Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Flashlight Saves Image

I love photographing during Springtime. Last weekend I made my first of what is hopefully to be several trips to local wildflower areas. There was some early goldenrod blooming in isolated patches, and I spent some time with my macro lens making images of individual buds. While I was looking around (and getting the aches out of my knees and hips from crouching for so long), I happened to see a ‘bug’ nestled deep within the swirling leaves of an emerging plant. Though I recently wrote a few posts about the types of photographs I don’t frequently take, and one of them was insects, I couldn’t resist trying my hand at capturing an image of the little guy. I liked the pattern and color of the leaves and thought the best approach would be to take an ‘environmental portrait’ rather than trying to fill the frame with the insect’s head.

I needed some added illumination beyond natural light to properly photograph the insect in the recesses of the leaves and so I broke out my macro flash. However, after taking a few shots, I noticed a problem. The flash was generating distracting specular highlights in the water droplets on the leaves around the bug. Since one’s eye tends to be immediately drawn to bright highlights I felt the flash, while providing adequate illumination to make the photo, was, at the same time, detracting from it by drawing the eye away from the main subject.

I could try to change the position of the flash or to partially shade a portion of it, but I realized that besides the uneven lighting that might ensue, it would also be an exercise in futility as the results could only be seen after the shot was taken……and I only have two hands. Therefore, after evaluating the results on the camera’s small LCD, it would be impossible to exactly reproduce the lighting conditions that were present during the exposure, let alone change them in any type of controlled fashion.

But then I remembered the small flashlight that I had purchased after reading Les Saucier’s article that I previously wrote about. By holding the flashlight in one hand and the cable release in the other, I was able to make the exposure while looking through the viewfinder and seeing the effect of the lighting in real time, enabling me to minimize the specular highlights and produce an image that I found pleasing.

Copyright Howard Grill

Not only that, the flashlight enhanced my creative efforts. Though I ultimately ended up liking the most straightforward lighting the best, I couldn’t help but experiment with different ways of illuminating the bug. I tried using the flashlight to light the little guy from all different angles including backlighting him from behind the leaf. That might have worked if I had a second flashlight to throw a bit more light on the bug from the front as well. Nonetheless, I felt a bit better about not having a second light when I realized that I would then have to set off the cable release with my mouth!

The flashlight is definitely handy to have around. Why not give it a try!