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I generally like to take photographs using available light (admittedly I am somewhat lazy and this is the easiest thing to do). 

However sometimes, there are advantages to eliminating the available light completely from the scene, then highlighting certain points with the use of an external flash. 

Intrigued? I will explain. 

This fluffy seed pod of Clematis ‘Dr. Ruppel’ covered in a light dusting of snow caught my attention but appeared very blah when shot at normal exposure (light-colored pod against overcast sky = uninteresting results). 

“Old Man Winter” (Seed Pod of Clematis ‘Dr. Ruppel’ in Winter) Nikon D300, 105mm, F/13, 1/80s, -2.0EV, ISO 100, SB900 with Gary Fong Lightsphere Cloud, +2.0EV

But, when I purposefully underexposed the image, creating a very dark background (almost looks light nighttime, eh?) and then added in a fairly strong pop of flash, Voila!  

One pretty nice photo! 🙂


  1. I AM intrigued!

    I’ll have to try this technique… Also intrigued by your lightsphere… you appear to get great results with it… do you recommend?

    • Thanks Christine!

      YES, do try this! It takes practice (read: I DID NOT, by no means, get the results I wanted in one take).

      Flash (specifically, external speedlights) have always been my nemesis! I found them to put off such harsh light (even in TTL mode which is ‘supposed’ to be so smart). I stumbled upon the Gary Fong Lightsphere and have LOVED IT ever since! I am so much more comfortable with using my flash these days. I was getting so frustrated until I starting using it! Check it out!

  2. Very nice indeed. I’ve used flash fill from time to time, but not with underexposures. Interesting.

  3. Tracy,

    It is so cool of you to share your settings. They’re very helpful to amateur/hobbyist photographers like myself; your tips will definitely help me in my learning process.

    You’ve become one of my favorite photo bloggers. I will always look forward to seeing more of your shots.

  4. Very cool. I’ve seen something like this done before but could never figure out how they did it. Nice work, very creative.

    • Part of my goal is to share whatever “skills” I may think I have. 🙂 I am a self-taught photographer and early on, went through many frustrating years just trying everything I could think of. That, combined with photography seminars and classes here and there, plus LOTS of practice behind the camera has landed where I am today. I still get skunked but at least I am out there trying!

  5. OK! I tried it…! It was a lot of fun — let me know what you think of the result…

  6. Neat photo! I had no idea clematis did this in the winter!

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