Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Flowers

The tree in the front yard blossoms for about a week every spring before the seasonal winds do their work.

Had a few spare moments yesterday after a short rainstorm came through. This was the typical "promise Armageddon, deliver rainbows and butterflies" Indiana storm. We do have a few great storms come through, like the one last May. As the last few drops fell from the clouds, i noticed the tree looking especially gorgeous in the late evening light.

Deciding to be ridiculous, i set out across the front yard armed with my 70-300VR and D700. Shoot medium-sized flowers in late evening light with a slow-apertured lens? Suuuure. Why not? Oh, i brought a flash (SB800) with me, too. Shot a couple of soft-focus, motion-blurred ambient shots and decided to add some light to the situation. I began by reducing the ambient level of light by reducing the ISO from 3200 to 1600 and increasing the shutter speed from 1/40th to 1/250th. That's 3 and 1/3rd stops underexposure from the original ambient photographs. But wait, there's more...i also increased the aperture from f/5.6 to f/18. Another 3 and 1/3rd stops. If i shot an ambiently lit image with these settings i would have rendered a very nice shade of 100% black. Enter the SB800 flash. Triggering this wirelessly from an on-camera commander unit (SU800), i am able to control the power output from the flash as well as adjust its position relative to the subject (flower). my focal length was 170mm and not being on a tripod i wanted to keep the shutter speed up, hence the sync speed of 1/250th. there was also a bit of a breeze, so the faster shutter speed would reduce any motion blur from the flower moving about.

Hardly a spectacular shot. Interesting, maybe, but i dont think Getty will come knocking on my door for it.

Rule of Thumb: When in doubt, simplify.

On the previous shot, i was aiming up into the tree and you can still barely make out a wee bit of sky between the branches. I turned my attention to a flower at approximately eye level. One flower (remember: simple). Think lighting; the sun is under the horizon at this point and only a little bit remains in the sky. clouds look cooooool (great time to photograph skies, btw. after a storm, after sunset).

Idea: try shooting visually interesting cloud shots with no point of reference to land. composition is, to put it pleasantly, difficult.

i digress...flowers.

lighting: get rid of it. go flash or go home. zoomed the flash head out to 85mm to help concentrate the light. tighter beam of light = harder edge transfers from shadows to diffused to specular highlights (read: more contrast). Flash position was about 20" away from flower, upper right, slightly in front. power was 1/128 (lowest setting) ISO 500 1/250th f/16. Should have traded the ISO for higher power on the flash (ISO 250 = half the sensitivity = 1 stop reduction of light push flash to 1/64th = twice the duration = twice the light = 1 stop brighter). didnt hurt the detail to much, ISO 500 on the D700 is like shooting Velvia 50 (ok, maybe not quite, but its darn good).

Final shot, quick and dirty edit in CaptureNX (sharpening, crop from 2:3 to 4:5, switch shooting style from standard to landscape for better contrast, saturation.


Karen said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE! May need some prints of these!

Lauren 'Cheese' Martz said...

gosh...who ever held your flash for you did an awesome job. beautiful. :)
btw one of those pics is now my desktop background.

i am waiting to see the pics from the fire....haha