Back again / by Mario Mirabile

It’s been just over four weeks since my back surgery, and thankfully everything seems to have gone well. My sciatic pain is gone, and I've been gradually increasing the amount of walking I’m doing. I’m back at work in a couple of days, and while that doesn't overwhelm me with enthusiasm, It means I’ll soon be able to get back to my lunchtime photo walks. I haven’t given a lot of thought to photography over the last few weeks. It’s been easy to just drift along doing not much, so getting back to work and a bit of structure and routine probably won’t be too bad for me.

I did find time for one little project that’s been at the back of my mind for a while. I like fountain pens, and I like ink. And these pictures sort of grew out of the process of cleaning pens when I changed inks. I played around quite a bit to get the lighting right so as to minimize reflections. Then I had to figure out a rig to hold the pen in position and played around with inks to find something which didn't disperse too quickly. To me, the ink suggests something alive and growing, and it was fascinating to watch the shapes form as the ink spread through the water. The next phase, of course, is two pens. Perhaps I should take another week off.

Tech Talk

Glass and photography can be a recipe for trouble, and these shots needed an absolute minimum of specular reflections to work. I also wanted to freeze the motion of the ink, so available light was never going to work. I played around with different flash setups, and found that a single light in a small home-made softbox above, to one side and slightly from the front gave the best results. The background was a simple large sheet of white paper.

The centre column on my tripod can be swung out into a horizontal position so that it forms a kind of boom. I attached my macro focusing rail to the head so that it moved straight up and down. , and attached a pen to it. The whole contraption was then placed so that the pen was directly over the glass and could be raised and lowered by operating the rail. I set the shot up with the glass empty, raised the pen, filled the glass, lowered the pen quickly, and fired away.

Olympus E5, Zuiko Digital 50mm f2.0 macro.