Archive for micro

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.

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

f14, ISO 200, 1/200sec

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.

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.

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

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!

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

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

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.

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

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.

First shots with Sigma 150mm macro

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , on July 27, 2008 by overread

Well I now own a brand new Sigma 150mm f2.8 macro lens – and a fantastic lens this is. A league away from my sigma 70-300mm macro, this new lens is capable of 1:1 macro as well as up to 2:1 (twice life size) when combined with a 2* teleconverter. Its well built, light enough to handhold and has a few nice features that even Canon L lenses lack – notably:

a) The lens hood is thicker and more durable than the canon L plastic hoods.

b) the tripod collar allows me to remove and attach the lens to it without having to remove the camera first – this is great when working on the move and wanting to go from tripod to handheld – granted there are quick release plates out there, but you still have to hold the collar on the lens – which can be a distraction.

All in all I was very please to get this lens and – needless to say – I did a lot of macro shooting whilst on holiday; though conditions were less than perfect with wind being a constant bother (and me being too lazy to get up in time for early morning insects in their slow period).
So here is what I got on holiday – I was also in a bit of an f2.8 addiction, hence I messed up the depth of field in quite a few (note becomes 5.6 with 2*TC).

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 150mm f2.8 Macro lens (teleconverter used on some – noted photos)
Speedlite 580M2 + diffuser (its still the toilet paper idea!)
hand held

For exif data save and review properties of the thumbnail version only – exif not attached to larger versions of shots.

First shots – on the windowsill

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/160sec + 2*TC

f16, ISO 400, 1/200sec + 2*TC
first of a series of wasp shots – as you can see with the 2*teleconverter even f16 has a small depth of field to it – part of the trade off for a greater level of magnification.

f16, ISO 400, 1/200sec + 2*TC

f16, ISO 400, 1/200sec + 2*TC

f16, ISO 400, 1/200sec + 2*TC
The side of the windowsill is starting to appear now – obscuring some of the wasp as he has a clean.

f16, ISO 400, 1/200sec + 2*TC

In the Garden

f2.8, ISO 100, 1/160sec
Link to 100% crop
I still really like this shot – one of my better bits of composition, it’s just a real shame that I stuck to that wide open aperture and lost the depth of field – even without the teleconverter the line is very fine.

This next series of shots I took on the side of a tree due to the wind making focusing on insects on leaves extremely difficult – the tree eliminated on problem, and also acted as good support to lean on when shooting.


f13, ISO 100, 1/1600sec + 2*TC
Link to 100% crop

f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC
Link to 100% crop
I am very proud of this shot – aside from the cutting off of a whole section of the bug, the angle and depth of field have worked really well. To get the rest of the bug I would have to had moved the focus back to around 1:2 on the lens *which with the 2*TC would mean 1:1 magnification.*

f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC
Moved the focus back in this shot – though clearly not enough to get the full insect

f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC
First of a series of experiments in angles with a fly on the tree

f16, ISO 400, 80sec + 2*TC
Going for a greater depth of field – though if I had a perfect overhead shot I should not (in theory) need such a great depth.

f8, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC
Link to 100% crop
I rather liked this shot – interesting angle, even though the depth of field is – again – not perfect.

f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC

f13, ISO 200, 1/100sec + 2*TC
Link to 100% crop
I rather like the warm colours and sharpness to the face that I captured in these two shots.

Husky Eye shots

Don’t ask me the why, but one objective I have is to get a close up macro shot of our huskies eye – of course this proves to be very much harder than it sounds as the only time that her head is not moving its sleeping – and then the eye is somewhat hidden 😉 – so far my two best examples:

f2.8, ISO 100, 1.50sec
See what I mean about sleepy shut eyes!

f5.6, ISO 200, 1/160sec + 2*TC
Well a little better, but not the sharpness I am after.

Lessons Leant

1) Macro photography is not easy to focus on, I picked up loads of shots where the focus was just off the eyes, or totally missing the insect. Wind is a major problem with this regard.

2) The 2*TC is not the perfect addition – whilst I really like being able to get 2:1 macro, I am losing the depth of field many times – so I think changing to the naked lens for a while might be in order to get that depth of field back; whilst improving composition for other times when using the 2*TC

3) Keep an eye on settings and keep the aperture closed down as much as possible for the greatest depth of field.

4) No matter how hard macro insect photography is getting a huskies eye in macro is at least twice (if not more) as hard!

Gemstone Trials

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2008 by overread

Gemstone Trial

Whilst visiting Stump Cross Caverns I was passing through the gift shop and the small gemstone bags that are often on sale at such places caught my eye. Taking a bag and two small lumps of amethyst I set off home to try out shooting some gemstones with my macro!

All shots taken with:
Cannon ESO 400D
Sigma 150mm f2.8 Macro lens
Speedlite 580M2 + diffuser (its still the toilet paper idea!)
Tripod 055XPROB + 322RC2

For exif data save and review properties of the thumbnail version only – exif not attached to larger versions of shots.

To take these shots I did the following:

1) I set my stones on top of a white sheet which was placed on a window ledge with the sun coming through the windows. I used this to provide a light source from behind my stones

2) I set the tripod and camera up facing the stones – I went for a mostly straight on to slightly above angle for these shots.

3) For these shots I decided to shoot at full, and proper, macro – 1:1 ratio. This meant also using a focusing rail as well between camera and tripod head. This allowed me to move the camera back and forth to bring the stone into focus each time as for full macro the focus must remain fixed.

4) For settings I was fairly free setting as this is the first time I have done such shots. I tended to stick to wide apertures as a rule (f13 and f16) so as to get a good depth of field in the shots. I also used mirror lock up and the camera timer (no camera remote) to reduce and shake on part of actually taking the shot.

5) I also used the preflash to get the flash to auto set itself – as I had done in the cave.

The Results

f13, ISO 100, 1/20sec no flash
A test shot in manual mode – I rather like the effect, though a little dark it does show up the details sharp and clear.

f13, ISO 100, 1/30sec, flash fired – shot in aperture priority mode
A second shot, this time in aperture priority mode, the flash this time adding to the effect of the shot.

f13, ISO 100, 1/10sec, no flash, aperture priority mode
A third shot – this time testing out the auto shutter speed settings without the flash. The shot came out well – without the slight darkness of my first and without the rather harsher light of the second.

f13, ISO 100, 1/50sec, no flash, aperture priority mode
A shot where I was fairly sure of what I wanted the effect to be – that of a bright stone with a darker background – hence the faster shutter speed. This worked well and there is only a little boost to the blacks in processing the RAW shot, but not quite as dark as I was after.

f13, ISO 100, 1/40sec, no flash, aperture priority mode
A shot highlighting (very well) why I really should keep a diary of what conditions were at the time of shooting (its all so easy to forget little details that go into making a shot and hoping that EXIF will record all that you need). This shot was a darker background than before despite the slower shutter speed – this is as a result of a cloud that blocked the sun at around this time. This meant less light was needed (I had set exposure compensation to a lower value to boost the darker areas to get the effect I was after) to get the lower exposure value.
All in all a shot I am very pleased with in result – a boost to the blacks to get them really black, as opposed to darker brown, and the shot was done.

f13, ISO 100, 1/6sec, flash fired, aperture priority mode
Back to shooting brighter shots this was with flash (and no cloud) though the sun was getting lower in the sky, but still bright. This and the next few shots were taken under the same settings as I was now shooting to a different style – highkey rather than the lowkey of before. All in all I am pleased with the set, though I can see times when either flash or the window have lead to overexposed sections – something that softer light and a thicker bit of toilet paper would have been handy to help solve.

f13, ISO 100, 1/4sec, flash fired, aperture priority mode

f13, ISO 100, 1/4sec, flash fired, aperture priority mode

f13, ISO 100, 1.3sec, flash fired, aperture priority mode
Possibly my favourite shot of the gemstones – a very interesting and detailed stone to photograph.

f13, ISO 100, 30sec, flash fired, aperture priority mode
A shot taken later in the evening when it was darker – lights in the room off and the light from the window now reduced – hence the longer shutter speed selected by the camera.

And there ends the gemstones – overall I was very pleased with the results for a first time shooting such subjects and defiantly something that I will repeat.

Lessons Learnt:

1) A wider aperture – I suspect f16 – would be of use for the larger stones, such as the amethysts to get more of the stone in focus

2) Ambient light from the window worked well for this series of shots – though it might work better if the sun is not directly shining through the window – something to experiment with for the more highkey shots to prevent overexposed sections

3) Write a diary when shooting – possibly the most important lesson taken away from this shoot!