Worth a (Two) Second Look: The Story Behind the Photo

By Bill Webb

A 2-second photo by Bill Webb of insects at night flying around a light

Worth a (Two) Second Look by Bill Webb

How often do we fail to notice the beauty of the “small things” in nature?

Such is the case with insects drawn to lights at night. Their flight (seeking what?) seems futile and beyond understanding — hardly worth a second look. But, how about a TWO-second look? That’s what I did to capture this image.

Using a tripod and a telephoto lens and a two-second exposure, we are able to get a different look into the world of insects and their behavior. Some of those random and, to us, pointless flight paths now are seen as almost ballet-like. Others could be the antics of an aerobatic pilot. Still others appear to be the frantic flight of beings possessed. The briefest of pauses as the wings change direction now appear as “barbs” along a piece of wire, perhaps. There is so much to see even in the minute parts of nature.

The more I study images like this one, the more intrigued I become. I was honored to have Earth Science Picture of the Day use this image on October 30, 2009. It also garnered the award for Viewers Choice photo for the month of October.


Tips for Getting Backlit

By Darren Wiedman

Here’s a little advice from the internet on shooting backlit images, just in time (hopefully) for our April competition.


Shoot RAW

Backlit photo of brunet young womanWe should all be doing this anyway. A RAW file contains all the glorious info your camera captured in the shot. JPEGs compress the image and trash some of the data. But it’s that data that you might need to save an image in post, especially by bringing up the shadows to compensate for the strong backlight.

Spot your subject

Set your camera to spot metering and point it at your subject. This will ensure that your subject is exposed correctly, although it will tend to blowout the background. Or you can expose for the background if you want a silhouette.

Don’t lose focus

Just as your own eyes don’t see well when looking into a bright light, cameras struggle a bit too. To help your camera, have your model block the sun as you use auto focus. Then switch to manual. Repeat as necessary.

Light up your foreground

If you expose for the bright background, your foreground will probably be underexposed. Add some light with a reflector or flash to help compensate. You can even shoot with a white building behind you, or wear white and be your own reflector.

Keep your camera shaded

Sometimes lens flares can be a great effect. But if you want to avoid them, find a location for your camera that keeps it out of the light source. Shoot by the side of a building or near some tree branches, or use a lens hood or even your hand as a shade.

Black and white photo of cactus backlitOr add some flare

If you like those little geometric spots of light in random places on your photos, be sure the light hits your lens. A wide aperature will produce the best results. Be careful not to look through your camera directly into the sun.