Photographing Taxidermy Birds

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by soboyle, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. I have a rare opportunity to photograph some of the birds from Audubon's personal bird collection in about 5 weeks. Most of my photography is in natural light, but this shoot will be in a lab setting with no windows. I will be transporting this lighting setup to the lab at a college museum to make these photographs, so I have to keep things as simple as possible. I've decided to go with LED panels for this work, I will be working with small bird subjects, so don't need a lot of power. Plus I can visualize light modeling much better with a constant light source. Heat is an issue working with these fragile 19th century specimens, so the LED panels are good in that respect. I spoke with Kirk Tuck the other day and went with his recommendation of a couple inexpensive photodiox panels, and will modify ambient lighting with an overhead diffuser, and reflectors. The photodiox panels can match temps from 3200 to 5600, so I can match fluorescent lab lights if need be.
    My main investment will be in light stands, and grip hardware for holding diffusers/reflectors. Any recommendations on what would be a good minimum portable setup to handle type of shoot? Which stands and grip hardware? I need to keep this as inexpensive as possible but don't want to buy junk. I was looking at the manfrotto light stands, but need something to hold a diffuser and possibly one of the LED panels overhead. Am I looking for a boom arm, or something else?
  2. I might suggest that nothing will match the florescent lab lights. Most just are not Kelvin. Many are not even the same in different parts of their cycle. I'd turn those off it at all humanly possible as they will give you no end of headaches.
    Either way, I would carry a color reference, e.g., QPcard, Xrite Passport, etc., from which you can generate a profile. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a position where there is no correct color reference for you work from after the fact.
  3. Another possible help migh be an ExpoDisk, a product that will enable you to make a custom white balance for that particular type of lighting. The custom while balance will result in accurate color hues in the images, something probably very important for this type of subject. I tested out an ExpoDisk one time, using a variety of different colored objects. The colors I got using the ExpoDisk were better than in any images made using any of the camera's white balance presets.
  4. I have a xrite passport and will make a custom profile under the lighting conditions I am shooting under. Will also do a custom white balance.
    Any suggestions on a solid portable lighting kit for shooting still life subjects like this? Since I'm new to lighting I need some guidance with what I need to pick up without going overboard with too large light stands/reflectors, overkill on size and weight. I want to have some option on having one of the LED panels overhead, whats the best way to do that? Boom arm? Some other type of light stand extension? What kind of clamps will be useful for rigging in the field.
  5. If color vibrancy is important, I would shy away from the cheaper LED units. LED technology in this area is still young and the color rendition usually stinks no matter what claims the manufacturer makes. I would sooner tell you to go with a fluorescent unit to put on a table-top like the Lowel Ego lights and use the high CRI bulbs (93+) you will get better color on the red/orange side of the spectrum. You can also mount them to light stands or get articulating arms attached to super clamps and mount them to the table.
  6. I agree with Ely. And in fact, I would avoid the ambient lighting completely. Those institutional florescent lights will probably not come clean themselves, and the situation will be much worse when /mixed/ with your lighting rig, profiling or no.
  7. The best way to deal with ambient fluorescent is to switch it off.

    If you can't, put some black cloth, or Fomecore or Gatorboard over the top of your set.
  8. If there is any way to turn off the lab lights, I will do that.
    Can you describe specifically how you would go about holding foamcore above the shooting set? What clamps and arms and stands you would use? I currently have stands to hold the lights, but I need to be able to get a light over the set with a diffuser, and possibly a light block above that. How would you go about rigging this, boom arm on a light stand? Can you please provide specific gear?
  9. A pair if simple Manfrotto Super Clamps or Mafer Clamps on top of two stands are sufficient to hold Gatorboard or

    If you want something more elaborate that is more transportable and offers a translucent fabric as well look at the panel
    kits from

    For a good portable boom, if you have sturdy stands, the Lowell Lighting KG Grip and KP pole are excellent choices. If
    you have Avenger or Matthews Studio Equipment C-stands a grip head and a 40" arm work well for relatively light lighting
    instruments. Either way you will want ballast on the legs of the boom stand so it doesn't tip over.
  10. A thing to consider is a method of shooting birds. I think I saw it in National Geographic. The method was very effective and was to use the same setup as one would use for portraits of people with dark background.
  11. George - I'd be interested in the article you mentioned, do you know which issue it is in?
    Ellis - Thanks for the suggestions. I have some of the super clamps on order and will look into the other gear.
  12. Hi Shaun
    Not been able to find the article yet. Still looking.
    The upshot of the article was to set up as if you were going to take a portrait of a person with a dark/black background. Same lighting and angle of lights as portraits. There was only one photo in the article but it was very striking and dramatic.

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