What Do You Want To Focus On?

This morning’s heavy rain has prevented any attempts at capturing the birds in my garden, but hasn’t stopped me getting out my camera. I found a little twig, fallen from my crab apple yesterday, and despite the cold and gloom, the lichen made me smile. Thriving there on that broken twig the lichen, happy in all the damp, it gave me a different perspective. Out there in the world, you can focus on the negatives, the pain and suffering, the cruelty and neglect, or you can look for the good, the colourful, the helpful and worthwhile. The photo of that is on my Earth And Hearth blog, which I set up to record developments in my new life and home some four years ago.

I set up my Nikon with a couple of extension tubes, added extra lighting and mounted my radio-remote shutter release. Then I spent some time bent over the little twig and my camera. Such beauty in something so small. Perfectly formed it goes about its business of reproducing quietly and without a fuss. We could learn a lot from lichen. It isn’t a plant or an animal. It’s not that simple. It’s a symbiotic relationship between an algae and a fungus, and sometimes a cyanbacteria. They live together in harmony, dependant on each other. They are different but get on perfectly well and help each other to thrive. How I wish humans could do that instead of trying to destroy each other!

My partner bought me flowers yesterday, and they brightened up my lounge and my heart. So I put one of those flowers in front of the macro. I turned it around and over, looking at it from all angles, looking for the beauty in the detail of that one small flower. Detail that not many people notice at all. Mostly people are too focussed on doing, going, judging. But not looking, seeing and appreciating. Maybe they should shift focus. Maybe they’d be happier if they saw more beauty and joy in the world if they stopped and examined what is around them in detail.

crysanthemum-colours

Chrysanthemum Colours And Form

crysanthemum-petals

Chrysanthemum petal backs

crysanthemum--petal-detail

Chrysanthemum Petal Detail

At Eden, I bought a little cactus. You can see its tiny spines and its protective hairs that keep it shaded from the sun. Yes, it has ‘bristles’, like some people, who no doubt feel the need for protection. But inside there is a soft core of liquid body as there is inside every human. Soft and vulnerable beneath the spiny protection. I chose to focus on the spiky prickly detail of this fascinating plant in one image, and the softer but protective hairs in the other. Where is your focus?

cactus-macro-hairs

Cactus Macro Focus On Hairy Protection

cactus-macro-spines

Cactus Macro. Focus on spines

Image

Macro Photography Magic

Macro photography is wonderful, mysterious and fascinating. I was the kid with a microscope, peeking into unknown worlds, many years ago. Now I can do it with a camera, macro lens and macro extensions. Today no gardening, we’re rained off. My partner brought me flowers yesterday, so out came the camera and macro kit.

I’m always looking for  a new, fresh way to present flowers. After all, they are probably the most photographed subject apart from people. People don’t look good in macro and won’t stay still, so I prefer to work with nature, and flowers in particular.

So, today’s shots have been fun to do. Light levels were not brilliant as it’s raining, so I used a white reflector behind the flowers, raised the blinds in the conservatory and adjusted the exposure a little once I got the shots into the computer. Much has been said about photography and computers, and fierce debates continue, but I’m all in favour of any tool or paintbox an artist can utilise. Minor adjustments to improve photos can only be a good thing, in my book, and allow more flexibility to the ‘artist’.

Anyway, here are the results of todays fun. I hope you like them!

macro photo white dahlia

white dahlia macro

Perfect petals macro

Perfect petals macro

macro petals

Macro petals photo

vision-in-white

vision in white gypsophilla

Magic Macro Moments-What’s in a Raindrop?

I’ve been playing again. I’m finding macro both fascintating and frustrating. Here’s what happens. I spot gorgeous raindrops on a plant. Then I rush outside, camera in hand. Set up the tripod, switch off image stabilisation, focus with all my concentration, camera on delay shutter release. The raindrop is in perfect focus. Then…whooosh. One tiny bit of breeze makes the leaf shudder and my shot useless. Try again! And again, and again. Then there’s the light, changing by the second, changing the reflections, the brightness of the shot, the sparkle appearing and disappearing. I think you need almost as much patience to take macro shots as you do to shoot wildlife. But the results are both as rewarding and fascinating as wildlife. A whole world in a raindrop! I’ve had a lot of people asking me about macro, and how to go about it. Here’s what I do.

The biggest problem, you’ll quickly realise with macro, is that you have a long lens, possibly with extension tubes, as I do. The minutest movement will be magnified, cause camera shake and blur the shot.

Use a good tripod making your camera as still and stable as possible.

If you have delayed shutter release on your camera, use it. It locks the mirror up before the shutter is released, thereby reducing any camera shake from the mirror movement.

If not, use a remote or wired cable to press the shutter, as this will also reduce any camera shake.

Spend time getting the focus as you want it. Increasing depth of field will enable more in the shot to be in focus, but increase shutter speed. Only you can decide how much time you can allow the shutter, given your lighting and weather conditions. If it is the slightest bit breezy you’ll need the highest shutter speed you can obtain, therefore the smallest depth of field. Be creative and position your main focus of interest well in the frame, allowing the blur of out of focus items to frame the shot. I sometimes underexposed slightly to allow a faster shutter speed. I can correct this under exposure in Photoshop, as I shoot in RAW.

After shot processing usually means a simple exposure adjustment, a little colour and contrast boosting and cropping to improve the framing if necessary.

Macro can be taken to different levels. In the first two shots I’ve used all my extension tubes on my Nikon D90 with a 70-300mm Tamron lens, but didn’t switch it to macro, just zoomed in as much as I could.

Macro water 1

Macro water 2

The next few are full-on maximum, with my current equipment, macro. All extension tubes, lens on full zoom and maximum macro, focussed as carefully as humanly possible. It’s another world in those raindrops! Oh, of course you can cheat. No rain? Get the watering can out and give that plant a sprinkle. This works really well on alchemilla mollis (ladies mantle), which naturally hold rainrops like jewels, due to the tiny hairs on its surface.

Marco water3

Macro water 4

Macro water 5

Macro water 6

Macro water 7

This last shot is full on macro, but I put the tripod a little further away as I liked the jewel like quality of the smaller water droplets.

Have fun with macro and investigate another world!

Macro Extension Tubes. A New World

I’ve been very busy for the past week. My elderly parents who live 130 miles away needed their garden sorting out. So I spent two days travelling there and back, slept in my camper for four nights and worked with my son on their garden, in the rain. I believe it looks great now, but I didn’t get to see the finished results as it was dark when we were finishing up. The sun only came out the day I was driving home. So I haven’t one single photo and I was so caught up with family there was no time to blog. We (my son Richard and I) fell into bed after midnight every night absolutely shattered! I’ve asked my sister to send me some pictures. I returned home to flowers from Valentines day that were still looking good and some fresh flowers from my partner to welcome me home. So today I had a less strenuous time doing some macro shots with my new extension tubes, and as I’ve had some practice with them this set seem to have come out pretty well. Alstromerias are stunning. I didn’t realise how stunning until I saw these shots, though!

Alstromeria macro1

Alstromeria macro2

alstro_macro2

alstromeria macro3

alstromeria macro4

It’s worth clicking into these shots and seeing them full size. Proof that extension tubes really can do the business.

snowdrop_macro1

Snowdrops were a little more tricky. As my lens is a zoom macro, I need a distance of about 2ft. To see up into the flower I would need to be led on my back on the floor or have the flower dangling from the ceiling. So I severed its head and used blu-tack to fix it to a background canvas just to get a close-up peek of the inside. Amazing detail!

snowdrop_macro2

I will get photos of my parents garden, but it will be May. So the early flowers will have gone and the later spring stars will be on the stage. I’ll post them when I get them. For now, happy early spring and sorry for neglecting my blog. My parents are thrilled that their garden is now tidy, the casualties of winter removed and the power washing of the walkways all done. They are now safe to go out there and are no longer in danger of slipping on the moss and sludge winter left behind.

Fantastic. I’ve got my wish! Extension tubes for my Nikon on the way.

Well, yesterday was brilliant. After  a ropy start to the year I found on Ebay the set of extension tubes for my Nikon I never thought I could afford. It took an hour of nail-biting tension to get them, but I won at a price I can afford in the last few minutes and I’m thrilled. From what I’ve read, with my macro zoom lens and these babies I’ll have more than 1:1 macro at my disposal. A whole new world is about to open up to me and I simply can’t wait!!! How exciting!

The mind boggles. Eyes, details of plants, details of spiders and webs, insects and butterflies, frost and even fruit, all macro style. Of course I’ll share some of the results for you once I’ve had a play with them. You never know, I might even get something good enough to put on zazzle products or my website.

Zazzle has kept me pretty busy, and I’ve added today some fire art products that should be online tomorrow. It’s fun designing and especially using images I never thought I would find a way to share with the world.

The fire art is something we can only do when we’re camping on plenty of land. six feet of Kevlar rope is dipped in paraffin and set alight. My partner then whirls it around while I do long exposures and we hope for the best. It’s entertained many people and I’m hoping the images will be popular. Let me know what you think. If you look carefully you can just see a human form in the middle of the fire. Click on the image to enlarge it.

One of our fire art photos

Macro Play For a Cold, Wet Day

experiment in macro 1

Well, I started thinking about those of you who can’t get out because of the snowdrifts, or don’t wish to go and freeze for the sake of a picture. I bought some pot pourri in a charity sale a few weeks ago that I’ve been displaying on my coffee table (smells gorgeous). And I’ve failed to get out today because the snow was too heavy and the sky too dark to get effective shots. Frustrating or what? So, I got my camera out, mounted it on my trusty tripod and put on my Tamron 300mm macro lens and started playing. I have a couple of small lamps fitted with daylight bulbs. I used one of them for these shots. I’m hoping my experiments will be useful to you, especially if you’re new to macro, your camera or just experimenting. I’m no technical genius. But I do know about looking, playing and learning from experimentation. So here goes. I’ve been wondering what these shapes would look like close up for a while and here was my chance to find out. It took several attempts to get the colour, depth of field and texture I wanted, but this shot (above) I’m really pleased with. Remember that your photos should please YOU. What you learn about your camera will be really useful when you take it out and want to get a good shot of, say, a mushroom close up, or a flower. It’s great practice.

For the techies, My camera was set at aperture f5.7, focal length 300mm, spot metering, no flash. I had the camera set to manual. Auto leaves no room for creativity, so ditch it and play! Otherwise you can’t control the results as the camera makes all your decisions for you.

I quickly moved on to more of the objects in my bowl. This next series of shots shows what happens if you play with your white balance settings. I’m looking for abstract images here, not accurate, real life rendering of the objects. In this next shot, the metering is set to pattern, flash auto, white balance auto, exposure auto. A dull, predictable result. It’s worth mentioning I’m looking for abstract, not perfect focus.

macro experiment 2

Now one with white balance set to cloudy weather. Note the huge difference in colour. If you were taking a life-like shot this would be unacceptable, but when you’re getting arty, what works is what works. I’m not sure this does, but it shows you what can be done.

macro experiment 3

And this next one, the white balance is set to tungsten.

macro experiment 4

In this last shot of the pine cone, I changed my approach completely and decided on a different angle, different focussing and different light balance. I’ve used the natural daylight setting, which is closest to the lighting I was using, so  rendering a more natural colour (the cone is dyed black and sprinkled with glitter). I was looking for the texture and pattern of the cone and more sharpness to define the edges. I think this one suceeds in my aims.

macro experiment 5

Satisfied,  I moved on to the next object.

macro experiment 6

I really liked the colours of this object as they were, so again the white balance is set to daylight. I’m not sure if the focus is as I’d like it, though, and may well have another go at this later. But the result is fairly pleasing, and I do like the diagonal flow of the pattern. It’s all about playing with what you’ve got. There are a lot more photos of these things, but I don’t want to bore you. So for this final shot I pulled back a bit and took a group shot of some of the contents of my bowl. Again, I’ll probably play some more before I decide I have my perfect shot. But I quite like this one.

macro experiment 7

Once I’d done all these, I got bored with the subject (that happens quite frequently to me) so I moved on to a skull my partner bought for me some time ago. It was from a company that finds road kill and natural death animals and cleans the skulls (so don’t worry, no cruelty involved). But that’s for my next blog and more about expermentation.

What have you got in your home you could get creative with? I’d love to know.

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