The direction of the light
In a real winter, you can find plenty of wonderful macro-photography subjects in ice, snow and hoarfrost. This has not happened yet this winter, although it is cold enough to fire up the wood-burning stove. When I was filling the firewood basket, I found a piece of wood with a very interesting photo subject. It was covered with mycelium threads in an unusual tree-like pattern.
I started exploring my subject with different qualities of light. First in full shade, giving me a very soft light. (See the top photo) But because there are virtually no shadows, there is also very little dimension, and the image looks flat. This may work for some images, but I wanted to explore other possibilities.
So I moved my subject into the sun, and positioned it so that the sun hit the board from over my shoulder. (the middle image). This wasn’t much different from the first shot, only the wood appears to be lighter. The result is that the mold threads blend in more with the background.
For the third shot, I rotated the piece of wood so that the light hit it with strong side lighting. Now we see a totally different image, with the mycelium casting longer shadows, and adding a great deal of dimension.
Which photo is the best? That is a subjective question. But you can see that a little variation in the quality and direction of light can easily create very different results. You owe it to yourself to experiment, it’s the fastest way to improve your photography.
On the photo below you can see my piece of firewood. I think I’ll save it a while.