How I Get My Photos, Part 2 – Taming the Light
When one thinks of using a flash, the first thought is not having enough light. This is a primary use, but it can also be used in bright direct sunlight too. Like I said in Part 1, using a flash does seem counter intuitive to add light when you already have too much.
I mentioned in Part 1 that photography eliminates, so how is adding light eliminating an element? Well, it softens harsh shadows, so I consider that eliminating.
I found when shooting small insects and even flowers, it helps to keep detail and retain color. It helps even out and reduce contrast when shooting in direct sun. But how do you avoid that blinding amateurish look? Also, let’s do a more difficult to expose subject and see how I do.
I chose a subject that is almost the same color as the busy background it is on, plus yellow is a harder bloom color to photograph in bright light.
Complicated subject, complicated background and complicated light. So now what? Nature is messy with lots of lines or patterns. Clean up with removal – eliminate. How?
By selectively limiting the background with depth of field – blur. More on that another time.
I needed to keep the detail in both subject and background by getting all the light I could on the macro subject without blowing out definition in the yellow sunflower where I wanted it. Using a flash helps my macro images, but we have to modify the light coming from the flash when working so close.
Using flash is useful on larger subjects as well, so don’t think it is only for macro work and has to be modified every time. Also, you don’t need a fancy shoe-mount flash. The one on your consumer camera can work too. You just need to filter some of the strong light. They make pop up flash diffuser, but you can just make one yourself out of a translucent material to fit the camera you own.
A macro shot by its very nature is going to have a limited depth of field that we can control with our choice of f-stops. So to help my focusing, I had the camera on a tripod which I don’t use all that often. I used two different macro lenses, the 60mm above and the 105mm below. The difference is in how far away from the subject I had the lens. It was only a couple of inches for the 60mm (f5.6 ISO 200) and 18 inches for the 105mm (f8 ISO 200).
More of the flash illumination is directed to the bee the closer one gets, hence a brighter image. Many hot-shoe mount flashes can be dialed for power also. I needed to do that on mine, even with the soft-box diffuser tempering the spread and intensity of the light.
Not using a flash, see the dark shadows cast on the sunflower below? It would be difficult to see a pollen covered bee. So if in bright light, a flash can be used to neutralize the lighted surface.
The tiny 1/2 inch bee was very cooperative, each time I moved the camera, she shifted her position to face me. It was almost scary as she advanced towards me.
There is a joke that I get the insects to pose for the camera, but this one actually did in the image above, the two below and the third image of the post. An image this close would not be easily done without using additional light.
In fact in all thirty images this bee followed the camera.
The other bee in this post kept running away from the camera. I guess the flash was too annoying to her. She even has a leg raised, like to say “Get that light out of my face.”
One other thing I might mention. So often you see these high dynamic images where there is very little high contrast from the bright sun. You might think the photographer a real whiz in dealing with light. Look at these two images, the first the original as shot, the second, a simple filter in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements called Shadows/Highlights. See the difference?
It is just another way to tame the light if too bright or your exposure is off.
So now I have given a few ways to tame the light. Do you know there is more and I use those methods on landscape shots. If shooting in bright light, just avoid those high contrast places.
Go to where it is all evenly bright, or slink into the shadows avoiding the bright sun altogether, but don’t try for both at one time. Two posts from Saxon Holt explain light so much better that I can, so take a look at his articles.
Saxon is a professional garden photographer and my two posts just touched on things he has yet to mention on taming the light. It is most probably because his main focus is shooting the overall gardens.
And for our contest winner… the random winner is… Beth from PlantPostings. No one correctly guessed the sunflower in the post How I Get Photos in Yucky Light, so I randomly picked a winner. Congrats, Beth. Please email me your address and I will send you the Eco travel Bag.
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