The Current Issue
Nikon Owner Issue 13
HEATHER ANGEL – Lighting
Heather Angel was inspired by the enthusiasm of the participants getting to grips with lighting flowers at her 2004 Wildlife and Natural History Workshop with Nikon at Saint Hill Manor and felt that other Nikon Owner subscribers might appreciate some guidance here.
Inspired by the enthusiasm of the participants getting to grips with lighting flowers at my 2004 Wildlife and Natural History Workshop with Nikon at Saint Hill Manor, I felt other Nikon Owner subscribers might appreciate some guidance here.
For me, the superb aspect of taking close-ups is that you have complete control over the lighting. If the natural light does not enhance the subject, then I will use either a reflector, a diffuser, fill-flash or full flash to modify it. Before exposing a single frame I look at the structure of the subject which indicates how I will light it. Is it solid, translucent or transparent? Does it have a surface texture? What aspect do I want to highlight?
Many a time I have noticed a flower or a fungus in a forest, spot-lit by a beam of light, only to find by the time I get the tripod set up and the camera focused, the sun has moved on past the gap in the overhead canopy. Then, I either use a small reflector or a hand mirror to reflect the light back onto the subject.
Leaves and flowers with larger petals come alive when they are backlit – either by sun or flash. For any creative lighting you need to move the flash over the camera by using an extension lead. Without an assistant to hold the flash off the subject in soft ground I use a wooden pole with a flash shoe attached on top, or else I use a small tripod onto which I can screw the flash. Once the flash is set up I crouch behind it to check the light lines up with the back of the subject.
Fixing a small snoot made from black paper around the flash head narrows the beam angle. A lens hood helps to eliminate stray light landing directly onto the lens. This is where shooting digital is such a boon, because you can immediately check the exposure and see if there is any flare on the lens.
Flash can also be used to fill-in shadow areas or light deep-throated flowers. Fill-flash is such an easy, yet underrated tool. After the daylight reading is taken, the compensation on the flash is set to –1.7 stops so that the flash simply fills in the shadow areas.
Shiny fruits require a more subtle approach because their rounded reflective skins will bounce back the light. With a distant sun the reflection is still present, but is not so sharply defined as a flash at close quarters. Wherever possible, I prefer to use a longer exposure without flash or reflectors when taking shiny fruits.
Still life close-ups offer even more scope for creative lighting and choice of background colour. Mostly simply, I use the window light in a large sunroom with a reflector to fill-in on the side opposite the window.