Spiral sea shell lit from within

Glowing Shell, illustrating a simple lighting technique

Here’s a little glowing shell lighting project I tried. I purchased a strong, small LED flashlight (this one, as a matter of fact) in order to light objects from within. The LED flashlight is small enough that it can be easily hidden or masked, but powerful enough to provide enough light for the camera to do its work. This object is a coiled sea snail shell, about two and a half inches in diameter. I do not know the species of the snail. I am sure it is common. I have seen other pictures of what is apparently the same shell on the internet, but I have not seen it named. The flashlight just barely fits into the opening. I added a some gaffer’s tape to block some light overflow.

Sea snail shell taped to a flashlight

Set-up I used for photographing the glowing shell.

This was a quick trial of the concept. I shot it in a dark room. Everything was handheld. I used my 60mm macro lens. Being handheld, I needed a higher ISO, faster shutter speeds and large apertures. Some grain is evident and depth of field is limited. For future use of this set-up, I will anchor the light and shell to a surface, and use a tripod for the camera. Even so, I was pleased that the LED light was bright enough to allow handheld speeds at all.  Image information: ISO 5000 f/11 1/60 sec. I hope to come back to this glowing shell to further refine my technique. I also am looking for other objects with enough translucence to make it interesting.

For post-processing, I let Aperture do its auto-enhance magic. I increased the exposure a little more after that for a nice bright glow. In the hand in a dark room, the glow is pretty bright. I fought a little with the grain and sharpness, but there was only so much I could do with an ISO of 5000.