Brand new ideas and hoping for some very cool results - that's what the plan was earlier Sunday morning. I asked LaDawn if she would like to head out to the Cincinnati Nature Center after church services this past Sunday, just for some fun shooting. Walking thru the center is one of our favorite things to do so she was all for it. I did have my own agenda in mind though. I wanted to explore macro photography, but with a twist. I wanted to use my brand new Canon 580EX II flash to illuminate the subject bringing a direction of light from any direction I chose. That way, I could create a nice direction of light at a very close range and kind of be my own self contained macro photography studio.
Here is the setup: I was using a Canon 40D fitted with 100mm F2.8 macro lens with a 580EX flash attached. The 580Ex served two purposes - first, it would have the Quantum Freewire transmitter attached to it - the Freewire was hardwired into the camera's sync terminal; and, secondly, it would supply any fill light I thought necessary. Myself or LaDawn would hold the 580EX II with the Freewire receiver attached to it at the appropriate angle for experimenting and finding the best direction of illumination.
My whole idea for the shoot was to experiment more with the new off camera flash features of the 580EX II. The first thing I did was set up the flash so that it would not automatically shut down and then secondly, I wanted it to fire in Manual mode triggered by the Freewire. I wanted manual mode so I could control the density on the scene by varying it's distance to the subject. You can see how I set up the flash in a previous post - Best Little Light in the World right here. I know what you are thinking, Ziser has taken this $460 high tech flash and turned it into a simple manual (yet very portable) flash - yep, that's what I did. I dialed the power down to about 1/8 power. At this setting and at the distances I was working the flash, I would be using very small apertures since maximum depth of field was one of my prerequisites as well.
As you can see throughout this article, I was getting my desired result - granted some were better than others, but the exercise was still fun. I found that if I was working close to the subject, I preferred the wide angle diffuser over the flash head because at the close working distances, it created a much softer light. Removing the wide angle diffuser and setting the flash to 80mm zoom gave a different result - this set up actually created a spot light effect on the scene localizing the lighting effect for maximum viewer's attention. You can see that effect in some of the images accompanying this article. The remote flash gives the images a special quality that makes much of the subject matter pop off the page as it stands isolated, many times isolated from the background.
I've populated the article with several of the images taken this past Sunday along with the setup shots for your reference. You can click on the images for a larger view to see the equipment set up. A slide show follows of some of my favorite images from the Sunday nature shoot. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
As a postscript to this whole post, let me say that pointing your camera at something different than what you normally point your camera at - for me it's normally people - especially brides and grooms - helps get those creative brain juices flowing and is quite a kick. Enjoy, --David