Behind The Scenes Part 2: Photographing Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Part 2 of my behind the scenes series is all about photographing common spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) in a location just ten minutes down the road from me over about a week, this year there was an incredible display in both numbers and colours ranging from very pale, practically white, through to dark pink. At times the conditions have been challenging as this year has been rather windy and one of the areas is on the side of a fairly steep hill and then there are the thousands of ticks that seem to have been around this year. But that didn't stop me and every time I visited the orchids the light was different, as the week went on there were more in flower and this really helped the creative ideas flood in. Before I get onto the images themselves, here's the list of equipment I used for photographing these orchids, I will add a description to each photo detailing what I used and the camera settings:

Canon 5D MKIII
Canon Macro EF 100mm f/2.8
Gitzo tripod GT1544T and Gitzo ball head GH1780QR
Lastolite 30cm Silver/White reflector

First up is a habitat shot showing three common spotted orchids in flower on the side of the hill with the beautiful far reaching views for a backdrop.

On The Hill

Details: Canon 5D MKIII; Canon Macro EF 100mm f/2.8; Lastolite 30cm (white side); ISO 320; 1/2500 sec @ f/7.1

These next two are lit only by the natural light coming through the trees as the sun was rising

Purple Light

Details: Canon 5D MKIII; Canon Macro EF 100mm f/2.8; ISO 250; 1/1250 @ f/5.6; increased in camera contrast

Details: Canon 5D MKIII; Canon Macro EF 100mm f/2.8; ISO 125; 1/1600 @ f/5.6; increased in camera contrast

The following images have been taken using a 30cm Lastolite reflector, I used both the white and the silver sides depending on how much extra light I would like to add.

Here comes the friendly advice to make sure you don't damaged your subjects: With reflectors it goes without saying that they reflect the light but what many people often don't realise is that they also reflect heat so if you are going to use them you need to be very careful not to cause any damage to your subject. The easiest way to ensure you cause no damage to your subject is to set your camera up in the right place, make sure you have all the right settings and then add in the reflector at the last minute, take the shot and then remove it. As I normally spend a great deal of time with one individual, I take a shot, remove the reflector see if I need to change any settings then take another one, I never leave the reflector in place for more than about ten seconds.

A Light In The Grass

Details: Canon 5D MKIII; Canon Macro EF 100mm f/2.8; ISO 125; 1/800 @ f/2.8; Lastolite reflector silver side

Details: Canon 5D MKIII; Canon Macro EF 100mm f/2.8; ISO 125; 1/500 @ f/4; Lastolite reflector white side

As you can see using the white side gives a softer light whereas the silver side is much harsher, which side to use all depends on the effect you're looking for and the intensity of the natural light you are working with.

These final three images are a combination of low natural night and additional diffused LED light. Much like the reflectors, it is important to consider your subject's welfare whether it's a plant of an animal it doesn't matter. The Lumimuse have been an incredible addition to my kit this year and I'm loving experimenting with them and the different filters they come with, these next two images have been taken using the standard diffuser that comes with them, even when I'm using the coloured filters I always use a diffuser so the light is lovely and soft.

Early Morning Delight

Details: Canon 5D MKIII; Canon Macro EF 100mm f/2.8; ISO 250; 1/200 @ f/4.5

This last image has been taken again using the Manfrotto Lumimuse 6 but this time with ¾ CTB filter (Classic filters kit), but I've used it to just add a small amount of light in conjunction with the natural light.

Details: Canon 5D MKIII; Canon Macro EF 100mm f/2.8; ISO 125; 1/125 @ f/3.2

Whether I'm using purely natural light, reflectors or the Lumies (and sometimes I use both together), my primary light source remains the natural light and I used these accessories in conjunction with that light I have available to keep it looking natural, for example the second to last image was taken at 6:10am using the Lumie to just enhance where the natural light was catching the orchid. People often ask me why I don't use flash, well to be honest I much prefer the results from using the Lumies or reflectors as I'm often working in quite congested environments such as long grass and I have found flash bounces off the surrounding vegetation whereas I can be much more specific with the Lumies and reflectors.

I hope you've enjoyed this little insight in to how I work, thank you for taking the time to read it and I hope that it has inspired you.