Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

July 2004

Question of the Month


How can you reduce contrast and the effect of wind for flower and macro photography?

Bright sunlight is great for maximizing your depth of field but sunlight also creates harsh shadows and extreme contrast between the sun lighted areas and the shadows. Wind, even the subtlest of gusts, can be a factor as well, as your subject may sway ever-so-slightly, perhaps not even noticeably, and create a soft, blurred image.

There are a couple of ways to handle this. Sunlight contrast can be reduced with a diffuser, but one must be careful to not only reduce the contrast on the subject but also on the background. Otherwise the exposure values will be greater on the background -- the background will be brighter, and the viewer's eyes will be distracted and led to the non-important areas.

Reflectors can be used to fill in shadows. This works well, and eliminates the need to worry about having a background that is brighter than the subject. Flash can do this as well, especially when the flash is used only as fill.

However, none of these methods address the other issue -- wind. For this, one must either support the swaying subject -- and a Wimberley PLAMP does this well, or one must block the wind. I've done so with cardboard sheets, with plexiglass, and with clothing, and quite frankly, it can be a real pain in the neck.

John Stanford, who developed the Vested Interest Photo Vest which I endorse extremely highly, has developed a new product to address this issue -- wind and contrast. It's a portable, collapsible, translucent light box that is designed to be placed over the subject. A front window provides open air space for inserting a lens, or for shooting into the box. A rear zippered window can be used in several ways. It can be unzippered so that the background is revealed -- in effect, creating a tunnel, or a background can be inserted against the back wall. This could be a painted background, an out-of-focus photograph, or whatever. That background will be in the same light as your subject and will have the same diffused light quality.

On the left, the contrasty scene before placing the Overcast box over the flower. Note the
harsh shadows on the subject and on the background. Below, the overcast box
placed over a subject, with the guide wires (nylon cords) bracing four corners to
prevent the Overcast box from moving. In the lower right corner is the nylon carrying case.


The Overcast Light Boxes come in three sizes --an 18" box, at $99.00; a 24" box at $119.00, and a large, 30" box at $139.00. All the light boxes come in their own soft rounded cases -- like the round diffusers and reflectors you've seen, and all have pegs and cord to anchor the box securely in case of a stiff breeze.

You can reach John for more information at (email) or visit his website at




Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

How would you meter these images?

Why should you know Manual Mode? 

 The Sunny 16 rule -- is it worth knowing today?

  How do you shoot silhouettes?

 How would you meter these challenging images?

 Who should go Digital,
and when?

 What do we really think about digital photography?

 What do we think of the Canon D30 digital camera?

 How long will film be around?

 Is the Mark II the ultimate wildlife digital camera?

 What is our initial Digital Workflow?

 What is our Digital Workflow in the Lab?

 Is Shooting in the RAW format worthwhile?

 Is an L-Shaped Camera Bracket worth the Money?
You bet it is!

 Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

 What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?

  Reciprocity Failure

 What is the Best Composition?

 Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?

 Hyperfocal Distance

  How do you determine distances?

 Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 Flash and Tele-flash Techniques

 What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?

 What the heck is a Plamp?

 What is the best flash for closeup and
macro photography?

 How do you shoot high-speed action images?
 How did I photograph that flying wasp?

 What is the Fotronix's
Flash System?

 What Film Lab do we use, and why?

 Is Digital Manipulation - a benign alternative to interacting in the natural world?

What is the Big Lie?
Tfhe truth about Kenya's Tourism--it is SAFE!

 How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites?

 How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?
 What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?  What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?  Which binoculars do we just love to use?

How Easy is Whale Photography?

 What is the best
Game Caller?

  How do we carry our film when traveling?
 Is NANPA for you?  What is NANPA and how will it benefit me?

 Is it time for a summer NANPA Summit?

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