Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New work: "Diamonds in the Sky"

“We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.”  (Anton Chekhov)

I  hesitate to call this "work," because we were hiding from work when I made this image.

A couple of our Glacier Park employee friends simply can't get a whole day off work if they're in cell phone range. And with three websites and a photo business to manage, I can never escape from my computer while I'm at home. So even though we live on a small lake, the four of us drove 50 miles west to camp on another small lake with the twin attractions of no cell service and no computers.

'Diamonds in the Sky' Dragonfly (c) John Ashley
"Diamond in the Sky" Dragonfly (c) John Ashley

From doing the art shows, we've learned that most animals have a set of human groupies in various numbers. We've had multiple requests for images of dolphins (pretty rare here in Montana), skunks (believe it or not), elephants (what would they think of snow?), pigs (more popular than you'd expect), and many more.

But by far the three most numerous groupies in our part of the world are horse people, raven people, and dragonfly people. If you have a good, original image of any of these animals, it will be a consistent seller.

Which brings us around to dragonflies. There's only a couple different ways to shoot macro dragonfly photos and get much of anything in focus. The film/sensor plane must be exactly parallel to the wings to get all four in focus. (One such example here.) And then you have to hope that the dragonfly decides to hold its wings straight across, because often times they droop them down at an angle.

On top of that, if you have any hope of enlarging a macro shot, then you also need zero wind and either a good tripod or no heartbeat. Macro's not for sissies, or people without immense patience.

So when shooting the dragonfly above, I wanted to get as much back-lighting as possible to make as much prismatic refraction through the wings as possible. I knew I had to get parallel to the wings, but the only way to accomplish that was to have the sun directly behind the bug. A silhouette. (I did try, and I'm still seeing spots.)

With one foot in the lake and the other up in the brush, I moved as close to parallel as I could get while still having shade on the front of my lens. Any sunlight on the lens would throw a flare that would blow out the glitter in a muddy mire of low-contrast yuck. I also threw some light back into its face with a ring flash that I've been testing.

The result? A dragonfly image from below (somewhat unusual), with wings all a-glitter (original to me - I've never seen it done before), but with two opposite wingtips that are ever-so-slightly soft (oh well, at least I knew it at the time).

We'll test it out on the dragonfly groupies this weekend to see how it flies. Until then, beauty remains in the eye of the beholder - and the bucks remain in their wallets.

UPDATE: Well, we sold out of large "Diamonds in the Sky" prints at our show, but we didn't sell a single small print of it. That tells me that the detail in the wings reads much better as it gets larger. A major difference between making images for fun and making them for a living is that you must give other peoples' interests much more deference.

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