Tech Tips

Many of these tips have been published in our newsletter or facebook. These are repeated and in some cases expanded in these pages.

Elusive LightElusive Light Comp

Light and Seeing its Subtle Effects is something lot of photographers struggle with. Once you have learnt how to change the settings on your camera and are beginning to come to grips with depth of field and other technical aspects, one naturally gravitates towards trying to see and use light more effectively. Learning to see light is something you will continue to learn and improve on for ever. It is one of the reasons you can never get bored with photography.

The Golden Hour
Everyone has heard of the golden hour - it is the glorious light that is available around dawn and sunset. The light is low providing shadows and is warm and sometimes glowing. Then there is the blue hour before dawn and after sunset. This can be equally moody and beautiful.

But..... it isn't always there! if you have heavy cloud or rain, it doesn't happen.

Light can be Good at Other Times Too.
There are other times of the day when you can have really effective moody light. It depends on your subject, the weather and the time of the year.

Some of the Qualities that Make Light 'Good'
When the light on your subject separates it and makes it look 3 dimensional
When it hits the subject and not the background
When it creates a mood that you want to show whether it be sombre,  joyful, peaceful, foreboding etc.
When it creates shadows that lead your eye to the subject or enhance its look
When it provides the detail you need in your subject

Time to Test your Theory
You have an idea of what to look for and when. You choose a location, find a good subject, go there at the right time of the day and take your photos. You got some great photos. Feeling confident now, you try another place and time.

This time you are disappointed in the results. They are good, but not great - What happened!
No matter how good a scene is, you can't make a great photo if the right light is not there.

Light is Ephemeral
Sometimes it is there for only minutes. In early morning you can actually watch it move over your subject and it happens very quickly. Sometimes it is reasonable, but not spectacular. sometimes the concept is right, but you won't get what you seek at that time of the year.

Patience and Persistence
Photographers need these two qualities. You can't make OK light look great. You just have to wait or return or be there when it is great. That is why I nearly always carry a camera with me so I am ready for when I see the magic!



Subjects that Look Better When WetPhotographing when wet

Often one avoids going out on dark drizzly days or after rain, as it looks dark & dreary. Think again - for some subjects, this is the best time.

The light is even, without sunny patches
The colours look very rich
Light colours can contrast with the wet dark tones giving strong separation
Wet surfaces can add a shine to surfacesWwater loving creatures come out in the dull daylight
Droplets look great
If the sun comes out you can get rainbows
Spider webs look great covered in drops
Mosses & Lichens come to life
Rainforests look right in the rain!

How does your image make you feel when you look at it - calm, happy, relaxed, excited, peaceful? Mood is another aspect to consider when you are photographing. See the photo below of a boat on the pond. The rich but muted colours with the rain lightly falling, makes the scene work and gives one a peaceful feeling.

Water Drops on Lens
Remember though - if you are photographing in the rain or brushing past wet leaves - check the front of your lenses for spots of water. It can really wreck a good photo and is very hard to remove



Photo Editing SoftwareDamselfly Bird Comp2

There comes a stage when you may want to take the next step and wish to do some more editing of your photos beyond the basics of in house software.

"What Photo Editing Software Should I Use?"  This is I often a question I get asked and it is not an easy question to answer as there are many options and degrees of ability & interest. I have listed some below with their pros & cons. Some I have used & some I have not.
If you shoot in RAW format, to take advantage its benefits you will need to use some sort of software, either the one the camera provides or a 3rd party one. Also, you will need to convert your RAW photo to JPeg to be able to send or use it elsewhere.
I have used the term 'layers' below. Having the ability to work on your images in layers means you have the ability to make copy of a section of your image and make adjustments to that layer without it effecting the rest of the image. When you finish your editing, you can compress your layers back down to one again. This can be very useful.

Adobe Photoshop is the most well known one. It is a very capable and large programme designed for graphic artists and photographers. Most photographers would only know how to use a portion of it, nor would they need to know & use more. This is only available on subscription so if you stop paying it, you no longer have the software on your computer.
Adobe Lightroom: Made for photographers and has the photographic features of Photoshop. Usually you get Lightroom & Photoshop together on subscription, but you can get it separately. It does not have the ability to work in layers, so you would need to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (see below) as well.

When Adobe went to a subscription-based system, there were several programmes that were developed to fill the void.

Medium Priced - around mid $300's

ON 1 Photo RAW. This does similar things to Lightroom but also has the ability to make separate layers. It is a very capable programme and relatively simple to use. You own the software. If you want updates you can buy them.

Low Priced - around $100
Photoshop Elements: A cut down version of Photoshop that is more suitable for most non professional photographers. You can buy this outright and you then own it. It is simpler to learn to use than Photoshop and does have the ability to work in layers.
Luminar 3 recently announced and looks easy to use and very capable. It includes the ability to make layers
Affinity Photo - reportedly quite capable (I haven't looked into this one).

Low Priced or Free     0 - $50
These usually have good basic abilities without the detail of the others

Corel After Shot Pro - simple to use. A reasonable start to editing
Fast Stone Image Viewer - Free. simple to use.
Fast Stone Image Resizer - good for batch resizing and renaming. All the larger programmes would have these features built in

There are more programmes available than listed here. Think about what you want to do with your editing and how much you wish to spend. Look up the ones that interest you, watch some tutorials and read the reviews. Then you just need to try one and see how you like it.


Tripods - Do I Need One?Tripod Use2

These days, with cameras & lenses having significantly good image stablisation, as well as sensors that allow you to use much higher ISO's and still get good quality images, it makes you wonder whether you need a tripod.

Indeed, I use my tripod much less than I did because of this. The freedom to get your camera into tight or difficult positions and the speed at which you can change position, can make using a tripod a hindrance.
However, there are some subjects where a tripod is beneficial and some where it is essential.
It all depends on what you like to photograph!

Tripod Essential
If your shutter speed is 1/4 sec or slower then it is essential to have a tripod or similar to ensure you get no camera shake. You still need to pay attention to how sturdy your tripod is, especially if your camera gear is big & heavy and your shutter speed very long. You may also need to use a time delay or remote trigger to make sure the camera has stopped moving after you focus & press the shutter.

Examples of Subjects:
Star photography, silky water on waterfalls, night & low light photography, long exposures for land & seascapes, panoramas done manually, interval photography, very small macro and more.

Tripod Desirable
When you want to spend more time getting the right composition, or using filters, having the camera on a tripod is much easier. Also, if you are waiting for the right light or something else to come into frame. When you want to take a sequence of photographs and have the composition identical. When your subject is contained and your gear is very heavy

Examples of Subjects:
Landscape photography, group family portraits, product photography, still life photography, some sports photography, some bird photography, macro in low light etc. 

Tripod not Needed or Where it Inhibits Photography
Where you have good light and high shutter speeds or where you need to adjust yourself or camera quickly. In crowds where someone can trip on your tripod, or you have no time to set one up. Where you don't want to draw attention to what you are doing.

Examples of Subjects:
Creatures and animals that move unpredictably including macro, birds on the wing or forest birds where you cannot predict where they will be, some flower photography, people photography when you wish to be more spontaneous, general travel photography and more.

So How do I Choose One?
First - make sure you know what you want to photograph and how low your shutter speeds will go. The heavier the gear and the lower the shutter speeds, the more sturdy your tripod needs to be. Buy one where you can choose what head you can put on it as you can then find the legs that suit and the head that suits what you photograph (unless it is so designed that it suits you well). Make sure that it has a quick release plate so you can take your camera off quickly. 

Look at the specifications. What weight will it take, how high will it go, how heavy is it and can you carry it if you need to for a long time. If it is only for use in a studio or home, the tripod's weight is not so relevant.

If you have a lightweight camera & lens and are mainly taken photos in bright light, you may get away with a light duty tripod. Don't buy a really cheap one as they won't last.
If you are going to use it for long exposures, and or have a larger camera and lenses, try out your gear on the tripod. Some shops will let you do this. Take your largest camera and your heaviest lens. Take photos at low shutter speeds eg. 2 seconds at your lenses lowest f -stop. Check for camera shake. If it passes that, check it for ease of use and comfort of carrying. You can now make an informed decision.


Capturing Raindrops & DewRaindrops Composite

Capturing Raindrops & Dew
Autumn & Winter brings rain (hopefully) & dew. Early in the morning or after rain you can get some beautiful photos. All these photos depend on the angle of the sun or light for the droplets to be seen at their best. So you will need to move around your subject till you see the drops at their best.

Droplets on Spider Webs
Early morning is great for dew on webs. Also, the sun is low in the sky which can make the web / drops more visible. Take note of your background. There is no use having a beautiful web with a confusing background as you won't be able to see the web clearly. Look for some shadow to put the web against. It is a juggling act to get the sun angle and the background right. Sometimes it just won't work - so move on to another web.

Droplets on Flat Leaves
Once again the angle of the sun is critical. Look for a good composition as well. If the background is not good, consider filling the frame with the leaf or leaves.
Some leaves have a waxy surface, which cause the droplets to ball up to a sphere, eg Ginko leaves, Eucalyptus leaves & Waterlily leaves. These round droplets can act like a lens and can have reflections in them.

Droplets on Fine Drooping Leaves
The droplets on these leaves run right down to the tips, creating a different photo opportunity. Try and photograph the ends of branches to keep the droplets on a similar plane and avoid confusion.

Flowers can also collect drops of water. Roses always look great with a spray of water. Look also for rainbows, especially with spider webs particularly if it is still drizzling and the sun is out.

What Settings Should I Use?
The Depth of Field is the most important setting here. You need a reasonable depth, so you can start by using f8. Look at the image you have taken and see whether you need more or less in focus. If you are photographing a rose, you may need a higher f-stop to get all the petals in focus. If you are photographing a flat leaf, you can have a smaller f-stop.

Spider webs will depend on the angle you are on. Shutter speed - if there is a breeze, you may need a fast shutter speed to stop movement. Your focus will be quite difficult if this happens so be prepared to take lots of shots and check for sharpness.

Use your ISO to balance the exposure
Enjoy the challenge and the rewards!


Macro on a BudgetExtension Tubes

Many people love to do Macro but hit a barrier when they price the lenses. A good one can cost from $700 - $1500 and sometimes more.
There are alternatives
There are Macro Filters that you screw on to any lens or there are Extension Tubes, which I will discuss today.

Extension Tubes
These are hollow tubes that fit between the camera body and the lens and allow you to focus much closer. They can fit on any lens.  The better quality ones have mounts made of metal and fit tightly. One brand has a flock lining so there are no internal reflections. They are available in Australia and cost around $200. They are camera mount specific and most of the popular brands have them or a 3rd party brand will suffice. Check they have the ability to keep your exif data (lens length & f-stop) and allow auto focus. Pros - No loss of image quality Cons - lose some light.

Fit them to any Lens
You can use them on any lens including telephoto, zooms and even Macro lenses for very close up.
Wide angle lenses may be a problem as you may get so close, you touch your subject!
Telephoto Zoom Lenses
I particularly like them on telephoto zooms for several reasons.
You can be at a distance to your subject (particularly good for snakes and funnel web spiders!). Also good for Dragonflies and other flying creatures that spook easily.
A telephoto zoom allows you to use your zoom to get into the focus range more easily.
You can use your telephoto for bird or similar photography and put the rings in your pocket. Then you can out them on when you find your Macro subject

Using Your Extension Tubes
The Depth of Field is very small - the closer you go, the smaller it gets.
It is also hard to find where you can start to focus. A good way to achieve this is to walk or lean forwards and keep focusing until your subject appears sharp. Then you can fine tune your focus either by moving yourself or with your Auto Focus button. Instead of walking forward, you can use your zoom to get you into range.
Can't Focus to Infinity
When you attach these tubes, you can't use your lens as a normal lens. You can only use it for close ups.
Set of 1, 2 or 3 Tubes
The tubes come as a set of two or thee depending on brand, or some can be as a single tube. They are different sizes depending on how close you wish to get to your subject. You can use them separately or together. The larger the tube the closer you can go - and the larger your subject is on your sensor.
If you like Macro, and are on a budget or even if you want a pocketable item that turns any lens into a macro, they are definitely worth getting.


What F-Stop Should I Use?Depth of Field Composite

This is one of the most asked questions and is the hardest to answer.
Because each subject should be treated differently and it also depends on how you want your photo to look.

How does it change the look of your photo?
F-stop or aperture changes the way your photo looks because it changes the Depth of Field (how much is in focus either side of your subject)

Some Rules of Thumb

Flat Surfaces - any f-stop will do as the flat surface has no depth.

Landscapes - usually a high f- stop (large Depth of Field) to give lots in focus.

Portrait - usually a low f - stop like f5.6 to give some blurring of the background, isolating the subject

Group Portrait - Medium DoF, f 5.6 - f11. This allows people in a 2nd  or 3rd row to still be in focus and some of the background. The background in these situations is more important to give some context

Single Portraits where the background is important and part of the story f 8 - 11

Animals - same as portraits

Flowers  - for an Arty Look f 2.8 - 5.6. This will give a soft look with many parts out of focus, The closer you are, the more out of focus parts there will be.

Flowers - for a true to life look - f 8 - f16. This will make most of the flower in focus. To avoid the background dominating, have a large distance from the flower to the background if possible. Alternatively, have the flower in the sun and the background in the shade.

Insects and other small creatures - same as flowers

If in doubt
Start at f 8 (compact or bridge cameras f 5.6 or in the middle of the f-stop range). Take your photo, evaluate it, if you need more in focus use a larger f stop. If you want less in focus, use a smaller f stop

Photographing in Difficult SituationsWasp Caterpillar

What do you do when you see an awesome happening - in this case a caterpillar hanging on a silken thread with a beautiful wasp on it and the whole thing is in mid air and blowing in the wind! Not only that, but you have the wrong camera gear to get a good photo!

I had a compact camera with no viewfinder. The auto focus has problems seeing small objects when there is nothing close behind. The camera will try and focus on the background. The light made it difficult to see the back screen properly also.

So ... What do you do?

  1. 1. Focus on your hand
  2. 2. Hold your hand as close to the camera as it will focus, focus on this and keep your finger half pressed on the focus button
  3. 3. With your finger still pressed on the focus button, wait till the subject comes back into range (the breeze was blowing) and estimate the distance that you had pre-focused on and  when it comes into range, take the photo.
  4. 4. Do this several times as your hit rate for good photos may be low.

Some cameras have a focus magnifier that you can put onto a function button on your camera. I put mine (Sony RX100) on the centre button of the control wheel. This allows me to see up close when the subject is in focus. It is still not easy, but it helps.

I ended up with only 2 reasonable photos, but it is better than none! It would have been much easier with my larger Sony A 6500 with 90 mm Macro lens. Having a viewfinder helps a lot too.


Start a Project for Inspiration & LearningImp Blue Horned Leaf Hopper

A great way to get inspiration as well as learn more from observation and discipline is to start a project. It can be as simple as choosing a subject like an interesting shaped rock (large or small), birth & death of a flower, an old wooden shed door etc.

Some ideas on these subjects - take photos at different times of the day, different light like sun, shade, rain, sunset, moonlight. Photograph it at different seasons. Look for creatures or things that land on it. Watch the change over time.
Try taking photos with different lenses from wide to telephoto. Close up sections - even in infra red! Try it from the view of an ant or a bird's eye view.

Tangential Ideas
You can also go off on a tangent and start investigating other things that come into the frame. The project can be as long or as short as you want. Then make a Photobook of your project

Starting a Project - The Life Cycle of the Imperial Blue Butterfly
My Project was to monitor the life cycle of the Imperial Blue butterfly. I discovered the first caterpillars in mid November and wanted to find out how long it would take till the butterflies appeared. The more I photographed & observed, the more questions I found.

Ant Protectors
These caterpillars are looked after by ants but I found on cold mornings - it was a different species of ant. That lead me to proposing a theory that this other ant looks after them at night - so I went to the tree at night and found this was correct. There were many other interesting creatures out at night too. One of them was a leaf hopper bug that was sitting in with the caterpillars and benefiting from the protection of the ants.

Photo Book
I will gather all this info and photos and put a photo book together.


Shooting in the Summer SunSun effects composite

The Summer Solstice is only a month away (21st Dec). This is when the sun is up for the longest time and it is harsh and bright. The hole in the ozone layer means there is less filtration as it reaches us in Victoria and add that to a low humidity and you can get very bright photos, often with faded or washed out looking colours if you aren't careful with your exposure.

How do you avoid this?
The best way is to try to avoid taking photos in the middle of the day between 11 - 3pm. Don't forget, this is daylight saving time. It is equivalent to an hour earlier. Even on an overcast day, the position of the sun influences the image. Top light is still top light.

If you can't avoid it, make sure you turn down your exposure till the colours look better and avoid top light. Try & photograph in the shade. At the edge of shade you can get some nice directional light coming in - but watch out for unwanted reflected colours if you are too close to the sunny edge.
If your subject is small, you can control the top light by putting some shade above it and then add some side light in with a reflector.

Avoiding the Summer Sun
The best way is to photograph is in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is down low and the light is softer.
Of course, in Summer, that time is very early or quite late.

Dawn till 8 or 9am is best. Then watch your subjects. Look for the best angles of light. As the sun gets higher, you will find that your subjects are no longer visually interesting and the shadows will be in the wrong spots.

If you are out in the environment and are observant, you will notice your subjects start looking better around 4.30pm onwards. Things start looking more 3 dimensional. The shadows are complimentary instead of distracting. From now to sun down and a bit after is the best time.


Photographing DropletsDroplet Composite

After rain, fog or a dewy morning, there are many beautiful sights - especially if the sun comes out.
So how do you capture that image?

Drops on the End of Fine Leaves
For these types of photos, you don't need a close up lens. F stop can be low if they are all on the same plane.
Position yourself so that the droplets shine
Have a simple background. Check through your lens that the background is simple and preferably in shadow so there is contrast with the drops (early morning is best).
Exposure should be slightly darker than normal to highlight the shine on the drops

Drops on Leaves
Once again, angle yourself & camera so the drops sparkle. You may need a close up lens or filter for small drops.
For multiple drops, create a pleasing composition and then make sure your camera is parallel to as many drops as possible so they are all in the same focal plane. Use a large Depth of Field eg f8 and above to get as much as possible in focus.
Focus on the sparkle

Drops that are Very Round
Some surface are so water repellent that the droplet is nearly spherical. eg. Ginko leaves, waterlily and lotus leaves etc. These droplets will now act as a lens allowing you to see the surface magnified and  also, reflections in the drop.
Focus - You need to focus on the reflection or magnified surface - not the edge of the droplet
DoF -Use f11 or more for multiple drops or lower for a single drop.

Your composition is also important to create a pleasing image.


How Big Should I make my Photos?Size vs Distance Composite

Print Your Favourite Photos
The time has come when you finally get around to enlarging your favourite photo to put on a wall or mantelpiece.

How big should it be
There is a rule to follow for the optimum size vs viewing distance. You need to think first about where you intend to put it and then assess where you will stand or sit to see it.
The Rule
If you have to walk up to it to see the detail, it is too small.
If you have to scan your eyes across the image to see its entirety, it is too big.
You need to comfortably see the whole image without moving your head along its length

The Same is True for Books
When I make a Photobook - other than my small test books- I usually want to make it as big as possible. Usually it ends up about 35cm long. It looks great on the computer and then you open the book when you receive it and you are a little disappointed. Assuming the photography is good and the printing is also, the fault will be the viewing distance.
Put it on Display
A large book with 1 photo to a page needs to be on a coffee table with you standing or on an easel.
Good Light
Make sure you can view your book or photo in good light eg opposite a window. Then you will be able to see all the details even in the shadows.

Get your Books out of the Bookcase
One of the reasons for making a book is to get your photos out of your computer. Leaving the book in the bookcase is almost as bad.
Make it Part of your Decor
Find some easels or book stands, put your favourite book on display and turn the page daily. When you finish that one, get your next book or make another one!


Photographing in Blustery WindWind Composite

The problems are obvious - trying to focus correctly on your chosen subject. Then you need to  keep your subject still enough so it is not blurred. Just having a fast shutter speed won’t guarantee a sharp image.
Tip - follow the movement while looking through your camera and watch for the still point when the wind drops. Focus then. Then wait until the subject returns to that point. Take your photo.

Don’t forget to think carefully about what you focus on. This is very important to having the photo look right.

Showing the Effect of Wind
You could use the wind to show what the conditions were like and create a mood. Seas look much better when the wind is driving crashing waves into rocks.

Birds can have ruffled feathers when the wind gets behind them.
People can have hair blowing in the wind and brides can have the veil blowing behind and looking glorious

Try a Movie Clip
Sometimes a short movie of your subject can be more meaningful by showing the movement rather than trying to stop it.

In Conclusion

Think about what you want your image to show  - what feeling you want to put into it.
Use the elements rather than fight them.



What Lens Should I Use?what lens composite

Sometimes it is obvious - If I want to take something far away and I can't walk up to it, then I need a telephoto lens. If I wish to blur the background more, I also use a telephoto lens. Some creatures get spooked if you get too close so once again - use a telephoto lens
Landscapes - If I am taking Landscapes and I want to fit a lot into my image then I need a wide angled lens.
But what about other subjects like portraits, small things, buildings etc?

People - for portrait shots (head & shoulders) or kids you need a short to long telephoto lens 85mm to 200mm or more as this gives a nice face shape & you don't have to get too close. A wide angled lens distorts the face when you stand too close.
For full length or groups you can use a wider lens eg 35 -100mm.

Small subjects need a macro lens so you can get close enough to fill the frame. But macro comes in many focal lengths. A telephoto macro is better when you don't want to (eg scorpion or butterfly) or can't get close (dragonfly on a pond).
Sometimes a wide angled macro is better for seeing into flowers as you can get very close. You can get this with a compact camera.

Buildings also can require a range of different focal lengths. If you can get back far enough, a telephoto lens will avoid a lot of the problems of the edges not being straight. However, if you can't get back a wider lens is required. Use the least wide lens available to avoid distortion and don't have the edge of the building too close to the edge of the frame.

Wide angled Lenses 10 - 35mm
Mid Range (standard) 40 - 70mm
Telephoto lenses 70 - 600 + mm
Zoom lenses have many lenses in one. Check the range to see where yours fits



Never AssumeWild Seas Comp

On our trip to the 12 Apostles, I learnt some things I should never have forgotten. Fortunately, my students benefited from my learning experiences.
The Recci on a Wet Day. We needed to check out a location for the next day's shoot. Several students jumped into the car with me. It was raining, cold, windy and generally dull. Only some of us took our cameras. On arrival, the weather had cleared so we jumped out and walked. Presuming that it would be a brief visit - I only took one lens and no raincoat!
Lesson 1 - Never Assume the Weather will Stay the Same.

The Scenes were Spectacular - crashing waves, rocky escarpments and great light. It also rained again so I got wet and had trouble shielding my camera.
The photography was so good I ran out of battery power - the spare was in the car! I also would have loved a different lens!
Lesson 2 - Always Take All Your Gear including spare batteries - particularly in cold weather as the batteries don't last as long.

Dawn at the 12 Apostles
It was an overcast morning with no wind. We were in place at first light, taking some interesting shots - some facing East and some facing West. I had my camera on a tripod at full height to get some good shots. As more tourists started to arrived I tucked it into a corner and walked over to help some students. At that moment a gust of wind blew my camera & lens over and it landed on the bitumen. The lens was half ripped away from its mount. The camera was OK.
Lesson 3 - Never leave your camera unattended - especially on an extended tripod. Don't assume a gust of wind won't come.
Lesson 4 - Check your Insurance. If your gear is expensive - insure it. My repairs cost $1700


Ways to Avoid a Bad BackgroundBad Background Composite

You have a wonderful subject, the light on it is great, but what an awful background!
What do you do?
Below is a real scenario of my approach to the problem on the Forest Glade Trip.
The subject was statues of Storks in a fountain. They stood out well but the path, concrete rim and a hedge of Variegated Pittosporum behind with the bright light hitting it would not allow a good photo to be taken under any circumstances.

Initial shots taken 11am.
Different attempts at taking shots:
From another direction - not bad
Cropping in - getting better
Getting higher - wrong perspective

Still need to find another angle or different lighting to make this shot worth taking

Later - 11.30am
Reflections more interesting
Still needed to crop
Still need to avoid bad background

Later Still - 1pm

Reflection of statue with wind rippling water to create an art effect

So when you find something that doesn't work, walk around it, look carefully, come back at different times or even in different seasons or weather until something works.


What is in the Background?Background vs time of day Composite 2

Our eyes are very good at ignoring unnecessary details which is good for some things but can be disastrous when you are trying to create a beautiful image.
It is important to 'see' what is behind your subject, what is distracting, whether to move in or zoom or whether to change your camera angle.

Subject Placement
Placing your subject precisely where you want it can be as simple as taking a step sideways or bending down or even having a higher camera angle

Lens Default Position
These days, most cameras have zoom lenses making life easy by carrying fewer lenses. Zoom Lenses default to wide angle. It is important to be aware that the default position on compact cameras or separate zoom lenses is at the wide end. This may not produce the best image and result in you having too much unnecessary detail around your subject. Remember to zoom in to where you think the best image is.

Light Angles Change during the Day
Another thing to be aware of is the light at different times of the day. The series belw shows how light effects the background vs time. You will notice that some of the flowers are easier to see  than others

A Different Approach to MacroDifferent Macro Composite

We all know that macro photography is taking photos of small things. Usually the aim is to have a lens that allows you to focus much closer to your subject than a normal lens.

Getting Close
On a 50mm Macro, this can mean that you can end up a few centimeters away from your subject at its closest point. Fine if it is a flower or a crystal (except if your shadow gets in the way), but what if it is a butterfly or a dangerous creature. Get a longer macro lens you say. Yes, that helps. a 100 or 150mm macro gives you quite a bit more space.

Subject Flew Away!
But what if it is a dragonfly on a pond or it is a very flighty creature?
Use a telephoto lens with close focus!

Recently I was very frustrated trying to photograph Blue banded Bees. They are small and very fast. I had a little success by setting up and waiting at flowers I knew they would come to, but I had much better luck by standing back with a very long lens. The auto focus was able to cope as I was able to choose a better angle with less background.
I was even able to photograph dragonflies on the wing!

Which Lens
I still use my 90mm macro lens in preference as the quality is outstanding, but for certain subjects like butterflies, bees, wasps, dragonflies or close ups of a snake's head, I will use my 150 - 600 mm zoom (225 - 900mm on a crop sensor camera). It is the difference between no photo and a pretty good photo of a very difficult subject.
Many of the latest telephoto zooms have been designed with the ability to focus closer than older ones used to. This is a big plus for me.


Super Moon - Photo TipsSuper Moon Composite

A super moon occurs when the moon is at its closest point to the earth. We see it best as a full moon as it is rising. The moon can look huge as it breaks over the horizon. This year, it will actually be a blue moon as well. This is when you get 2 full moons in a calendar month. It is also a Blood Moon which is when the moon looks red  as the Earth moves between the Sun and the Moon, casting its shadow on the Moon's surface.
To get good shots of both these effects, you need to do your homework.

First, look up what time is moon rise and what angle to the horizon it will rise in. Next find a good location to take the photos. A place up high is good. Not too much on the horizon and not too many power lines (or none!)
Next figure out what settings you will use on your camera BEFORE you go out. Check these settings on the moon a day or two before.
A telephoto lens is preferable, particularly as it gets higher in the sky (200 mm minimum when high). On the horizon, if the moon is very large you may need a smaller telephoto lens. This will depend on how much of the surrounding scenery you want in the shot. Check this out the day before.

Settings Guide (you may vary this)
Exposure - use manual exposure mode if the moon isn't taking up most of the frame. You will want to show detail on the moon, not just a bright blob unless the surrounding landscape is more important than the moon.
f -stop  f 2.8 to 6.3 or higher depending on your lens. Higher if you need more detail
ISO depends how bright the moon is. On the horizon, you may find you can use 400. When it is higher in the sky and red, you may need a higher ISO
Shutter Speed depends on how bright the moon is. As you are on a tripod you can have up to a second or two.. Not much longer as the moon is moving! Check your shot to make sure there is no movement
WB -  Daylight or shade if you want a redder look
Picture Style - Landscape or similar
Focus - Manual. You can try auto. It may work on the horizon when the moon is bright

Finding the moon when it is high in the sky. If you have a zoom lens, start at the wide angle so you can see the moon and then zoom in. Otherwise check your angle to the moon before looking through the viewfinder or back screen and use small movements to re-align.
Your Gear
Tripod, torch (for seeing the settings on your camera), remote control or use your 2 second time delay

These settings are starting points
Try them out on the previous days when the moon is nearly full. Check your image for camera shake and moon movement (if a long shutter speed is used)
Enjoy the challenge! and hope for a cloud free night.


Focus PointsFocus Point Composite

To have your photo look really sharp, even if you have a shallow Depth of Field, you need to select the point where you focus, with care. It must be on the point where you look when you look at an image. This makes the viewer see your subject and then if you have the right composition, follow your visual lines around the image.

Even in a landscape you must focus on something. Landscapes have foregrounds, mid areas and backgrounds. Select your point of focus on something in the foreground or middle area (usually). Remember, where you focus, is where your eye goes to first when you view an image - even if  it has a large Depth of Field.

Creatures with eyes are easy - you focus on the eyes. However, this can be a problem if the creature has a long nose eg. a sheep or if the bird has a tiny head and large chest and wing area. What do you do? You try and arrange yourself & camera at an angle to the subject that has the minimum distance between the eye and the nose. In other words you take the shot with the head partly side on and have a mid to large Depth of Field. If you have to have a small Depth of Field, then you need to have the eye and shoulder or nose on the same plane.

Easy - right! Try doing that with a wild animal. Its patience and luck!

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