Nemuro Wine – 2009

A couple years back, I wrote about photographing the Nemuro wine bottle; which turned out to be a lot of fun because I was able to do it with only 2 lights.  I received the 2009 vintage a few days ago.   My first reaction after seeing the bottle was: “*%^$*!, black label on black bottle…”

Problem – dark objects are hard to lit; basically you don’t light it, you let it reflect what’s around it.  I can solve the problem for the bottle itself by by placing flat glowing surfaces next to it (such as a reflector card).  But black label it tricky to me: if I were to throw light on it, there will be too much specular reflection.  The label will turn grey from the reflections (which is less interesting, at least to me); and it will be hard to read the label’s texts.  Argh!!!

Anyway, first I got to reproduce the same setup as I did last time.  Here is how it came out.

Not bad, but as I predicted; the label just doesn’t stand out.  And look at all the reflections from the walls behind and around me!  Argh!!!   I can’t paint the wall black?!  I can’t get rid of the walls!!!  Or can I?

It turned out I can.  I just have to make sure the light from behind the black board doesn’t spread out too wide (add a reflector); and block the reflections from above the bottle (dark foam board held by light stand with boom arm).

Much better.  But where is the label?  Actually, this is great.  Darkness I can fix; but too much light or reflection is hard for me to remove.  OK, let me throw some light on it.

Gosh… exactly as I thought.  The dark foil turned grey; and lots of reflections on the label.  Let me try narrowing down the light pattern with a grid.  The light is now coming slightly from the right, and slightly angled down.

Much better, the reflections are mostly gone; but the light spot will have to be adjusted.  Next throw in the background light with Rosco’s lavender filter.  Now I got get the final image at the top of the post.

I love how the “根室” characters virtually glows out of the dark label.

Well… am I done?  Should I just stop at the exact same image as before?  Why?  Let’s try difference composition.  How about a glass?

Cool, much better product shot.  Let me throw in the 2008 older vintage for a family reunion.

Now this was actually a lot harder than it seems.  First, there was the black label to deal with; so I have to use a gridded light.  Then, the 2008 label was a light color label; if I don’t have any light on, then it will be faded.  If I put too much light on it, it will be too bright, which takes away the focus from 2009.  So I have to use a even tighter grid (yes, another light), and feather the light across the label.  I feathered it down so the light does not splash over the black label; this gives it a “down light” effect.

Next, group picture!!!

I chose to light only one bottle to make it more interesting.   Next, add the graduate from class of 2008 just for fun.

Notice how the 2008 is completely lit with the side reflector boards only.  Actually, I like it better this way because it shows the curvature of the bottle on the label with the shadow down the middle.

Done?  Well… there is one more thing I wanted to try.  See, I am a sucker for bokeh (暈け).   Not only I want to focus the light on only one bottle, I also want the other bottles to be out of focus.  This is actually a lot harder to do when it comes to flash photography.  I could open up the aperture, but the ambient light will start to affect the shot because the shutter speed is limited to 1/250 max.  One way to solve this is to add a ND filter.  This will cut down the light (and exposure) so I can open up the aperture without changing shutter speed.  Out comes my 3-stop ND filter.

Everything should work, right?  Well, not quite! The ND filter cut down so much ambient light, that the camera can’t auto-focus any more.  So, un-screw the filter, focus, disable auto-focus, then put the ND filter back on.  Voila!

Love it!  Now there is no doubt who is the star of the show.

Here is my favorite.  A tighter composition.

And finally, the setup picture from my iPhone.

So much fun, so little time.  By the time I was done, it was almost 3AM.  Foolish, but worth it.


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