After too many days and weeks of rain and snow and late spring sleet the Sun shown bright and strong over Zurich on the second Sunday of April in the year 2008. I took the opportunity to sun bathe and then set up flashes, picked up my Minolta 7D and Ricoh GRD and set about photographing the excellent garden on the terrace.
One of the coolest things you can do with off-camera lighting is balancing the power of Sunlight with the watt-seconds of your strobe. Now, with powerful studio flashes from Alien Bees, Elinchrom, Profoto, and many others, this is easy. But the technique is often overlooked by amateur photographers since normal camera flashes are too weak to balance, or to over-power the exposure from the Sun.
I set up two flashes, a Contax TLA280 and Metz MZ40-3i. Gadget Infinity radio triggers were used to fire them. I had to use direct flash, with both set to nearly full output, since the high afternoon sun made weaker flash settings and any umbrella diffusers useless.
This meant I could light the main parts of the garden and create a nice blue sky in the background. The flowers take on a sort of unrealistic shine, a certain texture your eyes can’t perceive in reality. Ah, but the magic of simple off-camera lighting makes the magic appear with little effort.
A number of photos were taken during this session with the Minolta 7D and 20mm lens, but the best were produced using the Ricoh GR Digital with a 28mm lens. The near infinite depth of field of the Ricoh GRD coupled with the with wide angle of view of the 21mm and 28mm lenses produced nothing short of perfection for capturing the cool colors of the flowers to contrast against the deep blue sky. The Ricoh GRD rendered excellent saturation and sharpness of the flower petals and sharp green stems.
The setup for this shot took all of 10 minutes and there was no real concept I was trying to communicate. The motivation was keenly contained within a desire to play around with my cameras and flashes and produce an image I’d never seen before.
There’s little doubt that flash photography and flowers has been around for decades and countless photographers will produce more countless generic flower photos with deep blue skies and saturated petals. However, these will stick in my memory for a while, mainly because I was just playing around, and that’s when all the really cool things are done, when we don’t mean to do anything beyond killing the time we find on our hands.