This is easily one of my favorite flower images. I’m not sure what kind of flower it is, but if you ever go to Berkeley’s UC Botanical Garden you’ll find it there beside one of the foot paths. Its petals look like they’re made of crinkled tissue paper – they’re incredible. To accentuate the detail in the petals, my helper and I (you know who you are) decided to isolate the flower as much as possible by creating a black background.

We took this photo with an off-camera flash in the middle of the afternoon, which might surprise some. Lots of people wonder how these isolated, black background photos are taken in broad daylight. The technique uses a pretty simple concept: light that bounces off of items further behind your subject will take longer to return back to your lens. If the distance from your flash to your subject is much shorter than the distance from your flash to your background, then you can close your lens before the flash’s light returns from the background, leaving the background totally black. The flash was about two or three inches away from the flower, while the background – the ground – was about six feet away from the flash. I overpowered the flash so that it outshone the sun’s light, and then exposed for the flash, not the ambient light. You’ll see a couple green leaves in the photo along the stem of the flower. The light from the flash reflected off of those leaves and reached the camera before the lens closed. If you want to recreate this look and the technique sounds complex, just remember that the distance from your flash to the subject should be very small and the distance from the flash to your background should be large.