Friday, December 12, 2008

Solution: Photographing Black And Shiny Coins

I have spoken with other ancient coin enthusiasts who have problems photographing coins with black patinas and especially black and shiny patinas. The “noise” is profoundly visually disturbing and looks a great deal like snow on the coin. I think I have made some headway towards resolving the problem. I will share what I have discovered.

First, the noise as I understand is the result of the white points or “snow” being underdeveloped. Consequently we need for the noise to receive more light. I think each person I have spoken with has encouraged me to shoot at f/11. I have opened the aperture to f/5.6 and I get much better results. It occurred to me that if we need more exposure then we actually need to admit more light. The coin is also thin enough that we don’t have to worry about depth of field.

In addition, my Canon XTI has a setting where I can increase exposure time and I did so by a plus (+) 1. I immediately saw better results. The coin you see above left is a very black and shiny coin. I think the coin photo is highly acceptable. I know we have a variety of cameras within our groups and I don’t have the answer to all cameras.

Therefore the responsibility of learning to use your camera falls on your shoulders. I would love to see members who have had this problem give my report a try. If you do and if you discover additional information, please share. It appears the path to learning to photograph coins is a long and arduous one. We are still in the infancy of ancient coin photography and our coins present problems not found with contemporary coins. Thank you for reading and I hope this exercise helps you as it has me.. God Bless.. Jerry.. PS: We have a Coin Photography group at the following URL if you would like to join:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Littlest Light Tent Of All

This is the smallest “light tent” I have created and it works great! I call it my “Medicine Cup Light Tent.” I have learned that anything that will diffuse light will enable one to make a good coin photograph. I selected a small, frosted, plastic, medicine cup and the dimensions are as follows. The height is one inch and the width of what became my top is one and 3/8 inches.

I simply cut and removed the bottom of the medicine cup. I must say I was not surprised when I got good coin shots. The cup appeared to have the proper quality to diffuse the light well. By the way, the white covers on the heads of my lights are handkerchiefs. The cup works with the handkerchiefs in place or removed.

I encourage you to give it a try. You may really like the small cup light tent. I should mention that I elevated the coin by placing the coin on a small nut I had handy. Nut as in nut and bolt! Here is a photograph of the cup on the base of my copy stand: The coin you see above is a coin I photographed using the Medicine Cup Light Tent. Please let me know if you try any of my light tents. I have plans for another. God Bless.. Jerry..

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Jerry's 5 Cent Photo Light Tent

I had a terrible time sleeping last night. I was thinking about a simple and inexpensive way to disperse and diffuse light falling on our coins as we photograph them. Earlier in the day I had looked on the web and found a light tent for about $250 dollars. That was terribly discouraging and I knew I could make one just as well. My kids had bought me a tent last year and it just did not work well so I returned it to the seller.

I have spent months working with frosted plastic and fabric with pretty good results. Suddenly I had one of those light bulb moments and it hit me, use paper! I thoughtfully continued to work on the design, as I lay awake for hours. I continued to simplify the “tent” until it was simply a matter of cutting and taping once I entered my studio this morning. Within minutes I had the tent cut, taped and assembled.

I knew it would work and work well. After assembly I chose a couple of coins that would normally present photographic problems. I photographed and you see the results above. I will explain the process in detail although it is very simple.

Cut a sheet of ordinary copy paper to the following dimensions. Leave the paper the length it is, 11 inches. I trimmed the paper to 6” in height. I then rolled the paper into a cylinder and taped it with clear tape. That is it! That is the light tent. I used 22-pound paper. I think 20-pound will work well and I think 24 pound paper may be a bit thick. Regardless, I am very happy with the results and I think anyone can construct the tent in a matter of minutes. By the way, I overlapped the paper by 1 inch and that creates a 3” diameter cylinder. Here is my setup and you will see the tent on my copy stand: I hope the simplicity of this setup is simple enough to cause all to want to try. I would like feedback as to what kind of success you have with the tent. Remember, you have a good tent but you still must get to know your camera. Thank you reading, bookmark and visit on occasion. God Bless.. Jerry..

Saturday, December 6, 2008

More "Milk Jug Photo Box" Efforts

I think the Menander you see above serves perfectly to demonstrate the properties of the “Milk Jug Photo Box.” I purposefully selected the coin because it is less than perfect but does possess the variations of hues, values and intensities that demonstrates how well the little light box works.

I changed my lighting to some degree and added the same fluorescent bulbs to two flex arm lights and placed one light on either side of the box. I really like what is happening and plan to continue to experiment until I have things nailed down. I am still looking for frosted Plexiglas. I would like to create a unit using Plexiglas and I have a few other ideas in mind for that exercise.

Please get your quart milk jug cut to dimensions and get busy shooting coin pics. I want to see what you are doing and I bet you can help me discover an even better way to use our “Milk Jug Photo Box”.. Thanks for reading and I will try to shoot a few better quality coins for those who have asked. The Menander has served to tell me a lot however.

Please bookmark my page and stay in touch.. God Bless.. Jerry..

Friday, December 5, 2008

My Milk Carton Photo Setup

I have had more responses to this article than any other I have written. The following is the URL to a photo of my cluttered setup: I guess all artists are alike in that we have lots of clutter. It is difficult to see the copy stand my friends and I made. I used my wife’s small Nikon to take this picture. The camera you see in the picture is my XTI with the Sigma 105mm Macro lens.

You may also notice something on top of my camera. That is a small lightweight plastic carpenter’s level I use to keep my lens completely vertical. The lights to the left and right are temporary and I will replace with two lights I have with flex arms. I use daylight fluorescent bulbs from Wal-Mart.

The focus of interest is the small white device on the table of my copy stand. It is simply a one-quart milk carton with the top cut off about six inches from the bottom. I then cut the bottom out of the carton and wrapped the carton with two layers of white cotton fabric. I used clear tape to hold the fabric in place. I placed my coin on top of a one-inch tall section of dowel rod to help avoid shadows.

I then placed the carton down and over the coin, turned on my lights and shot my photograph in aperture priority mode. I plan to arrange my office/studio so I can get to things better. Once I become interested in a new experiment I let things lie where they may. I wish I had more to show than what you asked to see! The setup does not look like much but it really does the job. I am trying to secure a small quantity of frosted Plexiglas and create the same unit from the Plexiglas material. Thank you for asking and thank you for sharing.

I will mention that we have a CoinPhotography group with some really good Photo Scholars. I encourage you to join. You will learn much and we have members from across the skill spectrum. You will feel very comfortable as a member. The URL is as follows: Thank you for reading and thank you for the interest. As I indicated, I have had lots of feedback about this article. Your feedback inspires me to experiment and inspires me to share. Please bookmark my site.. God Bless.. Jerry..

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Good Coin Photos: Diffusion Is The Key!

I have been working with my coin photo lighting today and after a couple of years, I realized that until one masters lighting then one is lost. As I was lying in bed last night, I noticed how well diffused the light was that came from the white shade of my bedside lamp. I was thinking of how I could get the same effect. My shade is too large or I would have used it.

This morning I went about the house looking for something that would give me the same results as my lampshade. I found where V had stuck a one-quart milk container in the back of one of the cabinets. I cut the top half off the container, leaving me with the bottom half. I now had the bottom half of the empty milk container. I cut a large opening in the bottom, placed the container over my coin, illuminated each side with two of my shop lights and I now had a “light tent”.

I proceeded to photograph a bright penny and the results were good but I needed more diffusion. I am an artist/pack rat so I was able to locate a nice piece of fabric within my inside studio. I cut the cotton fabric to size and wrapped the container with two layers of the fabric. I then placed the coin on a one-inch length of dowel to achieve some elevation so as to avoid coin shadows.

I placed the open end of the container over the coin, turned on my lights and I knew at once I had the proper diffusion! I shot the coin with my Canon XTI and Sigma 105mm Macro lens and as I shot the coin I ran the EV up and down the scale to make certain I had a good shot. I looked at the results and I am terribly excited. Not a shadow or a reflection! Take a look at the Aretas IV you see above and let me know what you think.

I mentioned the Canon I have. I truly believe one can get great results with a point and shoot camera. I think one needs a macro setting, ISO changer (ideally) at and at least an aperture priority mode. I would look for a camera with a manual setting mode. Remember, one does not need 7 mega pixels! One mega pixel is enough. I have looked on Ebay many times and there are all kinds of bargains to be had with gently used or seldom used cameras. There are many used 3 and 4 mega pixel cameras with the settings you need. Take a look.

I would like to mention that I know I am not the first coin enthusiast to use a milk carton. However, I had tried a larger one-gallon container in the past with poor results. I think moving to the smaller one quart container and wrapping the unit with the fabric is what made things fall into place for me. I am going to try to locate a piece of frosted Plexiglas and create a tent using the Plexiglas material. I can’t get past the aesthetics! Thank you for reading and I hope this article generates enough interest to get you started. Please bookmark my site and return on occasion to see what we are up to. God Bless.. Jerry..

Monday, December 1, 2008

Seal Controversy: Error Made?

I saw the following article in the "Biblical Archiology Review" and I found it to be very interesting. I hope you enjoy as much as I did. There was no credit as to author.
On January 16, 2008, excavator Eilat Mazar announced that a team she is leading south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem had uncovered an inscribed seal that dated to the time of Nehemiah. She read the name on the seal as “Temech” (tav, mem and het) and suggested that it belonged to the family of that name mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah. Soon after the announcement, however, European scholar Peter van der Veen suggested that Mazar had erred by reading the inscription straight on rather than backward, to account for the fact that a seal creates a mirror image when it used to inscribe a piece of clay. He and other critics suggested that the seal actually bears four letters (shin, lamed, mem and tav) and that the correct reading is “Shlomit,” which itself may be a name mentioned in the Bible. Mazar has now acknowledged that the seal should indeed be read as “Shlomit.”
After reading this article I don't feel as bad about some of my attributions.. God Bless.. Jerry..