The assignment will centre around the work of Karl Blossfeldt. I will write a short essay as a background to his life and work and that will be followed by a small body of work along similar lines to his. The final outcome will be to enter some of the work in suitable juried exhibitions and gain exposure of the medium of macro botanical work in the local Press.
I have been carrying out some exploratory work, especially the setting up of a macro studio and collecting specimens. Specimens are hard to come by outdoors at this time of year so I may have to postpone this a few weeks. In the meantime the essay research can take place. Little exists about Blossfeldt outside of his books and they are in short supply new. I have managed to acquire a good second hand copy of Karl Blossfeldt 1865-1932, Edited by Hans Christian Adam - Taschen 1999.
Internet searching reveals a number of sites with biographical and technical content, but on inspection it seems that the primary source is Wikipedia, with minor changes.
There is still indecision on the technique I should use to make the images. Blossfeldt made his own camera and lenses and at the turn of the last century this was a considerable achievement, especially as he was making images with X30 magnification on a glass negative about the same size as modern medium format film. It is written that (no photographs exist) the bellows extension was in the region of 1 metre. I will not be making a camera or lens, or acquiring any further equipment for the assignment.
My options are:
1. Use a FF DSLR with either a 60mm macro or 105mm macro lens. Both of these can have extension tubes 12mm, 20mm or 36mm attached singularly or in any combination.
2. Use a 6x6 SLR with 80mm standard lens and 21mm extension tube.
The specimens can be very small, sometimes 10mm in diameter and 30mm long. The digital route will give technically better results, especially when focus stacking is employed. The purpose (as I will detail later) of Blossfeldt's photographs was so that art students could see (by projecting onto a wall) small botanical specimens in a drawing class. If Blossfeldt were given another chance of that today I am convinced he would use whatever technical advancement was available. By way of contrast and aesthetic considerations I may shoot a roll of 6x6 as a comparison.
The studio is now complete. It comprises of a 800mm x 800mm x 800mm light tent, 2 Elichrom Dlite 2 flash heads and a number of reflectors, honeycomb grids, soft boxes etc. The light rig is suspended so that the lights are above the worktop, and removes the need for light stands in a confined space. Various coloured cards are available as gobos and reflectors. A copy stand is also available if I need to shoot vertically onto flower heads on a close card background or the light box.
Macro set up.
An early test to set up the lighting. There is considerable time spent with trial and error to get it anywhere near correct. The surfaces are so small and the positioning of lights, reflectors and gobos has to be millimetre perfect. Blossfeldt used window light and exposure times of 10 minutes and that soft round light is difficult to achieve.
Background colour and texture is under review. Blossfeldt used a variety, generally to suit the specimen's tones and the distance between specimen and background has an effect on the lighting set up and any texture.
More work is being carried out on this.
Apple Bud. (Early test shot)