Critique More Fun with Colored Pencils (in a different style)

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I made three photos of colored pencils with most everything in focus displayed at https://www.nikoncafe.com/threads/fun-with-colored-pencils-rainbow-remake-added.324968/ The photos displayed below were made using a very small depth of field.

NOTE: If you can think of other concepts using colored pencils in any style, I would appreciate it if you would please share your idea.

Setup
Photo #1: The tabletop is white foam core. A medium continuous-light lamp was above the scene and a small one was below the other lamp and shining from left to right.
Photo #2: The background is black velvet. A small continuous-light lamp on the right side was facing a white wall behind the camera. That wall redirected the light onto the scene.
Photo #3: The tabletop is white paper. A small continuous-light lamp was in the front right area near the tabletop.

Mike 2020-11-02--0006-S.jpg
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Mike 2020-11-02--0003-S.jpg
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Mike 2020-11-03--0001-S.jpg
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that lens has small aperture settings
I have never used a lens that can stop down smaller than f/32 in an optic meant for 35mm film or FF digital format. In any case, I suppose it makes sense for a dedicated macro lens to have the ability. What are your thoughts about managing any diffraction that appears?
 
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What are your thoughts about managing any diffraction that appears?
<facetious mode> Only a few thoughts :) </facetious mode>

Sersiouly, I'm not a pixel peeper and I so rarely make large prints that I'm never concerned about diffraction. Also, diffraction doesn't seriously affect the type of photography I do, as the subjects I photography rarely display close-ups of a lot of fine detail such as an animal's fur, a bird's feathers, or the details displayed in macro images shot at a magnification ratio of 1:1 or higher.

In general, I think the concern about diffraction is way overblown. If the lens wasn't made to be used at all aperture settings when obtaining a photo at reasonably good quality, the manufacturer would not have made the smaller aperture settings available. Any time I can obtain the desired depth of field without resorting to focus stacking, I'm going to do it no matter how small the aperture setting is.
 
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In general, I think the concern about diffraction is way overblown. If the lens wasn't made to be used at all aperture settings when obtaining a photo at reasonably good quality, the manufacturer would not have made the smaller aperture settings available.
I’m mostly on the same page with you. I know you’re diligent to get things right in-camera, and that goes a long way for the lion’s share of use cases. I wish I could refrain from pixel peeping but I can’t, mostly because I do enjoy making large prints. So I expend a lot of energy trying to achieve wallhangers, and needless to say, those efforts pay off only a tiny fraction of the time.

But we digress from your topic, which you did flag for critique. As I already mentioned, I do like #2 best.

Like Nick, I think it has the right amount of DoF and further benefits from the skillful lighting that is your signature. Along those lines, would you consider a little backlighting that is limited to the tip of the single protruding red pencil? That might draw the eye in even more.
 
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[In Photo #2] would you consider a little backlighting that is limited to the tip of the single protruding red pencil? That might draw the eye in even more.
That's a great idea not just for the reason you mention but also because it would add a bit of drama to the image. I don't know if I have the right equipment to limit the light only to the red pencil in the middle without going to a lot of trouble, so I would probably make that happen using two captures -- one captured like the one above and one captured with the back lighting. I would then move the back lit red pencil to the image captured without the back lighting.

The next time I make an image where that concept can be used, you can be sure that I'll be thinking of you.
 
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Now that a few of you have commented about this set of photos, I have a particular detail to mention that I intentionally didn't mention earlier. That's because I wanted to see if you folks would notice the characteristic I have in mind -- that the blurred areas could not have been produced by the optics of a standard lens.

Photo #1: The area that is out of focus is a LOT more out of focus than what the lens produced.

Photo #2: All pencils to the left and right of the red pencil sticking up are out of focus including the pencils that are on the same plane as that red pencil and, thus, were in focus in the original capture.

Photo #3: As in the first photo, the area that is out of focus is a LOT more out of focus than what the lens produced. Also, even though the red pencil sticking out beyond the other pencils is entirely parallel to the focal plane, the left side of it is out of focus.

I used the relatively new Perspective Efex now included in DxO's Nik Collection to add the controlled blurring. The specific tool is called Miniature Effect, which is a tool that allows us to blur any parts of the image using gradients. In theory, the same could be done in Adobe Camera Raw except that its blur tool doesn't blur nearly as much.
 
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the blurred areas could not have been produced by the optics of a standard lens.
You got me! I see it now, but definitely didn't before.

I might have been heading down the path to seeing it in that the small aperture in #3 should have had more DoF than I saw in the image, but I never came close to imagining that it was a postprocessing mechanism that added the blur.
 

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