This is one of about 20 seedlings I photographed for my wife. She’s working on a series of botanical paintings to document the life cycle of the White Oak, Quercus alba.
The photo was taken May 21, 2010, the day we transplanted the seedlings to their separate pots. Digging them up gently allowed for a rare view of their root structure, and the process by which the outer shell of the acorn splits away.
The set up was: Nikon D80 with 105mm macro lens, 1/200 sec @ f36. I used two bounced speedlights inside a box made of foamcore mounting board. On some of the other photos (to be posted later on) I added a sheet of white paper in the lower foreground which helped a lot to reflect some light to the underside of the seedlings. I used a fresh sheet of paper under each new specimen and supported them with a paper clip pushed through the mounting board. They were all very muddy, but changing the paper really helped to make them look professional.
Another part of this set up was that I had my camera tethered to my laptop, and used a free software called Sofortbild to view the images full screen immediately after tripping the shutter. This is a huge help when small details are critical, and you can’t repeat the set up a second time. The software even provides a remote shutter release using your mouse/touchpad. Very neat.