Highly inspired by my friend Carl Battreall, I decided to try my own hand at shooting flash lit garden closeups.
The technique is very straightforward. You isolate your subject from the rest of the world with a white background and then light it with flash. This removes its relationship to the rest of the environment and allows you to appreciate the intimate and individual quality of the object. Subject without context. Beauty on its own.
Your background can either be a white board, or a suitably sized softbox. I used my Photoflex TritonFlash to blast the subject from the back, which created the sea of white. Depending on how close I was shooting, I used the Photoflex Octodome NXT or the 24″ Photoflex WhiteDome.
Really any softbox will do, even something like the Lumiquest Softbox III, and the Lumiquest Softbox LTP would work well to create the white background, as would a white diffuser like a Lumiquest TriGrip, or a white pillowcase. Both are For the main illumiation, I used a Nikon SB-800 inside another Octodome NXT, which I placed anywhere from 45-90 degrees off axis to the camera.
Camera was the Nikon D700, lens was 50mm f/1.8, although a dedicated macro lens would obviously let you get closer. Triggering in this configuration can be done in multiple ways, but I used a single radio remote to fire the TritonFlash, which in turn triggered the SB-800, which was set to optical slave SU-4 mode. Exposures were all about 1/160 at f/22.
Once in Lightroom, I simply tweaked the whites and highlight exposure to finish blowing out any remaining shadows and textures from the softbox that might have shown up on the background.
I have to say that I was also inspired to do this after reading the book Photographing Flowers by Harold Davis that I recently reviewed. In it, Harold discusses techniques like this one, as well as a number of other great ways to explore your garden photography creativity.