I often hear folks mentioning the “telling of a story” in a photograph, and wondered if something relatively innocuous, without the benefit of any information other than the subject itself, can tell pretty much a complete story. As part of an “assignment” members of a local photo group received, this softball was retrieved from a glove that’s been sitting around unused for nearly 35 years. Looking at it closely, there were a number of tell tale signs of what had happened to it prior to it vacationing inside the glove for all this time, and it brought back quite a few memories of the years when softball was an important part of my social life and the time away from work. It made me reflect on my life and all the folks who were part of it back then. Amazing that a simple softball could do that.
Taking the photograph was not as simple as it might seem though, only because I wanted a black background and dark table, while missing all the ingredients to do so in the “kitchen” studio. A large piece of black foam core was used for the “table” but I had nothing but a small 8×10-inch piece of it for the background. So improvisation dictated that placing the small piece behind would require 5 frames to completely cover the back and one more to make a possible brighter image for the softball itself, just in case it was needed. All frames were taken using a tripod of course so the ball would always be stationary in each frame. After the 5 background frames were blended together using separate layers in Photoshop, the lighter table needed to be blended into the black background for a smooth transition using a soft cloning brush set at a low flow. And in doing so, I could determine where the lighter portions would lay, and arranged them to appear as though there were lights on either side of the softball with one being a bit stronger than the other. The shadow of the softball was formed from the windows that provided the actual lighting, and a piece of white board was used to reflect some of the light back into the shadow side.
The words “Red Dot” and “Worth” were enhanced just a bit so they would be more prominent after the continued beatings the ball took so many years ago smudged them. Some split toning was used to warm up the softball and cool down the background and table for better separation (warm tones advance while cooler tones recede). And a normal 50mm lens on a full frame did the work of capturing all the detail at f/16. A little softening of the outer frame edges was accomplished with a radial filter and decreases in clarity and sharpness in Lightroom.
It was a fun assignment with the added bonus of a trip down memory lane, compliments of a Worth Red Dot Softball (used).
Note — For those of you who may not know, the Red Dot signified it was a “restricted flight” ball, meaning that it was constructed a bit off center so the ball would not travel as far on a fly as an unrestricted model. But believe me, restricted or not, that ball seemed it could go a mile after being hit by some of the “big men” we played against; I know because I had to chase them down pretty often.
Also — A few days after making the photograph, I happened across a single piece of black foam core that would have reached across the entire background, and would have been able to make it in a single frame instead of five. And somehow, I knew that would happen!!