck I think I’ll post some more shakuhachi macros to follow up on my previous post.
As I mentioned before, the friend of my teacher’s who did this maki-e is the official artisan for the imperial household, the official symbol of which is the chrysanthemum. Apparently he can use the chrysanthemum motif for other things as well, as long as it doesn’t have the same number of petals as the imperial one, which is sometimes 14 and sometimes 16.
I knew this shakuhachi from before it got the gold leaf; I had tried to play it and completely failed. (This is a very “high octane” flute–it will perform for you, but you gotta have the breath or it won’t even give you as much sound as a beginner instrument). When I first saw it with the maki-e, I thought it didn’t need it, but now that I’m used to it I just love it.
Bamboo starts out pale yellow and gets darker with age. This dark color is, in official shakuhachi parlance, called “really frickin’ old.”
One of the shakuhachis I am most fortunate to own is called Jo-un (恕雲), made by Tomomasa Gakudo (岳童友正) early in the 20th century. The bamboo itself, however, is clearly much older. The thing plays like a monster. No other shakuhachi I have ever played has the same tone. One friend and a fan of my teacher Taniguchi-sensei was the official maki-e (gold leaf art) artisan of the imperial family, and he decorated a few flutes for my teacher. Jo-un is one.
I took these macros with paired 27.5 mm extension tubes and a 1.4 teleconverter attached to my ZF 100/2. To give you an idea of the size, the width of each of these is less than my thumbnail. To have brushed on many successive layers of gold leaf in such a scale and with such precision boggles the mind.
I should really write an explanation of what the characters written in gold leaf mean, their history, etc., but I’m tired, I’ve had my nightly nip of scotch already, and tomorrow’s a long day.
Chrysanthemum motif around a finger-holefull exif