Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Cross With Purpose
Reflecting On Reflections • The Triggertrap App • Stacked Converters • Autofocus At F/8
Reflecting On Reflections
Many exciting nature subjects come with a built-in photographic challenge: reflections that mask color and detail. It's a particular problem with minerals, shiny flower and leaf surfaces, or anything that's wet or moist, such as tide pool denizens. In the studio, controlling reflections is a factor when photographing jewelry, coins and crystals. No, you can't just fix it in Photoshop—at least, not yet. But there's an excellent solution to the problem: cross-polarization.
I first used this technique years ago when I was involved with art conservation photography. I was shooting large-format images of art for museums, either to document them or for use in exhibition catalogs. Oil paintings with lots of varnish have reflections that are normally impossible to eliminate with standard lighting. I used two large studio flashes covered with polarizing material along with a polarizer over the camera lens; the combination amazingly cut through the glare, revealing all the color and none of the brushstroke reflections. I then applied the technique to nature subjects, such as wet specimens, minerals like quartz and shiny black beetles.
Place the polarizer on the lens, and look through the camera into a mirror. While looking through the viewfinder, rotate the lens polarizer until you see the flash polarizers go black. Mark that position on the lens polarizer so the next time the setup will be easier to adjust for maximum cross-polarization without the need for a mirror.You'll need two (one will work, but not as well) electronic flashes (a large hot-shoe type is adequate), a circular polarizer for the lens and polarized material in sheets, available from www.Polarization.com and Edmund Optics at www.edmundoptics.com/optics/polarizers/linear-polarizers/visible-linear-polarizing-laminated-film/1912.
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