Heading home today from sunny Portugal to grey and wet N.I. LOL but looking forward to more photography like this one of Lough Neagh.
Heading home today from sunny Portugal to grey and wet N.I. LOL but looking forward to more photography like this one of Lough Neagh.
A favourite spot of mine and many other photographers. Always someone photographing it and lots of clubs and camera classes go there to learn landscapes.
Macro photography is one of the most popular forms of photography and with good reason. It is easily accessible, and it is a very broad genre of photography. Studio pros can enjoy taking macro shots of leaves, flowers, and sluggish insects, maintaining total control over lighting. Nature lovers can spend hours outside, searching for hidden treasures among flowers and leaves. Plus, in non-photogenic locations, like many people’s backyards, macro photography makes it possible to take great images of nature without travelling at all. In this article, I will provide some tips and ideas to help you take your macro photography to the next level.
Along with all the benefits of macro photography, there are some technical hurdles that you must cross. Physics comes into play in macro photography in ways that are not as relevant to other genres, which is the main reason why I wrote this guide — I hope to clear up the most intimidating aspects of macro photography for beginners, and perhaps suggest some tips for seasoned macro photographers along the way.
Macro photography has to do with the size that your subject is projected onto your camera’s sensor. If you have a one-inch subject, its projection at “life-size” would be one inch on the camera’s sensor. An object which fills one inch of the sensor will fill most of the resulting photo since the sensors in typical DSLRs are no more than 1.5 inches long.
When an object is projected at life-size onto the sensor, it is at “1:1 magnification”.
Working distance is the distance between your sensor and your subject at the closest possible focus distance of your lens. The longer the working distance, the easier it is to stay away from your subject and if that subject is skittish or dangerous, a large working distance is fairly useful. A working distance of ten inches means that, with a camera/lens combo of eight inches long, the front of your lens will be two inches from the subject at its closest focusing distance. The best macro lenses, as you might expect, have large working distances the working distance increases as the focal length of the lens increases. Also, as your working distance increases your magnification decreases. At 1:4 magnification, for example, you don’t need to be nearly as close to your subject as you would if you want to photograph it at 1:1 magnification. There are, of course, a lot of technical terms related to macro photography, but the most crucial are the concept of magnification. Once you understand the differences between, say, life-sized images and 1:4 images, you already know the most crucial macro-specific terminology that you’ll come across. Macro photography is extremely accessible, which is what makes it so popular among both beginners and professionals.
For most types of photography, your typical plane of focus will be somewhere between five feet and infinity. At this distance, an aperture of f/8 or f/11 typically will render the entire scene within the depth of field — some items may be a bit out of focus, but they still should be recognizable (discounting extreme telephoto shots, of course). The closer towards the lens that you focus, though, the smaller the depth of field becomes, even at the same aperture settings. The depth of field gradually becomes so tiny that it can be difficult to get your entire subject to appear in focus. In macro photography, especially, this can be a huge issue. It gets to the point that you won’t be able to have a fly’s head and feet appear sharp at the same time, even though they are just millimetres apart. The thin depth of field leads into another difficulty in macro photography: general lack of light. First, at close distances, your camera itself will usually block some light from reaching your subject. Also, an on-camera flash may not be at the proper angle to illuminate something that is just a couple inches from the lens. Further, to compensate for the magnified vibration inherent in macro photography, you will need to use a much faster shutter speed than usual. Add these issues to the fact that your aperture will be extremely small (so that you get a tolerable depth of field), and your photos quickly start to look like you left your lens cap on, even in the middle of the day. So, how do you fix this? There are a few ways, each with their own compromises.
You may choose to live with a minuscule depth of field for your macro photography — minuscule to the point that you won’t be able to get an entire ant head to appear sharp. Just open your lens’s aperture as wide as possible (or stop it down just a bit), and you’re set to take macro photos. The benefit to this approach is that you don’t have to worry about complex lighting setups or software fixes to make your macro photos look good. The downside is that it becomes nearly impossible to focus your lens hand-held at the closest magnifications since there is essentially no depth of field. This method works best if you are trying to take photos of subjects that are at least a few inches across, but it is almost impossible to use if you want photos at 1:1 or 1:2 magnification.
The next method (my personal favourite) is to stop down the aperture to a small value. By small, I mean between f/16 and f/32, with f/22 being a relative sweet spot. The upside to using such a small aperture is that it’s easier to focus (though still tough), and your depth of field becomes manageable. On the flip side, a flash becomes almost mandatory because you have lost so much light, and diffraction starts to come into play. Still, an f/22 shot with diffraction looks far sharper than an f/5.6 shot where none of your subjects is in focus.
Another method is focus stacking. It involves taking your photos at apertures where diffraction is less visible (usually f/8 or f/11) but the depth of field is minuscule. To counteract this tiny depth of field, you take several photos at different focus distances, and you combine the best parts of each photo in post-processing. For example, you can take one photo where a bug’s eyes are in focus, one where the wings are in focus, and a third where the back legs are in focus. Then, you can combine them all into a fully-focused bug photo. There are two upsides to this method: image quality is at its highest because diffraction does not rob sharpness, and depth of field can be extended artificially so that even relatively large bugs or plants can be completely in focus. The downsides are numerous, however: focus stacking is typically completely confined to studio and tripod work because the precision focus is required. Another downside is the time involved: for maximum quality, dozens of photos are often combined into one picture, meaning it may take hours of photography and processing to create the final result. You also need specific software to combine focus-stacked images (such as Photoshop or Helicon Focus). The biggest issue, though, is that your subjects need to be completely still. It is possible to find bugs that aren’t moving, but it isn’t always easy. This method works best for plants, or bugs that are sleeping (try the early morning). This is also a fairly costly option because you’ll need a decent amount of dedicated equipment. A solid tripod, a tripod head, a macro focusing rail, and special software are all requirements for the most dedicated focus stackers. Ultimately, one of the most difficult parts of macro photography is trying to get a large enough depth of field to cover your subject. Many macro photographers use a combination of the above methods — I tend to use a flash and a small aperture, but I also use a wide aperture quite a bit for larger subjects (dragonflies and lizards, for example). I have, a few times, used focus stacking, but not as often as the other two methods. As your skill grows, you’ll begin to see which scenarios demand each of these methods, and you’ll be able to set your camera appropriately.
In high-magnification macro photography, the amount of your subject that is in focus won’t be more than a couple of millimetres, even at f/32. It can be tough to place the focus accurately on a bug, considering that your pulse alone probably makes your hands jump more than a couple of millimetres. You will want to take your photos in between breaths and heartbeats, or else you won’t get anything in focus. At this distance, too, the autofocus system in even the newest DSLRs cannot keep up with your hand movements. Trying to use any of the autofocus modes is an exercise in frustration, since (especially at 1:1 magnification) it is truly impossible for the camera to lock onto a subject. All is not lost, though. It is still possible to get sharp macro photos at 1:1 magnification, even handheld. If you’re working with the camera on a tripod, you don’t need to use any of the following information — instead, you can use autofocus or live-view manual focus without any issues.
You will almost certainly be focusing manually at 1:1 macro distances, since the autofocus system in any camera cannot work fast enough to counteract your hand movements. However, this may not mean what you think it does. Many photographers try to use manual focus incorrectly for macro photos; they attempt to hold the camera as steadily as possible and turn the focus ring left or right to focus, taking the photo when the viewfinder image looks sharp. Although this is the best way to focus manually for non-macro photos, it will never work for handheld macro photography — your hand movements from focusing will make the frame even shakier, and it will become impossible to change focus quickly. The best way to work handheld is to set your macro lens at a certain focus distance, usually around 1:1, and then to leave the focus ring at that position. To focus, slowly rock the camera forwards and backwards on a stick or monopod, millimetres at a time, while looking through the viewfinder. When the viewfinder image is sharp, take the photo. Simple as that! Although this method is not perfect, it gives me about a 50% keeper rate for 1:1 photos of fly-sized bugs. This may seem low, but it is very difficult to do better without a tripod. With practice, you should be able to improve your keeper rate even further (and you don’t need a monopod or stick — it just helps).
If you aren’t trying to magnify your subject as much as possible, autofocus is generally more accurate for macro photography. If your subject is more than four or five inches long, you start to lose the benefits of manual focus. I recommend AF-C / Continuous mode (AI-Servo for Canon users) because tiny hand movements will still throw your subject in and out of focus at these magnifications, which wouldn’t be clearly visible in the viewfinder.
When you are hand-holding the camera for macro photos, especially at 1:1 or 1:2, the depth of field will rarely be large enough for the whole bug to be completely in focus, even at f/22 or f/32. To counteract the tiny depth of field, you can try to place the bug parallel against the plane of focus. In the photo below (not a 1:1 macro, but the point stands), the damselfly is almost entirely in focus, despite the tiny depth of field. In other photos, you will need to choose which part of the bug “deserves” to be in focus. Although it varies depending on what I’m trying to emphasize in the photo, I usually focus on a bug’s eyes, since they tend to be the most important part of the image. However, for certain subjects, I care more about the wing pattern than about the eyes — ladybugs, for example, fall into this category.
Obviously, even in macro photography, the basics of a pleasing composition are no different than usual. It is still important to balance the compositional weight of your frame, for example, and you have to exclude extraneous details from your frame just as you would in other genres of photography. However, being macro photography, there are some aspects of composition which stand out more than they otherwise would.
One of the main tips for composition in macro photography is to be aware of the background. Since the background will be far out of focus, it is important to know how to make it look how you want. From a low angle, for example, you could get an out-of-focus blue sky in your photo. From a different angle, your background could turn the colour of autumn leaves. Green grass complements many subjects, as well. If you bring friends on your macro expeditions, you can even consider asking them to hold something that would make a good background. Be creative! When you know your different options, experimentation can show you the best way to make your subject stand out (or blend in) against the background. The photo below is attention-grabbing because of the contrast of the bright orange dragonfly against the cooler, green background. Also, something interesting can happen with the background in macro photography as you focus closer to your subject. If you use a flash to illuminate a scene at 1:1 or 1:2 magnification, you may find that the background of the image turns dark, if not completely black. This happens because of a property of light: as your distance from a light source doubles, the amount of light you receive cuts in four. For example, a flower five feet from a lamp gets four times the light that it would ten feet from a lamp. In macro photography, your “lamp” is your flash, and it will probably be about two or three inches from your subject. See where this gets interesting? If your background is a couple feet from your subject, it will be essentially black. A flash is much brighter than daylight, and even the mid-day sun may not be strong enough to brighten the background. It is important to know how certain colours can work to balance each other out, in terms of composition. Reds and oranges stand out and draw the eye’s attention, whereas blue-green colours will naturally fade into the background. It is also worth mentioning that the more attention-grabbing colours do not need to take up much of the photo to be effective. In the ladybug picture at the very top of this article, for example, I knew that I didn’t need to focus super close to the ladybug — if I had, the vivid red would have overpowered the soft, aqua-coloured background.
Another tip to remember for macro photography is that the angle of the camera can throw things in and out of focus. According to basic geometry, any three points in space can be connected by one plane, no matter where those points are. The practicality of this law in photography is that at least three items, even if they are at different distances from the camera at first, can always be brought into the same plane of focus in a photo. Now, if the three objects are, say, the head of a crab and its two front claws, this is easy to put into practice — all that you need to do is move around the camera until the three objects are within the same plane of focus.
Lastly, with macro photography, colours are extremely pronounced. Shooting in your camera’s RAW format is always important, but it is especially crucial to make the most of macro photography’s colour detail. A major reason for such vivid colours is the small amount of air between the lens and the subject. The moment that light waves hit anything, even air molecules, the rays start to scatter. The more air between you and your subject, the more that the subject’s light is scattered into the atmosphere. This is why distant objects look so hazy. In macro photography, you’re minimizing this distance significantly, which means that your colours and contrast are going to be more pronounced. This effect isn’t immediately obvious, but as you look closer at your macro photos, you’ll probably realize that they are more vivid directly out of the camera. The foggier that the atmosphere becomes, the punchier that macro photos look in comparison to distant scenes. Also, as you focus closer to something, your lens will be able to pick up tiny colour detail that normally is not visible. For example, each compound eye on a fly is a slightly different colour. We see their eyes as red because that’s the colour they average towards, but a macro lens will see much more. Because of this detail, colours in macro photography generally will look more pronounced.
Bugs are skittish. Dragonflies, for example, tend to scatter when anything enters their field of view, and smaller bugs tend to fly whenever they feel like it. Approaching a restless bug is as much about luck as it is science. Still, there are some techniques that you can put into place. These techniques vary depending upon the bug that you photograph. For dragonflies (and damselflies), it is best to move slowly. Dragonflies instinctively fly when anything moves directly towards them or directly away from them, sometimes even if that movement is slow. My guess is that this behaviour occurs because dragonflies associate backwards movement with the instant right before a predator pounces. However, side-to-side motion does not affect a dragonfly much at all, especially if you sway like a tree would. To approach a dragonfly successfully, try taking a small step forward, rocking (slowly) side-to-side for several seconds, then taking another step forward. If you wait ten or fifteen seconds between steps, a dragonfly will generally forget that you exist. Using this technique has allowed me to get within an inch of a dragonfly, leading to great photographic opportunities. Bees, on the other hand, do not get scared easily. They are always very focused on their task, and they’ll only leave a flower after they’ve gotten the pollen they need. Don’t make crazy movements, of course, but you don’t need to be obsessively slow and quiet. The hardest part about photographing bees is they are rarely still. To get a good bee photo, it is easiest to pre-focus on one point on a flower, then wait for a nearby bee to crawl over that area. It may take some time, depending on the willingness of your subject, but it can be a helpful technique if the bee is moving too fast to follow by any other method. Flies are a bit more skittish, but still easy enough to photograph. The best part about flies is that they typically do not react to slow movement in any way. They are easy to approach without scaring them away — just be sure to avoid sudden movements, and change your camera settings slowly. The annoying thing about photographing flies is that they don’t like to stick in any one place for long. So, approach flies quickly, but be slow and deliberate about it. Easy enough? With non-flying bugs, you clearly wouldn’t need to worry about scaring them away. Ladybugs, grasshoppers, and some ants, for example, can fly, but they typically do not. At the very least, they aren’t really scared by photographers (with grasshoppers being the most skittish of the bunch). The issue is that these bugs tend to walk very quickly, making it tough to focus on them properly. Butterflies are very sensitive if you move close to them, but they are very easy to stand back and photograph. Luckily, since they are so large, you don’t need to get too close to them in the first place. Spiders are a photographer’s best friend. Most of them hardly move at all, and they are large enough that they are easy to get in focus. Spider webs can look great in photos, but some webs are just distracting. Try photographing jumping spiders, since they rarely move, and they look “more cute” up close than most spiders. Not to mention, they are generally harmless (they rarely bite, and it isn’t typically worse than a mosquito bite if they do). For tiny bugs, your best hope is to avoid getting your shadow over them. This is a good tip for approaching most bugs, but tiny insects, in particular, tend to ignore you if you don’t get between them and the sun. These bugs are the only ones which seem affected by the flash from a camera — not all small bugs, of course, but some will jump every time that you fire your flash.
Hopefully, these tips have given you some ideas of how to improve your macro photos. The technical aspects of macro photography are certainly important, but, as with most genres of photography, the practical considerations of composition and finding subjects are far more relevant to creating great photos. And, with macro photography, these subjects may be no further than your backyard. If you can brave some dirt and mosquitoes, you’ll be able to find hidden treasures almost anywhere.
Made this today absolutely gorgeous and easy to make.
Ingredients; to serve 2
2cm piece of ginger
2 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of spring onions or 1 medium onion
2 fresh red chillies
20g cashew nuts
1 kaffir lime leaves
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 ripe mango
2 x 200g skinless free-range chicken breasts
150g chestnut mushrooms
150g fine green beans
1 x can of coconut milk
1 Tbl spoons Olive Oil
250g basmati rice
1 stick of lemongrass
Drain the rice and serve with the curry, with a sprinkle of lemongrass and chilli, to your taste, and with lime wedges on the side, for squeezing over.
These 10 tips can help you improve your Landscape Photography:
Research and research again. Choose an area of interest either when in the locality or if you intend to make a special trip, do your research first. Find the location on google maps and google satellite, see how it looks, what’s nearby and so on. Search online for photos from other photographers who have been there, magazine articles, guide books, Photobooks or even tourist postcards.
For a landscape photographer, a tripod is a most important tool because, although the scene won’t move, you will need time to set up and prepare your shot. What a tripod will do is make your camera firm and steady making movement either zero or minimal. Therefore unintended blur will not be present in your photo, but although, as I have said the scene won’t move, elements within it can move. This could be water, leaves, grass or clouds etc. this is where intentional blur becomes a factor. Having a tripod will allow for motion to blur in a way that the photographer can use to enhance the final shot.
Composition basically mean how the elements mix in your frame and form into a perfect combination for your shot. When it comes to landscape photography, you should look for a great place to set up your camera. You can consider the angle, position, and elements in your proposed shot. Imagine this, you’re on a mountain you can see a forest, a lake other mountains and the sky. Create a composition by putting the lake and forest in the foreground, the other mountains in the middle ground, and the sky in the background. These are the basics of a good composition.
If you using DSLR or any camera that capable of manual mode, then you should use manual mode because in it you can fully control your camera’s settings. If you use auto mode, the camera’s internal computer will make decisions for you and you may end up with over or under exposed parts in the final photograph. What usually happens is you can see a beautiful, colourful sky, but the foreground is completely black. The reason, when using auto focus, your camera will calculate the light from brightest part of the scene and then reduce the light received by the camera to make the sky correctly exposed but the land is under exposed. The best way to fix this is to use a neutral density graduated filter in manual mode and adjust the settings yourself. More below on graduated filters.
The time of day when you take a landscape photograph is also very important. It’s because the light will look different at different times of the day. When it comes to landscape photography usually the morning or evening at sunrise or sunset are the best for light. Take note that different places have different sunrise and sunset times. These can be found by referring to internet weather forecast sites. That way you will know the best time to arrive and be sure to allow an hour to set up. Don’t be in a hurry to leave too early at sunset either because in the half hour after the sun sets the colours can be amazing.
Most DSLRs give the option of shooting in CAMERA RAW. So what is it and why should you use it? Camera Raw is an answer to the limitations of the JPG file format, the original file type developed specifically for digital photography by the Joint Photographic Experts Group. When shooting in JPG, a combination of you and your camera make decisions about the kind of image captured and stored as a digital file. When shooting in JPG, these decisions are processed and rendered, and then defined in the limited number of colours of a Red Green Blue (RGB) colour space. While it may seem like it means that it is a simpler way to capture an image file format, you would be wrong. RGB, the most common format for digital JPG photography, is more limited than the full spectrum of colours your eye can see. RAW files literally capture a larger range of colour, with minimal in-camera processing, allowing photographers to change the image as they see fit later, rather than as the camera sees fit. Therefore Camera RAW allows for more and better post processing of a Landscape Photo in an image editor such as Photoshop.
Landscapes are normally wide angle shots to capture as much of the scene as possible. There is nothing more satisfying for a landscape photographer than capturing an image that displays the grandeur and beauty of nature. That’s why behind every good landscape photographer is a good wide-angle lens. No other photographic tool is so important in capturing and conveying the grandeur of a scene. So why wide angle and what do the numbers in mm and the f numbers tell you about the lens and which one to choose. Generally speaking, wide-angle lenses are those that have a focal length of wider than around 35mm — though that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, as perspective has some bearing on what is wide enough for your subject. Shoot a forest from a few yards away, and you might want a 14mm lens to cover everything. Shoot that same forest from a few miles away, and a 50mm might do the trick. The f number refers to the aperture which is the hole in the shutter through which the light travels. The bigger the hole the more light can go through it. Now the confusion the smaller f number the larger the hole, therefore, f1.4 is larger than f8. So which to use? f1.4 allows more light in therefore speed increases but Depth of Field (DOF) reduces f8 is smaller, therefore, less light and slower speed but inversely DOF increases. So what does this all mean? DOF controls the sharpness over distance therefore short DOF gives a much tighter area of sharpness and again inversely long DOF and the sharpness can be over a longer distance. It all depends on what you the photographers want in your images. Short DOF and the foreground or background can be blurred while a long DOF and the image is sharper front to back. For landscape photography, it’s a matter of choice that you must make. This is a simplified explanation so check out a few how to websites or videos to get the full picture.
Correct Exposure is critical for all photography. In photography, exposure is the unit of measurement for the total amount of light permitted to reach the electronic sensor during the process of taking a photograph. The three main controls your digital camera uses to control exposure are the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. If you would like to learn more about your DSLR, click here. As explained above in Tip 4 in order to balance the exposure between lights and darks an ND graduated filter is the best choice. Briefly, a Neutral Density (ND) Graduated Filter is used to darken a background that’s significantly lighter than the foreground. Since so many scenes in nature contain a greater range of light than our cameras can record, graduated ND filters are a staple in the landscape photographer’s bag. They act like sunglasses and are darker at the top gradually becoming clear towards the bottom. Therefore the sky is darkened and the land is lightened you can then set the overall exposure correctly.
No matter how steady you can hold a camera the simple act of pressing the shutter release can cause what is known as camera shake. The best way to avoid camera shake is to use a tripod and remotely activate the shutter by the timer or a shutter release, in this way you are not in contact with the camera and shake is eliminated.
Photo editing software comes in many prices and ease of usage. Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom are almost the standards, they are not cheap but will suit most post processing situations. Free or very cheap editors are available but are usually difficult to use or lacking in the ability to achieve good results easily. Post processing is a very debatable subject which I can’t go into here but once you take your image it will invariably contain flaws, post processing can remove these flaws and while some people overuse software to correct their images it is always better to eliminate flaws at the time the shutter is released instead of later. Post processing can correct the inevitable “photo-bomb” like an unnoticed person in the distance crossing a perfectly natural landscape. It can also straighten a slanted horizon or correct badly exposed corners of the shot. In every occasion, time-consuming corrections are better avoided rather relying on post processing software. This is best cured by developing a good eye for detail, like seeing the electricity cable crossing the sky, the photo bomber approaching, a satellite dish showing behind a medieval building and moving the frame to avoid them. Learn photo editing with Photoshop.
Finally, I highly recommend using presets to very quickly enhance an otherwise bland Landscape. Presets are ready-made editing tools that can be used on any photograph, to learn more about presets click here.
Most Irish people refer to Ireland as home no matter if they left 1 year, 10 years, or 50 years ago they will always say “I’m going home” for Christmas, the holidays or to see the family. I left 10 years ago and I too refer to Ireland as “Home” but in reality, my home is now Portugal. I own my home here and I intend to stay here and travel back and forth to Ireland during the years. I have just retired from my job in Portugal and this will give me the flexibility to travel not only between Ireland and Portugal but to as many other places around the world as much as my pension will allow.
My passions are photography and cooking I will, therefore, explore both in this blog and from it and the help of any followers I can attract, I intend to create a Photobook. I will publish pictures of Portugal and Northern Ireland as I take them and from my collection. I hope these will inspire my readers to visit and become enthused by the scenery, culture and people in these countries and from follower’s comments create my Photobook. I will also be publishing photos from the histories of both countries which to my surprise have had many similarities.
My second passion is cooking and I hope to discover and publish recipes from both cultures by trying to find the traditional rather than the “Novo Cuisine” found in most recent cookbooks.
So I begin this Blog with no experience of blogging but a determination to learn and the desire to be successful. I have had years of technical experience at work and in my spare time learning and using the software on computers but this is my first attempt at blogging, therefore, I must first learn the WordPress system. So off I go…………..