Actually John I think your assessment of my flash photography is spot on (except for the bumblebee shot, just don't think that the light in that one is harsh). Over the last year or more I've been experimenting with the light, looking for ways to get the quality I wanted with the camera. But sometimes a gel or a filter will work, and sometimes it won't. I just don't have time to mess with the gear when I'm shooting semi-active to hyperactive subjects. Ever chase a honeybee with a tripod?
Okay, perhaps the word harsh was, er, harsh (lol), but the colors look a little bright and synthetic to me. I favor softer, more pastel-like colors, which of course is just personal preference.
Totally understand about moving subjects. There is no way I could take my images of moving subjects, with a shutter speed of 1/5. As for the tripod statement, one very well known bee photographer actually does use a tripod for his work (which is exceptional), because he does not bother "chasing" them anymore.
Rather, what he does is select the best flower, sets his tripod up and composes his optimal shot in relation to that flower, and then just "waits." That way, he's got his strobe, ISO, etc. set up beforehand ... and then just lets the bee(s) come to his controlled environment ... rather than chasing them.
But sometimes a gel or a filter will work, and sometimes it won't. I just don't have time to mess with the gear when I'm shooting semi-active to hyperactive subjects. So now I've come full circle, not using anything to modify the light other than a diffuser, and I'm getting the color and saturation that I want in post.
I hear you. I personally try not to use flash at all, if possible; however, I also realize that (esp. with moving subjects) then flash use becomes necessary. Rarely does the look of "flash light" do it for me when I use flash. I appreciate the subject; I appreciate that I was able to capture what I wanted to camera, but the soft pastel colors I prefer are seldom realized with flash. Typically, when they are, it is because I have used hardly any flash at all, and have layers of diffusion in place.
As for your images: I like them, but I think you and I are such polar opposites that it's tough for me to give you a critique.
That's a fair statement. When two people have dramatically different tastes and styles, it's often difficult to separate bias from technique.
You're lighting, to me, looks almost flat (it's almost too diffused for my tastes) and a lot of those images look the same to me cause they were shot from about the same angle. I'm wondering if you're letting your gear dictate what you can shoot and how you can shoot it.
I love the lighting in my shots, as soft pastel lighting is my preference, but I do appreciate your input. Flash lighting tends to look "neon" to me and unnatural, but many people prefer that look as well.
As for all my images looking "the same," I see what you mean in a sense. Many spider photographers always go to the ultra-close shot of a jumping spider's face, to the extent these images are now commonplace. These shots, of course, can be fantastic ... and just really rivet one's attention to their almost alien appearance ... but this is done so often that I don't want to be an also-ran.
I try to present the form and color of the spider's whole body against a pleasant background. Most people are afraid of spiders, and so I try to set them up in a beautiful, almost artsy way ... so as to take the "fear factor" out of spiders and (perhaps) have them perceived as something beautiful. Don't know how successful I am at that, lol, but that is what I am trying for
But I do appreciate your pointing out the "sameness" in my shots, as that is something I don't want to get stuck into, either, is another kind of rut. So thank you for that.