Straight Down (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

I don’t believe these photos break any rules. But often when I see dragonflies on the ground the background or other things makes the photo unworkable. Here I was able to crop into a nice composition that works in colour and B&W. Lightroom’s latest version has a much improved auto function in the basics tab and rather than over brightening things it gets most settings bang on, a bit too much clarity and saturation but that is easily fixed. The increasing sophistication of the software trending toward the one button fixes everything is something worth watching. For those who hate editing this may be a solution and for those who like editing this may create a better starting point for creative touches.

A Milkweed Beetle and a Note on the Rule of Thirds (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

People who have read my blog for while will know I do not consider the rule of thirds anywhere near a law, though it is helpful. For those unfamiliar with the rule here is a link (Rule of Thirds). Recently I read about a couple who returned their wedding photos with a number of complaints including the lack of the use of this rule. So why don’t I think its law or even a rule? Because composition is part of the art of photography, if one rule of composition fit all it would not be an art. Why is it useful?Because it makeIs you think about composition. There are many other general ideas for composition you can read about, negative space, the golden spiral etc. It’s the word rulethat misleads. It’s your composition that should lead the audience‘s eye to your subject and if the rule helps thats great. One of the photos of the beetle in this post follows the rule the other does not.

Milkweed Bug and Aperture (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

As you get closer to a subject like this milkweed bug, the depth of field shrinks for any given aperture. At F 11 I would expect to get a farmhouse a mile away in focus from front to back. This milkweed bug was taken at F11 and as you can see it’s not all in focus. Had I used F 16, slightly more would be in focus but due to a phenomenon called diffraction I would get a soft result (a complicated explanation and calculator for when it is most likely to happen can be found at My rule of thumb is max out my F stop at F14 and rarely go to F 16. You will also see here what is called selective focus, our subject is mostly in focus and not much else. More importantly you should be aware that the size of the camera sensor affects depth of field (multiply the Fstop by the crop factor e.g. a Nikon DX  crop factoris 1.5.) So on a full frame camera like the Nikon D800 thephotos here would have less depth of field at the same aperture. Macro and close up photography benefit from smaller sensor cameras.

Macro: Lady Bugs and The Perfidies of Aperture

To view more of my photography please click on

The two photographs show different kinds of lady bugs, in the shot of two insects the one on the right is a young lady bug (an “instar” e.g. an earlier stage of growth). There is a world to learn about when it comes to entomology. You can join  to help with identification and if you send them your photos of insects you cannot identify, the entomologists will help. There are some other great guides to insects.Arthur V. Evans, Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America was my first guide and still a wonderful help.

Macro: There are two things in short supply in close-up and macro photography, depth of field and light. The closer we get to something, the narrower the depth of field at any given F stop and the less light reflected off our subject. If you get close enough into the true 1:1 macro range, depth of field becomes wafer thin even at F 16. If extreme macro photography is your thing then I suggest this site:

If we stand a little further back  and are prepared to crop images like many if not most pros do, then we can avoid extreme solutions. Some say its best to shoot insects side on, that is supposed to get you maximum depth of field but is not the most practical solution. Moving back and cropping in post production is, the use of extension tubes is (see yesterday’s post). The point is to be prepared for the lack of depth of field. Using F stops above F 14 can lead to some softness (diffraction of which more in another post). There is a lot of science behind the comments here but I will spare you. Next I will propose solutions for the lighting problem.

In an earlier post I mentioned that aperture should be multiplied by the crop factor, and that as a result crop factor cameras give some advantage in macro photography. Mike Simms commented on this issue: “but the speed/light gathering properties of the aperture remain the same. In other words if your settings on a full-frame camera were say F2.8 at 1/2000sec at ISO 100, that does not mean that the exposure would become an F5.6 at 1/1000thsec at ISO 100 on an M43 sensor with its x2 crop factor. On the M43 your exposure settings would be identical to the full frame camera, only the depth of field would act like F5.6.”

Macro: Getting Closer (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

There are times when we need to be closer to our subject, yet have enough working space between ourselves and the subject (how close to the bee do you want to get). There are a number of different means to do this.

You could use a telephoto lens as was done in the photos in this post (but the usefulness of the technique depends on the size of what you want to capture up close and the megapixels at which your camera shoots).

You can turn your lens around and attach it to your camera backwards; you lose any auto controls over the lens, and you need a special adapter. This works surprisingly well and many people like the reverse lens technique. For one thing it’s cheap.

Thirdly, a slightly more expensive route is to use close up filters. Most of these tend not to give good quality results. There are exceptions, Canon makes a good filter, and Raynox filters do an even better job. The drawback with filters is that you lose some of the focusing flexibility you get with more expensive solutions (you tend to get stuck at a single distance from any subject).

The best solution would be a macro lens. This can be expensive. I would go for quality not cost, at least one of the better made macro lenses (Nikon’s latest 105mm) focuses too fast, not giving you time to set up other parameters before it starts focusing elsewhere. Older lenses may have benefits in this regard. The most used length of lens is the 105mm, though 100mm will do just fine. Just make sure the lens will actually do macro, e.g. go to 1:1 or closer. Even if we may never get that close it speaks to good optical elements. The lens should also permit an aperture of F16 if not F22. The subject of my next post is extension tubes and working distance.

Macro – Damselflies – Detail and Post Processing (Part Two) -Two Photographs

To view more of my photography please click on

The mating damselflies illustrate some things that happen when shooting insects close-up. Their eyes are liquid filled and hard to focus on, regardless of the lighting you can get specular highlights. In the case of the mating damselflies, the rainbow colours up the spine of one of the damselflies is light reflected off of dust and pollen. Lastly, and this gets to detail on the same photo, the small orange dot is a parasite, and is hard to see with the naked eye.

Macro and close up post processing: when we push our sensors to high ISOs, depending on the camera we often get noise. This is a result of the sensor trying to pull as much detail as it can from the light it is receiving. Noise makes the picture look muddy and hence less sharp and detail is lost. Noise reduction software if not carefully used can get rid of noise at the expense of detail. This is one reason there are popular third-party plug-in software packages to address noise, most of them make getting this balance easier.

Macro: Some Butterflies and More on Getting Good Detail: Shutter Speed

To view more of my photography please click on

In my post on stability I give a link to an article on properly holding a camera. Photography Life is one of the better photography sites on the web. In that article there was mention of the “rule of reciprocity”. Like all rules there are exceptions and they may be important to know. The rule states that the shutter speed should be the reciprocal of the length of the lens (e.g. 500mm means you should at a minimum shoot at 1/500th of second). Great starting point, but for birds in flight you might want something higher. More importantly, the size of the sensor has an impact, a cropped sensor will need to multiply the crop factor by the length of the lens. For example, a Nikon 7200 has a sensor with a crop factor of 1.5 (this is known as an APC sensor). If you have a full frame camera you need not worry. And there are more exceptions you might want to consider. Blur for artistic reasons is one. Using lenses or cameras with stabilization features probably permit lower shutter speeds. When shooting close up there may be even more need for stability, especially if your subject is very small or moving fast and we have to move with the subject. Shutter speed is not always the solution, just as tripods are not always the solution.  Artificial light (Flash) can stop motion, (more about Flash in a later post).