Experiences with macro 5 – now with added Dragon!

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2008 by overread

This updated actually crosses 2 days worth of trips, mostly since one had macro tacked on the end of it and I never got round to editing the results till the second trip. Also this marks the point where I have found a fantasic place for butterflies and dragonflies – a field which has many of both (though mostly a lot of cabbage whites) which proved to be wonderous fun to shoot in. Its still tricky to get good shots, but I am starting to get more keepers and also getting far better at knowing when not to press the shutter. I have also discovered a real liking for using the 1.4* teleconverter with my 150mm macro – it provides that added boost to magnification which is great for smaller bugs and also for getting in close to the larger ones – and yet costs be very little in image quality and in focusing difficulty (the 2* was very hard to focus with).

To view exif data review properties of the thumbnails – exif not attached to larger versions

Day 1

This day was spent at a small steam engine mueseum and bird collection; inside the meuseum I really felt the lack of a fast short prime (or fast short anything) focal range lens – my 70-200mm was just too long even at 70mm. I had to use my kit lens and the flash in the end and was a little less than impressed with the results – this trip further cemented my need to get a good fast short focal length lens.
However outside I did get use use my 70-200mm for the first time in ages, though whilst I got a few good exposures and one or two decent shots the bars on the birds were too far from my lens and too close for good shooting – lead to a lot of lost shots sadly – I also found that whilst the flash is good for exposures, its also good at showing up bars – something to bare in mind later.

Taken with:
Canon 400D
Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS
speedlite 580M2+Limiquest softbox

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f5, ISO 100, 1/200sec
had to really boost contrast in some areas to lose the bleaching caused by the bars.

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f5, ISO 100, 1/200sec
Ok not great, one runner duck gets his head in the way – such is the lot of choosing to work with animals.

But then I struck gold – as we left there was a small field and it was full of dragonflies – there were dozens of them. Sadly we were leaving and family pulled me along, I could have spent hours there just shooting. In the end though I did get 2 great shots.

Taken with
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mmm macro
speedlite 580M2+Limiquest softbox

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f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec
not the perfect angle on the bug, but a decent fullbody shot none-the-less.

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f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec
Great closeup shot – this was not a crop – this was me moving in closer to him. They were starting to rest up at the end of the day so were looking for perches for the night.

Day 2

A full macro day (well few hours in the afternoon) in the field I described in the intro:

Taken with
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mmm macro
Sigma 1.4 teleconverter
speedlite 580M2+Limiquest softbox

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f22, ISO 400, 1/200sec
This is me really pushing for a greater depth of field with the combo – and also the flash performing really well – the shooting conditions were in a wooded area, so somewhat darker to start with.

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f20, ISO 100, 1/200sec

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f20, ISO 100, 1/200sec
Really luck with these two shots – outside in the brighter sunshine, but still pushing my aperture, though not as much. Again these are two separate shots – I tend to try to shoot frames as I move closer – that way I might at least get a good full body shot before they decide to fly off – manual focusing makes this possible – though idealy I should not do what I did in the first and chop off the ends of the wings.

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f20, ISO 100, 1/200sec
Little moth comming up to feed – a shame that I just clipped his wing – its so easy to shoot and not look at the boarders of a shot with macro when you are manually focusing a point to be sharp.

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f20, ISO 400, 1/200sec
thinking back I should really have taken this in portrate mode, which my battery grip allows me to do with ease, but when in the field the thought just did not occur to me (or chances are it did at the same time as the butterfly flew off after I pressed the shutter for this shot).

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f20, ISO 400, 1/200sec
I was focusing with this more on the feeder than on the eyes – in retrospect I should have just focused on the eyes as I normally do.

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f20, ISO 400, 1/125sec
Decent shot, but the grass is getting in the way of the details – almost unavoidable in this case, but it does detract from the end result.

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f18, ISO 400, 1/200sec
Much better than before – no vegitation getting in the way of the wings.

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f18, ISO 400, 1/200sec
Remeber what I said a while ago about getting one outstanding shot on a trip? Well here is this trips outstander! I got what I was after, a really close up head shot of the butterfly – with the details still in his wings.

As you can see this time I was really pushing my depth of field, yet at the end of the day the noise this introduced into my shots when viewed at fullsize was more than I am willing to live with – so its back to wider apertures and training myself to deal with smaller depths of field.

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Experiences with macro 4 – with extra bird!

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , , on August 18, 2008 by overread

Well not too much to introduce this one with really, I am starting now to get on top of exposing for macro photos and getting both the depth of field that I want with the blur in the background. Working with the flash is getting easier, though I admit its in auto flash fire mode almost all the time – sometimes I get the time for a preflash metering, but often the insects don’t give me the time for such a luxury. I am still shooting all my macro with the settings in manual mode and being handheld – I just find that with a tripod I am not fast enough to catch the insects.

All shots taken with:
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mm macro
speedlite 580M2+Limiquest softbox

To view exif data review properties of the thumbnails – exif not attached to larger versions

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and a closer crop of the above:

f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec
Not the best birding settings and the shot is a little dark, but this was a grabshot in the garden just as he flew by whilst I was shooting macro; and proof that the 150mm is a versatile little lens. Note that with the closer crop the image quality is not perfect, but much of this I attribute to my own selection of settings at the time of shooting rather than any weakness in the lens itself.

Now back to your regular insect program:

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f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec
I am really happy to have this shot – the action of a fly drinking from a small drop of water I have captured only once before, but it was in those early days and the flash failed to fire -the result was a horribly underexposed shot. Now at least I have a well exposed shot which has all the insect within the frame – composition might be a little weak here, but that is something for next time (3rd time lucky :))

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f13, ISO 200, 1/125sec

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f13, ISO 200, 1/125sec
Until I really looked and tried to capture with my camera, I never before noticed the speed, height and distance that a simply butterfly can cover; especially these little cabbage butterflies which rest only for a few seconds on a flower before moving onto the next. Even when feeding they only feed for short bursts before flying on – that means that these two photos involved a lot of running and missed chances just to keep up with them. Not easy, but when you get to see the results you feel that its worth chasing them all over the garden.

Experiences with macro 3 – The One

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , , on August 16, 2008 by overread

I remember someone saying that the “Great Masters of Photography” (by which they meant film) would be happy if they could walk away with a roll and have a single fantastic keeper out of the lot. Now that was not to say that they only got one good shot, but that they got one outstanding shot – and I think I just got one of mine in a shoot – though I have yet to boost to getting a decent number of keepers – still far too many are dumped, partly as I am still experimenting a lot. However I have adopted a new set of common macro settings based on those used by a few other macro shooters in forums I frequent, so its starting to get some stability into my results. Also I have started to use my 1.4* teleconverter – so I am getting a smaller boost to focal length, magnification and a lesser loss (in fact hardly any loss at all) of image quality and focusing is not as dire as it was with the 2* teleconverter.

All shots taken with:
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mm macro
Sigma 1.4* teleconverter
speedlite 580M2+Limiquest softbox

To view exif data review properties of the thumbnails – exif not always attached to larger versions

Face of the Butterfly

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f13, ISO 200, 1/160sec

Call me strange if you will, but I love that face! I tend to favour lowkey shots like the above over highkey (white background) so the above is a great shot for me – especially as I had to get this whilst he was sitting on the side of a post in broken rubble – which made for tricky standing. I was really luck to get this close to the butterfly – being able to get within full magnification range. I have now got a new obsession – beating this shot since I feel its one of my best now – and getting this close to other butterflies!

Experiences with macro 3 – the LumiQuest

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2008 by overread

Well another exciting day for me – at last after much waiting my Lumiquest Softbox has arrived – that means an end to using toilet paper as a diffuser! Despite some people saying that the softbox is overly large I don’t find it to be that much of a hindrance, though not something I would use for a family trip out since it just that little bit fiddly to attach. I have used elastic bands (thank you Royal Mail for the free ones with my post) to hold the box onto the flash head – I have done this so that the Velcro strips don’t have to be added to the flash head as there are some other diffusers that I am considering getting for different situations which would/might not attach if the strips are stuck onto the flash. This makes attaching the head a little slower and fiddly, but once on its secure with a few bands round it.

All shots taken with:
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mm macro
speedlite 580M2+Limiquest softbox

To view exif data review properties of the thumbnails – exif not always attached to larger versions

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f8, ISO 100, 1/40sec

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f8, ISO 100, 1/40sec

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f8, ISO 100, 1/40sec

Ok so not the best angles and depth of field is still very much lacking in these shots, but the colours and soft light are what I value them for.

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f6.3, ISO 400, 1/50sec
A shot I am very proud of – the background, depth of field and angle on the insect have all come together to make a shot that works. Now all I have to do is learn from this and repeat it more often

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f8, ISO 400, 1/50sec
Clearly learning is not going to happen that quick with me 😉

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f8, ISO 400, 1/50sec

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f8, ISO 400, 1/50sec
A rare moment of me being creative with a shot – taken at full magnification he would not fit into the single frame, so instead of moving out and reducing my magnification, I decided to be more creative in how I framed the shot. I like what I came out with in this and the composition is one that I do find pleasing.

Overall I found the lumiquest to be a fantastic addition to my kit, its more refined at softening the light than the toilet paper was and its also simple to use – a very worthwhile addition to a flash setup.

Experiences with macro 2

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , , on August 7, 2008 by overread

Well out I go again, this time out I was a more determined to get my depth of field up – so I left the teleconverter in the bag and shot with the lens without any support at all. It should be noted that this is also meaning that I am now operating at 1:1 macro, whilst with the 2* I was operating at 2:1 macro. I really like the boost in magnification, but the loss of my depth was costing me shots.

All shots taken with:
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mm macro
speedlite 580M2+toiletpaper diffuser

To view exif data review properties of the thumbnails – exif not always attached to larger versions

IMG_0071
f13, ISO 200, 1/25sec

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f13, ISO 200, 1/20sec

Well first off some familiar ground with the fallen apples again, I don’t tend to hang around long here mostly as its full of wasps and the ground is often wet from the taps used to clean and refill the water dispensers for the birds we keep. Still a good place to guarantee some insects, if not easy shooting angles. Most of the time they have their heads down inside the apple eating.

But now for something much more exciting than flies – DRAGONS – or rather in this case damselflies – real dragonflies can’t reverse their wings to follow the line of thier bodies – they have to remain outstretched.

IMG_0141
f8, ISO 400, 1/2000sec
background has blurred fantastically well in this shot – mostly due to the fact that it is so far off. This shot was tricky not only because they (there were two at the time) were flying around erratically and landing on the same stem, but also because that stem was out in the pond water – so I had to lean out over the water to get this close-up shot – risky with my camera – I was determined not to slip and drop it!

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f5.6, ISO 200, 1/160sec
Getting a full side body shot in focus is hard with these insects since their bodies are so long – one can either move to catch the damsel on the side, or close down the aperture and go for an increased depth of field.

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f9, ISO 200, 1/60sec

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f9, ISO 200, 1/200sec
Sadly 1/200sec is the fastest sync speed for my camera and flash, though there are some increased speed settings I am not familiar enough to use them yet. That and the erratic flight nature of these bugs makes a shot like this very tricky to get.

IMG_0145
f8, ISO 400, 1/200sec
Taken against the greeny water of the pond, not the best shot, but one I really like for what the damsel is doing. Shot at several different ranges, this was the closest I got before he finished/flew off.

Overall I think I learnt quite a bit from this trip. Firstly I learnt that I did not need to have my 2* teleconverter to get the macro shots I was after and that in fact this could be hindering me in getting my desired shots. Also it showed me where my interest in such a shot really was – not the background blur – but with the depth of detail with the subject itself – it sounds simple to type, but its something that before I was not considering as I sought after background blur effects.

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

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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

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f13, ISO 400, 1/40sec

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f13, ISO 400, 1/40sec

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f13, ISO 400, 1/40sec

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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.

Cataday

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!

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f5, ISO 100, 1/30sec

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f5, ISO 100, 1/25sec

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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.

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f6.3, ISO 200, 1/200sec

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f6.3, ISO 200, 1/200sec

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

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

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f8, ISO 400, 1/200

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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.