I benefitted from some nice diffuse light in the morning hours in which the bottom photo was taken. This light coupled with a flash from my Speedlite 430EX II created a nicely lit photo, but harsh shadows still exist near the feet. The top photo is absolutely terrible in my opinion, as the harsh shadow is extremely prominent and takes away from the rest of the shot. The problem with light from a single flash unit is that even when shot with a small diffuser, it is extremely direct and is going to hit the photo subject straight on and cast shadows. There are several measures that can be taken to combat this problem. Companies like Canon and Nikon make different flash systems which allow light to be fired from multiple points, such as Canon's MT-24 EX Macro Twin Flash. This adjustable flash system allows for lighting from different locations and angles and helps reduce shadows and makes for a nicely lit photograph. Nikon sells a similar model, which is wireless. Ring flash options such as the Canon MR-14EX Ring Flash create the same affect and offer better overall lighting. The one major setback to these flash systems is that they carry a heavy pricetag, ranging from $599.00 to $750.00. Instead of ditching my entire flash system, I decided to go along a different route.
This is a softbox flash diffuser made by Lumiquest. It features a 7"x9" surface which emits soft, diffused light over an area twenty-five times the size of the flash head itself, thus greatly reducing shadows and creating a nicely lit photograph. I've fired a few test shots with it and am really happy with the results so far, I just need to photograph some herps with it. It does seem to cause a loss of around 2 stops when in use, which is easily correctable using the controls on the Speedlite. I'm excited to see the results in the field come springtime and see if I can get photos out of it like this one.
This is one of the best photos I've ever taken in my opinion.The animal is in-situ and never moved a muscle and the lighting came out perfectly. I can only hope I can get some similar results once winter lets go of Michigan.