Greetings all. I have returned from my 16-day Costa Rica expedition with Worldesigns Photo Tours and am ready to begin blogging again. The lack of internet access while in Costa Rica means that I have many blog notions piled up and you should be seeing regular posts from me until I leave again for Costa Rica in April. We still have room for a last-minute signup if you have a notion to follow me around the rainforest.
If you follow me around the jungle enough you will realize that very often I have a flash mounted on my camera-even with a long telephoto lens attached. Many of the preferred subjects in Costa Rica are wildlife related-particularly those exotic birds. Conditions in Costa Rica are difficult. Bright tropical sun combined with dense shade makes for a challenge.
Consider this shot of a Trogon taken in the dry forest near Santa Rosa National Park.
The picture was taken at 4:00 in the afternoon in relatively good light. By trying to hold the blue sky and prevent its blowing-out to white, the exposure on the bird is too dark. If I expose for the Trogon, I lose the sky.
Most wildlife photographers will resort to pushing the exposure and sacrifice the background for the sake of the more important subject. Others will try to hold both and hope for a software rescue. Not me! Those of you who know me and regularly read my blog know that I am an advocate of GIRIC.
Get It Right In Camera is my mantra. The image at left is the same shot with a Canon 580EXII adding a 1/4 power flash to the same ambient exposure.
Notice how the sky and the distant background foliage still have nearly the same exposure value. The difference is the bird and the foreground vines. All of a sudden, the animal pops into existence. Here is an exposure from which I can work!
As a starting point for any image editing I might do, the flash-aided shot is superior. It will require less work and yield a superior finished image and cleaner print. The only additional work this image required because of the flash was a quick red-eye reduction of the Trogon’s eye – a small matter when compared to fixing exposure.
Using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom as a filter to interrogate my last trip, I found that 2400 images made the first editing cut. Of those, 1000 images were taken with a flash firing-just over 40%. For a country that is mostly photographed in bright light, adding a little man-made light can be the best prescription. Whether you are filling in the shadows on a bright day or fully illuminating your subject, a flash can be your go-to accessory.
Consider filling with flash on your next wildlife shoot.
Rikk Flohr © 2010