In December, I was attending the opening night of a new show at a local art gallery. Another person was there showing interest in the same piece I was admiring (not mine). We struck up a conversation about art and eventually into displaying the art and its security. He was specifically referring to his coins.
He keeps them in a safety deposit box at a bank and occasionally goes to the bank to look at them whereas paintings and sculptures are on display at his home. His comment was that coins are small and easily hidden and transported. Therefore, leaving them out to appreciate is very risky.
Being a photographer, I asked him if he ever thought about photographing the coins, blowing the images up, framing and hanging those in his home to appreciate their beauty. He said he never thought about it.
Last week, I photographed a small sample to show him what could be done and the quality I could achieve. This including making them large enough to see the details without a magnifying glass.
Some of the coins were sealed in cases while others could be removed. For those that could be removed, each was handled in gloved hands and a mask over the mouth. This precaution made sense to me as when I handle my prints, I also use gloves although I hold my breath when reviewing my prints, especially the images on metallic and crystal archive papers. Spittle & water droplets can ruin a prints
With some of the coins diameter being larger that the diameter of my macro lens, I decided to pull out my Canon extension tubes and use my 70-200mm Canon zoom lens mounted on my Canon 5D Mark II. To get to where I could focus that lens on the coins about 9 inches away, I stacked a 25mm plus a 12 mm extension tube. Setting the lens to 200mm, I was almost able to fill the screen with the silver dollars.
To light the coins, I used a single softbox strip light on a Dynalite strobe head on the left angles low to sweep across the surface of the coin. Surrounding the coins were black foam core boards to add contrast to the reflective coins. With the camera set to manual, I photographed the coins at 1/90 and 1/120 second at f32. The camera was mounted on a Manfrotto tripod and I used a cable release to make each exposure.
Opening the images in Camera Raw, I set the color space to ProPhoto, 16 bit, at 4096 by 6144 pixels at 320 ppi. In Photoshop, I sharpen the images using the high pass filter and added contrast. For the silver coins, I processed as black and white in NIK starting with the fine art setting and then modifying from there. I found that for the non silver coins, using NIK Color Efex Pro’s glamour glow setting as a starting point worked great.
At these settings, the coins are about 3x their actual size eliminating the need of a magnifying glass.