Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Attempting Field Photography

This morning I was trying to think of some more ways that a field studio for photographing plants could be achieved.

For the background I tried using some bits of wire stuck into the ground, spaced apart about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Then attached a sheet of white A4 paper to the wires using clothes pegs. For the diffuser I used my small diffusion panel clothes pegged to two longer pieces of wire stuck into the ground.

Background flash I laid on the ground with the head pointed up slightly. Front flash I placed on a gorillapod with a small ballhead. This gave it enough height to shoot down slightly through the diffuser. Camera I hand-held while lying on the ground.

This kind of worked. The subject I chose (a clover flower) was actually too close to the ground for the flash to fully light the background near the bottom of the flower (it was bright but not pure white). The problem is that most flowers grow further from the ground, and this setup wouldn't work for that.

Doing some more research, I decided to buy the Field Studio e-book. I wasn't sure whether it actually included any more information than what was freely available on the web, but it had good reviews and the price was reasonable.

Thankfully, it does include more exact information about the setup used. Basically, you use a Benbo Trekker tripod with the centre column horizontal. On the end you screw a Manfrotto Justin Clamp. This can then hold the background or diffuser.

For mounting the flash, they use a super clamp on the tripod leg with a Manfrotto flexible arm attached to hold the flash. I think that adding a super clamp to the other end of the centre column and then mounting the flash on that (with no flexible arm needed) might work as well.

So it seems that the whole setup is quite big, heavy, costs a bit, and can't really be avoided (unless you have people to hold everything for you). I did want to write about this technique for my photography tips blog, but unfortunately the investment needed would probably put most people off from trying it.

Since I don't have a Benbo Trekker tripod, I had a look at boom arms. Adding one of these to a standard tripod should give the same flexibility of the Benbo's centre column. There is quite a bit of info on (cheap) boom arm options here: Boom Arm - Looking for ideas. There is also a good photo in that thread showing a field studio style setup: Setup for Cherry Salvia.

So I bought a telescopic boom arm for about £20 on eBay. We will see how it works when it arrives. I think that probably using a softbox should reduce equipment and costs quite a bit. It could just be mounted on the tripod normally, and should be more efficient in terms of light output than using a separate flash and diffuser.

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