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Flash Silhouettes – How I Took It

In the popular the thread on the forums to make comments and suggestions on how they could improve it.

the tree of life

Where I took it: in eastern outskirts of Belgrade, Serbia, 2 min walk from my apartment.
Gear: just Canon Powershot S3 IS


Exposure: 0.017 sec (1/60)
Aperture: f/2.7
Focal Length: 6 mm
Exposure Bias: 0/3 EV
Flash: Flash fired, auto mode, red-eye reduction

Post processing: none, this is straight from the camera.

Canon S3 IS does not decrease the DOF on larger apertures much, so f/2.7 worked well here – all branches are pretty sharp. There could be no focusing, it was too dark (one more reason for increased DOF). Shooting this in auto mode and even without focusing makes it as simple as it can possibly get!

So, this isn’t about an interesting technique – it’s more about the idea. I’ve been drawn to trees as long as I can remember. I also photograph it often, but they rarely come out as interesting as they are in the nature. Here, the high contrast between illuminated branches and the black background maximizes the structure and the spreading of the branches, giving the tree the vivid impression of movement. All disturbing elements in the background visible in the daylight (street, buildings, cars, other trees) are eliminated.

All the branches are almost equally illuminated, and there isn’t much depth in the photo. It’s all about the pattern here. I needed to choose the branch that is not too busy with smaller branches, also the one that is not too close to the ground or other elements in the background that could be illuminated by the flash. Also, I made sure that the closest branches are approximately at the same distance from the flash.

There are also interesting post processing tricks that can be done later with this kind of photos. When I lowered the midtones in some of them, the further branches appeared darker, and the colors came up stronger. That added the depth to the photos, and also defined the structure of the branches closer to the camera, undisturbed by the branches in the background.

The cloning of the unwanted branches is very easy. Also, playing with curves, changing the tones of illumination can give interesting results.

On this photo for example I lowered mid tones; I also darkened few overly exposed spots, cloned some branches off and increased saturation a bit.

night bloom

You can see some more of these of photos on my Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/99114645@N00/. I really had a great time taking and editing the photos. Also I’ve been wondering if this ‘flash silhouettes technique’ can be applied to something else than just trees… Any idea?

Any C&C of the photos are welcome too. Thanks!

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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