Part 1 – Taming the Light
I am no expert or even a professional photographer, but I do love photography. I quickly learned a few things about macro and closeup photography a long time ago:
- Unlike most landscape photography, one can shoot anytime of day.
- Photograph just about anything, anywhere, anytime, all 365 days a year.
- Unlike most wildlife photography, it is not the right place at the right time necessarily. Bugs and flowers are easy to find.
- Macro has a low success rate in nature. Closeup photography the rate increases dramatically, yet I am still lucky to bring home one I really like.
- Pixels are free and plentiful.
But even in closeup photography, the sun can play havoc with what you want to shoot unless you have option and choice. In this post, I used a 28-300mm lens so these are not true macros. Next post, my macro lenses will be used like I did for the bee below.
As with all outdoor photography, the best option is shoot when the light is more forgiving, like images opening this post. But what if you want to shoot when it is convenient for you under the bright warm sun? I do this often too.
There are a few ways that help me capture a photo when I need a lighting work-around. All are convenient and not too costly. A diffuser, reflector or a small softbox fit the bill, plus I make choices concerning my location in relationship to the subject. Let me show you why these things help.
Here is a simple shot of a hydrangea in my garden. Look at these two examples as the sun comes in from the side.
Which is more pleasing at 8:30 in the morning? How did I soften the light in this case?
I clamped a 12″ collapsible, translucent white diffuser to a lily stalk to filter the light. The diffuser softened the light to produce even lighting, similar to an overcast sky. A reflector will bounce light back into the shadows if needed.
At 12″ round, both the diffuser and reflector are lightweight and collapsible and so easy to bring along. They shrink down to 4.5 inches in their own little bag with a loop to attach to a belt or bag.
With insects, I place or hold the diffuser in amongst the foliage and hope it does not scare away my quarry. Sometimes when thrown into shadow, they get skittish and fly away, but not always like below.
Here is the comparison on a different hydrangea. The fly image is a bit contrasted below in straight light compared to the one above diffused. The color flattens in the bright light.
What about you?
Another thing often overlooked by many is repositioning oneself for better lighting. You can’t change the sun location, but you can change your relationship to it.
People get excited to see a beautiful butterfly and forget all about its relationship to the sun. Just move to the other side of its perch and improve the shot. I used no light modifiers on either of these images of the same grasshopper. I just repositioned myself to get even light and a better angle of view.
A lower vantage point makes the harsh shadow disappear too. Walk around to the opposite side and look what you want to eliminate! I learned a long time ago… painters add and photographers eliminate.
This brings up another topic too. All the desirable things I discussed are in this photo, but one, interest. Do you just document like above, or do you try to make a photograph, not just take it? I find my hornet rather boring, but really thinking a shot through can produce art.
If you want to see photos that the fly above was part of and I actually took my time to set up, see this post.
Tame the Light with Flash
It seems counter intuitive to throw on more light when you already have too much, but what it does is give your shadows a boost.
I have a softbox that I attach to my flash so that the light is softer. Next post see how getting in really close is helped by using a flash.
What do you think the camera is pointed at? I have a prize for the first one that gets it right.
Just mention your guess in a comment in this post.
If nobody guesses correctly, the winner will be randomly picked for anyone leaving a comment here. You do have to be a US citizen though for me to ship the prize.
Can you even guess the prize pictured above? A hint… the prize was inspired by my post The Need to Care. It is something I have a few of, is eco-friendly and that I use every single day when going to the ….
To win the prize, here is a hint. It is a flower pictured in a recent post. For you frequent readers, it should not be too hard to at least find that post. Just match up the surroundings of the camera on the tripod above, note your answer in a comment in this post and you will be the one to win the…? And make sure I get your email address so I can contact you if you win. The winner will be announced next week in Using a Flash in Your Garden Photos.