please help, preserving a dead childs memories

lisa11310August 9, 2010

Hello all, I am on the birding and ponding forums. I know there are many wonderful photographers on GW.

I need to know how to photograph mirrors that have messages written on them with marker. My 18 year old Nephew died last year. He was a wrestler and did weight lifting and other activities that required him to watch his muscle groups working. My Sister put the mirror tiles on his bedroom wall so he could see the exercise and how it was working. They live on the Mississippi river and are tired of the floods every year, they are going to sell the house. All of his friends have written messages on this mirrored wall in his bedroom. It is a plaster wall between his room and the closet, she will try to remove the mirror tiles and replace the wall but she is afraid some may break. She would like to have a few photos of the entire wall and each message. Is there a way to photograph a mirror without the photographer or flash in the photo?

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I hope others jump in here with suggestions, lisa11310, but I would suggest that it would have to be photographed from a side angle. What would be reflected in the mirror? Depending on the color of the busyness of the background, I'd suggest draping or covering the area that would be reflected with something in a color that would contrast with the color of the writing so it would show up.

Maybe building something like a "duck blind" with a hole for the camera lens made as inconspicuous as possible?

A polarizing filter might help with glare if you have lots of light.

I might try to photograph each mirror tile as it's removed, too (hopefully intact!)

I hope you can come up with a satisfactory way to do this project that is so close to your heart.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 8:27PM
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I can't add anything to what Pam said, except don't use flash. If necessary, use a tripod and a longer exposure than usual. If you're trying to do this with a simple point & shoot camera, you may have to cover the flash with masking tape.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 10:02PM
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Wow,,, This is the type of project that I love to play with.

I have no doubt that one could get a few descent snapshots with a simple point & shoot camera, but to do justice and fully capture and preserve the true intimate details one needs a bit more sophisticated camera and take a number of pictures that could be put in a remembrance album.

Photographing that mirrored wall presents a number of very unique problems. First off, how do we photograph the wall without ending up with a picture of ourselves holding the camera? As was mentioned above, the solution here is to shoot a picture of the wall from an angle, preferably using a wide angle lens so you can get the whole wall in one shot. (later we will follow by taking individual shots of the panels that have notes written on them).

Generally a bedroom has an overhead light and that should provide more than adequate lighting while keeping the scene in its most natural mood, however, make sure you adjust the cameras "WB" (white balance) for incandescent lighting unless of course it has florescent lighting or a CFL bulb in which case you would adjust the WB for florescent lighting. (an alternative here would e to use a CFL filter on the lens, but most digital cameras have adjustable white balance).

In order to preserve maximum resolution I would strongly suggest using a tripod and keep the ISO as low as possible, preferably at ISO 100 or ISO 200.

For the overall shot I would set the f-stop to f-11 or f-16 to maintain maximum depth of field. (Keep in mind that the camera will be seeing the reflected image in the mirror so the overall focal distance will be equal to the distance from the camera to the wall plus the distance from that wall to the adjacent wall being reflected and the desired depth of field will be equal to the distance from the mirrored wall to the reflected adjacent wall.

When using a camera on a tripod far too often we introduce shake into the picture merely from the action of pressing the shutter button. Back in the days of film cameras we overcame that by using a cable release or the self timer. With modern cameras we have a number of options here. Nearly all cameras today have a built in self timer or time delay feature. Most DSLR's allow the use of a s small inexpensive IF (infra red) remote. In addition, most DSLR's have an auxiliary input jack where you can plug in a 3 or 5ft remote shutter release cable or an electronic wireless remote that will allow you to be upwards of 100 meters from the camera.

Previously it was suggested that you could set up some form of blind to conceal the camera from the reflected image. If you have an Infra Red or electronic wireless remote the camera could be set up on a table top tripod on a dresser or table on the opposite side of the room and triggered remotely, and the camera would merely look like a small room accent in the final picture.

Preserving the writing on the individual mirrors can prove to be a real challenge. The problem you will encounter is that while focusing you will be seeing the reflected image in the mirror. There are a couple tricks you can try here.
1. Take a "post it" note or a small piece of paper and draw and X on it with a magic marker, then stick it on the individual mirror and focus on the X. Once you have the focus set, you can remove the note and take the shot. In this manner you can be certain you are focused on the actual mirror front, not the reflected image from across the room and you will be sure to get the writing that you want to preserve.

2. Set the camera on a tripod at a slight angle, then hang a sheet of white or colored poster paper where it will reflect in the mirror. That will make the background in the mirror a solid color rather than a reflection of the adjacent wall thus making the writing on the mirror stand out.

If your camera has automatic B&W or Sepia filters you may also want to take a few shots in that mode to see if the writing stands out better.

As was mentioned above, I would also use a polarizing filter for all the shots.

One of the key factors in any photo assignment is take plenty of shots. You can always delete the ones you don't need, but you can never replace the one you didn't take. Back in the days of film it got a bit expensive and time consuming to shoot a dozen rolls of film a day, but in this day of erasable memory cards and rechargeable batters who cares if you shoot 100 frames, providing you get the one shot your really looking for?

Taking this project to the next level. Once you have all the shots of the mirrors, I would try to find a nice portrait type photo, such as a school yearbook photo and use that as the cover page for an album, then put the pictures of his training area in the book and close out with a couple shots of him in his wrestling outfit, and preferably an action shot from a match showing the end result of the mirrored wall.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 3:08AM
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>>First off, how do we photograph the wall without ending up with a picture of ourselves holding the camera? With a point and shoot camera it could be difficult to get good results from an angle. I'm thinking focus problem.
I would try this...make yourself s a blind, like a sheet of plain or patterned
towel or bed sheet and tie it in front low vertical with perhaps invisible
fishing line, then cut a very small hole for your camera lens. Try several
way's of shooting, kneeling or lay down low shooting upwards that minimal reflection is shown on mirror..perhaps you like the looks of whatever pattern is on the blind? With tripod you could go even lower. The camera lens could be erased with a software easily. Using a large white sheet in front, what would reflect the whole mirror and shoot dead on in center would be the best for overall good focus,... it might not reflect anything negative..perhaps looking just fine.

I'm sorry for your loss.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 12:54PM
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