Macro: Not Urbex (Three Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

Urbex photography is photography of the insides of abandoned building and factories, and while these are abandoned buildings, they don’t meet the definition of urbex. Some things that are key to macro/close-up photography apply to all photography. Getting detail in photographs is one of those things. We get detail with a steady camera, appropriate shutter-speed (or artificial light) and sharpening in post-processing. While books have been written on at least two of theses subjects, there are some simple basics I will cover in upcoming posts.

The Good the Bad and the Ugly (Three Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

On a road trip out-of-town we ran across these old buildings that reminded me of an old movie set. I wanted that old western style of photo. Gives a bit of character to the abandoned. The buildings are on a hill you pass just as you enter the town of Renfrew, Ontario. Given the location one would think something could be made of this location and buildings. They do have some character.


Shadow Doodles (Two Photographs)

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In my posts I have spoken a lot about shapes and form, reflections and shadows. These photographs probably illustrate those concepts better than any thing I could say or write. I thinks its better expressed in the monochrome because the subject is much clearer. In my view it’s art, almost abstract, but a clear result of the right light at the right time of day.

Spreadwing Damselfly (Three Photographs)

  To view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

This is a rare type of damselfly in my area and when I see them they are seldom within range of my 105mm (with an extension tube). A lovely and cooperative insect that returned to the same spot after a brief flight. The wonders of macro photography limited what I could get in focus. One of the drawbacks of using extension tubes is that you cannot focus at infinity; you have a narrow range of focus, added to the narrow depth of field. Taken at F11 (full-frame conversion F16.5) but at the outside range of my focus, unfortunately I lost some focus on the tail.

Polarizing Filter (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

Polarizing filters are very effective for darkening skies, removing haze and for better photography of subjects underwater through the water. For a very long time it was said one could not duplicate the polarizing effect in software. You can see in the two photographs the difference a polarizer makes (mostly in being able to see the bottom of the lake). The first photograph is with the polarizer, the second without. The subject is a snapping turtle prowling under water. The software I used for this is Macphuns’ Luminar, which is a full editor. Once it includes cataloguing it will be a rival to Lightroom (for Mac only). It has a lot of interesting filters. I’m not getting rid of my polarizer, but if I forget it at home or don’t have the opportunity to put one on, well I can fall back on Luminar.


Mushrooms (Two Photographs)

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I have not taken many photographs of mushrooms and have no idea what these are. I took them with my Fuji when I was experimenting with the light meter and the flexibility of the raw files in processing. It takes time to get used to a new camera, especially the light meter. Even working with different Nikon cameras I find it takes a bit of time to get used to how they handle exposure.


Standing Egrets (Three Photographs)

standining-heronsTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

When birds like these choose to stand like statues, it’s time to focus on the surroundings and context. Birds, even rare birds, doing nothing in boring surroundings could do with a good background. This is one reason why cropping is important, to get the best background. A second reason to crop is that the bird may be too far away for people to get a decent idea of detail. A distant subject, in my view, only works when the bird is an element of a larger composition.



Hide and Seek (Three Photographs)

hide-and-seekTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

Cardinals can be elusive especially the females. The males sometimes hang around, and play a sort of hide and seek. They move back into the bushes but keep a wary eye. This was an extreme example of hide and seek and I was very pleased he chose to frame himself in the leaves.



Some Night Scenes (Four Photographs)

night-scenesTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

All of these were taken with the Fuji X-T2 23mm F2 lens at ISO 1280. While these are noisy photos, I do not think that makes much of a difference. All but one is in B&W (the mural with the dog). I have not done night photography in a very long time and wanted to see what was possible working with available light. Now I am looking forward to doing more!




Great Blue Heron In Flight (Seven Photographs)


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The B&W, and its color counterpart below, with the complete shadow cast on the water are my favorites in this series. I said at the beginning of this year I would do more birds in flight, and I have achieved that goal in this and other series, some posted, some to come. Once you get the hang of swiveling with your hips, understanding the focusing settings in camera, there is still practice to get it all working and working well. Some birds give you warning they are about to fly off, but not all. At the park where I shoot I often go down a path, to a break in the foliage looking out over the lake. The opening is well hidden and while you have a clear view to the front, the sides are obscured by bush. One day, just as I arrived at this spot a Great Blue Heron banked a few feet in front of my face, I expect it had intended to land where I was standing and we were both startled. In that case I never got a shot off because after I caught my breath the bird was well away.








Lounging Frogs (Two Photographs)

frogsTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

This has been a year for frogs; numerous and loudly announcing their presence. Not all stayed in place to get their photograph taken though. It is a distinct sound when a frog, often out of sight, decides to take a dive and avoid the camera. Water and the texture of the frog’s skin gives rise to reflections and highlights, which with skill can be removed. The choice of leaving them in was based solely on the view that they did not detract from the photographs. Frogs make for interesting subjects, their eyes alone are worth the trouble.


Male Wood Duck (Two Photographs)

Wooduck To view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

This male wood duck is out of its mating colors. The photos are out of the camera (a little exposure fixing, noise reduction, and sharpening). Several times I have seen large groups of people shooting ducks, especially the more colorful kind. It’s not just that ducks are easier to photograph than warblers but that they have character and in their almost continuous movement we can often find interesting ways to shoot them. In my view the fact that you can establish eye contact makes many ducks more interesting.

Male Wood Duck-2

A Beetle and some words on macro photography

Golden Net Wing BeetleTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

This is probably a Golden Netwing Beetle. In my last macro article I spoke about the advice I got on finding insects. I have since learned that insects are more prevalent and more likely to be moving and doing things when the temperature is above 15 degrees Celsius. Below that temperature most insects do not have the energy to move, so some photographers chose the early morning when it’s cooler to find insects to photograph that are less likely to move or are covered in dew. I prefer to take photographs when they are up and doing interesting things.


Flower Power (Three Photographs)

Flower Power-2  To view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

I never expected to be shooting flowers so often. I discovered that there are many different ways to take and process them. In this case I was pretty fixed on doing some black and white. I left one color example in the series to show what I was working from. Tonality Pro which is the most sophisticated of the converters for monochrome I have used, gives tremendous latitude in what you can do. I am fairly conservative when it comes to processing and try not to get too far away from reality, although the temptation is sometimes there. The question is “would I hang it on my wall?”

Flower Power-3

Flower Power

Who said mid-day sun was bad for photography?

MallardTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

Sometimes the light is perfect. In this case the lighting is like one of those portrait set-ups where you try to focus the spotlight on the face. I find that the best photographs of animals occur when they turn their head into the light, you get a sharp portrait and the eyes are just right. I took a series shots of this duck but in the others the light and the duck’s posture was nothing like this. The  midday sun is often said to be the worst time to take a photograph. In those conditions this is one of  the techniques I use, waiting for the head of my subject to turn into the light.

Comma Butterfly


To view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

What a great name for a wonderful butterfly, as in pause and admire the beauty. I wanted to post this shot because it makes a point I have made to some people recently. This was taken with a 300m lens, not a macro lens. Specialized equipment has its place and utility, but if you ask a store what to buy to take butterfly photographs, they are unlikely to suggest the gear you own. It is sometime easier to stand farther away to take photographs like this than get up close and risk frightening your subject away. Secondly, you have greater control over the depth of field and the lighting. With a macro lens you are closer, depth of field is at a premium and you have less available light. However, there are many reasons to get a dedicated macro lens for smaller subjects, for more detail, and for more control. The latter point is not insignificant, try finding small things with a long lens, it’s a challenge.



Passages To view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

I saw these two birds and could not resist a shot with more than one subject in it. Given the background and overcast day, monochrome turned out better than color.

A Case of Contrast

A Case of ContrastTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

Macphun Tonality Pro software comes through again. I had shots of this bird facing left and right and then at the camera and was prepared to process them all, however, this one stood out for its dynamic tonality. Closer to the kind of minimalist monochrome I really like.

The little flower that could (three photographs)

The Little Flower that couldTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

This plant is growing on a rescued dune in the middle of a forest not far from downtown Ottawa, Canada. Strange, but true.

The theme here is light and shadow. Very early on when I was thinking about photography and not just taking pictures and learning technical things, I was told that photography is all about light and shadow. It is an interesting exercise to use shadow to make your photograph. In black and white the photograph lacks depth, so I prefer the color version.

The Little Flowerthat Could B&W

The third photograph explains why I was at the dunes (Tiger Beetles).

Liitle Flowe tha cou;-Tiger Beetle


SparrowTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

There are an unbelievable variety of sparrows and as I am not a birder, identifying them all is beyond me. I was worried this photograph got over sharpened, but it works on the web. There is always a danger of going too far in getting detail. The background and branches aren’t perfect, not National Geographic standard, but realistic. To shoot very small birds ideally one could spend more than the cost of a compact car for a long prime lens. If one had the funds this sounds like a great strategy but consider that few can handhold anything above a 300mm/2.8, and that finding your subject in the view finder becomes more difficult the longer the lens. Much as I like birds and taking photographs of them, there are limits!

Garter Snake

Garter Snake -2To view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com


I cannot say I am a great fan of snakes but in my part of the world none are poisonous. That said even a garter snake can bite. In the very early spring garter snakes emerge from their underground lairs after hibernating. At one very nice place we know there is a man-made ridge where the garters live between the rocks. These snakes are colorful, shy, and wary. What made this snake appeal to me was its red and black forked tongue. I think it knew this as its tongue only appeared sporadically and when I was least prepared. After this test of nerves he slithered off into the underbrush. A very different kind of subject.


Waxwing (and a new Gallery)

WaxwingTo view the gallery of these photographs please click on: Waxwings

In bird photography the first thing to consider is how clear a shot you have; many times branches obstruct the view and you have to switch to manual focus just to see if it can be done. Some birds, like waxwings, have feathers that lack the definition our cameras need to focus on and this makes them problematic even in plain sight. Waxwings also have eyes that are hard to distinguish from other features. To get the best in-camera results, one may need to use continuous focus and shoot at moderate frame rate for several frames to ensure a sharp shot. With manual focus a slight millimeter of movement between frames may help get a sharper image. I tried this and it does work some of the time. I have pretty much given up on birds nestled into the middle of a tree’s branches. Getting the eyes of any animal is one of those must-have elements according to some. Better yet is to get a small bit of reflected light in the eye because that helps define the eye.

Farm in Black and White

B&W FarmTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

One of my projects this year is to do a bit more black and white using Silver EFX Pro. This farm seemed to have great texture and lent itself to a gentle black and white treatment. We can imagine the colors. The snow draws us into the landscape. I am not a fan of presets, I like working things out myself (otherwise known as exercising creativity) more than applying another person’s style or preset. However, scrolling through the presets in Silver EFX brought back many memories of old film and photographs, movies and moody art. Funny how a bit of grain and contrast has such impact.



SquirrelTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

One thing you can find in great abundance in the forests and on the trails around my way is squirrels. While they seem ultimately shy, they are curious. The paths are littered with piles of nuts and seeds that people have dropped for the birds and squirrels. We tend to take the squirrels for granted and get distracted when they chase each other around or when their young whine. I find it amusing to watch their high wire antics high in the tree line. Once we came upon a man who was studying them and studiously taking pictures, but I have not seen many other people photographing them. Pity as they make great subjects.