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Technique

Ross Hoddinott Photography News: In terms of your work, what has your pandemic year looked like with limited travel and three lockdowns?What have you been doing to keep yourself busy? PN: What’s the biggest challenge in what you shoot? RH: Close-up photography is well known for being fiddly and technically challenging. I’m often working with limited light and a narrow depth- of-field. However, typically, my

Ross Hoddinott: It’s been a challenging year for everyone. Obviously, workshops, trips and projects had to be postponed or cancelled, which was disruptive and costly. However, to a great extent, I appreciated the enforced time at home during the first lockdown. We are lucky to live in north Cornwall and have some woodland, which we manage purposefully for wildlife. Therefore, I was able to focus on insects, wildflowers and other subjects found close to our home. One of the benefits of being a close-up photographer is that you can find great subjects anywhere – you don’t have to travel; you just need to look. Lockdown allowed me to focus on what was on my doorstep and afforded me time to be experimental and creative. It made me reviewmy priorities and adapt. It also gave an opportunity to write an ebook on filters and also refresh the content of a couple of my older books, so I managed to stay busy and productive. PN: What nature subjects do you normally specialise in? RH: I enjoy shooting wildlife big or small, but I very much specialise in close-ups of insects, flowers and detail. I began taking photos as a kid, using a Zenit 11 SLR and 50mm lens. All I could afford was a close-up filter and this allowed me to capture frame-filling shots of miniature things. As the years passed, shooting close-ups became a very conscious choice, with dragonflies and butterflies among my favourite subjects. Through a macro lens, or close-up attachment, you can reveal and highlight incredible natural design that, otherwise, is easily overlooked.

biggest challenge is simply locating suitable subjects in the first instance. Invertebrates are often secretive and timid things, so getting within picture- taking distance is rarely easy. While feathered and furred animals tend to display certain traits, character, and are more expressive, in my opinion, it is harder to capture interesting shots of insects and reptiles. Therefore, trying to create standout photographs of miniature things can be very tricky – I often rely on light, backgrounds and negative space to convey an effective sense of context, scale and beauty. PN: Howdid you pick the projects featured in the book? RH: Initially, Ben and I just sat down and compiled a list of projects that we felt suited the book’s assignments’ concept. We tried to select a nice mix of practical, creative and inspirational ideas in order for the book to appeal to a wide range of photographers. We then shared this list with our publisher, who suggested a few key tweaks to the line-up, before we finally agreed on the final 52 projects. PN: What do you suggest readers try to shoot in the comingmonths? RH: Winter is a really fantastic time of year for nature photography. Weather can add so much interest and atmosphere to shots, and cold weather will often make birds and mammals more tolerant of people taking a photograph. This is a great time of year to set up a feeding station in your garden to bring subjects closer to your camera. Winter often provides dramatic and colourful skies, which are perfect for silhouetting subjects – another technique that we discuss in the book. Freezing conditions can provide some incredible natural detail to photograph, such as ice patterns and frost-encrusted vegetation and webs. Every season provides unique and special opportunities for nature photographers. PN: What hints and tips do you offer our readers wanting to get involved in nature photography? RH: The best advice I can give any budding nature photographer is to really get to know your subject. A thorough understanding of an animal’s habits, environment and behaviour will help you to capture sympathetic shots and help you anticipate and react to its actions. Working closely with just one subject – another topic we discuss in the book – will really help you to capture a strong, varied portfolio of shots. Subjects don’t need to be rare or from a far-flung place. In my opinion, it is better to

ABOVE The Orton effect works particularly well with wildflowers and foliage, as well as subjects that are backlit

capture innovative, creative images of a common bird in your garden, than take a fairly standard snap of a rarity. Don’t be afraid to be experimental, unconventional or daring. Appreciate your subject. Don’t treat wildlife just like any other genre – you have to have a passion for what you are shooting in order to capture shots that truly conveys its character, beauty and place in the world. Finally, don’t feel you have to invest big in order to get involved in wildlife photography. Whatever your budget, great shots are within your grasp, given time, knowledge and – most importantly – oodles of patience. PN: Have you gonemirrorless yet? If so, which systemdid you opt for andwhy? RH: Yes, I have bought a mirrorless body. I’ve had a Nikon Z 7 for the past couple of years, which is just about to be replaced with a Nikon Z 7II. I really like the system, but currently use it mostly for my landscape work as I love the quality and sharpness of the Zmount wide-angles. Currently, I still mostly use a DSLR, a Nikon D850, for my nature work, simply as I favour the ergonomics and balance of a larger camera when using longer lenses. That said, I suspect within the next year or two I will go fully mirrorless. PN: What’s your favourite lens? RH: I love my old Nikon 200mmMicro f/4. It’s a tank of a lens, but optically stunning and its longer focal length provides a larger working distance, handy when shooting timid subjects that are likely to fly or scurry away. PN: What is your singlemost useful non-photographic accessory? RH: I always carry a small LED light in my camera backpack. When photographing small subjects, it is easy to alter and manipulate lighting. A small LED device can dramatically alter the look of your shots – for example, you can relieve ugly shadows, or place it behind your subject to mimic natural backlighting, which will emphasise shape, form and miniature detail. To find out more, check out Assignment 21: A bug’s light. PN: What are your aims for 2021? RH: My aim is the same every year – I simply want my photography to improve and evolve.

Assignment 29: Double vision

For this project, we’d like you to be innovative. Most mirrorless and digital SLR cameras have a multiple exposure mode that allows you to capture and overlay two or more frames in-camera. You can use this function to create ethereal results by layering images together that are either framed or focused differently. You can instantly produce impressionistic results without having to resort to Photoshop. Once your camera is set up and multiple exposure is activated, think carefully about subject choice. This technique suits wildflowers, foliage and trees particularly well, but potentially anything can work. It’s best to use a tripod, but you might prefer to work freehand, depending on the effect you wish to achieve. You really can have a lot of fun experimenting. Although the technique is simple enough, shooting multiple exposures can be unpredictable. Be prepared to take lots of frames to get the result you desire. The creative potential is limitless, though. In addition to defocusing the lens, try creating a different interpretation of your subject by altering the composition or

TECHNIQUE l Camera set-up will vary

depending on the model, but typically the multiple exposure mode is found in the shooting menu. Switch it on and select the number of images you desire. l Begin with just two, but if you want to be more daring and experimental, select a higher number of frames (most cameras offer a maximum of ten frames). l Turn on auto gain so your camera automatically adjusts exposure gain for each additional image in order to create a correctly exposed final image. PROTIPS l In addition to creating your multiple-exposure image, most cameras will allow you to keep each frame in the sequence – useful should you later decide you don’t like the effect. focal length for subsequent frames. Or even combining different approaches. To complete the brief, create three images of whatever subjects appeal to you, each using a different approach to multiple- exposure photography.

Orton effect The most popular approach to multiple-exposure photography is to layer a sharp, in-focus frame with a subsequent one that is defocused and blurred. This simulates what is known as the Orton effect – a creative technique that gives images a bright, dreamlike glow. Although it is easier to mimic the effect in post-processing software, such as Photoshop, it is far more satisfying and enjoyable to do it in-camera. Also, your images will then be eligible for being entered in many photography competitions. Generally speaking, photo composites are not eligible for major contests.

ABOVE One of Ross’s pictures from the book – dragonflies spend much of their life away from water, so you might spot one hunting in your garden even if you don’t have a pond

20 Photography News | Issue 85

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