I’m a lucky guy! First, I’m one of the fortunate attending this weekend’s BugShot insect photography workshop. Second, this first-of-a-kind event is being held only 13 miles from my home at Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit, Missouri. Third, I was “adopted” by the BugShot instructors to assist in the event. Who are the instructors? None other than John Abbott from Austin, Texas—an expert on dragonfly biology and insect action photography, Thomas Shahan from Norman, Oklahoma—master of close-up arthropod (especially jumping spider) portraiture, and Alex Wild from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois—ant photographer extraordinaire and author of the most popular insect blog on the net. In 2009 I picked up a digital SLR camera for the first time ever—in 2011 I am rubbing shoulders, discussing exposure and lighting, and enjoying social time with three of the country’s most accomplished insect macrophotographers (and some other very cool people as well).
I have come a long way, but I still have much to learn. Intimate understanding of lighting, exposure, and the creative use of flash still eludes me—I can do a few things well, but there is much more I can’t do at all. Today was my first time experimenting with the effect of lighting direction, i.e. taking the flash heads off their fixed position on the front of the lens and hand-holding them in different positions. This simple technique can have dramatic effects on the look of a photograph, as illustrated by the following two photographs. In the first, both flash heads of my Canon MT-24EX twin flash are attached to the front of the lens (as they have been for every single flash photograph I’ve ever taken up to this point). In the second, only the right flash head remains attached to the lens, while the left head has been detached and is being hand-held directly above the subject (in this case, the treehopper Acutalis tartarea on Solidago sp.). Technically they are not very good photographs, but they illustrate well the dramatic differences that can be achieved by varying the position of the flash heads. Among other things, this is a technique that I will be exploring much over the coming weeks.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011