Levitation

Lime levitationTogether with a colleague and fellow-photographer, we thought of some assignments that should trigger us to try new things in photography and see if it could improve our photo skills. One of the challenges was to capture ‘levitation’. And instead of throwing an object up in the air and trying to perfectly time the photo, I preferred a more technical approach that should allow me to have a bit more control over the situation. With a lime as subject.

I started with a cutting board on the kitchen countertop, with the lime on top of it (still in one piece at that moment). This allowed me to arrange and test my setup first, before taking the final shots. I positioned my camera with the help of a tripod, which was crucial since I wanted to take 2 photos from an identical point of view to be able to create the levitation in post-processing.
Next, I placed 2 light stands on each side of the camera, each with a white shoot-trough umbrella and a speedlight (see the behind the scenes photo below). Both were positioned at a 45 degree angle to the side, 45 degree angle up high towards the lime. Since I wanted a narrow depth of field to create a blurred background (f/4.5) and max sync speed for full light control (1/200), the speedlights were set at 1/32 (camera left) and 1/16 (camera right) power to get the right amount of light. The power difference between the speedlights would cast a small shadow just below the lime on one side, to emphasize the levitation. I could have added some shadow in post-processing, but I preferred an in-camera version. With some kitchen attributes in the background, I was ready to bring my subject in the correct position.

I placed a boom arm above the cutting board. To lift the lime I pierced it with a wooden skewer, attached to a clothespin and hang it to the boom arm with a piece of yarn. To add in more levitation effect, I sliced the lime in 5 pieces.
For the final result I took 2 photos; one with the lime, and one without (Note: it could have been a single photo in this situation, since the background allowed it to simply clone out the skewer. With a more complex background the 2 photo strategy is more practical.). After small improvements in color, light and contrast, I loaded both photos into Photoshop and removed all pieces of skewer in the first photo, revealing the perfect background from the second photo underneath. The end result is a sliced, levitating lime.

Making of Lime levitation
A photo from the other side of the countertop, revealing the light setup and construction used to position the lime.