Gibson deconstructed: portrait of a SG Diablo Silver

December 2008 was a milestone in my life as I reached a round number in terms of years spent on this Earth. It so happens that Gibson’s Guitar of the Month for that month was a special edition SG Diablo silver in color. The SG is a classic solid body Gibson model introduced in 1961 and made popular by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and Angus Young of AC/DC. The classic SG shape is actually a flat top with the recognizable double cutaway forming the ”devil’s horns”. The SG Diablo’s top deviates from the tradition as it is very much contoured, making up its visual appeal. I acquired this beautiful instrument during a period when I was moving away from practicing guitar and getting back into photography. As I have difficulty finding the time and inclination to pursue multiple hobbies concurrently, guitar playing took a back seat. Also, at that time, I was traveling constantly for work and photography travels so much better as a pastime. So the SG Diablo reigned untouched for years on the wall display of my guitar collection.

About a year ago, I decided to venture into studio photography as a way to pursue my passion during the long winter months in Montreal. To do so, I bought two studio monolights, a few light modifiers and a set of wireless transceivers to start exploring the vast world of studio photography. I chose to immortalize the Gibson SG Diablo as an exercise to learn the mechanics of studio flashes, but more importantly how to shape light. The SG Diablo is very challenging to light properly as most of it shines making it difficult to control reflections.

I set forth to take 16 different pictures of the guitar to produce a 4×4 montage. It took my about 8 hours of work to get to 12 individual pictures. Honestly, I ran out of ideas to make up the missing 4 images. At first, it was quite challenging, almost discouraging, and I remember that completing the first satisfactory image took about 1.5 hours. I thought I would never make it… In the end, out of 8 hours of work, I spent about 5 polishing and dusting the instrument. This led me to think that a bottle of compressed air to remove dust from hard to reach places is an absolute must. Under the macro lens, every bit of dirt or dust shows up.

The lighting setup was quite simple with 2x 300 Ws monolights used either with the 7” reflectors or small softboxes. I also used white cardboard as reflectors to create a nice reflection on the bridge for example. Since the guitar is almost monochrome, I opted to use only two backdrops: solid black or a softbox as a lit white background. The color of the pictures is left untouched although only a few details break the monochromatic palette such as grain in the ebony fretboard and a slight brass coloration in the strings.

All shots were taken with a single lens: the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens which is very sharp and well suited for this task. For some of the macro shots, I used extension tubes and a focusing rail mounted on a tripod to facilitate focusing with very narrow depth of field.

Once all 12 images were captured, I post-processed them individually and created a montage full resolution. I varied the position of each individual pictures until satisfaction. It took a while since my laptop complained and suffered through the process of handling a composite image comprising over 250 Mpixels. A gallery is available for all individual images forming the montage.

I am quite satisfied with the result from my initial foray into product photography as I feel that, although it remains mostly unplayed, my work shows my SG Diablo that it is certainly not unloved. As winter rolls around, I am looking forward to shoot indoors, especially portraits. So what do you intend on shooting to keep busy photographically in the coming winter months?

Equipment: Canon DSLR 5D Mk II, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS lens

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