Archive for May, 2008

A riot of flowers 2

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , , on May 31, 2008 by overread

And back I go again – really not much more to say, but I am loving the warm and bright weather we are having at the moment as it makes for great lighting, though I still end up shooting at the “Wrong” time of the day — that is any time out of dawn and sunset. One day I will play around in those lights.

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
Tripod 055XPROB + 322RC2

for settings save to computer and review properties.

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well as you might be able to tell I love the sigma lens for flowers – my real only problem is that is still has a huge minimum focusing distance which is still taking some getting used to with work.

Well the sigma might not be able to do proper macro work, but that still does not stop me trying; and when resized for the web the results are good enough for me – I just wish I could get the full-sized version looking this sharp.

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These my dad had in a bird pen that was about to be cleaned out – mushrooms and all – so I took advantage to get some shots. I really really like the first shot; the dimmer light in the woods where the pen was helped to filter out some of the light and then the background (sheeting over bird wire) helped to make for an empty background – a little increase of the backs in RAW editing and a wonderful shot. The flash helped out as well, though the harsh light of it can be seen on the ground – but its better than no flash by a long way!

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Well back to flowers and this was a less than ideal specemin, but it did provide for some good practice. I like the composition that I got on the second shot.

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Just like her grandmother (the earlier cat shots) this is the little pigeon killer in the family! A lovely cat with a really nice temperment, she will even walk into the chicken pens as my dad goes round with the feed in the mornings and won’t bother the chickens on bit – however she is certainly not allowed in the pheasant pens!

And finally as I got stitched up to cook the BBQ I got a chance to use the camera in the evening proper. So in between making sure the sausages were not burning I took the chance for a few shots.

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The lighting is different and the flash is now highlighting the head of the flower far more than in the past in most cases which creates a very different feel and look to the earlier shots were there is lots of ambient light.

And finally: a certain someone smells food cooking outside!

However with BBQ and ducks on this side of the door she is not allowed out. So she trys to be a cat!

After failing in this endeavour she resorts to the long wait tactic and dreams of sausages, chicken and beef.

Lessons Learnt

1) Lighting I have found is very key with this work and I am using the flash all the time so there is a real pressure on me to try and get a good proper flash unit at some point rather than my popup.

2) Flash is very important in the evenings and really makes a difference to shots

3) Huskies cannot fit though cat flaps – but they can end up looking like an ornament when trying


A riot of flowers 1

Posted in photography with tags , , , , on May 27, 2008 by overread

Well back at home and with my wooden boards now used for construction and my new tripod I have really taken to my flower photography (very strange for a hayfever sufferer!!)
So without further adoo here are my results from today

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
Tripod 055XPROB + 322RC2

For settings save pic to pc and review properties

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Well this is a very strange looking plant that took my interest in the garden and I decided to try getting some different perspectives on it. Overall I like the darkened shadows in the first two – where I helped that a little in RAW editing whilst I am not as impressed with the white background of the last – I would really have liked a chance to have had a blue sky that day.

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Two more (the fans might recognise the last as one I have shot before with good results). Again decent results and with these I was cheating by using a water squirter to get some drops onto the flowers – well I am not waiting for a rainstorm!

And finally this one, the background I got by taking this against the wall of our house – easily done as this flower was in a hanging basket (in fact to have got it with a natural background would have been tricky). I like this one and I think the depth of field has come out well – yet I find so much that I want just a little more depth at times.

A day of flowers and cats

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , on May 23, 2008 by overread

Well I am on a shooting spree with this new tripod, its really great not to be limited by it and to have it enhance what I can shoot. However it is no lightweight thing and I think I will still hand on to my older one as it is much lighter and easier to open out (open one leg and all 3 open out); its the sort of thing I can see myself using in a zoo such as I have done before (though the temptation to use the new one might mean that the older will collect some dust).
Anyway enough rambling, time for some shots – only a few more today, but some really important ones as well.

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
Tripod 055XPROB + 322RC2

For settings save pic to pc and review properties


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This shot I like, even though it is very busy it has got some great details in it – right into the insides of the flower. I have been experimenting with getting my lens as close as I can with the aid of a focusing rail which (when I feel inclined to use it) does let me get that little bit closer without having to move the tripod and camera (which often results in me ending up that faction bit too close).

Another busy shot and one where I would have liked just a little greater depth of field ( shot at f16 so either f18 or 20 for more). However I really like this, its not too central and it has, what I think, is an intesting background to it.

Wind and flash lead to this shot – its strange and something that I don’t think I could repeat. I rather like this and what I got – its intresting and very different (ps that is like it was from camera with only a few touchups – so no massive edit change to get this result.


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Do I need a reason to show off me cat? Well here she is – pets are something that I find you end up with a lot of “snaps” of and not many really good “shots” of so I was really glad to get some of her in a really good pose.

Lesson’s learnt

1) Sometimes breaking the rules works out really well

2) Sometimes the unplanned and unexpected combine to make something beautiful

The low down with the tripod!

Posted in duck, photography with tags , , , on May 22, 2008 by overread

Well its an exciting day for me – at last I have a good tripod and head combo – the Manfrotto 055XPOOB legs and the Manfrotto 322RC2 head. The legs let me go down to 10cm of the ground with the centre pole set to the horizontal – which means camera head too is set to the horizontal. This would be a problem for most heads, but the 322 will twist and let you keep the camera in the normal viewing position – at last something to get low down with for macro and wildlife.
I am back home again so its stuff from the garden that is getting the low down tripod treatment

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
Tripod 055XPROB + 322RC2

For settings save pic to pc and review properties

Day 1
Swan Goose


Emperor Goose

Two nice profile head shots taken at a low height – the lighting and quality is a little lacking in the emperor goose though. For the Swan I used the burn tool in photoshop to take some control of the whites, but thankfully they were well under control this time around – backgrounds in both are a little distracting, but not unreasonable. I also shot both of these shots on f16 – something that I don’t normally do for wildlife as I normally stay in the f5.6 area. This time around it was an accident as I had been shooting some flower macro shots before and left the camera in the wrong settings – well wrong is subjective because it has really captured the depth in these two shots of the bird – though I hasten to add that I was close to these birds so a greater depth of field over that given by f5.6 is needed. However as you can see it has brought out the background most so as a result.

Carolina Wood Duck

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Two nice shots taken low down in the grass where I found the tripod better than the cushion, which whilst letting me get lower was not as stable and also lead to me getting too much grass in the foreground. The only shame was the other duck getting in the way of the first shot. By this time I was back to my normal aperture settings – not sure if it was a valid change this time around though.


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First off two shots that I would not have been able to get with the older tripod as it simply would not let me get low enough with the lens. So first of again a very please me with the tridpod and also very pleased at these results.

This shot really sums up possibly the strongest area of the sigma lens – its not a great wildlife lens as it falls of in quality with the longer focal lengths and it simply does not allow for true 1:1 macro photography, but for flowers with a 300mm macro the lens really excels in being able to lose all the background wonderfully whilst the close up of the flower retains all its detail and clarity. A very good shot (if I do say so myself) and one that I am very pleased to have taken.

Come the end of the day in a darker corner of the garden I spied a robin which kept visiting the same patch of ground again and again for food. So I ran off and came back with the camera and to my luck the bird kept visiting. I was able to get very close and get off a few shots – both with and without flash as the waning light made me cautious that my camera might not get enough details in.

Without Flash
This worked well and looked better on screen than on the LCD on the back of the camera – enough light to get the details.

With Flash
A little too much light and a little harsh. Part of this is because I don’t really need the flash in this case and the other is the fact that all I have to flash with is the built in flash for the 400D which is less than ideal.

This shot came out much much better than I thought it would – being as it is a totally handheld shot from my sigma at something a good distance off. Even the fullsized version is not too bad in overall quality – a sure sign that I have got better with using the camera at some point along the way (and that for a moment I managed to hold it still enough!)

Lesson’s learnt

1) The sigma lens is really great for flower photography

2) Sometimes it better to use a smaller aperture for shooting wildlife

Wanderings in egham – macro day 2

Posted in photography on May 7, 2008 by overread

Well Day 2 and back I go – a little later than the last time, but not by much and besides at this time of year the sun is out for ages. Putting to use what I learnt last time I started using smaller apertures from the start.

All taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
For settings save pic to pc and review properties

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A little better at getting a deeper background though I am keeping my ISO on the 200 mark – mostly due to the fact that I can’t set and take my hands off the tripod – just not stable enough to hold lens and camera on anything but a flat surface. I have also been finding it a pain to get lower down angles on things as well – so far its been fine, but I am itching to get lower angles on subjects.


This was more of an experiment in using manual mode and seeing what would happen with different settings – I had to brighten it up somewhat to get this and all in all what I tried was not working well – my shutter speed was just too fast to get enough light to really get a good shot.

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Well whilst I was playing in the bluebells this little bug flew into shot – so I quickly took advantage to get some shots of him. These came out well even though I can’t get as close with the glass as I would like I can still get a passable shot of insects!

This shot was wonderful – a great background and a sharp and fully clear flower- however there is far less space at the top than I would like – something that I just did not notice in the field – I really have to take more care with my composition.

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These two were tricky as I took them in an open field with the wind blowing lightly and the sun beating down strong. So not only were the whites tricky to control, but I also had problems with the plant moving all the time – so it was a waiting game for the wind to stop and the flower to stand still. I like both, but I think that the flash and sun have caused them to look a little fake to my eyes – a decent flash and diffuser are some things that I hope will solve this in later shoots (much later shoots!)

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After buzzing around for a moment this chap settled on a leaf for a good few moments and so I could get some nice clears shots. Problem was that my tripod would not go down any lower and I did not want to risk moving round infront and scare him away – all in all though these came out well. However you can see that the grass is showing up the bright light of the sun very well!

End of the trip for me (which means bottom of the hill and time to get some food in that currently empty backpack before climbing back up the hill).
This was a tricky think to get sharp as it was very easy for an errant gust of wind to move the dandelion a few mm and blur the results – tricky and something that I want to try again – I think dimmer light would work better at showing up details.

well not the last shot, but something that I wanted to add. I don’t really know why, something in this shot makes it to me more than just a sharp shot, but I can’t think what.

Lessons learnt:
1) Bugs can appear from anywhere at any time but even if you don’t have fast glass to track them you can wait and eventually one or two will settle still

2) Lighting is tricky to control and even having too much can be a problem with shooting.

3) Hills are always much steeper and taller when you have to carry a heavy bag back up them

Wanderings in egham – macro

Posted in duck, photography with tags , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2008 by overread

Well I am back in Egham again – trapped away from the pond and the ducks and without access to anything wild (though I did see one deer – course it was only there because my camera wasn’t).
So I decided to try out something new to me – macro photography — well using the macro mode on my lens at any rate. So off I went into the woods during the early afternoon; the sun was still bright and the skies clear so I headed into the woods where there was some shade on this very hot day. I positioned myself so that the subjects in the wood were in the direct sunlight from the above – filtered slightly by the canopy above. I found that whilst I could set ISO a low as possible in some cases, there were times when wind meant that I have to not only be lucky with taking the shot but also that I needed to up the ISO. Further I really closed down my aperture (f8-16 range) so as to get as much of the flowers in focus as I could.

All taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
For settings save pic to pc and review properties

Blue Bells

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For early first attempts these came out beyond what I hoped for. The backgrounds and lighting were great – a little playing around with apertures needed to always get a shot all in focus, but that is half the fun.

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These two shots I think started my real liking for macro work – originally I sat down to get a wide view of the fields of blue – and then a bee flew in, so I just had to capture him in the shots as well. Some have said that these are very busy shots with a lot of distractions – I have to agree a little, but these are still fav shots of mine

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This was another case of being in the right place at the right time. These shots were taken from outside the woods – in the full suns light of an open field – so a little more tricky to get the whites right, but I was able to get them without blowing them out. The wasp was another case of a very welcome addition – and as for the second insect I did not notice him till I got back to process these shots.


1) Macro is fun – I think partly as unlike birds and beasts you get more control over the situation and also more time to work with a shot. This means you get to try out all sorts of different settings to get the desired effect – rather than with wildlife where many shots are taken on the spur of the moment.

2) Aperture is key in this – you need a small aperture between f8 and f16 to really get the depth of field – going all the way up to f20 is not out of the question sometimes.