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How the magic is done - Mice playing chess

Ellen van Deleen claims that the inspiration for creating her wonderful photograph of the chess playing mice, was her father who was an accomplished chess player. Thank you so much Ellen!

Canon 50D and a Canon 50 mm 1.4 Shutterspeed: 1/200 sec. F5. Focal length: 50mm. ISO: 800.


The background for creating this image, is the fact that my father was a very good chess player. That’s what created the idea. I already had the complete setting it in my mind for several weeks, but I could not find chess-pieces in the correct small size I needed for the shot. No shop sold these small items. Finally I was able to borrow them from someone else.

The complete setting was placed on a couch. For the background I used a white cloth which covered the seat back of the couch. A little table for the set up was already present. I also used two lamps, one in front of the scene - a daylight lamp - and one on the left side of the setting. Additional daylight came in from behind. The light is very important, I dont have sunlight in my house and can only take photos when the light outside is very bright, so I get a "good" light inside. Sometimes I do use a big reflector too, I place it on a chair behind me.

I didn´t use a tripod, because these animals move all the time, and it was just more handy to do it without. But because of that, I had to use a high iso (800 iso). Then marmalade was placed on two black Chess-pieces (one for each rat).

When the setting was completed, I took the rats and let them free on each side of the table. They went to the chess pieces at the same time. But within a few seconds the table and chess pieces tumbled down and the whole setting was completely mixed up. I had to be very fast! This happened several times, so I had to start over again and again. I cannot remember how often I had to rearrange the complete set up to have at least one good photo.


This is just a single shot, no double or multiple layer combination, no photoshop manipulation.

I used a Canon 50D and a Canon 50 mm 1.4

Shutterspeed: 1/200 sec. F5. Focal length: 50mm. ISO: 800.

The lighting was a halogen lamp and a 100 W daylight lamp.


Photoshop CS3 was used for postprocessing. I did some sharpening, a bit of level adjustment. No further adjustments necessary, except a bit of cropping.


I like a little humour in life, there is already so much tragedy in the world and I hope I can bring a smile to people with my photos. I hope people will like my photograph and smile about it. The reactions have been much more positive than I expected.


Things to think about: Choose a subject that you really like, that makes the best photos I think.

Prepare your camera settings, before you take the photo.

I am more of a creative person than a technical person, but its important to know a bit about the technical aspects of photography, that´s why I read a lot about the subject.


When it comes to this photo, I liked the outcome, because it shows exactly what I had in mind.

I live in the Netherlands and photography is my greatest hobby, besides music, painting and drawing. From time to time I earn some money through my photos and recently had an offer for a book to be published.

Why I take photos? It’s a way to express myself and a form of art. I also love macro photography and all the beautiful colors there, which can be found in nature.

Since I am a christian, I hope my photos may reflect a little bit of Gods beautiful creation!

Hi Ellen, it's wonderful to read how you made this shot! Very clever. All your mice photos are so beautiful and they do bring a smile to my face. Regards, Jacqueline
Congratulations with this publication Ellen... Very interesting to read and to know... Kind Regards. Gil
Please, can someone change my name? Its van Deelen in stead of " van Dellen":) Thanks much, also for publishing this !!
Nice to read the article Ellen: be proud......! Congratulations with your patience and image and mice!
Hello Huib, thanks so much! I didnt know this was published, just found out :) What a surprise...... Nogmaals bedankt!