Archive for the 'Fill Flash' Category

Achemon Sphinx Caterpillar Colors

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

We were invited to see and photograph some of the batch of Achemon Sphinx (Eumorpha achemon) caterpillars that are in their last instar and getting ready to pupate. The containers of peat moss are waiting for them to start looking for a place to go to ground. In the mean time they are still eating voraciously the grape and other vines being provided.

The literature states they come in a green form or a brown form. These came in a range of colors. One was lime green. A few were tan. Then there were some that were sorrel or nutmeg colored and others shaded into dark brown. All are from the same batch of eggs. Our friend, the Moth Whisperer, caught a female some weeks ago and she laid more than 90 eggs all over the cage and grapevines before he released her.

These images show what differences in flash and background can do, sometimes with a bit of help from software. The vines were twined on two columns of wire hardware cloth set on tables in a small screened porch. We worked to minimize wire’s effect on the images. The faintly checkerboard appearance in the top image is the out of focus wire which has been softened a bit more in a software layer.

The background was further away from the vine where the lime green caterpillar munched. The manual exposure for the caterpillar with the flash made the background go black. Ordinarily we do not use black backgrounds but for this one it is effective.

This pale tan one has its head partially pulled in. By kneeling on the floor the camera could be positioned to get a bit of sky in the background. Fill flash (reducing the flash setting) on the caterpillar allowed the natural light on the distant sky to be captured in this exposure.

The assortment of sorrel and brown colored ones varied as much as sorrel and chestnut horses do. For the one above the wire column was rotated so that a small evergreen tree near the porch provided the green background. The green was softened by the evening light bouncing through the screen.

This was one of darker brown ones. The pale porch wall with light bouncing off the opposite wall provided most of the light for this image. Fill flash was used but did not affect the exposure very much as seen in the very pale shadows.

Photographs are more than compelling subjects. Controlling the light is paramount. We submit that controlling the backgrounds are equally so.

Luna Moth Hatch

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Luna Moth

Our friend, the Moth Whisperer, went away for the weekend and came home to an unexpected event. Several of the Luna Moths (Actias luna) had hatched. He had not expected this because he thought they might winter over and hatch next Spring. We had visited him while he was tending the hundred plus little caterpillars earlier this summer.

When he got home late last night one of the moths was hiding behind a map that was loosely attached to the wall above his work area. He called at noon today to invite us over this evening to meet the 4 who had hatched. He intends to release them late tonight. When we got there 2 more had hatched – a total of 5 males and 1 female. One was still drying as it clung awkwardly to the wire columns where they all were resting.

Luna Moth

This one posed briefly on this branch. Most of our images are on wire – not very natural but still amazing to see. The amount and angle of light changed the green – sometimes more yellow and sometimes more blue. The female seemed more blue. However, this male’s color changed with the flash distance, power and angle in these two images. Another example of how color is rendered in differing conditions. There is a one stop difference between the fill flash setting for these two images. We used reduced power on our flashes and the little Rogue flash flags to direct and soften the light.

The bottoms of two large ice cream tubs are covered with Luna Moth cocoons – some wrapped in leaves and others gray and fluffy. The wire screen columns surround the tubs waiting for more to hatch and climb up to dry and then try their wings before going into the wide world outside.

Caterpillars of two more moth species are munching away in their containers and we hope they will cocoon and hatch at times we can visit the newly hatched adults.

Lighting Great Horned Owl Chicks

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

In the last couple of weeks we have photographed at two Great Horned Owl nests. One is in a tree in the middle of a small town. A resident told us that parents have nested there for at least ten years. The second nest is in a cave on a cliff in a nature preserve. Owls have nested there for almost twenty years.

The youngsters at both nests appeared to be about six weeks old at the times we saw them. The one above, which we photographed a week ago, is high in a cottonwood tree. The large snag at the end of a big branch is hollow enough for a nest. If offers protection from the winter elements for the parent on the nest in January and February. We saw only one of the three youngsters.

There was natural light – sun in a hazy sky – on the nest snag at mid-afternoon and some fill flash was used. There are catchlights in the eyes, but the young owl’s bushy eyebrows shaded its eyes more than we liked. The general exposure was acceptable. Here is where converting a raw file with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) came to the rescue. Because it was a raw file, adjustments to exposure around the eyes could be made with the adjustment brush without changing the overall exposure. Opening up the light on the eyes improved the image. Except for the eyes, the rest of the owl is well camouflaged in plain sight.

Yesterday we spent several hours observing the two youngsters (below) in their cave.  The cave is visible and at a good angle for observing from a bridge across the creek to the side of the cliff. Here the flash extender proved very useful. When we arrived, one of the twins was out on the ‘porch’ of the cave. It was a cooperative subject for full frame images while it napped, watched hikers across the creek and a insect flying around it, glared at a small child who stomped on the bridge, and sometimes looked at us. The flash and extender put a bit of light on its left eye which would have been shaded because natural light was coming from its right (left side of the image.)

When several boys in kayaks came quietly down the creek, the young owl considered them for a moment and retreated into the darkness at the back of the cave. Though in the  dark, we had seen movement from the second owl. We could see both of them moving about but could not see any details in the gloom. The overhang also obscured the scene.

We moved back along the bridge to change the angle of view and include both owls. In fact, we moved the tripod several times until the angle of view was perpendicular to the owls after they had settled into this pose. One of the youngsters dozed against the other.

The flash and extender overcame some of the darkness as the alert chick watched us with wider pupils because of the dim light. The sense of the setting would have been lost had the image been brighter  -  more flash exposure. The minus 1/3 flash exposure fill light kept the scene more natural while allowing us to capture the birds. Usually fill flash exposure is lower at minus 1 or more. By the time we made this image we were probably close to 90 feet away from the cave. Light from a flash diminishes at a distance.

As we often say, photography is always a compromise with light, camera settings, subject location and nature itself.

Caterpillar Camouflage

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Several weeks ago while in the northwoods of Minnesota, we were looking for interesting bark abstracts on the trees next to our camp site. The caterpillar subject of this post was not really noticable until one was within two feet of the tree. We think the tree was a balsam poplar. The caterpillar is still a mystery even after exploring our field guides, BugGuide and other insect sites online.

The top view shows its bristles and tufts more densely than does the partial side view below. The tufts are similar to some of the buck moths but the colors and density are different than photos we have found. The tufts along the side looked a bit like some of the feathering of tube worms in a coral reef. The pale gray bristly clusters are also like some ray flowers with a dark stamen protruding. Nature certainly likes to repeat its patterns and designs across species.

Sometimes things get a bit crowded when there are two photographers with macro lenses and sturdy tripods next to a tree with a 2 1/2 inch ( 6 cm) subject.

An observation that puzzled us is the color difference in the bark in the final jpg images. We used the same camera bodies in AV mode with auto white balance with different macro lenses – 100mm and 180mm. The other differences in capture were is ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and angle of view (light angle and amount). Similar Lightroom 4.1 ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) adjustments were made before final editing in Photoshop CS5.

The end results in the jpgs here are differences in warmth that traveled through the process. The original histograms differed with the warmer image more center weighted and the lower image left weighted. Then we realized that the warmer image with the center weighted histogram was made with a ring flash set to fill. The fill flash must have modified the file to make it warmer in spite of the similarity in processing of both images. Color is always influenced by the conditions.

The remaining puzzle is the species. Back to searching.

Cloud Forest Beauty

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Violet-tailed Sylph

Photographers must do what poets do – delete the unnecessary words or images. The sorting and culling process of what is written and what is photographed are similar and both are hard to do. We are continuing in small increments.

This afternoon we found only a few keepers among the Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis) images. Because of the low light and fog-like clouds in the dense forest about 2 hours west of Quito. we used higher ISOs and slower shutter speeds than we prefer. Fill flash was also often required. The flash exposure compensation for this image was -2 2/3. The leaf was very reflective of the ambient light and did not lighten with the flash. The flash brightened the belly and chest slightly, seen here in profile.

When seen from the front he has a violet spot under his chin and an iridescent turquoise stripe down his forhead. As with most hummingbirds, his colors changed as the angles of light on specific areas changed. It was like watching a rainbow morph into different shapes.

The Violet-tailed Sylphs usually sat with their backs to us at the feeders. They then retired to sit within bushes and behind branches if they did stay for a few moments. This one rested in an open spot on this large leaf near the path. To capture this gorgeous bird full frame was one of the special experiences of our stay in the cloud forest.  He would dash in for a drink and then perch for a few seconds before getting another sip. After about 8 times back and forth he flew into the forest.