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.


spider-web-in-fogIt seems so simple - just focus on your subject and push the button! What could go wrong....

Lots of things! Here are a few.
• the wind could be blowing
• you could push too hard on the shutter
• you could pick the wrong focal point
• your camera could still be set on multi focal points
• your shutter speed could be too low to hold your camera steady
• your subject may confuse the auto focus system

So what can you do about it? Here are a few suggestions.

Check your image and if it isn't sharp, have a think about why. Then re-do it. Concentrate, keep steady, prop yourself up if you need or use a tripod, use a higher ISO, check your manual on focus systems and how they work.


Photo: Spider Web in the Mist
A breeze was blowing when I took this so I had to wait for breaks and re-focus quickly

Photography is Painting with Light

Web Highlighted-Red-cropLight gives shape and form to an object and can reveal texture. Light is everything - it can make an object or scene look ordinary or transform it into a work of art. 
A photographer's task is to see and use the light, using his or her knowledge of the camera, to create an image that holds the eye and attention and also invokes a feeling or mood.

Lenses and Zooms

Many cameras now come with a zoom lens that goes from wide angle to telephoto. The wide angle is very useful for taking photos in small spaces and the telephoto to take objects or scenes from a distance. It also has the mid range as well.
This is because a zoom lens has many lenses in one! It has wide angle, standard and telephoto. But beware! 
Think about how the lens effects your photo. Different focal lengths alter the perspective of the image. This can be a good or bad thing depending on how you use it.
Wide angle is great for beaches, landscapes, inside rooms etc. but makes close ups of faces look fat with big noses. Use the zoom fascility or telephoto lens for best portrait shots as it gives the most flattering view of the face as well as reducing the field of view so you don't get as much distracting or messy backgrounds behind your subject.

Choosing a Tripod

Tripod-choices2You want a tripod that is small, light weight, easy to use, sturdy, low cost .... and you believe in miracles too!!
Firstly you have to decide what lenses you will be using and what you are photographing. If you use a small lens and take landscapes photos, people or general subjects, then a light weight tripod could be adequate.
If you use long telephoto or macro lenses and use long shutter speeds then a much sturdier tripod is a must. The smaller the subject or the greater the magnification, any movement will be magnified.

If you want it to lay nearly flat for macro shots you need one with a different construction. There are many options.
Next, a tripod head with a quick release plate makes it easier to remove the camera quickly. Once again, a small one is adequate for a small or lightweight camera, but once you get into heavy cameras, and long lenses, a bigger plate is desirable. The lower priced tripods have the head and base as one unit. The more serious ones come separately so you can choose what suits you.
The other thing is the construction of the tripod. The ultimate in light weight and strength is a carbon fibre base, but it is a higher price. There are aluminium ones and other metal alloys. It comes down to what you wish to use it for and how much you are willing to spend. Remember though, if you buy one that suits your budget but it is difficult to use or inadequate for what you do – you have wasted your money!

The main thing is to take your camera and lens (the longest & heaviest) and go to a shop that will let you test them. Then take photos at the longest shutter speed in low light and a shallow depth of field (f stop with a small number). This will show up any vibration by giving you un-sharp shots. Note, you must turn off the anti shake on your lens or camera too.!
Enjoy the hunt!

Photographing Spiders at Night

I had a rare view last night of a male Garden Orb Weaving Spider visiting the web of a female. It is an event fraught with danger for the male. If he doesn't take his time approaching the female, he becomes dinner!
He hung around the edge for ages, twirling and twanging the threads before approaching.
I photographed them using a 60 LED torch that I held to light the spider and at times to highlight the web. Next time I will mount the light on a stand so that I can free up my hands for the focus and shooting. A second light to shine from the side to highlight the web could be useful or even putting it behind. It gives a great effect.
The camera a Sony A77 with a Sigma 105mm macro lens was mounted on a tripod. I focused it manually as it was too dark for the auto focus to work.I originally set the ISO on 800 and f4 to get a reasonable shutter speed but it wasn't enough. I went up to f10 with an ISO of 1600 and held the light closer to increase the intensity. I then started getting some decent sharp images.
It was hard work trying to focus on a twirling spider while hand holding the light and being eaten alive by mosquitoes! But the shots made it worth the pain!
The female is the big fat one eating a moth. You can see the remnants of the down in the web on the left


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