Posted by WorkingAbroad Projects on Tuesday, 26th September 2017
Above are four images I shot during my photography internship. As a volunteer, I mainly contributed to photography projects, where nature conservation and research had a central role. Besides that, there was room for improving my own photography skills and making some cool images. In this blog, I would like to give some background information on the photography process that’s needed to get the desired images.
Photo 1 (top left)
On one of our regular night walks we found this beautiful nocturnal frog. As always, we decided to take it back to camp, in order for it to be measured by the herpetology research team. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to take it back in to the rainforest and make beautiful photographs. This being a tree frog, I obviously placed it on a branch that was going slightly upwards. It is quite a challenge to get the right composition because the frogs move around a lot, so you have to adjust your tripod constantly. For proper lighting, I used an off camera flash exposing the frog from a high angle. This creates some shadows on the bottom and prevents the flat and harsh light you get when using on camera flash. My camera was around 30 cm from the frog and at 70 mm. This forced me to use a low aperture (f13) to increase the depth of field and thereby maintain sharpness in every part of the frog. I set my shutter speed to ½ second to get some ambient light in the background. After this, I only had to adjust my flash settings to expose the frog correctly.
Photo 2 (top right)
We found this group of hundreds of caterpillars on a tree very close to our camp in the local community. As these caterpillars hardly move, you have plenty of time to find the composition and exposure settings. Usually you don’t want your subject to be in the middle of the frame, which is why I decided to include some of the background on the left side. Like with the previous picture, I used off camera flash, exposing the caterpillars from the left side and creating some texture.
Photo 3 (bottom left)
This image proves that you sometimes just have to go on an adventure to get cool shots. My coordinator Mark and I decided to go on a 2day-rafting trip that included building our own raft and camping on the riverside overnight. Suddenly it became very stormy in the evening of our campout. We managed to start a fire just before it started to rain heavily. After the rain, the lightning continued in the distance. This enabled me to do some long exposure photography and get an image of our fireplace with a lightning strike in the background. To increase the chance of getting a lightning strike in frame, I set my shutter speed to 30 seconds. I focused my lens on the fire and asked Mark to sit still as he peacefully watched the storm passing away. It takes a couple of tries to get an image that has the right composition and exposure, as well as a lightning strike included.
Photo 4 (bottom right)
This last picture shows a lizard caught by the herpetology team. Again, I used off camera flash from a high angle. This time however, I wanted the background to be totally black. This can be achieved by setting a fast shutter speed (1/180 s), which prevents the ambient light from reaching the sensor. Then you need increase the flash power, to properly expose the lizard. As with the frog-image, a low f-stop (f13) was needed to maintain sharpness while shooting from a close distance. Then, a strong flash output is required because, with a low f-stop and short shutter speed, the amount of light reaching the sensor is minimal.
By WorkingAbroad volunteer, Wouter van Kootwijk
If you are interested in developing your photography and/or video skills, while contributing to conservation research in the Amazon, then check out the Photography Programme on our Amazon Basin Conservation & Research volunteer and internship project in Peru.
Blog articles from our projects, volunteers in the field and the wider world are posted here.