Archive for macro photography

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



Marwell Zoo

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

Well got another free weekend so decided to pay a trip to a place I have heard a lot about and seen a lot of great photos from – Marwell Zoo. I had also recently picked up a circular polarizer for my 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens and hoped to give this a try at reducing flare and reflections off zooglass; however the day I chose was not the best for photography, the sky was a thick mass of cloud and whilst the rain held off for the day lighting was drab and weak over most of the day. Whilst this avoided me problems with highlight overexposure it did create the problem of having to raise me ISO in order to get fast enough shutter speeds (and even then sometimes they were not fast enough). My own taste with my 400D is to have my ISO at 200 for a standard setting, lowering or raising as needed, but ISO 400 is my general upper limit for raising the ISO whilst still getting me images that I am happy with respect to noise. ISO 800 is for emergencies and any higher is just too much noise for my tastes. Being in a zoo I also experimented with using my flash to give me more light to work with – with variable results.
The zoo was also in that pre-season state where many grazing animals were not on show and kept in pens and the overall feel of the zoo was a bit dead (and I don’t just mean few visitors which I don’t mind, but dead on the zoo side of things as well). I am sure that when I get a chance to return in better weather and in a better season I will be back here complaining of there being too many people!

Anyway back to the photos – I am sorry to say I can’t note which ones I used the polarizer on and which I did not as I was changing back and forth with it all day – suffice to say I learnt some lessons with it at least.

All photos taken with:
Canon 400D
Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS L
Canon 1.4 teleconverter

For flash shots following gear used in addition to the above:
Canon speedlite 580M2 + Lumiquest softbox

Circular polarizer used on some shots – noted where remembered, but not all are marked.


One of the first animals you see (well at least of the predators) and the first I headed for. Sad to say that whilst they have a smaller section of their pen which they like to rest in which is closer, that section is also not that wide so you tend to end up with bars affecting either the foreground of the shot or affecting the background (in the worst cases affecting the both ends of the shot!).

f4, ISO 200, 1/160sec

As you can see nice and close, but clear bars in the background and you can just see an out of focus bar cutting right through the right eye and part of the nose in a line. This is the downside to places where there is a barrier before the bars as it prevents you getting your lens close enough to easily shoot between the bars – seeing this effect in the LCD on a camera is very hard to impossible unless its a very bad effect so its harder to correct in the field if you get such shots.

IMG_2128 no noise no sharpen
f5, ISO 200, 1/125sec

Again the bars are affecting both sections of the shot – though in context I don’t mind the background as much, but the foreground is being damaged by the bars – some selective contrast and saturation boosting has hidden the effect a little, but its still clear to see sadly.

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/200sec, flash used

This was not the shot I wanted – I was at the time moving to try and get behind the cat as much as possible and shoot with a view to showing the cat looking out over the large grass pen through the bars – this was a grabshot as I was heading round – sadly whilst the cat remained still for long enough the bars (which I was able to shoot over at this point in the pen) rose up to come to block me from clearly capturing a shot of the cat by the time I was in position. I was also forced further away from the cat, making it a smaller part of the shot – correctable compositionally, but not easy for me to do with the bars raising up to create a barrier of lined haze.

f5.6, ISO 200, 1/40sec

f5.6, ISO 200, 1/50sec

Well exposure in both is nice, but these shots show one weakness of not getting good long lens skills – and that is letting ones shutter speed drop and then rely in on IS to hold up its end. It does so very well, but not if the subject is moving at the time! Motion blur in both shots just does not work as its not really conveying movement, just showing where I let my speed down too far to freeze the moving leg. I might also (and probably should have) used flash and a higher ISO in these two shots to improve my chances

f4, ISO 200, 1/100sec

For once a good shot – but no legs nor full tail! I do like the autumnal colours in this shot and its come out well in that respect – but whilst framing has removed moving parts which were a problem before it has now introduced the problem that I am just not close enough to the cat to get a full and proper portrait (without cropping) and I am not far back enough to present the cat as a whole. A bit of creative cropping to remove the left hand side of the shot might help this shot a bit.

Suffice to say the cheetahs have taught me a lot already from this day about shooting in much poorer lighting conditions.


The otter pen (from what I remember) at Marwell was small! That was the first thing that hit me about it – I have got used to seeing the larger pen and full pond that the British Wildlife Centre otters have so it was rather a hit to see otters now in such a tiny pen and with a far smaller pool.
Something else that struck me was that unlike the European otters in the BWC, these otters (Asian short clawed) were in a much larger family group in a single pen.

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/125sec

I didn’t pay him for that shot either (though I would have if I could have). I had this feeling that he was really expecting something from me and was rather disappointed that I didn’t have it! Might have been near feeding time or just him also not liking the dull day, however it does show well my feelings at least about the pen.

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/100sec

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/100sec

One of my favourite shots from the day – after not getting anything from me he goes for a quick drink from the pool.
And now for some happier shots of them:

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/125sec

All those moving bodies its a pain to try and focus on just one key point – looking at it now the lower left otter is where the focus is needed – but its landed right in the middle on a patch of brown fur instead! In brighter weather a smaller aperture and deeper depth of field would probably have helped save such a shot by giving greater depth – but with limited light the focus really needs to be spot on.

f5.6, ISO 200, 1/60sec

Risky slower speeds, but for a still moment its enough with IS as a backup. The yellows have also rather dominated this shot and I should re-edit to lower their saturation (especially in the shadows under his chin).


The leopard pen, for bars, was sadly worse than I found the cheetah pen, for these cats were in a very strong wired pen and there was wire all over the place – made worse by the fact that the pen divided into two so as to allow a mother and child in one section and the father in the other. So I walked away sadly with quite a few shots that suffered horribly from bar effects or from glass reflection problems; for whilst the polarizer did work very well there was just not the light to use it as well as could be expected. I needed every stop I could get – and I was also quickly learning that flash (at least with big cats) was not going to help at all beyond a little bit of fill – beyond that and one gets cats eye reflections.

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/40sec

Really really slow shutter speed, high ISO and not a single bit of flash in this shot (though it does look like it). You can tell there is no flash because the eyes are clear and there is no cats eye effect present. This is mostly a result of editing done to the shot.
Its a shot of the cub in the pen and despite the bars in the background its one of the shots I rather like from the day due to that intense impact that one gets from the stare of the cat.

f4, ISO 800, 1/60sec

No flash again and me reaching for that “emergency” ISO gives you an idea of how dark the day was and how dark this shaded spot of the pen was. This I believe was the father who spent a lot of the day pacing around the pen. I was lucky with this shot working at all as I had learnt that flash was just not going to work for me in this case (it might work but I could not get it to work for me on the day) so a nice shot. Again we have that half way sort of look to the shot that I am starting to see as a pattern in my shooting where I go for a closer shot to the face (either to eliminate distracting cage parts from the shot or as a part of my general style of shooting – often both together), but lack the focal length needed so end up only halfway there.

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/15sec

Really pushing even the IS now – remember with a 1.4TC is a 280mm lens I am shooting with at the long end – though I did have my monopod with me on the day I still found myself handholding for most of the time – though I did use it at odd spot and might have used it for this shot (can’t recall – its not stored in EXIF ;)). Personally I find that in such an environment with a light lens like the 70-200mm f2.8 IS (light by wildlife lens standards at any rate) one just does not need that support for the weight much of the time – I am sure that if I were using a much heavier lens like a 300mm f2.8 IS I would be using that monopod gladly!


Well the penguins make an interesting shooting experience at Marwell as there is a glass windowed underwater viewing point which (unlike a lot of others) is not fully underground – so there is a reasonable amount of light floating in from the open doors. Its not enough and I had to push to ISO 800, but it gives more light than in many others I have been in.

f5.6, ISO 800, 1/60sec – polarizer used

f5, ISO 800, 1/60sec – polarizer used

Well ok so I could have opened up a bit more with the aperture, but I wanted to be stopped down a little to try and preserve some details as well as to get some depth since I was shooting as close as I could with the lens (limited space inside). The polarizer has helped some areas and lost any reflects from light on the glass, but its again taken away more light – if I had had time I should have removed the teleconverter from the setup.
The other tricky part was he was mostly diving for fingers – children’s fingers on the glass to be exact so every time he was there so too were the kids right up to the glass – made shooting a bit tricky. Still whilst not fantastic they are pleasing and very different shots.

f5, ISO 200, 1/160sec

This is one of my favourite exposures from the day – I really like it – but what I hate is the composition. set like it is we are focused on the backend and there is no empty space for him to look into – its too close a shot in the wrong place which is a great shame as the shot technically came out well. I should also crop out the out of focus head appearing on the left side.

f5, ISO 200, 1/80sec

f5, ISO 200, 1/100sec

These last two shots were taken right at the end of the day, when the sun decided to make a token appearance – however the last shot shows that I was not thinking sunny and the whites have been rather blown out as the meter got confused – though there is some details still in there and I think using tone mapping one could get more details out of the whites on the second shot. However what I should have done was to stick with ISO 400 and gone for a smaller aperture – there beaks are very long!

Yellow Mongoose

ISO 400, 1/125sec – data corrupted partly on the aperture (unless I managed f0.5!!)

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/125sec

I think I might have used the polarizer for these shots as they were through glass – though they were also inside so I might not have. Anyway me being a little more compositional with my work – came out rather well I feel in both shots.

Meerkats (with contrast mask experiments)

What follows is a series of shots of meerkats where I have used a contrast mask (as mentioned in a previous post) to adjust the lighting in them.


Contrast mask edition
IMG_2018contrast mask
f5, ISO 400, 1/125sec

At first glance the contrast mask is a lot darker than the regular version and the light also appears flatter. However details are now showing up clearer in the eye, ear and also some of the fur areas where before the brightness was hiding them. I think that if I used a contrast mask to remove (either fully or partially) the contrast mask effect on key areas like the main body of its back I should be able to restore some of the depth of light without losing the gains that the mask has given me.


Contrast mask edition
IMG_2029contrast mask
f4, ISO 400, 1/200sec

Again we see the contrast mask doing similar to before – though the shot is not as dark as before there is still a noticeable difference. There is also the messy cloning of the background area where I have tried to hide up the large white patch – I still need to get to grips with the clone tool and its effective use!


Contrast mask edition
IMG_2009contrast mask
f5.6, ISO 400, 1/100sec

And for a third time we see that darkening effect, though this time I don’t think it would need further selective removal and rather covers the kat well. Again we also have the key areas like the eye now being shown in greater detail and clarity.

And now for a normal meerkat shot:
f5.6, ISO 400, 1/100sec

Once I master the clone tool I do want to come back to this shot and lose that white line along the top of it.
Also I should point out that I think flash was used for many of these meerkat shots, however for some reason Photoshop elements 6 is not registering the flash info in the EXIF data – its normally good at noting it down, but not this times and yet I am sure I used flash on the meerkats.


Though they had a larger pen than the other big cats (far larger) the tigers did like to rest on the platforms or pace the edges – so again I was met with a lot of bar problems again – this time though the cats were generally far enough back that the foreground was safe, so its just background areas that were affected.

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/160sec

Should have used that polarizer for this shot! I think the sun just peeked out for this shot and its times like this I wish I had spot focusing so that I could really nail those white patches on the cat rather than have them blowout!

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/200sec

f5.,6 ISO 800, 1/125sec

Being cats some decided to spend the whole day in bed! Really glad that I got a shot of the eye looking right at me! Also I am sure that first shot is another where flash is not being exif reported in my elements 6!

f5.,6 ISO 200, 1/80sec

f4, ISO 200, 1/125sec

In both of these last two shots I used the circular polarizer to help keep my sky from blowing out – however doing so also preserved the haze of the wire in those areas. So during editing I used curves to deliberately blow out those upper sky areas (and layer masked off the lower white areas so that the curves would not affect them and blow them out more as well). The result is that the sky is now blown, but the wires in the background are lost. I am sure that some editing to blur the background could have been used instead, but I was not sure of a method that would give me the effect I wanted without looking fake as well.

Wild Birds

Well around the zoo there were a small score of garden birds darting around – often near the tiger pens – so I managed a few proper wildlife shots!

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/500sec

Best shutter speed of the whole day!

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/125sec

Those last two shots are pretty heavy crops from the originals so a little less fine details in them, but still decent shots for tiny birds!

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/500sec

And that was not a crop – full sized – he was a bolder bird by far (and must be that is the tigers pen he is standing on).


Totally forgot to get a shot of this little fellas name – and now can’t recall what he was but here he is

f4, ISO 200, 1/50sec

Nice little portrait of him – very centred – but still rather nice.

And that is it from the day, it was dull day, but not a total washout, though I do wish for one of those higher end cameras with better high ISO noise control — still my composition and framing will be the same till I change!
I also learnt quite a lot about lower light shooting as well as getting reacquainted with bars and all the problems they can bring – sometimes one has to put the camera down and just enjoy watching rather than shoot away all the time.

So its goodbye to Marwell for now – but I will return – even if some of the residents don’t want their photo taken


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

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

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

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

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

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.

f20, ISO 100, 1/200sec

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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

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 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

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

f8, ISO 100, 1/40sec

f8, ISO 100, 1/40sec

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.

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

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

f8, ISO 400, 1/50sec

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

f13, ISO 200, 1/25sec

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.

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!

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.

f9, ISO 200, 1/60sec

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.

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

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.