Wildflower Photography: Flash Fill vs. Diffuser
What is the best way to photograph wildflowers; in the sun or in the shade? There are of course a variety of answers and i think it depends on how you frame the flowers in your viewfinder. The sun does not always create flattering light for wildflowers often adding to much contrast.
A large landscape showing a field of wildflowers benefits from the sun as it skim across the scene. But if you shoot macro, your flowers are up close and all the nuances of the light are obvious. If there is to much contrast its right there, in your face.
We all have our preferences and mine is soft light, even overcast conditions for photographing flowers up close. But recently while in Arizona searching for blooming cactus, I had what makes Arizona wonderful in other ways: great weather and warm days. But the light on the blooming Hedgehog Cactus was harsh.
Normally i use flash fill in these conditions and when shooting nature subjects that can benefit from lightening of the shadows, but I also wanted to try a diffuser . Problem is I did not have one. Checking in at B&H I found the Creative Light 38″ disc diffuser ON SALE FOR $15.60 so not wanting to miss out on that price, I order one shipped and had it in a few days, just in time for the cactus blooms.
So I thought it would be good to see how these two approaches compare and determine if I made a good decision.
The first challenge is to find the best blooming cactus and then choose a strategy to for that scene. If you have a grand scene showing more than the cactus like this image, you cant use the diffuser because it will only cover part of the scene like the cactus in the foreground here and that’s not much use.
Here the flowers and cactus have to much contrast to show off the flowers. (You can process the file with contrast reducing techniques, but this posts is about lighting.) Flash was the only option so I pulled out the flash and my favorite tool for the flash: the Rogue Flashbender. This does a great job of softening the light and it is flexible so you can bend into shape and it rolls up nicely.
This is the full sun with no additional light added. Flowers are pretty but there is a bit of contrast which can be viewed as distracting.
The above shows the addition of flash as a fill light and it lightened the shadows nicely. In this case as well, the flash is next to the camera so it does not create additional shadows as it would if it was off to the side.