Figure out how you are going to expose that unusual lighting situation before you get into the field. And, of course, a new Lightroom preset.
I really wanted to write an article about shooting frogs in Costa Rica but alas, I have to settle for writing about preparing to shoot frogs in Costa Rica. Frogs are one of the quintessential subjects when shooting in the Central American jungle. As the photo instructor on two upcoming Costa Rican tours, it is essential that, assuming we find frogs, we can expose them properly. They are notoriously hard to find. In fact, I have been there a couple of times and never seen one. I have heard them-all night long-but have never seen them. Recently I was watching Planet Earth on Discovery Channel and all the video they showed of frogs in the jungle was taken at night. That got me thinking.
As elusive as this quarry is and nocturnal as the sounds of the jungle night seem to suggest, perhaps a night-time foray should be planned. I use a headlamp when I am working at night (most often to light the path back to my car after sunset). It keeps my hands free for carrying gear, adjusting settings and catching my fall. The Headlamp is LED. It lasts forever and is bright-bright enough to shoot by on high ISO.
Rikk with his LED headlamp mounted-practicing
See Postscript for Strobist Info on how this picture was set up*
With my recent work on White Balance for Compact Fluorescent bulbs and Sodium Vapor lights, the color of the light was foremost in my mind. Even though I shoot RAW and can change White Balance later on, it is helpful to have a standard reference from which to work. Do you get it right in advance and have it ready or try and recreate the light after the fact? If you are a regular reader, you know I am a proponent of getting it right in the camera first.
I saw a golf match on television a number of years back where a pro golfer was stuck with his ball against a tree. He had to hit left handed, with one hand swinging backwards, while facing with his back to the green to chip the ball into play. It looked like he was hacking weeds with the back of his club. The announcer indicated that pros often practice unusual or difficult shots because they want to be able to play them from experience should they ever arrive in a similar predicament in an actual match. Photography is no different.
I got out my Macbeth Color Chart and photographed in my LED headlamp’s illumination and created a profile to adjust my Lightroom edits as closely as possibly. It can be really hard trying to find a neutral tone for balancing after-the-fact at night in the green jungle. The difference is subtle to be sure-meaning the camera did a pretty good job with WB–on a chart. I still won’t trust it on a frog! The LED Temperature for my particular headlamp is 6800° K with a tint of -18 for those of you White Balancing at home on another software package such as ACR, PSP, or others.
Of course for those of you with Lightroom, I am providing the preset via my normal method. Click on the button above to download the Energizer™ LED Head Beam White Balance Preset. Hopefully I will get to try this rig out in the field in Costa Rica in February. I shall post some actual pictures if I can find the elusive frog in the dark.
If you know in advance you are going to encounter unusual lighting, take that variable out of the equation as much as possible. Duplicate, test, prepare and you can worry less about your shots in the field.
Rikk Flohr © 2009
Strobist info on the headlamp shot above. I wanted the shot to look like I was outside at night with someone shining a light on me. I set it up like this: Shot with a Canon G10 with ST-E2 remote trigger firing a single 580EXII speedlite at camera-right. Flash set on manual at 1/32 power and tempered with a Honl Speed Grid. The ‘Jungle Night’ background is my projection screen flipped backwards.