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Friday, September 19, 2014

Our Praying Visitor: Balancing Available Light With Flash

Summarizing today's post: Balancing outdoor available light with flash, nature, taking notice to the world around you, & carrying your camera with you always.

shot at 95mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/30th of a sec, strobe bounced off of ceiling at 1/4 power
I think I've been spotted! This big guy was looking me right in the eye (it seems) when I snapped this photograph.

I walked outside one Sunday morning a few weeks ago and found him directly over our front door. I believe the good Lord sent him to "pray" over our home that day. A praying mantis is such a cool creature, they fascinate me. So, of course, I had to play a bit. And he was such a good sport about trusting of me it seemed.

Not too long ago, we discussed mixing ambient (available) light with your own light to make a nice photograph (see here). I call this balancing or leveraging light. Today I thought I would provide a practical example of this in a different situation. No two situations are exactly the same...this is the constant challenge the photographer faces.

When I first found my friend hanging around, I snapped a few photos with just available light. While I could obtain proper exposure by raising my ISO sensitivity to 1250 and slowing down my shutter speed, I was not quite satisfied. Since our front door is recessed a good ways back under a roof overhang, one side of the mantis was shadowed quite heavily (even in the middle of the day). 

The experimentation begins...time to add my own light. I decided first to try a low power bare strobe/flash set back to camera left. This provided a hard light. I set my shutter speed at 1/20th of a second because I wanted a good mix of available daylight. Shutter speed is key when wanting to leverage what light you have already available to you. First shot:

shot at 65mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/20th of a sec, bare strobe added camera left at 1/64 power
Not too bad, I like it. See the hard shadow lines underneath him? That's from my bare strobe. Nice effect, however it wasn't quite what I was looking for today. I was not taking advantage of the nice white ceiling 3 feet above my buddy here. Hmmmm. 

Being that the option was right there in my face, I quickly turned my small, hard light source into a huge, soft light source (for more on light source size, see here). Increasing the power of my strobe and pointing it straight up resulted in the image at the top of the page. 

And here's one more, mixing available light with my own indirect lighting:

shot at 95mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/30th of a sec, strobe bounced off of ceiling at 1/4 power
You can see that there are no shadow lines due to my indirect, soft light emitted by my flash/strobe (bounced off the ceiling). I like this better. 

What about you? Do you like the harder light or softer light? There's no right answer. Just depends on taste really. The main takeaway is that there was a need to mix in my own light here in some way due to the dim daytime light. 

There are so many lessons to be learned here. Namely, have your camera handy at all times! (I need to heed my own advice, but I'm getting better.) Keep your camera ready to "fire" all the time...keep your battery charged and memory card clear. You would hate yourself if you failed to capture an image like this just because of something like a dead battery. I know I would.

Secondly, take notice of nature around you. This little creature of nature came into OUR world that day...and I noticed him. I have learned to keep my "antennas" up in the world in which we live because there is beauty all around. It brings me extreme happiness to be able to show you such a wonderful creature like this praying mantis. 

I have always said happiness is linked to photography...whether you are behind the camera or just looking at the results like right now.

Did you smile while looking at these photos? Happiness increased. You see?

Have a wonderful Friday! Thanks for reading.


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