Archive for flowers

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



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

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

IMG_0006 IMG_0016
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.