18 October 2009

Bringing Nature Indoors

For the last few months I've been on the lookout for anything to do with Oak trees. Full tree portraits, leaves, tree bark and associated wildlife all make useful images that build up a portfolio of possibly our most important native tree. One particular old oak at my local farm was showing some good change in leaf colour and I spent an hour or so shooting various leaves. Also quite obvious was the multitude of little flattened spheres that were clustering on almost every single leaf. These are known as oak galls, caused by the eggs laid by insects - in this case most likely the gall wasp. They provide nutrition for the growing larvae, and eventually amass into rather large growths - in some cases bigger than the acorns.

It quickly became apparent that this was a very useful subject to photograph, but with the wind picking up I decided to pick a selection of leaves and take them home to shoot indoors. Once at home I used a technique that I've seldom tried... simply taping the leaf to the window and using soft backlighting to illuminate the branching veins and colours.

As is always the case with close up photography, the most demanding aspect is picking the composition. I tried a number of shots: some I concentrated on veins and colour, whilst for others I focussed my attention on the fascinating oak galls. This is quite a relaxing way to photograph, and taping to the window means quite comfortable shooting too. Using a shortish lens with a 31mm extension tube allowed me to fill the frame. A tripod and remote release was of course essential. Aperture wise I shot at around f11/f16 which maintained depth of field but also kept good optical quality for sharpness. I always feel that backlighting in this way is ideal for plant detail, as it brings out those amazing patterns so much better, due to its translucent nature.