I was walking through the woods in search of subjects to photograph. Birds, mammals, insects, spiders, flowers or anything I could point my camera at. Under the dense deciduous forest I was sheltered from the heatwave. Unfortunately, I also found myself sheltered from the precious light so needed in photography.

Suddenly I saw a caterpillar along a collapsed tree. A very fast moving subject considering the ambient light. I decided to put to the test the prowess of Nikon’s R1 Speedlight flash system. Specifically designed for macro photography, these flashes should do the trick.


Caterpillar in the forest photographed with the help of the Nikon R1 Speedlight Flash SystemCaterpillar in the forest photographed with the help of the Nikon R1 Speedlight Flash System


It’s not as simple as pointing the camera and bingo, you get the perfect image. Many insects reflect sunlight and especially light from your flashes. To obtain such an image requires a little mastery of the ambient light, reflectors and diffusers. You must also understand the effect of flashes, especially the R1 Speedlight system on the subject and its surrounding environment. The little light coming from the sky will illuminate the top of the caterpillar leaving the bottom faintly illuminated. If you over compensate with your flashes, the lighting may tend to look overly artificial and you’ll probably loose your background.


Photo without reflector, diffuser or Nikon Speedlight R1Photo without reflector, diffuser or Nikon Speedlight R1


I subdued the light from above by installing a diffuser covering the subject. This also greatly eliminates the reflections of the sky on the caterpillar. I also installed a reflector to open up some shadows by reflecting natural light and that of one of the SB-R200 flashes of the Nikon Speedlight R1. The two SB-R200 flash units were also equipped with a diffuser to soften the light. The background was given a little help by illuminating it with a burst from a Nikon SB-910 flash. This nicely balanced the light on the background.


Considering the conditions and how quickly I had to build my setup, I’m pretty proud of the way this image turned out

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