Another stab at close up photos

Another stab at close up photos

I enjoy trying my hand at taking close up photos. It takes an incredible amount of patience to get the subject in focus and I’m getting better at it. The trip to Stratford last month offered a prime opportunity for photography. I was happy drifting with the weekend, and I didn’t pull the camera out a lot. I mostly pottered about with it, taking lazy photos, most of which aren’t terribly good. A few, however, are worth looking at.

I didn’t do a lot of editing on these photos. A little contrast and brightness adjustments and a bit of cropping seemed to do. I did seem to have a few problems with focus in many photos, which will remain unseen. Not sure what the issue was, but I just couldn’t seem to get it right. Maybe I was too relaxed.

A rose is a rose

Photo of roses in bloom

You can never go wrong with a photo of a rose

 

The contrast and bokeh affects in this photo thrilled me. It has a deep vibrancy that surprised me when I looked at it on the computer screen. It wasn’t until I blew the roses up on the monitor that I realized out wonderful the outside of a rosebud is.

Close up photo of rose bud getting ready to bloom

Just about ready to pop out of its shell

The little fuzzy white lip around the edges gives the photo a sense of texture. I want to reach out and pat the rose bud.

The bee’s knees

Oh, come on. You grimaced, admit it? I’ve been waiting years to use that line!

Close up photo of a bee pollinating a Black Eyed Susan flower

Lots of bees in the garden that day

Black Eyed Susans are a real pain to photograph. The orange is so intense, it swamps every other colour. I had to do a bit of colour correction on this one, so the bee and petal definition didn’t disappear into a sea of orange. I took quite a few photos of these flowers trying to figure out how to compensate for the overwhelming orangeness. It’s odd, even the shadows were overpowered.

I love taking close up photos of bees. Their wings are like stained glass. When you look at them with a bright flower behind, they are ephemeral. You catch a fleeting glimpse of beauty and they are gone.

Close up photo of a bumble bee backside

I always seem to catch the back end of bees

The edges on the petals have a feathery delicacy to them. I’m pleased as hell they came out so clear. The bees don’t really care if you hover around them. They are busy doing bee stuff and don’t notice people. I get up so close to some of them, I’m surprised they don’t turn and say “working here! Back off”.  Just leave them be and admire them. And no when I first wrote that line, I didn’t notice the pun.

I am beginning to get a clearer idea of back lighting and the position of the sun. I experimented with angles a lot, seeing how the colours and lighting changed as I shifted around. I tried adjusting light and shadow on the bee a bit, so it stood out, but that destroyed the balance between light and shadow on the petals. Turns out it wasn’t the bee that was the focus I wanted; it was the flower itself.

In all her morning glory

Photo of a morning glory against a white brick wall

Loved the contrasts

Honestly, I’m not sure what gives with all the corny headers. Must be the espresso rushing through in my veins.

I loved the contrast in this one. The intense purple against the old, stained white brick, and the bright vibrant greens begged to be photographed. The purple is a bit too much, but I left it because it seemed to capture the mood of the day.

I’m ready for my close-up photo

Photo of purple flowers with a large spider's web in the middle

Webbing and more webbingI was attracted to the mass of webbing in this photo. It looked like a weaver on speed swept through. To my mind, it was a chaotic jumble of threads. Maybe a couple of abandoned spider webs caught up together. Until I looked closer.

Close up photo of spider sitting in the web

Okay, not so little spider

Oh yea. Those are beady little spider eyes staring out from behind the web. I didn’t spot it until I was processing the photos today. Nearly jumped out of my skin when I realised someone was home. I have a bit of a spider phobia. Ok, a big spider phobia. He’s a bit largish too. Not sure how I missed him. Had I known he was there; I would never have gotten that close.  In hindsight, I’m glad he was hidden. The webbing is amazing.

The gardens at Stratford are breathtaking.  Theatres be damned, I’d go back just for the sheer joy of wandering about without any plans.

Testing aperture & shutter speed at Queen’s Quay

Testing aperture & shutter speed at Queen’s Quay

At long last, I’ve begun to take photos again. I spent a bit of time testing aperture and shutter speed settings, attempting to capture some interesting visuals. Took a couple of hours, but I managed to get some pretty good shots. I wandered down to Queen’s Quay (one of my favourite haunts) last month. I played with getting a couple of close up lens attachments and filters to improve my photos but decided against it. After examining various lens, (I’m not talking about genuine macro lenses)  I decided the better option is to continue with my nice starter lens and keep working on the basics.

Part of the decision was based on a sense of being underwhelmed with sharpness of the lenses. I really like sharp lines and crisp colours, both were lacking with any of the lenses I investigated. But regardless the quality, all the lenses in the world won’t help if you don’t know the basics. I’m still struggling with aperture & shutter speed. I made great inroads last year but after taking so much time off, I lost a lot of the knowledge.

I didn’t pick the camera up for months. And when mom died in April, I just lost my heart for photography. We had worked together on improving my skills – mom was a good critic and gave wonderful advice on content and colour balance.  I really miss her input. I focused on getting up close and personal with the subjects this time. Can’t remember if I used the macro settings or not. Next time I’ll remember to take my little notebook with me. I took a lot of time composing the shots, played with settings to see if I could get a fine balance between shadows, light and sharpness. Here’s a series I worked at the hardest.

ISO 100 f/4 1/1000 – full colour photograph at Queen’s Quay

These images are unretouched. Part of the project was to work with camera settings only to get the best possible quality out of my Canon T6. So you get the unedited versions.

Testing aperture & shutter speeds with a photo of wheat grass against the blue sky By squatting down and angling up a bit, I was able to capture both the brilliant blues in the sky and the subtle yellows in the shadows.  I tweaked a few settings to get the colour balance just right. Vivid colours came through. After I took a few shots, I switched things up a bit. I kept the same aperture & shutter speed, an played with colour vs B&W.

ISO 100 f/4 1/1000 – black and white settings

Same spot, same settings except for the colour. Testing aperture & shutter speeds with a photo of wheat grass against the blue sky This was an interesting exercise. I was curious about maintaining the sharpness, but highlight the shadows.  The colour photo is more visually appealing. It captures the fine details a little better. It also has a crispness about it that this black and white lacks.

ISO 800 f/18 1/200 – black and white settings

Not sure why I ramped the ISO up so high. I think part of it was to see what happens. I adjusted the aperture & shutter speed as well. Testing aperture & shutter speeds with a photo of wheat grass against the blue sky

Didn’t come out grainy like I thought it would. Bit surprised, actually. And I like it. Completely different feel with this shot. Not so finely detailed, but the shadowed areas really pop out.  The impression is a bit wispy an softer. Again, I didn’t do any post production, just adjusted the image size so it wouldn’t bog down the page. I think, if I used ISO 400, it might have been better. The shadows would have been richer.

Overall, it was a good afternoon. It’s easy to forget how much fun it can be wandering around the city with a camera. I’ve got a new photo project I’m starting tonight, which will be a real challenge. I have access to a south facing balcony for a few days, so I’ll be able to do a bit of night photography of the Toronto skyline. This will be a challenge. The golden hour is around 7:30, the sky is bright and clear. I’ll wait around for the sun to set as well and see what I can do. The tripod is already leaning against the door, waiting to go with me. Hope you enjoyed the photos. As always, don’t forget to check out the rest of the site. Lots of photos and rambling thoughts to entertain you. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Don’t forget, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (little links down below). Hit the like button and make me happy.

Improving photo exposure & focus with buckets ‘o seeds

Improving photo exposure & focus with buckets ‘o seeds

I’ve been mulling over photos I took last week, brooding over the lack of sharpness, and decided it was time to backup and refocus (no pun intended) on remedial skills. I spend time composing shots, but not enough on the basics of exposure & focus. My shaky focus, sharpness and exposure skills are sore spots so I pulled up some lessons and ran through them again.

I decided to start with something small and unmoving, but with good shadows. Hence, the reason you’re looking at a bunch of bird seed photos.  The aim was to keep taking photos, experimenting with various exposures, until I achieved clean edges, crisp colours and sharp focus. About 30 photos later, I started to feel like I was finally getting it.

This one isn’t bad, but up close the seeds lost focus. I adjusted a few settings on the camera and went back at it.

Photo of pan of bird seeds

I kept working until:

Photo of pan of bird seeds

The only work done on the photos was a bit of cropping, with exposure and saturation untouched. A major component I need to focus on is getting the colour balance right coming out of the camera rather than depending on Photoshop so much. I like the browns and blacks on these shots. For once I haven’t blown out the blacks and they have a natural look. Could be much sharper, but that will come with practice.

Photo of pan of bird seeds
I opted for the bucket o’ seeds because they were fine and fiddly to try and capture. Different shapes and subtle colour shifts that were merciless if I tweaked the exposure or saturation too much. Turned out to be a fun session. The shadows were much better in this series than in many photos I’ve taken.   The white pebble at the top faired quite well.

Photo of pan of bird seeds
The sun casts strong shadows across the balcony late in the afternoon, so it was a perfect opportunity to fuss.  These are blow ups of specific sections from around 50 or 60 shots. The first in the batch didn’t enlarge well at all. As a matter of fact, they were rather dismal.  I trotted back out to the balcony, adjusted the camera settings, adjusted the focus points and kept shooting.

Super close view of seeds

There’s still a lot of work to be done on focus though. Still not sharp, but I think I finally get it. Next project will be going back out to the street and seeing if I can apply some of these lessons to a broader subject.

This last one was tweaked in Photoshop. I was losing the sun by then and the shade was too strong. It was a good chance to try a bit of adjustment rather than the usual ham-fisted approach.

Photo of pan of bird seeds

I tried for a natural look.  I often go overboard with sharpening photos and under expose them. The result is a bizarre harsh look that can be jarring to look at. So I’m pleased with this outing, even if I didn’t get off the balcony.   I’ll do more sessions working on exposure and focus this week as well as heading out to the wild for more experiments.

An afternoon in the ravine – David Balfour Park bugs ‘n stuff

An afternoon in the ravine – David Balfour Park bugs ‘n stuff

Pottered around this afternoon in the ravine behind David Balfour Park. Lots of green and buggy things down there to enjoy. Far too many of the 2 legged creatures today using the paths so no chance of catching any wildlife. Still a nice day, all in all.

I’ve decided to save for a better camera in the fall. I’m currently using a Canon PowerShot SX130, which is a pretty decent point and shoot camera, but it’s frustrating if I want to set up a close up shot. The macro zoom sucks. I’ve given up on it. It takes forever to set up close ups and is severely restricted in how close (especially with macro) I can actually get. Second issue is the view screen. I can’t see close up very well so it’s kind of irritating setting up shots at weird angles because the screen is pretty much a big blur. I’m going to see if a Canon with a swivel view screen is in the budget. Also, the new camera must have a better colour balance – this is a MUST. I find the Powershot, although fun to use, often bleaches out colours. The greens are never quite right and lean more towards a bluish tint, which I’m constantly correcting with Photoshop. A proper DSLR camera will also let me pop filters onto the lens to compensate for intense sunshine. Hopefully cloud cover will come out with more depth.

I’m thinking of sticking with Canon and hopefully will find one in my bracket. Henry’s Cameras usually has a good selection of used DSLR and lenses. I also need read up on f stops. Fussing with it on the PowerShot seems to be a lesson in futility – does bugger all.  It’s pretty limited in what it can do. Oh and the biggy on my wish list? Better control over focus. I’m tired of the camera trying to pick the focal point. I end up with more blurry shots than I can count. I’d prefer to be able to manually focus. The Canon PowerShot says it has manual, but it’s more a glorified “point and we’ll help you focus” kind of focus. Also be nice if the ISO were a bit more sensitive so night photos would actually look decent. Lots of research to do. I’m a bit wobbly with the mechanics of DSLR cameras and the ins and outs of photography. Time to educate myself about fstops and iso settings so I know what I’m actually doing.

In the meantime, here are a couple of photos from today.

Photo of a moth on a thistle plant

It took me forever to catch this moth. Well, okay, not forever, but it felt like it. Taking a photograph of these little white moths is like trying to bottle a will-o-wisp. They flit about so quickly, plus my camera really does stink at close ups. Got a lot of great shots of blurry white spots on thistles! Want to see those?

No idea what this bug is, but he’s a beauty. Quite large too.

Unknown bug photographed in the ravineNot sure what it is. Could be a cicada. My bug identification isn’t that good. I’m an admirer of insects, but an amateur at identifying them.

This shot I call Incoming! For obvious reasons.

Photo of a bee landing on a thistle plantDidn’t even know the bee was in the shot until I got home and looked at the photos. Lucky shot. I took the photo because I liked the contrast between the greens, reds and white. The funny part is I had spent nearly 15 min trying to catch a shot of a bee on the plants and had, by this time, given up. I did get some great shots later, but it is a bit funny.

Still parsing through the photos and will share more this week. So enjoy. I’ll be loading more shots on my Instagram account, so pop over there to take a look https://www.instagram.com/bittergrounds2016/