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The Color of Honey

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Nectar source makes a tremendous difference in honey color and taste. Here, a late summer wildflower blend (left) is contrasted with linden honey (right) harvested earlier in the season from the same hive.

This week I harvested a lovely linden honey (at right) from one of our backyard beehives. Nectar from linden flowers yields a honey that is exceptional both in its pale tone and in its strong flavor. Most light honeys taste light; that from linden is bold but sweet, ideal for salad dressings and marinades.

I wanted a photo.

Merely pointing a camera and shooting, however, was unlikely to fully convey the hue of the liquid. To best capture the harvest’s translucent glow, light should travel through the honey on its way to the camera. That is, honey should be backlight. It should be photographed with the primary light source behind it.

I fired a single handheld strobe pointed not at the jars but at a white wall about half a meter behind. This diffuse backlighting coaxed a pleasing glow from the jars, and made for a dramatic backdrop in its own right.

How important is lighting from behind the subject? Compare the same scene shot with front lighting:

This photo is fine, but it lacks…um, buzz.


Alex Wild About the Author: Alex Wild is Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studies the evolutionary history of ants. In 2003 he founded a photography business as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work, and his natural history photographs appear in numerous museums, books and media outlets. Follow on Twitter @myrmecos.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. chalberd 11:27 pm 06/12/2012

    The backlit photo looks almost clinical, as if I’m looking at a shampoo sample. If you want the pantry closet effect, I’d go for more of the mason jar evidence.

    Link to this

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