Archive for flower

Wisley Gardens Butterflies

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2009 by overread

The Gardens at Wisley have been working with a leading butterfly centre (honestly I can’t remember which one now, and details are no longer on their website) to keep a range of butterflies in their large greenhouse. So of course I decided to give the place a visit whilst I was within range. So a train trip and a cab ride later and I’m at the gardens and ready to see the butterflies.

I met a few new factors here, this being the first trip to a butterfly house with the camera; firstly there was the heat change, being early in the year outside was very cool, so with the big temperature change the first thing my lenses all did was to fog right up. So that left me a good few minutes to wander and get a feel for the place, spot the feeding locations and have a general nose around as I waited for the glass to clear. The second big thing was the heat, something that beats down and is fine for a short while, but can start to strain oneself when holding and focusing for macro shots (without any tripod support of course); so breaks for water and a cool down were important throughout the day.

The greenhouse setup they have is large and split in two, a larger more open deserty section with a wide range of flower, and a more dense jungle type arrangement, which is where they were housing the butterflies.

Certainly the attraction was a major success, there were many visitors there that day, got to be quite a scrum what with coach loads of school kids and others arriving throughout the day. The butterflies seemed well also, though possibly gorged a little on fruit a bit much, many were very docile, to the point where many appeared to be dead they were so still and relaxed, but would soon get to moving when anything happened to nudge what they were resting on. Of course I visited very near the end of this event, so it stands to reason that many of the butterflies would be approaching the latter part of their lifespan.

Well enough babbling onto the photos!

RHS Wisley Gardens website

All photos taken with:
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mm f2.8 macro
Sigma 1.4 teleconverter
Canon speedlite 580EX2 + Lumiquest softbox (off camera flashcored used sometimes)

Firstly now I must apologise for not knowing much (anything) about butterflies – one day I will get some species names up here – till then its just some pretty pics

f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

One thing I really like in macro is getting close, really close and capturing a detailed shot of the insects. Butterfly houses give a great combination of (often) large butterfly species in a highly docile state – which lets me get super close for shots like this, where not only is the eye shown in clear detail, but also things such as the white muscles responsible for moving their wings and the pattern of their fur over their bodies.

f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

Each time you think you’ve found the smallest bug you find one smaller – this was something I wanted to show in this shot, however the little fruit fly was not going to help matters out and decided to moon the camera. The banana also didn’t help matters, yellow flowers (and yellow in general I find) does have a tendency to overexpose when shot, which makes it a pain when it gets into shots. Some selective contrast and saturation reductions can help matters.

f16, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

He’s not on what you think! But they do like rotting banana! Again a bit of a play needed in the background yellows, but overall a nice shot of his feeder and eye.

f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

A little step back to get a bit more wing into the shot, very hard to get the exact perfect angle into these sorts of shot, a bit more wing detail in the upper corners would have been nice. Getting the eye is the minimum requirement, the better shots get that perfect angle as well.



IMG_0691 100% crop

f6.3, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

Ok sometimes your finger slips and you end up shooting with the “wrong” settings. Though the wider aperture has given a nice bokeh (background blur) its really reduced the depth of field in the shot. However with good focus not all is lost, the eye is focus at least.
One thing I have picked up is that the viewer’s eye is apparently drawn to the brightest spot on a shot. So as you can see in the edit of this shot the back leg has been dimmed, a little less attracting to the eye of the viewer (I hope at least).
The 3rd image – erm just me showing off a crop of the eye, its sideways because that was the original orientation of the shot.

f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

For this shot I was happy at the time, though looking back I really do wish I had stepped back another pace to get the whole wing in focus.

Bit of a change now, going to move back a step and get some wing shots of the big bugs. This is something that is a little harder (amazingly) in these places than the ultra close shots due to a few reasons.

Firstly the butterflies can often be on or near to manmade objects – this makes backgrounds harder to deal with than in the wild, since whilst errant leaves and twigs simple work as part of a natural setting, bits of building and tables don’t. Though you might say that a wider aperture can help counter this by blurring the background, remember it would also cut down the depth or field over the insect, making getting the right angle of shooting (to get focus over the body and the wings) even harder.
Secondly there is the space issue, though this is more a result of using effectively 210mm of macro lens (remember the 1.4TC is attached with my setup) which means that I had to shoot from quite a distance back – great for not distracting the butterfly, but not so great when there are pathways to stick to and people walking past.

f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

Here’s a great example of distracting backgrounds – a full wing and body shot of one of the same subjects from the earlier close-up that I showed of his face and eye.

f6.3, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

Here this wider aperture is not a mistake, I deliberately chose this lesser depth of field so that there was more blur to the background, which is of vines growing up a wall. Though the wall is still visible the overall tone and colour I feel lets it slip back into the background more.

f7.1, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

Me playing around with settings again, I was going for a wider aperture again to lose building elements in the background, fortunately for me he was hanging off a plant at the time and the background features were far enough away the they didn’t get enough light from the flash, thus giving the great lowkey effect in this shot (black background).

Well another change, this time taking advantage of the docile nature of the butterflies to get the camera really close and capture some great details of the wings.

f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

Not the best compositions, but some great details to see as well as being able to get a real look at the makeup of the colours on the wings.

And now for a bit of a complaint about the gardens – they labelled something wrong!

f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

Ok totally the wrong settings, though thankfully the flash was able to throw enough light to get both shots. These were just fired off without time to change the settings as this little robin landed on the label – he was flying around inside the greenhouse and had come in through an open vent and got trapped inside.

f8, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

During one of my breaks from the heat I took a moment to do a little flower shooting, not much though since I was mostly heading right back in with the butterflies as soon as I could.

And so that’s it from Wisley, it was a great exhibition of butterflies and well worth a visit. The gardens also looked very well laid out, though at this time of year they were a little more bare, though the snowdrops were invading the wooded sections. It’s certainly worth a visit for the gardens alone if one has a chance, and hopefully they will hold the butterflies next year as well.

I also learnt a lot about shooting in such an environment, the close shooting distance and very docile butterflies not putting the same demands on me as in the field, I had time to compose, but honestly was too excited to get super close shots to put as much thought into it. Further the close environment means that the 150mm + TC is in fact often too long for its own good, something that I never thought I would find in macro work.

Oh and one more just for the road


Experiences with macro 7 – The End?

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2008 by overread

Well its not the end of the season, but it is the end of my time at home, which means returning to uni and also losing my haunts round this area. That means heading into the unknown and not knowing where to find interesting bugs – could make for tricky macro times ahead – so here is one last trip out with the macro.
I have also been experimenting with a demo version of ReDynamizer (ergo the notes on the used shots) which I find to be a powerful, yet requiring some care to use program. I certainly does not like working on weak (noisy) photos and defiantly needs a strong noise filter running over after, but its effect can be very good;

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

Shot taken with
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mm macro
Speedlite 580M2+Lumiquest softbox

f14, ISO 200, 1/200sec

Shots taken with
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mm macro
Sigma 1.4 teleconverter
Speedlite 580M2+Lumiquest softbox

f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec

f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec
This bee (and in the last shot his assistant) was incredibly slow. I think he was having a small sleep on the flower when I found him and he left me enough time to get out the camera and also take a few good shots before he worked up enough energy for flight. He spent most of the time rapidly eating his fill from the flower – and this second shot is currently one of the best I have taken – especially with the little fly that I did not notice at the time.

f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec

f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec
I really love the jewel like back to butterflies and moths – I think this one is a moth – least he looks mothy to me. Regardless a fine little insect!

f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec
Another shot experimented with and whilst I love the closeup of the eyes I am not happy with this shot – the colours and such lack something to my eye and I keep seeing that little bit of wing I clipped off. A good focus and primary subject, but something is lacking here for me.

f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec
I do like these sorts of shots, but I take so very few of them – mostly as when I see a butterfly I always try to go for a repeat of a close headshot – and so lose out on thinking about just hanging back and getting a full body shot.

Shot taken with:
Canon 400D
Sigma 150mm macro
Sigma 1.4* teleconverter
Sigma 2* teleconverter
Speedlite 580M2 and lumiquest softbox

f14, ISO 400, 1/160sec
Yes you read right, both teleconverters on this shot. Just a bit of fun at the end of the day – I can’t remember if I got as close as was fully possible with the combo, but I did get close. Focusing was very tricky to get right with both teleconverters attached.

And that is the end of that – off to uni now, though I think I can now handle a macro lens and get some good results – still loads of little areas to improve upon – checking the whole frame; backing off at times for creativity; and learning to control the flash in something other than its full auto mode.

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.

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

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.

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

IMG_0006 IMG_0012 IMG_0016

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.

IMG_0003 IMG_0020

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.