I recently learnt that a friend of mine has a rather interesting pet, an Ambilobe Panther chameleon. So at the end of October 2013 I went to Aylesbury to do a photo-shoot for Kevin the Chameleon.
Kevin is an Ambilobe Panther chameleon and like all chameleons eats insects usually crickets or locusts. In order to put Kevin in a good mood, and to slow him down for the shoot, Kevin’s owner Mark fed him immediately before we started.
For the shoot itself Mark prepared a large branch from a shrub and mounted it into the wooden base. This provided a prop for Kevin to climb on, which had the advantage that it could be easily turned if Kevin was facing the wrong way. Although Kevin is used to being handled, we wanted to avoid excessive handling under the strange environment of the studio lighting.
The lighting for this shoot was very simple and we performed the shoot in Mark’s living room to ensure a good working temperature – chameleons are cold blooded and hence the activity level is dependant on the ambient temperature – too cold and Kevin wouldn’t move or be co-operative, too warm and he would be too active and difficult to control. We extinguished the room lights, and then used a large softbox pointing down to provide soft over head lighting. Although the light was relatively controlled from the softbox and the background quickly fell into shadow, I used a large 40″ pop-up reflector (with a black cover) as a background. We then allowed Kevin to climb up and down his perch, taking shots as Kevin moved into different positions. During the shoot I noticed that the shadows on Kevin’s underside were stronger that I wanted, so I showed Mark how to use a small reflector to lighten the shadows.
Camera-wise I used my workhorse Canon 7D with the 17-85mm EFS lens, and wireless trigger. In order to maintain sync with the flash I selected a shutter speed of 1/90th, and since there was no lighting other than the flash I ensured no ambient light was recorded. In order to keep up with Kevin has he moved, I hand held the camera (relying on the speed of the flash to avoid any camera shake), and set a small aperture of f16 to increase the available depth of field.
The shot lasted approximately 40 minutes, at which point you could see Kevin was tiring of the activity, so he was returned to his enclosure and left in peace.