Archive for July, 2008

Experiences with macro 1

Posted in photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 31, 2008 by overread

Well back from the holidays and with the new kit I was eager, now that time was my own, to start experimenting with the macro gear and seeing what I could get with it. Added to my excitement was the arrival – 3 days ago – of my birthday and amungst the various items there was a Canon battery grip and remote cable release for my camera. Not only that, but also a lowepro Mini Trekker bag which holds (just) all my current kit as well as the tripod. The battery grip is not fully attached to my camera and is not likely to come of any time soon.
Anyway back to the photos:

All taken with:
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mm macro
Sigma 2* teleconverter
Speedlite 580M2+toiletpaper diffuser

Sadly the story starts off with a bit of a mess – my flash batteries died on me, but I did not notice till too late and a small host of shots were lost simply due to underexposure without the flash for support – a great shame. Then I found out why its important to use “white” toilet paper only

f16, ISO 200, 1/100sec
And this is after saving the shot form a horrible red tinge as a result of coloured diffusion paper – lesson leant and paper change so at last some shooting can take place! The rest of the shots I took round some fallen apples which proved to be a great source of attraction for bugs

f13, ISO 400, 1/40sec

f13, ISO 400, 1/40sec

f13, ISO 400, 1/40sec

f13, ISO 400, 1/40sec

Well there is a similar pattern in these shots – the bokeh is great, really blurred and soft, but the depth of field is really lacking. In a few the angle of shot makes up for the limited depth to the infocus areas, but its not enough really. A shame, but this is part of a feeling that is getting stronger – that the 2* teleconverter is just too tricky to use handheld without focus stacking or longer exposures and retaining its depth of field with me. That and its a swine to focus with, the focus is razor thin with this setup and I was only able to shoot as I did because I was resting on the ground and so could use a slower shutter speed without fear of shake.



Posted in photography with tags , , , , on July 29, 2008 by overread

Well thought I would show off a few shots of my cats and give this neglected blog and updating! So here are a few catshots.

All shots taken with Canon 400D
Sigma 70-300mm macro
Tripod 055XPROB + 322RC2

For exif data save and review properties of the thumbnail version only – exif not attached to larger versions of shots.

The Old Black Cat

Our oldest cat and mother/grandmother to the rest, though she is scared of her offspring she was the first (and almost only) cat to stand up to the husky!

f5, ISO 100, 1/30sec

f5, ISO 100, 1/25sec

f4.5, ISO 100, 1/60sec

The Tabby

Had some great fun playing around with these shots – taken handheld right on the ground, hence the green grass poking in the bottom of the shots. We are not 100% sure what happened, but this little one got in a fight with something and got a part of her nose cut off.

f6.3, ISO 200, 1/200sec

f6.3, ISO 200, 1/200sec

f6.3, ISO 200, 1/200sec
same settings, but a shift in local light meant a warmer hue cast to the shot

f9, ISI 200, 1/180sec
going for a slightly greater depth of field to this one

f8, ISO 400, 1/200

f8, ISO 400, 1/250

Sadly its been so long since I took these that I can’t remember why I used such a high ISO value – from what I recall it was a bright day so shooting should have been good, though chances were that I was trying to keep my shutter speed up whilst shooting with exposure compensation (to counter the bright sun and reduce the chances of blown highlights) and yet keep the greater depth of field of a smaller aperture. Regardless the results have come out really well I feel.

First shots with Sigma 150mm macro

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

Well I now own a brand new Sigma 150mm f2.8 macro lens – and a fantastic lens this is. A league away from my sigma 70-300mm macro, this new lens is capable of 1:1 macro as well as up to 2:1 (twice life size) when combined with a 2* teleconverter. Its well built, light enough to handhold and has a few nice features that even Canon L lenses lack – notably:

a) The lens hood is thicker and more durable than the canon L plastic hoods.

b) the tripod collar allows me to remove and attach the lens to it without having to remove the camera first – this is great when working on the move and wanting to go from tripod to handheld – granted there are quick release plates out there, but you still have to hold the collar on the lens – which can be a distraction.

All in all I was very please to get this lens and – needless to say – I did a lot of macro shooting whilst on holiday; though conditions were less than perfect with wind being a constant bother (and me being too lazy to get up in time for early morning insects in their slow period).
So here is what I got on holiday – I was also in a bit of an f2.8 addiction, hence I messed up the depth of field in quite a few (note becomes 5.6 with 2*TC).

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 150mm f2.8 Macro lens (teleconverter used on some – noted photos)
Speedlite 580M2 + diffuser (its still the toilet paper idea!)
hand held

For exif data save and review properties of the thumbnail version only – exif not attached to larger versions of shots.

First shots – on the windowsill

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/160sec + 2*TC

f16, ISO 400, 1/200sec + 2*TC
first of a series of wasp shots – as you can see with the 2*teleconverter even f16 has a small depth of field to it – part of the trade off for a greater level of magnification.

f16, ISO 400, 1/200sec + 2*TC

f16, ISO 400, 1/200sec + 2*TC

f16, ISO 400, 1/200sec + 2*TC
The side of the windowsill is starting to appear now – obscuring some of the wasp as he has a clean.

f16, ISO 400, 1/200sec + 2*TC

In the Garden

f2.8, ISO 100, 1/160sec
Link to 100% crop
I still really like this shot – one of my better bits of composition, itโ€™s just a real shame that I stuck to that wide open aperture and lost the depth of field – even without the teleconverter the line is very fine.

This next series of shots I took on the side of a tree due to the wind making focusing on insects on leaves extremely difficult – the tree eliminated on problem, and also acted as good support to lean on when shooting.


f13, ISO 100, 1/1600sec + 2*TC
Link to 100% crop

f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC
Link to 100% crop
I am very proud of this shot – aside from the cutting off of a whole section of the bug, the angle and depth of field have worked really well. To get the rest of the bug I would have to had moved the focus back to around 1:2 on the lens *which with the 2*TC would mean 1:1 magnification.*

f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC
Moved the focus back in this shot – though clearly not enough to get the full insect

f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC
First of a series of experiments in angles with a fly on the tree

f16, ISO 400, 80sec + 2*TC
Going for a greater depth of field – though if I had a perfect overhead shot I should not (in theory) need such a great depth.

f8, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC
Link to 100% crop
I rather liked this shot – interesting angle, even though the depth of field is – again – not perfect.

f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC

f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC
Link to 100% crop
I rather like the warm colours and sharpness to the face that I captured in these two shots.

Husky Eye shots

Don’t ask me the why, but one objective I have is to get a close up macro shot of our huskies eye – of course this proves to be very much harder than it sounds as the only time that her head is not moving its sleeping – and then the eye is somewhat hidden ๐Ÿ˜‰ – so far my two best examples:

f2.8, ISO 100, 1.50sec
See what I mean about sleepy shut eyes!

f5.6, ISO 200, 1/160sec + 2*TC
Well a little better, but not the sharpness I am after.

Lessons Leant

1) Macro photography is not easy to focus on, I picked up loads of shots where the focus was just off the eyes, or totally missing the insect. Wind is a major problem with this regard.

2) The 2*TC is not the perfect addition – whilst I really like being able to get 2:1 macro, I am losing the depth of field many times – so I think changing to the naked lens for a while might be in order to get that depth of field back; whilst improving composition for other times when using the 2*TC

3) Keep an eye on settings and keep the aperture closed down as much as possible for the greatest depth of field.

4) No matter how hard macro insect photography is getting a huskies eye in macro is at least twice (if not more) as hard!

Night Time Photography

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

Well one thing I have always intended to do and never got round to it was to photograph the moon – and as we arrived at something like 2:30am in Yorkshire I decided that the first shots of the holiday were to be of the moon. But I was not only going to use my new zoom lens, but I was also going to use the teleconverters as well – as many as I could attach!
Please note that all linked moon shots are 100% crops (that is full sized crops of the moon from the original photos). Normal editing has been done to them, including sharpening the end result.

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS
Tripod 055XPROB + 322RC2

Also used:
Sigma 2* Teleconverter
Canon 2* Teleconverter

For exif data save and review properties of the thumbnail version only – exif not attached to larger versions of shots.

Night 1
Both 2* teleconverters

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/500sec, no flash, manual mode used.
I used manual mode for these shots as auto exposure shots were underestimating the brightness of the moon in the night and overexposing the shots – which meant I had to play a little with manual settings to get a good clear shot.
For this one the 2 teleconverters (making it an 800mm lens in total+extra because the 400D is not a full frame camera) added a lot of weight to the setup and it was enough (at the angle used) to cause the 322 to lose its grip and slide the lens back, hence I had to hold up the camera.
Note that exif does not correctly detect the Sigma teleconverter in this setup

Only Canon 2*TC

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/500sec, no flash, manual mode used.
A clearly sharper shot, smaller, but definitely a sharper result from a single teleconverter.
ps – ISO 400 is because it was very late and I was tired ๐Ÿ˜‰

Night 2

An interesting light on the moon prompted me to try moon shots again

Both 2* teleconverters

f8, ISO 100, 1/4sec, no flash, manual mode.
A far better result this time around – much sharper than before. I used a smaller aperture based on my reading in Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson, which outlined that f8-f13 was a general area on most lenses where they tend to deliver the sharpest results. Though I accept that also using a lower ISO will have helped as well.

Only Canon 2*TC

f8, ISO 100, 1/10sec, no flash, manual mode.
Again a sharper result than before; a shame that I had missed the apex of the moon though, something to try again when I get the chance.

f8, ISO 100, 15sec, no flash, manual mode.
Whilst out at night a friend also started to play with his camera and a torch. I also did a trial of this as well – using bulb mode for the shutter speed so as to control the shutter fully manually. I am pleased with the end result – though it is clear that it is better to keep the torch pointing directly at the lens, rather than to the side (unless one is after a weaker intensity line to follow).

Night Wildlife

Well I also got the chance to have my first go at night wildlife photography whilst on holiday as well – and whilst I did make some bad first time errors I did learn a lot in a very short space of time!

f2.8, ISO 100, 1/8sec, flash used, manual mode.
Well I used a wide aperture due to the darkness. A friend was holding the flashlight which I originally thought would provide enough light to help get a good exposure – however it was clear even from a review on the back of the camera that it was not helping much with the shot. I also should add that I was unable to get my flash unit auto focusing assist beam for dark shooting to work. Try as I might it would not work in anything but the auto camera modes. In the end this problem lasted all week (and affected my cave shooting as well as seen later) and it was not until I came back that I worked out that it was my focusing mode – I tend to shoot moving subjects so I also tend to say in Servo mode and the flash assist beam won’t fire in that mode. Changing to the other modes and the beam fires as normal – a lesson learnt there!

f2.8, ISO 100, 1/4sec, flash fired, manual mode.

f2.8, ISO 100, 1/4sec, flash fired, manual mode.
These next two shots I took with the flashlight off – using the flash auto adjustment feature to fire the flash (manually) once before for the flash to detect the needed amount for a good exposure and then pressed the shutter button to take the shot and thus also fire the flash at those settings.
This has worked well – far better than I thought – and the results are good. I could have spent far longer shooting the little guy, but after being spotted by the husky on a walk (which alerted me to his presence) and then being flashed by not only a torch, but 2 flashes (my friend with a bridge camera – and working AF assist beam ;)) I thought that by now he had had enough so we left him in peace. I took with me the lessons learnt so that next time I won’t have to mess around like this time around (though chances are I will need more than one more go to get good at this!)

Lessons Learnt (besides general night time shooting experience)

1) Fatigue leads to errors being made!

2) Wider apertures can yield sharper and more pleasing results – don’t just go for the widest because you can – have a reason (shame I did not learn this properly till the end of the holiday ;))

3) When stacking lenses with teleconverters of different brands sometimes not all the information is carried to the camera – in this case the details about the sigma teleconverter is not being carried – thus the camera thinks it only has one TC attached – this affects its minumum aperture – which should be f11 – but the camera reports only the first TC as so allows for a wider aperture to be used (hence the darker first shots with both TCs) – Thanks Helen

Misty Waters

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

Well whilst up in Yorkshire along with all the rain (that thankfully held off) there are also a great collection of waterfalls, fast flowing rivers and rapids and such – great for some slow water shots. I have only tried this once before and had good success then, so I decided to give it a second try. I generally stuck to manual exposures, but did not use bulb mode much if at all – simply as I did not have a remote with me and holding down on the shutter with your hand can add shake.

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS
Tripod 055XPROB + 322RC2

For exif data save and review properties of the thumbnail version only – exif not attached to larger versions of shots.

Malham Cove

f20, ISO 100, 1/4sec, no flash, manual mode.
First grabshot taken handheld so a little more blurry than I would have liked – also grass I found is a bad thing to have in the frame as if there is any wind it ends up blurring due to the longer exposure.

f32, ISO 100, 0.4sec, no flash, manual mode.
Tripod used this time – though on reflection I am shooting rather fine for best sharpness – itโ€™s just that these first three shots were taken in rather too bright light – an hour or so later and light was getting about right for these such shots.

f32, ISO 100, 1.6sec, no flash, manual mode.
A zoomed shot that I think as worked well – this was as low as I could take the camera in the time I had (walking with family is a pain at times as they keep going on leaving you to have to catch up which makes you shoot rather quicker than you would ideally. I also boosted the contrast on this shot in curves to make it a little more arty – I thought it worked well.

Aysgath Falls

A great place for this sort of photography, a real shame we arrived very late in the dark which whilst allowing for long exposures, it was a pain to focus on. I had to manually focus in the dark (as my af assist beam was not working) and on reflection I should have chosen a smaller aperture and gone for longer exposure as well as increased ISO – f2.8 was just too fine even though I wanted light in due to the hour. The light, however, made for some very interesting results.

f2.6, ISO 100, 1.6sec, flash fired, manual mode.

f2.8, ISO 100, 2.5sec, flash fired, manual mode.

f2.8, ISO 100, 1sec, flash fired, manual mode.

f2.8, ISO 100, 0.4sec, flash fired, manual mode
I think this is my favourite shot from the day.

f2.8, ISO 100, 10sec, flash fired, manual mode.
Believe it or not with the overhang this corner was almost totally black – so I am very glad with the result I got – almost looks like it was taken in the daylight!
Overall I was pleased with the result and would love a chance to go back and try again with this sort of photography. There is a lot of scope for experimentation and I have yet to get a shot taken in good soft evening light.

Lessons Learnt

1) Use a wider aperture (but not too wide) to get more depth of field and raise ISO and shutter speed to compensate – even in the darkest of hours

2) try to avoid anything that might move (aside from the water) in a shot such as grasses.

Gemstone Trials

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

Gemstone Trial

Whilst visiting Stump Cross Caverns I was passing through the gift shop and the small gemstone bags that are often on sale at such places caught my eye. Taking a bag and two small lumps of amethyst I set off home to try out shooting some gemstones with my macro!

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 150mm f2.8 Macro lens
Speedlite 580M2 + diffuser (its still the toilet paper idea!)
Tripod 055XPROB + 322RC2

For exif data save and review properties of the thumbnail version only – exif not attached to larger versions of shots.

To take these shots I did the following:

1) I set my stones on top of a white sheet which was placed on a window ledge with the sun coming through the windows. I used this to provide a light source from behind my stones

2) I set the tripod and camera up facing the stones – I went for a mostly straight on to slightly above angle for these shots.

3) For these shots I decided to shoot at full, and proper, macro – 1:1 ratio. This meant also using a focusing rail as well between camera and tripod head. This allowed me to move the camera back and forth to bring the stone into focus each time as for full macro the focus must remain fixed.

4) For settings I was fairly free setting as this is the first time I have done such shots. I tended to stick to wide apertures as a rule (f13 and f16) so as to get a good depth of field in the shots. I also used mirror lock up and the camera timer (no camera remote) to reduce and shake on part of actually taking the shot.

5) I also used the preflash to get the flash to auto set itself – as I had done in the cave.

The Results

f13, ISO 100, 1/20sec no flash
A test shot in manual mode – I rather like the effect, though a little dark it does show up the details sharp and clear.

f13, ISO 100, 1/30sec, flash fired – shot in aperture priority mode
A second shot, this time in aperture priority mode, the flash this time adding to the effect of the shot.

f13, ISO 100, 1/10sec, no flash, aperture priority mode
A third shot – this time testing out the auto shutter speed settings without the flash. The shot came out well – without the slight darkness of my first and without the rather harsher light of the second.

f13, ISO 100, 1/50sec, no flash, aperture priority mode
A shot where I was fairly sure of what I wanted the effect to be – that of a bright stone with a darker background – hence the faster shutter speed. This worked well and there is only a little boost to the blacks in processing the RAW shot, but not quite as dark as I was after.

f13, ISO 100, 1/40sec, no flash, aperture priority mode
A shot highlighting (very well) why I really should keep a diary of what conditions were at the time of shooting (its all so easy to forget little details that go into making a shot and hoping that EXIF will record all that you need). This shot was a darker background than before despite the slower shutter speed – this is as a result of a cloud that blocked the sun at around this time. This meant less light was needed (I had set exposure compensation to a lower value to boost the darker areas to get the effect I was after) to get the lower exposure value.
All in all a shot I am very pleased with in result – a boost to the blacks to get them really black, as opposed to darker brown, and the shot was done.

f13, ISO 100, 1/6sec, flash fired, aperture priority mode
Back to shooting brighter shots this was with flash (and no cloud) though the sun was getting lower in the sky, but still bright. This and the next few shots were taken under the same settings as I was now shooting to a different style – highkey rather than the lowkey of before. All in all I am pleased with the set, though I can see times when either flash or the window have lead to overexposed sections – something that softer light and a thicker bit of toilet paper would have been handy to help solve.

f13, ISO 100, 1/4sec, flash fired, aperture priority mode

f13, ISO 100, 1/4sec, flash fired, aperture priority mode

f13, ISO 100, 1.3sec, flash fired, aperture priority mode
Possibly my favourite shot of the gemstones – a very interesting and detailed stone to photograph.

f13, ISO 100, 30sec, flash fired, aperture priority mode
A shot taken later in the evening when it was darker – lights in the room off and the light from the window now reduced – hence the longer shutter speed selected by the camera.

And there ends the gemstones – overall I was very pleased with the results for a first time shooting such subjects and defiantly something that I will repeat.

Lessons Learnt:

1) A wider aperture – I suspect f16 – would be of use for the larger stones, such as the amethysts to get more of the stone in focus

2) Ambient light from the window worked well for this series of shots – though it might work better if the sun is not directly shining through the window – something to experiment with for the more highkey shots to prevent overexposed sections

3) Write a diary when shooting – possibly the most important lesson taken away from this shoot!

A Collection of works

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2008 by overread

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


f16, ISO 100, 1/60sec

f16, ISO 100, 1/5sec

f16, ISO 100, 1/15sec

f16, ISO 100, 1/320

Not sure what to think of this shot. I like the textures and colours, I think it would have worked better if the front petal was not in the shot and the depth of field just a few mms further back to bring the pollen at the base into focus.


f16, ISO100, 1//160sec

100% crop of the centre!

An example of what the sigma can capture when everything goes right! A sharp insect shot – a shame his full body was hidden, but as it with nature its hard to get your subject to always appear where you want them to! The 100% crop shows the details and sharpness at full size on the main photo – very pleased with this result!


f8, ISO 400, 1/800sec

f8, ISO 400, 1/500sec

Two low shots of a duck on the grass – taken with the tripod at its lowest height. I must say I prefer the second shot – the first, I think now, is a little closely cropped

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/200sec

Another try at the song thrush in the tree and whilst I think I am shooting right, I think the light is just a little too lacking at this time of day – I think waiting for a really bright evening or for him to take to song earlier in the evening when its brighter would help a lot with the shot.

Lessons learnt:

1) Evening shooting is too dim for my sigma, even at low apertures. I could get it to f4, but that would mean working at the 70mm end where I don’t think I will get the close up detail of the bird.