Going through the garden this weekend, I came across a thistle. Having Scottish origins, I decided to take a picture.
Took out the trusty Sony Alpha 700 and an old Minolta 35-70mm F/4 macro lens, set up the tripod and got to work. With macro photos of plants, it’s nice to have some bokeh. For those unfamiliar with the term, bokeh occurs when you have a shallow depth of field, giving an in-focus subject and a blurry background. You get the shallow depth of field from selecting a low F-stop number. In this case, I chose F/6.3. I could have chosen F/4 but the background would have been too blurry.
The resulting picture (#1) seemed kind of ordinary, so I went and got my flash. Many flashes on modern cameras have wireless capability. A signal is sent from the camera to the flash which is mounted off the camera to light the subject in a particular way, or in this case, hand-held and pointed to the thistle from different angles. With my Alpha 700, I flip up the built-in camera flash and set the flash menu to wireless. On the speedlight that I hold in my hand, the power was set to 1/8th and the zoom to 50mm. I have a small flash-mounted diffuser (kind of like a softbox) to make the light less harsh
With the camera on manual, I set the shutter speed to 1/60th and kept F/6.3. For picture #2, I held the flash a little above and to the left of the thistle. The result is a nice light but if you look at the branch to the right, it is not lit up. This made the lighting look fake. Next, for picture #3, I held the flash above and to the right. Here I succeeded in lighting both the branch and the thistle. The result is something that looks more like sunlight. That, I think, is the best shot. Finally, I tried something dramatic and put the flash in front and below the thistle. Picture #4 is interesting and has some strange shadows.
Tell me what you think, and happy shooting!