That Walk (Three Photographs)

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My wife and I took a long walk along the river looking for birds, without any luck. I thought I would do some landscapes and decided to bracket them for possible HDR treatment. I selected this tree and for one reason or another HDR, combining the five shots, did not work. The first photograph is the middle shot of the bracket, with no exposure compensation and very little editing. The second photo is the same shot but this time the white balance has been corrected. The third photo, the B&W is based on the white balance adjusted photo. I would have led with the second or third, but I wanted to show the impact of white balance on this kind of photo. The effect is most pronounced on the path and hedge close to the path. 

Wide Angle Lenses (Three Photographs)

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Once I figured them out, wide-angle lenses became a favorite of mine. At first it was the telephoto lenses that got me going, it was easy to cut a piece out of the world around me and make a photograph plus I had no worries about odd distortions. Wide-angles lenses, from 35mm down need special attention to some details. The horizon will bend if it’s not in the center of the lens for example, and you need to be more aware of what is on the edges of the frame. Kit lenses in the 18-55mm range at 18mm are fun to use. Wide-angle lenses tend to focus much closer than telephoto lenses so you can get right up to your subject. I was on a walk and one of the participants was talking about how he wanted a macro lens, I noticed he had a wide-angle prime, so I asked to see it and sure enough I could get within a few inches of a subject and get a sharp close-up image. The photographs here were taken with the 10.5mm Nikon DX lens, almost a fish eye lens. It’s the kind of lens where you need to watch that your feet do not find their way into the frame, but a lens that transforms what you see. It’s not a lens people use much, which is why I have often seen it for sale, second–hand, I bought mine second-hand. These are old photographs never published before.

Lilies in Black and White (Four Photographs)

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In processing these photos is was clear to me that B&W brought out some nice detail in the flowers (quite apart from the composition of the photographs or their backgrounds). The more photos I take, the more I see where I have captured a unique moment in time, an element that is an integral part of the subject. Not every photo does, but I think that over time your taste evolves and you get to know what you do best and like doing. Just a thought on the way forward in my photography.




Focus (Two Photographs)

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Focus can mean many things in photography, and not just about what is in focus but also the focus of the photograph. If we take a scene with a lot of things going on, the context has to help us focus on the subject. If there is no focus, the impact of the whole had better be very dramatic. Example one: someone says there is a penguin in the photo but you have to squint to see it. Example two: someone says they followed the rule of thirds and the subject is that bird to the right. I for one do not want to leave people wondering what my photograph is about. In one of the photos in this post there is a clear subject. In the other photo the whole picture either has meaning and impact or it falls short. In other words you don’t necessarily want to count on your audience to guess your subject.


The Lichenologist


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I was on a nature walk at a local school board maintained nature site, when I met a Lichenologist. As we walked and talked my first and only hurdle was my mispronunciation of lichen. Clearly not a good start especially as I kept making the same mistake.

We did discuss more interesting subjects, the what, why and where of lichens and more specifically the photography thereof. I had seen some incredible microscopic pictures of lichen at a local museum that looked like modern art, it turned out that these were photographed for a book he authored.

The Lichenologist, had a little jewelry magnifier with a battery-powered light. At 10x magnification he showed me how the most common of lichen were extremely beautiful (texture, form, color, shadow and an infinite variety of shapes). It makes you think what else we miss when we walk around.

A few months later he held a seminar on lichen where the participants used microscopes and books of “keys” to identify types of local lichen. This was fun and very interesting and shortly afterwards I went to have a look at what microphotography might involve.

I doubt that I will be doing much microphotography, the complications and costs of getting down to magnifications below 5X, at the moment defeat me. But here’s the key point. I met an interesting man, who taught me something, and I now have another photographic challenge on my shelf that I know is doable just not quite yet.

P.S. Based on one of the comments I received the photograph above is apparently of moss, which hows you how much I have to learn!

Specialization and opportunism


Last summer I had some fun with taking macro shots of insects.  I sat in on a session with an entomologist and a professional photographer who has done a few books of insect photographs. Here on WordPress I followed a few people who take macro shots and entomologists who study and take photographs (such as,  and ) but there are many, many others that focus on photographs of insects and spiders.

I found myself taking pictures of things I could not identify and discovered  where entomologists professional and amateur review your photographs and help you identify the subjects. I read up on optics and formulas on Entomologists, mostly want lateral or top down shots (the better to identify animals). In my case I prefer portraits and to see the critters in context.

So I set my standards high in an area of photography where the challenges of narrow depth of field, lack of light, and need for a speedy shutter is important. My rules today are animals in context, not behind fences or in cages, at feeders, glued, pinned to a board or fast frozen. What this has meant is several days of effort on a single series of photographs, sometimes weeks (see my galleries on Ambush Bugs or Grasshoppers at ). The variables that made it time-consuming were not just my ignorance in macro photography, but wind/rain, accessibility and a need for patience often in uncomfortable positions.

You have to find the little guys and most books and experts are far from clear on their habits etc. Once you find them, you need to think of their size versus your ability to get close and magnify; your ability to steady your gear and get light on subject. Then there is the skittishness of the bug involved. Think of Gulliver hanging over you with a menacing claw, and flashing light.

You need to know your subject, your gear and the circumstances in which you are going to work. There are lots of photographers who are entirely opportunistic and do a great job taking spectacular photographs even of bugs. There can be equal pleasure in taking the time to tell a story, providing more than one viewpoint, learning a new skill, and to do one series of photos well. Having been primarily an opportunistic photographer, I am now trying to build series (not just macro photographs), to stretch myself. I think it has been worthwhile and rewarding. Of course the penalty is never having the right equipment with you for all the things you might want to shoot.