/ in Shadows by Marek
Top down view of a moth, casting a long shadow
Me and My Shadow

It was from the onset of my decision to pictorially record moths that it would be carried out on a uniform background.

Part of the reasoning behind this was it was the most efficient way to display multiple images from various angles of the same specimen.

Also. my idea was to display moths with no distractions in the background such that when moving through a sequence of images they would be free from sudden colour changes caused by different backgrounds thus aiding identification.

This picture I took on one of my walks highlights this fact as the eye is drawn not only to the subject in question.

Numerous butterflies resting on a pile of horse droppings
Butterflies Horsing Around

Shadows in certain aspects of photography can be welcomed in that they are used to create dramatic images giving depth to a subject.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that shadows can however prove to be a problem if you are looking to produce the same background and colour for all images.

This issue is resolved for photographers who display jewellery with the use of a light box which controls the light in such a way as to prevent shadows.

Unfortunately, this approach is totally impractical for a live subject, so I needed to come up with a different solution

When I first started recording moths I took the shots outside on the small shed next to the moth house and when the sun came out I would use my body to block it out as best I could.

The trouble with this approach is that if you block out the sun you are also blocking out the light necessary to produce quality images.

The answer came to me one very wet morning when I decided that it would be a good idea to take my pictures in the moth house itself away from the wind and the rain.

The moths were also quite pleased that they did not have to pose in the rain whilst trying to keep a grip on the grey pot cover provided for the purpose.

I set up a table and to my surprise the results were rather pleasing which had not been my experience when taking pictures in doors.

This of course was because there was sufficient ambient light due to the construction of the moth house itself.

Taking pictures in the moth house also meant that I could drape white bed sheets in front of the windows and sliding door, not to stop the light, but to subdue it sufficiently to reduce shadows similar to the methodology behind light boxes.

A subtle advantage of having rolled up sheets in the moth house is that micro moths regard them as a fine place to settle but leaves them easily visible to the naked eye which, spookily enough, was demonstrated this morning enabling me to include the initial shot I took in this post.

Brown Apple Midget moth from a distance on a sheet
Brown Apple Midget - Fast A Sheet

Another approach would be to use one of the many software packages available today to clone out the shadows completely but, as the subject blends into the shadow, the results look unnatural so should be avoided as much as possible.

A top down view of a moth with its shadow removed via imaging software
Cast No Shadow

Various changes and modifications to the moth house have taken place over the years but the basic principle remains the same to this day and I have learnt to live with the compromise of limiting shadows to the minimum for my displays.

As the last studio album by The Shadows was called Reflection I think this would be a good subject for my next post.