Parker pens. Everyone remembers their first Parker pen. Perhaps a Christmas present or an attempt by a well meaning relative to give an 'improving' toy, but aside from the nostaliga the endurance of the fountain pen is an amazing thing. Whilst we buy fewer pens in the UK these days as a consequence of disposable ink pens and our ever greater reliance on computers and keyboards, there is still a place for such artistry and engineering in many peoples imaginations, and they are increasingly popular in Asia particularly. Indeed, if you have deep pockets you can happily spend over a million dollars on a single item. Much as there is a the fascination for a timepiece or a lovely piece of jewelry, people love the process and style of particular writing instrument.
The similarity of pens and these kinds of luxury items holds true in the process of shooting too. The pens are commonly reflective and engraved with details that have to be carefully looked after in camera to allow the retoucher to work their magic. Reflections can be very painful to get right, especially with the incredible detail that one gets with the new sensors and by far the bulk of the process is minimizing and beautifying them such that they describe the structure of the item as well as the details and texture of the materials correctly. Its very easy to find that the highlights are blown and the shadows blocked in an attempt to make the shininess come across, only to find that the retoucher can't see the pen as it should and can't pull out the details. It is these kind of issues that the photographer has to accomodate technically whilst listening to the clients direction - in particular to where/what they are looking to highlight and hero.
The close focus required and near macro magnification means a very shallow depth of field which necessitates the use of a tilt and (occasionally) shift on the lens. There are few lenses to choose from that do the work correctly. In this case the Nikon 85mm PC-e worked a treat. I've tested it against Hasselblad lenses (which have a very similar image circle and they don't come close. Even the lovely looking Schneider PC lenses can't compete. Its just a pity the locks break regularly in use as they are a bargain.
When you're working in the near dark and concentrating over a shot (often for many hours) it can seem like its difficult to escape the bubble to get to the outside world. But on the other hand there are few pleasures as good as finding the solution to a lighting issue and you get plenty of those in this kind of shoot. Its often like a photographic puzzle with the photographer fighting against the pen to squeeze the most out of a single shot.You have to refine, then refine and refine again. A lot of polishing can go a long way.