The snow has finally, and at last, left the north side of our house. It’s barely been gone about two weeks, however, that means two weeks of new growth in my wife’s garden.
I had been making notes in preparation for a workshop on using flash outdoors that I will be leading the first two Sundays in May, when my wife mentioned the crocuses were coming up everywhere, and I thought I would take a look to see if there were any left after a weekend visit from our two granddaughters who like to pick flowers, and I thought it might be nice to walk around her garden.
As it turned out the girls hadn’t got them all, and, anyway, there were many more coming up thru the ground every day. Discovering there were lots remaining I decided I should select a couple plants to photograph before the bloom was over.
Keeping in mind that I have been thinking about the upcoming outdoor lighting class I thought why not photograph the flowers just as I would do a portrait of a person.
I got out my small 2’x2’ backdrop and placed it behind some of the flowers. That small backdrop, especially constructed for flowers and other small items, is made of black velvet material attached to sharpened dowels that easily poke into the ground.
I mounted two Nikon wireless flashes on light stands, and put a 40-inch umbrella on one that I placed shoulder height to my right, and a 30-inch on the other positioned low to the ground and to the left.
Needing to shoot low, I used my favorite garden tripod, the uniquely flexible Benbo. The Benbo tripod allows each leg to be independently positioned, and instead of a vertical center column configuration most tripods have, the Benbo has a column that fits off center and when the legs, that go in almost any direction, are splayed out flat, the camera can be positioned just off the ground.
I mounted my 200mm macro lens on my camera. That focal length let me situate the camera several feet away from my subject crocuses, and I wouldn’t have to put an end to the new growth coming up everywhere in my wife’s garden while still letting me have a close focus.
The exposure was made exactly the same way I would have made it as if photographing a person in an outdoor studio; slightly underexpose the ambient light, reposition the flashes for the best light direction, and continue to make tests until I got the lighting that would flatter the subject.
Lighting a subject with off-camera flash is fun, and putting up a backdrop ensures that it is even more so. It doesn’t matter who, or what, the subject is. There isn’t really a choice when I have a chance to use a flash because I use a flash always. For me it is all about adding light. It was also really nice to spend some time outdoors in the garden and see it coming to life in the spring.
I always appreciate your comments. Thanks, John
My website is at www.enmanscamera.com
Thanks for the tutorial. You have a wonderful attention to detail.
I didn’t know about benbo tripods. I looked them up and they do look uniquely flexible. But with the camera off centre as in some of their images, how stable is the camera, particularly a dslr with large lens?
they work fine. I used mine with view cameras and medium formats. If it seems tippy ya just position the legs so it isn’t.
The Benbo legs don’t function like a regular tripod, and move in almost any direction.
The Benbo is an unwieldy beast that is hard to pack around because it won’t collapse tightly like a regular tripod. Although I have used it for other subjects, I prefer to use it for closeup/macro work.
I have nominated your blog for the Versatile Blogger Award.
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Thank you Risty, I am pleased you liked my blog and writings enough to include me with others on the Versatile Blogger Awards.