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Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category

Night Moth Pictures

A few nights ago we got back to our house after nightfall. On the way into our house, my wife noticed a leaf that was hanging “funny” off of one of our trees. It turned out to be a really interesting moth. Of course I wanted to get a picture of it.

I brought out my Nikon D-700 with my 70-300 lens mounted. This lens offers VR capabilities, but that still didn’t change the fact that I needed a light source. I was going to use flash for the photograph, but I could not see the moth to focus! I thought my camera had a focus-assist light, but at the time it was not coming on and I did not have time to figure out what was wrong, or even if my memory was incorrect. As a quick solution, I simply asked my wife to hold a flashlight on the moth so I could focus, and then the flash would illuminate the moth for the photograph.

I was quite pleased with the results. I ended up using manual focus. The combination of camera flash and flashlight illumination came out better than I expected. Here’s a picture cropped to show the moth hanging from the tree branch.

Here is a version that I have cropped all the way into the moth detail. The amount of texture and color is amazing. The focus point was on the head of the moth, so the eye shows up quite clearly. The antenna are great too, but what really amused me was how clearly the moth’s “toes” show up.

One of the tips to share here is I had two different angles to consider shooting from. One angle put the moth in front of a bunch of lights from the skyline. The other angle had me shooting towards my neighbor’s back yard, which had no lights. That was obviously the better choice because I don’t have any light pollution showing up behind the image. So in this case, I guess I was shooting a “moment of darkness” instead of light. :)

Using A Flash… Light

Many cameras come with a built-in flash. My Nikon D-70 has a pop-up flash that works fairly well and is always available and doesn’t require me to carry an extra piece of equipment. But it’s not always a flash that you want.

I went to Utah earlier this month and spent a day in the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park. On the way in I stopped at Newspaper Rock, a very famous petroglyph that is right on the road into the park. I didn’t like the light so I decided to come back later. I didn’t realize that “later” meant after sunset until I had already spent all day in the park.

Flash Painting

But I still decided to stop on the way by, just to try an experiment. I had a fully charged flashlight with me and decided that it was time to try some flash painting. What is that? First, here is the result:

Newspaper Rock

How was this done? It’s a fairly easy technique, but one I had never tried before. I set up my camera on a tripod because I was going to use a 30 second exposure. During that 30 second exposure I used my flashlight to “paint” the wall of rock and illuminate the petroglyphs. I spent more time painting the interior of the image than the outside, and that’s what makes the shadows more pronounced along the edges.

I did a number of trials since I had no idea what was going to work. I guess that is one of the advantages of having a digital camera with a nice, bright LCD panel to review your work. Since I had no idea what was working (and what wasn’t) I just took a lot of different pictures. :) For the record, this was the last one. Based on my memory this one involved me starting with the flashlight already on and moving and leaving the flashlight on for the entire thirty second exposure. The others had less light, and came out much too dark.

This image was shot on Velvia 50 slide film and scanned with a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED. No image alterations (contrast, brightness, and so on) were made to this image during the scan process.

Follow the Bouncing Ball

Most of the photography that I have done over the past decade has been wildlife or landscape subjects. I own a macro lens, and I enjoy using it when the flowers are out. I even bought a used 600mm lens a while back for use in Yellowstone and other areas where wildlife is plentiful. For the most part flowers and mountains don’t move too much while you are trying to take their picture. Wildlife does, of course, but frequently you can get classic “posed” shots.

I also have two boys, aged 5 and 6 at the moment. They’re both playing soccer in a kids league. It has been an interesting experience trying to adapt to sports photography. Kids rarely stop moving. :)


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