Archive for insect

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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ed

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

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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!

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f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec flash used

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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.

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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

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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

IMG_0023
f14, ISO 200, 1/200sec

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

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f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec

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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.

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f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

Experiences with macro 6

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2008 by overread

Out again today – after the success of yesterday I am more confident in my settings and in my shooting style so its time to have another go and see what I can get this time around:

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

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

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f14, ISO 200, 1/200sec

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f14, ISO 200, 1/200sec
Shooting and moving closer at the same time, looks like he has an injury to one side of him, where blood has collected possibly.

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f14, ISO 200, 1/200sec
Rather nice shot, not the greatest composition I feel though, I need to be more creative and remember that there is more than just the middle of the viewfinder.

This next series of shots came out as lowkey results, something that I really like in shooing, but I admit this is mostly by accident rather than intent at the time. I have yet to fully work out the ins and outs of shooting reliable lowkey.

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f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec
Must use portrait mode more!

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f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec
Definatly very pleased with this shot – bug is a little close to the bottom of the frame, but definatly please with this shot!

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f14, ISO 200, 1/200sec
The other lowkey shots required some contrast and darkness boosting in the black areas to get proper black results, this shot though was almost a perfect in camera lowkey! It was taken a good distance away and this was as close as he let me get before he moved off. From this shot I really started to realise that the key to a good lowkey shot was a fast flash combined with a good distance between subject and background – so sometimes a longer shooting distance from subject (and thus also background) can help.

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

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f14, ISO 200, 1/160sec
Another butterfly’s face, just wish that I had got more of the wing in focus this time

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f14, ISO 200, 1/200sec
And that is as close as I am going with a spider! And if you look just in the top left corner is his stash for lunch.

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f14, ISO 200, 1/200sec
Decent shot, but it lacks some creativity now that I look at it – still I like that I can get that close and get the shot off sharp and clear! Little bit of shadowing on the underside, caused by the flash creating its own shadow – a second shooting flash or a ringlight would help counter that problem, but as I have neither I will have to make note and try to avoid or control angles where it might lead to a shadow forming.

Overall a great day out and some fantastic lowkey shots that I am very proud of. Also more confident with my settings at shooting now than before, far less fiddling and worrying about what settings to use.

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.

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.