Aquarium Photography at Kew Gardens
To many people, plant photography appears deceptively easy since, unlike animals, the subjects are fixed – if not always static. However, successful pictures depend on many factors, not least the weather (notoriously fickle in island Britain) and the condition of the plants themselves. Although it is well nigh impossible to distil the art of plant photography into just a few pages, the following notes on how I tackled this project may be of interest to photography enthusiasts.
Unless special precautions are taken, additional problems arise when photographing through glass — for example, the small tanks in the Princess of Walesat Kew Gardens and the large ones in the Marine Display in the basement of the Palm House, again at Kew Gardens.
First, although the tanks are lit with metal halide strip lights which produce acceptable colours on daylight transparency film, flash is needed to freeze all movement offish and swaying submerged plants or algae. However, if a flash attached to the camera is used, it will be reflected straight off the front glass and back into the lens, thereby ruining the picture. So the flash (connected by a flash sync extension lead) must be held to one side of the camera, angled into the glass at about 45°.
The second problem is that any pale-toned objects – be they hands, white clothing or white lettering around the lens barrel – will appear in the picture as reflections in the front glass when the camera is held away from the tank. If a rubber lens hood is used and the lettering covered with matt black tape, the camera can be held flush against the glass without any risk of scratching it and the reflections will not appear in the picture.
If, however, the camera has to be held well away from the glass in order to get a wider field of view then a matt black board mask with a hole cut out of the centre will have to be attached to the front of the lens. Either a glassless filter ring or an adaptor for a Hoya or Cokin filter system, glued to the back of the board around the hole, can be fixed securely to the front of the camera lens.
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