Terra Galleria Photography

Hawaii Volcanoes NP Native Ferns – using flash

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The Hawaiian islands are further away from a major land mass than any other in the world. Over the span of about 70 million years, plants and animals managed to make the voyage to the once barren islands and to colonize it, at the rate of one every 70000 years, and then evolving into more specialized life forms. Over 80 percent of Hawaii’s native flora and fauna is not found anywhere else on earth.

During my previous visits to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, I spent most of my time on the lava fields. Since lava was not flowing this time, and since it rained for most of my visit, this was the perfect time to concentrate more on the vegetation of the park.

I was particularly drawn to the Hapuu, a giant tree-fern which reaches great heights, but starts as a curious small curled-up fiddlehead. After making photographs of the fiddlehead as part of its environment (above), I wanted to isolate it more. Here is how I shot the seemingly straightforward images below.

I carefully (with a half-inch precision) positioned the camera to avoid overlap between the fiddlehead and the ferns in the background. Using a narrow depth of field also helped, but I didn’t want to blur the background to the point it disappeared, as I still wanted to provide a context for the main subject. On that overcast day the similar brightness of the main subject and of the background did not let the subject “pop”. The “artificial sun” came to the rescue to change that brightness ratio. I set up the ambient exposure so that the background would be under-exposed by about two f-stops. Using flash exposure compensation, I then set up the flash so that the fiddlehead would be properly exposed. With a wireless remote transmitter, I moved the flash off camera so the light would not be frontal, resulting in better texture, and also shot it through some ferns to create a less uniform, more natural illumination. I tried a few different variations in framing.

See more images of rainforest in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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