Playing with Fire

When I got in from photographing the moon the other day (‘the other day’ being a very useful phrase I use a lot to hide just how long it sometimes takes me to write up posts – although on this occasion, it’s not actually been that long), I was still in a bit of a shooting mood, so I decided to return to a little idea I’d been toying with for a while.

When I was first playing around with macro photography, I made a few attempts to capture in extreme closeup the striking of a match. These early attempts were ill-fated; the narrow depth of field and ease with which I could wander out of it whilst trying to light a match meant that the shots were all out of focus, apart from the ones where I closed up the aperture a bit – and those were too dark.

But last weekend, I had an idea: if I lit the match from an existing source – such as, say, a candle – then I could use said existing source to check focus and exposure before the ‘actual’ shot.

So, that is what I tried. I lit a candle, and set up the shot.

Exposure 1/500sec, f/2.8, ISO 400, 100mm focal length

I set the camera to maximum burst (which I believe is around four shots a second), and gave it a go.

I quickly discovered that the depth of field was small enough that, by focussing on the wick, the match itself was out of focus – even after closing up the aperture a bit.

Exposure 1/640sec, f/3.5, ISO 500, 100mm focal length

However, I played around with the focus a bit, and eventually managed to get ‘the’ shot.

Exposure 1/500sec, f/3.5, ISO 500, 100mm focal length

Not knowing whilst shooting that this would be the best of the batch, I continued to experiment around, pushing the ISO all the way to 6400 whilst closing up the aperture to f/9 (which surprisingly enough was more out of focus than the stuff at f/2.8). The most interesting shots from this little experiment are in the gallery below. Quick note – the rest of the images are as-shot; I haven’t even tweaked the white balance. And please, let me know if you prefer any of the other shots to the one I picked out as best – I’m interested to know your opinions! (Technical aside: the three images above are also in the gallery below – nothing I can do about that, sadly)

4 thoughts on “Playing with Fire

  1. Nicely done, as usual. I like that shot, or the one below it. What does your histogram look like for these shots? I’m wondering if you could’ve dropped the shutter speed even further.
    That gallery feature bums me out, too. I’m always running into that.


    1. Thanks!

      This is what the histogram looks like for my chosen shot:

      Not sure if by “the one below” you mean the one after it or the one below it on the gallery grid, but the former looks mostly the same; the latter looks like this:

      I really should figure out how to read these things; I’ve trained in video colour grading but those systems usually have completely different graphs.


  2. Hey Rob
    Thanks for the like on my blog…
    Didn’t your mother warn you about playing with matches?
    I’ve looked back over a fair few of your posts and I really like what I see..I’m new to this post a daily photo crap and the fear is just beginning to set in, so its great to see someone doing it so succesfully……


    1. Cheers for having a read and commenting – I appreciate it.

      Truth be told this isn’t a daily post blog; it’s more a “post whenever I can” blog. I’ve been lucky this month that life and opportunities have allowed me to keep a high quantity of posts and images going – hopefully that will continue for a while yet!

      I do have a daily photo blog, but that has the advantage of mainly posting older photos, releasing me of the demands of snapping a photo every day.

      I’ve followed your blog, you are posting a nice variety of good looking stuff.

      (and for the record, my mother actually encouraged me to play with matches, but taught me to do it safely!)


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