A portable table for high-key photography in the field.
Many times we encounter great photographic opportunities in the field and can accomplish making some superb images of the subject in its habitat. (The mating stink bugs, below) Often however, it would be nice to capture images with greater clarity by the eliminating of ugly or distracting elements and improve the subject view by removing all the background.
I am often told by many that you can do all this in Photoshop or other post processing software. (Don’t worry, fix it in Photoshop.) While I know that to be true, why spend a lot of time in front of the computer when we can manage the technique in the field and in the camera?
So, my suggestion is to use a translucent white acrylic plastic background sheet and create near shadowless, high-key lighting by using an electronic flash as backlight. Similar to the White Box technique, (See: Create shadowless macro backgrounds) this has been a common studio practice for many years. Now recreating this technique in the field sheds a new light on our subjects. (Pardon the pun.) Enter the White Table.
This simple tool is an open framework created of PVC plumbing pipe. My dimensions are simple, 12 inches on each side. And with the addition of a 12 inch square white acrylic plastic top, the table is complete. I do not cement the PVC joints so the legs readily come apart for ease of transport.
In use, above, the unit rests on the ground. A back light flash is positioned to fire upward through the plastic top to provide a blown-out background. A second flash on, or near, camera provides front light for the subject and the trigger for the back light flash.
Here is an example of the same mating stink bugs carefully moved to the White Table. This process provides a completely different view of the insects without background distractions. The photo is clean and this technique allows lighting for maximum detail.
A simple twist to this technique is to switch the white acrylic for a black sheet of the same material. This will allow the production of some images with nice, contrasting black backgrounds and interesting reflections. This works exceptionally well with hairy subjects like the tarantula, (below).
Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.
Posted in Artificial Light, Biology, Insects, Lighting, Macro Photography, Natural Science, nature photography, outdoors, Photography, Wildlife
Tagged close up, flash, flash photography, insects, Macro photography, nature, table top
Northern Cardinal female, Nikon D800, Nikkor 80-200 F2.8 lens, 1.7x teleconverter.
To achieve the very best from every photographic composition it is very important to assure the subject stands out in the frame. To do this you must manage the background.
There are three basic ways to manage the background: Separate the subject from the background by using a very small Depth of Field; Use contrasting tone values; and Use complementary colors. The more of these effects that are used in a photograph, the more successful that composition becomes.
The first method is to set off or separate the subject from the background by muting all background distractions by using a minimum amount of Depth of Field (or depth of focus). To do this effectively first focus carefully on the subject and use a small F number aperture. The small F numbers provide a very small amount of the scene, both in front of and behind the point of focus that is in acceptable focus.
It is not reasonable to simply use the smallest F number provided by the lens. It is important to have enough DoF to cover the subject in its entirety. Larger subjects require a bit larger DoF.
Here is a comparison. The first image below is of the branch where the cardinal was perched. It was made with a lens at 340mm and at F29. The second image was made at F4.8. The comparison is quite evident. It is also important to remember that the DoF gets smaller as the lens focal length gets longer.
Deep and distracting background above. Few distractions and smooth, pastel background below.
In the next post we will review the second technique, use of contrasting tone values.
Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.
MindShift 20L backpack with full-sized D-SLR , lenses and lots of gear.
My friends at MindShift Gear have just announced a unique opportunity for you to take one of their FirstLight outdoor photography backpacks on a 30-day, risk-free “test drive.”
The FirstLight backpacks are purpose-designed specifically for the traveling outdoor photographer. The two packs are carry on compatible on virtually any regional and large commercial flight, making getting to your destination with your gear a worry free experience. The FirstLights’ contoured, 11-point adjustable torso harness fits most men and women. A shaped aluminum torso stay provides additional support. The packs also utilize ballistic nylon bottoms for long lasting durability.
They have dedicated water bottle pockets on both sizes, while the 30L also accommodates up to a 3L hydration reservoir. Both have long lens capacity, big stuff pockets, sternum strap whistles, with extra room for your 15″ laptop and personal gear. Use the accessory straps to carry a tripod, monopod or hiking poles. They’ve also included a seam-sealed rain cover. When attached, rain cover allows small to medium tripods to be carried on front or side positions.
The FirstLight 30L is sized for gripped DSLRs and larger gear and will hold up to a 500mm f/4 lens detached or 400 f/2.8 attached. The FirstLight 20L is sized for standard size DSLRs and robust mirrorless kits and will hold up to a 200–400mm f/4 attached or 300 f/2.8 and lots of gear and accessories.
MindShift Gear is a group of committed professional photographers and product designers who support conservation and protection of our natural resources and planet. Founded by the creators of Think Tank Photo and conservation photographer Daniel Beltrá, the company is dedicated to building carrying solutions for those who are passionate about experiencing the natural world.
To take advantage of this offer now, call them toll free at 866-558-4465 x1,
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM PST Mon – Fri and they’ll process your free test drive trial. Ask for FedEx Ground shipping and they’ll include it at no charge. And, be sure to mention Brian Loflin when ordering.
Copyright © 2015 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of MindShift Gear.