A few weeks ago I was at our local museum of natural history with my kids. They have an amazing aquarium, regular photo exhibits and regular travelling exhibitions. I had read in the local paper there was a new insect exhibit and feather exhibit… Using the kids as an excuse to go and see them we set off for the day.
Shooting in a Museum and a fantastic chance
We missed the feather exhibit by a 1 day (some how I got the dates wrong). But the insect exhibit had some amazing preserved and living specimens, with interactive displays for the kids. Unfortunately the lighting condition and glass display cabinets weren’t conducive to photography. The reflection of the glass display cabinet was the biggest problem, I took a few shots and thought about how I would prefer to have taken the photos. A few weeks latter I was at our regular Flickr meeting talking to the Curator of the insect exhibit. To cut a long story short he was about to head off into the jungles bug hunting, but if i wanted to photograph the beetles in the exhibition he could organise it for me, but I would have to be quick or wait until he was back from the rain Forrest.
Lighting and equipment
As I had already seen the display I knew exactly how and what I wanted to photograph it. I packed…
* Sony Alpah 900
*Zeiss 24-70 mm 2.8
*Sigma 90mm 2.8 Macro
*Sigma 50mm 2.8 macro
*400w mobile monolight
*Light stand and shoot through umbrella
*2 large sheets of polystyrene
*triggers batteries and CF cards
The idea was to create a very soft light to preserve the vibrant colours. Although I packed 2 macro lenses I want actually planing on getting that close. Polystyrene is a fantastic reflector when you need soft white light, its cheap light and has a very neutral colour temperature. I have used it a few times when photographing paintings, to give an even light dispersal and no “hot spots” from light sources.
This set up sprays soft light every where, but leaves enough shadow to feel a bit of depth. I photographed from the bottom (open side) or the lighting diagram, shooting from either directly over the display or down close.
Its not often that you get the chance to go back and re-shoot something, this was a fantastic opportunity and I can’t thank Alex enough for letting me into a closed museum and opening his prestigious display cases for me….