Archive for June, 2008

A Collection of Random Shots

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

Well here is a collection of shots which I have not added to the blog – often as they were on one off trips out and I did not feel like making a whole blog entry for a single photo.

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
Tripod (both the 055XPROB + 322RC2 and the old cheapy one)
ps – it really says something about my kit when I can say that I only ever use one lens!

f16, ISO 100, 1/20sec

A very early flower shot of mine. I really liked this, barring the out of focus flower that gets in the way. Its also one of the few shots where I have got closer to the flower to show its inner details.

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/8sec

A tricky shot as when that eye is open the head its in tends to move around a lot! An early macro experiment shot of mine and I regret not selecting a smaller aperture for that greater depth within the photo, though it was taken inside and there was not that much light around so I might not had enough light to reduce the aperture by too much. Add to that the fact that I underexposed by 1 stop to try and cancel out the flash glare on her fur – that certainly worked well, but as this was in the age before I was using the custom diffuser you can clearly see the flash refection in the eye.

This next series of shots were taken at a local fairground. I arrived only at the end of the last falconry display and tried my best to get some shots of the birds, but I was drastically lacking in both a good long (and sharp) lens and also in any experience of shooting such shots. Add to that the fact that it was in the middle of a show ring, so from any angle there were people in the way of shots. For these I moved out of RAW and into JPEG in an attempt to get more frames per second and also to be able to shoot for longer as JPEG does not fill up the buffer as quick as RAW. I don’t know how much I gained or lost by this, as I missed the additional editing features of RAW shooting

IMG_0110 copy
f5.6, ISO 400, 1/3200sec

Probably the best shot I got – even though the sun has overexposed one side of him. The bright light on the day also allowed me to get very fast shutter speeds whilst shooting in aperture priority mode

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/1600sec

This shows off nicely the busy background of people that surrouneded the display

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/1600sec

The only in-flight shot I got which was sharp – shame about the angle on the bird. This was also crop of the centre of a shot, removing the surroundings of people.

In the end a mixed bunch of shots – many of which are just me experimenting with different things, so lots of room for more practice

Small Garden Birds

Posted in photography with tags , , , , on June 26, 2008 by overread

Well despite having 4 cats on site we do have a wide selection of small birds in our garden, party due to the diverse trees and hedges in the locality. Here is a selection of shot I have got of them on different days; been saving them up for a larger post as often you only get time for one shot before they are off!

Cannon EOS 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens

For settings save pic to pc and review properties


Little back story to these shots; I had to clear a section of ground of weeds, leaving it bare earth which attracted the gardens semi-tame robin. The little fellow has got used to my dad feeding the other birds we keep and so has tagged along for some extra food, so he has no fear of flying closer to people than other birds in the garden. Thus once I had cleared the ground he came by to get some insects and I got the chance to get some shots of him.

f5.6, ISO800, 1/60sec – no flash
This was taken in the evening in a shaded place, so I upped the ISO to get more light into the camera to ensure that I got enough for a decent shot. It was hard as whilst he was getting close he was behind a lot of bits of twig and such – this shot on the gate was all I could get with him sharp and without anything in the way.

f5.6, ISO 800, 1.60
Well to make sure I took a few shots with the flash as well, a little bit of overkill here as this was before I was using the custom diffuser and any exposure compensation on the flash. Add that to the ISO which I forgot to lower and it was overkill with light. You can see on the wood the clear effect of the flash.

IMG_0007 - 1000

Crop of him:
IMG_0007 - close
f5.6 ISO 400, 1/15sec
Well he came inside this time and got stuck in the dinning room. So before I let him out I grabbed the camera and tripod and took a shot of him. I used a high ISO as he was moving around a lot so I wanted light and speed on my side with shooting.

Song Thrush

f18, ISO 200, 1/60sec
Shot in the late afternoon just after the robin. Honestly I can’t remember why I selected f18 for this shot – it seemed like a good idea at the time and it has paid off well with a nice clear shot of him. A lot brighter up here so there was enough light around not to use the flash, yet the wind and him singing made it prudent to use ISO 200.


f5.6, ISO 100, 1/640sec

Same tree as before, but this time with considerably better light and also a more sane aperture.

Gold Finch

Little story to these as well; for a good long while a finch was flying onto my windowsill and pecking at the glass for small bugs – something that shocked my every time as when I use the computer my back is to the window. After a long while of him vanishing every time I got the camera facing him I managed to get a handful of shots of him sitting on the wire just outside my window.

f8, ISO 400, 1/250sec

IMG_0072 copy
f8, ISO 400, 1/320sec

Both of these are crops of the centre of a shot taken, thus both are a little lacking in overall quality of shot. I think if I get another chance I would use the flash (with custom diffuser) to try and get more light control as the light was not ideal in theses shots.


f8, ISO 400, 1/250sec

This little chap would scare off the other finch for his right to land on the wire!

Silky Flowers

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

Well this time around I was aiming for some silky flowers and not just those with pseudo dew or rain drops. However I did not get as long to shoot as I would have liked and so had to return with far fewer shots – I did get my silky flower though!

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.

f16, ISO 100, 1/60sec
This was just the effect I was aiming for – a nice soft shot. The toilet paper in front of the flash has done well in smoothing out the light from it and removing its harsh glare.

f16, ISO 200, 1/200sec
Well I had to see it with rain on it! Shame that I had to up the ISO for this shot as there was a little wind picking up now (the reason that I stopped shooting in the end). It also shows up the flash a little more in the water drops – possibly showing that I need a thicker pad of tissue.

f16, ISO 200, 1/15sec
Barring the few bits along the bottom which I should crop out I think this came out technically as I wanted it to do. However to me its lacking something – either a background following the angle of the flower or a little more flower following the lead of the head.

f16, ISO 100, 1/50sec
I like the background effect I got in this, but I think the photo needs cropping to try and bring it together – the left hand side feels a little too much. Personally I would have liked to have reshot and moved more to the right of the main flower to try and get it in that gap that can be seen on the left.

Lessons leant

1) Take some strong sticks, string and a knife and tie up the roses to really hold them still when shooting

2) Thicker padding on the custom diffuser is better than thinner padding (least you can recover a darker shot more easily than a blown out one)

A Guide to Flower Photography

Posted in photography with tags , , , , on June 13, 2008 by overread

Well here is a guide to how I am currently taking my flower close up shots (not true macro as it’s not 1:1). This is the general method I use and the average settings I use, though its important to note that this is a general approach and in the field a desired effect might only be possible with a change to these (most often in the aperture and this depth of field area)

Kit used:
Tripod – Manfrotto 055XPROB
Head – Manfrotto 322RC2
Manfrotto focusing rail
This setup is very versatile, the tripod will go down to 10cm off the ground and the head will twist to adapt to the horizontal setting of the centre column when at the lower heights.

Camera connected to a focusing rail which is attached to the top of the head of the tripod.

Camera settings:
Mirror lock up on
Timer set to 2 seconds
Shooting in Aperture priority mode
aperture: f16
ISO: varies, but 100 on a still day – 200 and 400 used when light wind is present
Flash on (its only popup so limited settings)
Flash exposure compensation: -1
Those are the general settings I stick to. Mirror lock up combined with the timer and the tripod means that there is almost no shake at all to the camera as the focusing mirror is lifted up before the shutter is closed and the 2 second timer means that you don’t get the shake from pressing the shutter button. The only way to improve on that is to use a remote cable release.
The flash exposure compensation is a way of helping to reduce the chances of overexposing a shot with the flash on.

Additional settings:
1) As I tend to take these shots in the brighter parts of the day with full sunlight I set my exposure compensation to -1 to try and preserve my whites from blowing out. This works well as a slight underexposure when shooting in RAW mode can be corrected in RAW editing, but with an overexposed photo even in RAW the details are not often present in the blown out whites to restore to..

2) I also use a custom diffuser in front of the flash to help to break up the harsh light emitted by it (you can see some examples of clear flash overexposure in some of my earlier plant work). This consists of a bit of folded toilet paper ( the soft kind) wrapped through the popup flash and I have found it to work well in breaking up the light and avoiding that tell tail sign of a flash which is big overexposed whites in the top half of a shot.

3) Often times its not get out early in the morning or to have a sunny period after a rainstorm and so finding flowers with water drops on them can be tricky at times. To make up for that I take a water sprayer with me to spray the plants before hand.

Additional notes:
This is my general methodology that I use with macro flowers, but aspects such as aperture and flash usage will sometimes vary between subjects. Sometimes I might want a greater or lesser depth of field or the lighting is illuminating the whole area of the subject naturally and further assistance from the flash is not needed.
For example if I were to do some photostacking of a single flower I would want a very small depth of field so as to get each layer of the flower in focus for each different frame, rather than get the whole flower in one single frame (guide for photo stacking coming up later)

And now that you know how I do it here is today’s instalment of photos. Today I was trying to focus a little more on composition rather than on settings and such.

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.

f16, ISO 100, 1/13sec
The background for this is well blurred, but a little busy I felt. If it had been more mono coloured it would have worked well, but the brows and greens create a distraction.

f16, ISO 100, 1/5sec
Again a busy background, I have thought about cropping both this and the first shot to try and focus in on the flower details

f16, ISO 100, 1/2sec
This came out wonderfully. The angle on the plant works very well and the background, whilst full, is nice and mono-themed so that it blends into the overall shot and does not distract

f16, ISO 100, 1/6
An attempt at repeating the above shot, but this does not work out as well. The leaf is distracting, the angle of the plant is a little off (ideally I wanted it pointing at the top right hand corner) and the background is a little busy. Not a bad technical shot, but not what I was hoping for the end results.

f16, ISO 100, 1/8sec (also using -2 exposure compensation)
I knew what I wanted from this shot and have nearly got it, but in the field I had to shoot this one at range, which is why the flower makes up such a smaller part of this shot and also why it is not as sharp as I would have liked to get. I boosted the blacks in RAW editing to get the result, but even then I could not lose all the detail in them and I have been considering with either removing the large leaf on the left or with cropping closer to the flower. Overall I like it, but I would like a chance to improve it.

f16, ISO 100, 1.8sec
I am not sure about this shot, I think I have the general idea right, but it needs some careful cropping to get the best out of it.

f25, ISO 100, 0.8sec
With this I was trying for a deeper field of view from the side, hence the smaller aperture, but I think I selected a poor specimen; just too much going on in this shot. In retrospect it would have been better to have moved close to the flower and ignored all else.

Lessons learnt:

1) More practice needed at composition and on experimenting in the field.

2) Try to get subjects that are not dominated by close by leaves and twigs – isolate the flower for the shot

3) Remember that rule 2 can and should be broken at times.