Imagine having a hairy eye..

Imagine having a hairy eye..

I think the last macro post I uploaded for the “One” weekly challenge went down quite well however I neglected to really explain how a shot like that is taken. So today’s post is another macro shot but this time I’ll give you the juicy details!
Firstly my setup… I have a Lumix G2 (micro 4/3rds) camera and for macro images I use my biggest (in terms of focal length) lens with a Raynox DCR-250 macro adapter. The adapter allows you to have a much shorter focusing range. For example the 45-200mm lens I use has a smallest focus of around 1 meter, not exactly ideal for macro photography. By adding this adapter I can focus to within a few inches. The reason I use a telephoto lens is that the further the Macro adapter is away from the sensor, the bigger the magnification is. If you have ever seen or heard of bellows, they do the same thing; they increase image magnification on the sensor as the lens is further away.
The biggest problem in macro photography is the constant fight between having enough light and depth of field. The depth of field with a macro setup is extremely small. To counter this you set your aperture very small I.e. a higher number (f/18+) while this allows a bigger area to be in focus it really cuts down the amount of light reaching the sensor. This in turn can lead to you needing a long shutter speed which is not very practical for taking pictures of fast moving insects. So you end up going round in circles… by fixing one problem you create another. In this photograph it was a sunny day in México so there was plenty of light! This meant I could use a small aperture and a quick enough shutter to capture the shot. Note that a steady hand is also essential. You can buy a macro head for your tripod to make really minor adjustments but as of yet I don’t own one.
As for focus, I find my camera has big difficulties focusing at this level so all of my macro shots are taken with manual focus. I usually set my focus ring to a constant point and then physically move the camera backwards and forwards to find the focus sweet spot.
With all this in mind it can be extremely difficult to get a good shot of a fly or bee. More than often I’ve just found the focus point when the insect suddenly moves. Patience really is a necessity of this type of work.
Another solution to the lack of light is to use a flash. I use a Sunpak Auto Dx-8R ring flash, I won’t go into any more details here as that is another post in itself!
I hope you like my macro work and please leave comments of your own techniques and examples of your favourite macro shots.

Camera: Panasonic Lumix G2
Lens: 45-200mm @ 151mm with Raynox DCR-250
ISO: 400
Aperture: f/18
Shutter: 1/200 sec

Colourful Oak

Colourful Oak

Around 2/3 years ago I discovered HDR (high dynamic range) photography. For those who don’t know, this involves taking multiple exposures of the same scene and then combining them together to create one image with a high dynamic range. I.e. if you took a picture of a landscape with hills, sky and clouds then you may face the problem of the sky being overexposed while the hills are perfect. Or vice versa; the hills underexposed and the sky showing the clouds clearly. HDR photography is one solution to this problem. However, maybe something others have experienced, once you discover HDR it’s difficult to prise yourself away from it. In my case it had in some ways a detrimental effect on my photography. Suddenly I would take almost any scene and HDR-it. A friend who had also hit the HDR hole showed me this graph which I think describes the phenomenon quite well. So I decided to move away from HDR photography, at least for a short while anyway. I still use HDR as, let’s be honest, it does make for some fantastic images. But I try to not over use it and use it in a subtle way, such as this image I’m posting today. I went for a walk yesterday up on the hills near my parents’ house in south Wales. Actually I was hoping for a nice landscape shot of the rolling hills. Snow has just started to settle on some of the higher peaks and the contrast between white and green is really nice. Unfortunately the light and the clouds were not working to my favour. Instead I took this rather different shot of a fallen branch from an Oak tree. I took 3 exposures and combined them using Photomatix to create this subtle HDR image.

Camera: Panasonic Lumix G2
Lens: 45-200mm @ 45mm
ISO: 100
Aperture: f/4
Shutter: 1/60 sec (0 Step); 1/125 (-1 Step); 1/30 (+1 Step)

Post processing:
Photomatix 4.0

Weekly Photo Challenge: One

Weekly Photo Challenge: One

I’m new to wordpress and this whole blogging thing so thought I would try to get fully involved! I’ve just discovered there is a weekly photo challenge and this weeks theme is “one”.
So here is my photo which focuses on a lovely ladybird I found walking along a thin leaf in a big complex bush. I’m really getting into macro photography at the moment and have spent some time in creating a good setup. I really like looking at the world in great detail as you more than often find something beautiful and interesting to look at. To photograph these moments is magical.

Camera: Panasonic Lumix G2
Lens: 45-200mm @ 200mm with Raynox DCR-250
ISO: 400
Aperture: f/18
Shutter: 1/160 sec

Orion

Orion

Recently I discovered a better way to photograph stars, and since then I haven’t had a clear night away from the city to try out what I have learned. I’m visiting my parents who live in the middle of nowhere and finally got a semi-clear night. My usual method of taking pictures of stars was to set the ISO low and the shutter long. My thinking was that the noise of a higher ISO would be too strong to get any decent pictures. The side effect of this method is that you end up with trailing stars. I.e. the time your shutter is open the world is spinning at ~1000 mph so of course the stars move across the image. This approach can create stunning results, but in this case that is not the picture I was looking for. Instead I set my camera to a high ISO (with an acceptable amount of noise) and the shutter to less than 30 secs (this will avoid any trailing). For my first attempt using this setup I’m quite happy with the results. The orange hue across the image is light pollution bouncing off the thin clouds. Given the location I think this will be reduced on a clear night without the clouds. I’m keen to keep practicing and take more pictures of the stars. Other methods to try:

1. Trailing stars
2. Image stacking

Camera: Panasonic Lumix G2
Lens: Lumix 20mm @ 20mm
ISO: 800
Aperture: f/1.7
Shutter: 20sec

Hunting a Colibri

Hunting a Colibri

So this is the picture which made me start a blog in the first place. I’ve been living in Querétaro, México on and off for the past 2 years. Maybe once a week I would see a humming bird (Colibri in Spanish) zipping and hovering between flowers. I really wanted to take a photograph of one but never seemed to have my camera handy. Then one Saturday night I had a strange dream (aren’t all dreams strange?) in which a hummingbird had flown into my apartment. Luckily in my dreams I am more prepared and had my camera in my hand. I ran around the apartment stalking the fleeting bird and taking as many shots as I could. The next morning I woke up with a mission in mind. I decided to take out just 1 lens, my 45-200mm Lumix. So my girlfriend and I set out with camera and books in hand to sit in the local park. We found a nice spot in the sun underneath a tree and made ourselves comfortable. Around 45 minutes later, in the distance I saw a tiny bird hovering and flying around frantically as hummingbirds do. I kept tracking it, and by some great luck the bird came right over to the tree we were sat beneath. I started snapping pictures and suddenly hit my first problem! The bird was so fast and the background so busy I simply couldn’t get the camera to focus. I had spent some time before hand setting up the ISO, Aperture and shutter speed as I knew how fast these birds can be. I hadn’t imagined that getting the correct focus would be the problem. Out of all the shots I took this one came out the best.

Lessons Learned:
1. Be patient and be focused. Set yourself a challenge and have in mind what picture you want to create. Then choose the correct equipment and go out with the intention of taking the picture you want. This is the first time I’ve actually decided to sit and wait for the right opportunity to come as opposed to aimlessly heading out with a camera, running around in the wilderness and hoping by chance I’ll get a good picture.
2. Set up your camera before hand so that when that ephemeral moment comes, you don’t waste them crucial seconds playing with the settings.
3. Take practice shots. Before the bird arrived I practices taking shots of a hornet which was flying in a similar pattern to the hummingbird.
4. The problem concerning focusing… I still don’t know the answer. Ideas I will try out include, manual focus, focus lock and saving up for a new camera. Any suggestions please feel free to comment!

Camera Set up:
Camera: Panasonic Lumix G2
Lens: Lumix 45-200mm @ 97mm
Shutter: 1/1600 sec

Lets begin…

Like most people I’ve been taking photographs for many years, however over the last 2 or 3 this has started to become an obsession. Slowly but surely photography is becoming a key part of my life. Climbing trips and weekends away are no longer about the exercise and which climbing gear I should pack, but are now more focused on which lenses I should be bringing with me. Often I lag behind on the walk in to the crag because I’m busy searching for that perfect shot. Or my extremely patient girlfriend is wishing I would spend more time with my eye on her rather than stuck to the eyepiece of my camera.

I love looking at other people’s photographs for inspiration and often try to recreate them as a means to learn new techniques. I’ve decided to start this blog to document and share the lessons I learned for both myself and anyone who is interested. I intend this blog to be a journey of constant improvement and will use it as a tool to see myself improve as a photographer.