Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Tips and Techniques’ Category

Crab Spider

Crab Spider on Ox-Daisy Blossom

Over the course of the last several months I have been using a Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO CA Dreamer lens that has been on loan to me from Venus Optics. As you read through this blog post you will learn my thoughts on this lens. In short, I was impressed enough with the lens that I purchased this loaner lens and promptly sold my workhorse Nikon 105mm f2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor.

Each image in this blog post is a single capture. No focus stacking techniques were deployed. Some images were photographed at 4X lifesize and this was accomplished by adding a Raynox DCR-250 Diopter to the front of the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro lens. All images, unless otherwise noted, were photographed handheld using the Meike MK-MT24 Flash Speedlite with 2.4G Wireless Trigger supported by a Wimberley dual arm F-2 Macro Bracket.

Gray Tree Frog (Dryophytes versicolor)

Gray Tree Frog chorusing at night

First and foremost, the full metal construction of the lens is in-line with the build quality of other Laowa lenses I own making them durable and able to stand the test of time. The CA Dreamer designation refers to the apochromatic design that significantly reduces, if not eliminates, chromatic aberration in both in-focus and out-of-focus areas of the image.

Robber Fly species

Robber Fly species with prey

The Laowa 100mm 2X Macro lens is a fully manual lens. There is no autofocus, no image stabilization, and the f-stop is selected by manually rotating the aperture ring to the desired setting. Being fully manual also means that no information will be transmitted to the camera, such as f-stop used. Do note that the Canon mount does not have an aperture ring as the f-stop can be selected by the camera. If you have grown accustomed to relying on autofocus and/or image stabilization you will have a bit of a learning curve on working with a manual macro lens. My first forays into macro photography were in the days of film whereby I used a Minolta X-700 with a Minolta 100mm Macro lens. It took me a couple of days to get back into the swing of manual focusing for macro work, as I had become reliant on autofocus, which can actually be a hindrance to successful macro photography.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper photographed at 4X lifesize with the Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached

The โ€œ2Xโ€ designation for the lens refers to the ability to achieve twice lifesize at the minimum focusing distance of 9.7โ€ which refers to the distance from the camera sensor to the subject. No other macro lens on the market today, in the 100mm range, offers the ability to achieve 2X magnification. I have often wished my old Nikon macro lens had the ability to focus closer than 1:1 magnification. At a very affordable price the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro lens provides twice lifesize and superb image quality.

Green Bottle Fly

Green Bottle Fly at 2X lifesize

The lens does come with a plastic lens hood, however, at 2X lifesize I recommend removing the lens hood as it will cast heavy shadow over subjects. I seldom use the lens hood because at infinity focus the front element of the lens is recessed in the lens barrel about 3 inches and moves towards the front of the lens barrel as you get closer to 2X lifesize. As a result, the lens barrel often acts as a lens hood.

Thistl-head Weevil (Rhinocyllus conicus)

Thistl-head Weevil (Rhinocyllus conicus) with Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached

There is an optional tripod collar for the lens that can be purchased. I currently do not own the tripod collar, nor do I have any experience with using it. I have read some unfavorable reviews for the optional tripod collar, however, my thought on the tripod collar is that it may be a useful tool to support two flash units on small homemade brackets to keep the set-up compact rather than using brackets to hold flash units. I will provide an update on this after I have had time to test out my theory.

Baby Garden Spiders

Baby Garden Spiders with Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached for 4X magnification

Venus Optics (Laowa) have clearly created another lens that offers superior image quality at a very affordable price point. I shudder to think what Canon, Sony, or Nikon would charge for a 100mm f2.8 2X Macro lens if they took the time to design one. Letโ€™s compare pricing from Vistek and do note that the Laowa is the least expensive lens, offering superior results with the ability to capture subjects at twice lifesize:

  • Venus Optics Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO: $699.99 CAD
  • Sony FE 90mm Macro G OSS: $1499.99 CAD
  • Nikon Micro-Nikkor VR 105mm f/2.8: $1129.99 CAD
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS USM: $1199.99 CAD
  • Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro: $769.99 CAD
Stink Bug nymph

Stink Bug nymph at 2X lifesize

I am often asked how I am able to manually focus on such tiny critters. It is not as hard as it looks when you practice and perfect good macro techniques. I tend to predetermine the magnification I desire for an intended subject. The next step is to use myself as a human focusing rail and slowly move in and out until sharp focus is achieved. I strongly recommend using inanimate objects placed on the kitchen table as practice subjects.

Green Burgundy Stink Bug (Banasa dimidiata)

Green Burgundy Stink Bug (Banasa dimidiata)

Another techniques I will often use if the subject is cooperative is to physically hold the leaf or stem the subject is on and move it towards the lens until sharp focus is achieved. By utilizing this technique I often find that I am able to support the front of the lens on my left hand for added support, especially when photographing at 4 times lifesize!

Gray Wall Jumping Spider (Menemerus bivittatus)

Gray Wall Jumping Spider at 2X lifesize

The Gray Wall Jumping Spider above was discovered on the brickwork of my home. I carefully encourage it to climb onto a small twig that I could have more control over and move towards the lens until the spider’s eyes became sharp in the viewfinder. After grabbing a few quick images I let the spider go back to its business on the brickwork of my home.

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis)

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle at 2X lifesize

Many of these images were created during self-isolating on my half acre country home. It is quite amazing what can be found hiding in plain sight when we take the time to explore the microcosm

Ambush Bug with prey

Ambush Bug with prey at 2X lifesize

The Ambush Bug above was preoccupied with its prey and the Milkweed Beetles below were preoccupied with each other and this allowed me to use my technique of holding the stem and leaf to take better control of the situation and to focus more easily on the insects.

Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Since many of my images were being photographed at either 2X or 4X lifesize I did select an aperture of f22 for maximum depth of field. I think you would agree that the lens performs very well stopped down ๐Ÿ™‚

Lichens

Lichens photographed using ambient light and tripod

Having a lens such as the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro in your gear bag will allow you the luxury of being able to photograph tight details, itty bitty critters, or large animals such as the portrait of the 3 foot Ball Python below.

Royal python (Python regius) - captive bred

Royal Python (Python regius) – captive bred

Below is a single frame at 2X lifesize of a butterfly wing. While photographing the fine details of the butterfly wing, even at f22 it was critical to keep the the sensor plane parallel to the wing to ensure sharp focus throughout the image, otherwise the delete key would have been utilized ๐Ÿ™‚

Papilio multicaudata (Mexico)Dead specimen from private collection

Papilio multicaudata (Mexico) Dead specimen from private collection

A couple of nights ago at dusk I lucked out and found a Gray Wall Jumping Spider exploring the lichen encrusted bark of one of my large Silver Maple trees. Rather than go in for the tighter images I deliberately stepped back to create a scene that illustrates the spider’s ability to blend in to its surroundings.

Gray Wall Jumping Spider (Menemerus bivittatus)

Gray Wall Jumping Spider camouflaged on tree trunk

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this post I loved the Laowa 100mm f2.8 2X Macro APO lens so much that I purchased it and sold my Nikon 105mm Micro lens. This is my third Laowa lens that I have added to my gear bag. First was the incredible 15mm 1;1 Wide Angle Macro that allows me to capture my signature frog-scapes. The second Laowa lens added was the 12mm Zero D lens, which quickly became my workhorse lens for both landscapes and architectural photography. If you are intrigued by the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro please consider purchasing the lens through my affiliate link by clicking here.

Leafhopper nymph - Coelidia olitoria

Leafhopper nymph with Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached for 4X magnification

Read Full Post »

Coomon Loon (Gavia immer) Lake SImcoe, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Common Loon

Here are a few recent images that I have captured during this pandemic. All but the Common Loon were photographed n my backyard. The Common Loon was photographed on Lake Simcoe near Barrie, Ontario at first light. Arriving at first light not only ensured killer light but also meant I would have the location all to myself as most folks do not get out to take advantage of the sweet light at sunrise.

Each of the songbird images were created from my photo blind that is set-up in my backyard at a birdfeeder adorned with attractive perches for natural looking photos.

Every image in this post was photographed using the Nikon D500 and Nikkor 200-500mm VR lens with a wide open aperture of f5.6.

During these times of social distancing and self-isolation consider creating your own backyard birdfeeder set-up to see what you might be able to capture. It can be a great way to practice bird photography skills with common species, try new techniques,, and to just have fun and feel good. To guide you through the process of creating simple set-ups from which to photograph garden birds please take a look at Andy Rouse’s Wild Angle -Episode 2 by clicking here.

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

Song Sparrow

 

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

White-crowned Sparrow

 

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Male Red-winged Blackbird

 

Cowbird_1620

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

 

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)

Chipping Sparrow

 

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

Common Grackle

Read Full Post »

WILD PLACES COVER

Today I am pleased to announce the release of my 3rd eBook; WILD PLACESExploring the Creative Process of Landscape Photography.

WILD PLACES – Exploring the Creative Process of Landscape Photography is not a book about the technical aspects of landscape photography. It is about the thoughts and decisions that were made, in-the-field, to determine what to include or exclude from the frame to convey visual beauty. Slowing down and making conscious decisions to control the visual elements within the environment will assist you in creating photography that entices the minds and emotions of viewers.

Wild Places features a collection of 110 photographs from Ontario and beyond that will inspire you on your next excursion into wild spaces, as you explore the artistry of the land. Extended captions that correspond to each image provide discussions on the composition, applicable filter selections, and many other useful tidbits of information.

I am often complimented after presenting my various programs for beingย  an engaging speaker who shares inspiring imagery while explaining various tips and techniques in a way that can be understood by all levels of photographers. This eBook is characteristic of attending one of my photographic presentations.

Price: $20 CAD

To purchase your copy of Wild Places please click here.

Read Full Post »

La Palma Glass Frog – unedited RAW Image File

The above photo is an unedited RAW image file of a La Palma Glass Frog that was photographed at our popular “Dart Frogs of the Amazon Rainforest Photographic Workshops” with a Nikon D500, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, and a Nikon SB400 Speedlight mounted on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket. While the flash-generated spectral highlights are well controlled and their is minimal debris to clean-up on the Monsterra leaf, used as a prop, there is one thing that bothers me about this photo as presented. What is that? I do wish that I had switched to the vertical orientation to best represent the frog’s pose on the leaf, however, all is not lost and my wish can be easily achieved with a few simply steps in Photoshop.

After making some initial edits to the image in Adobe Camera Raw the image is brought into the Photoshop interface as seen below.

La Palma Glass Frog Photoshop Interface with the Crop Tool selected and the Content-Aware box checked

Once the image is opened in Photoshop I select the Crop Tool and the Ratio option from the drop down box in the upper left corner of the interface. When using the Ratio option you can select the exact pixel dimensions that you want to use. In this case I entered the pixel dimensions fro a vertically oriented image photographed with a Nikon D500. With crop dimensions now in place over the image I simply drag out the corners of the crop for the desired look and position the frog where I want it to be within the frame. Before I click the check mark to perform the desired crop I check the Content-Aware box. By doing so Content-Aware will fill in the black areas outside of the actual image area to match the surrounding elements. In this case it will fill in the sliver along the bottom and the larger portion at the top. The natural indent of the Monsterra leaf will be fixed later with a simple quick mask removal technique.

After performing the above mentioned steps, the optimized image file for the vertically oriented La Palm Glass Frog image can be seen below. In this situation the Content-Aware did an amazing job of replicating the leaf to fill in the areas that were outside of the image. The Clone Stamp tool was used at varying hardnesses to evict the flash generated spectral highlights and debris on the leaf surface. The lower left corner of the image where the indent of the Monsterra leaf was creating a distraction was fixed quickly and effortlessly by utilizing a Quick Mask. To learn more about using Quick Masks and other techniques to easily optimize image files take a look at APTATS 1 & 2.

La Palma Glass Frog – Optimized Image File

 

Read Full Post »

On Tuesday November 14 at 7:30 p.m. I will be presenting my Ontario & Beyond: Wild Places Wild Faces program for the Photo Arts Club of Newmarket Camera Club at the Newmarket Communtiy Centre and Lions Hall located at 200 Doug Duncan Drive in Newmarket, Ontario. Non-members are welcome to attend the presentation for an entry fee of $5 per person. The presentation features tons of Ontario related imagery and info for those looking for new places to explore within our province as well as destinations that are further afield such as Cayman Brac and the Amazon Rainforest.

Hope to see you there ๐Ÿ™‚

Read Full Post »

Red Rock Point on Georgian Bat in Killarney, Ontario Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 80mm ISO 50, f32 @ 1/5 sec Nikon Polarizing Filter

Red Rock Point on Georgian Bat in Killarney, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 80mm
ISO 50, f32 @ 1/5 sec
(Nikon Polarizing Filter)

 

I recently was reading about an interesting technique for creating water blurs on Moose Peterson’s blog. This technique works wonderfully for river scenes, waterfalls, and along lake shores or oceans. In the image above of beautiful Red Rock Point on Georgian Bay the waves were crashing quite nicely and I was able to create a nice scene with the waves rolling in. I did want to create an image with a much longer exposure, however, the time of day would not permit such an exposure and my 10-stop Neutral Density filter was back in the car. Since I was suffering from nagging lower back pain I was not about to make the trek back to the car to get the filter. Then I remembered the article that I read about utilizing the camera’s multiple Exposure feature to create the blurred look to water imagery. I set my Nikon D800 to the Multiple Exposure feature and dialed in a six frame exposure. Below you can see the effect of this technique. Do note that due to very blustery conditions there is some blurring to the trees as a result of the wind.

 

Multiple Exposure of Red Rock Point on Georgian Bay in Killarney, Ontario Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 80mm ISO 50, f32 @ 1/5 sec 6 Frame Multiple Exposure (each frame has the same f-stop and shutter speed)

Multiple Exposure of Red Rock Point on Georgian Bay in Killarney, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 80mm
ISO 50, f32 @ 1/5 sec (Nikon Polarizing Filter)
6 Frame Multiple Exposure (each frame has the same f-stop and shutter speed)

Read Full Post »

Male American Toad (Bufo americanus) chorusing in pond at night.

Male American Toad (Bufo americanus) chorusing in pond at night.

I have been quite busy these last few weeks, with little time to get out for fresh images. This week with our night time temperatures being relatively warm I had to head out in search of some photos of chorusing toads, which I could hear far off in the distance. Since the ponds behind my home were destroyed a couple of seasons ago I now must travel further a field for images. I have located another productive pond about 15 minutes from my home, so I drove there a couple of nights ago. The toads were being most cooperative as song filled the air.

When I photograph frogs and toads at night I will use a head-lamp as well as two tiny flashlights attached to the flash head with elastics, these are used for focusing at night. Another useful way to use external lighting to assist with night-time focusing is to use a small clip-on flashlight and fastening it to sturdy elements within the pond such as that of a dried cattail stem. By doing so you can aim the light quite accurately to assist with the focusing. This is exactly what I did to photograph the toads in this blog post.

Small clip-on flashlight secured to dried cattail stem.

Small clip-on flashlight secured to dried cattail stem.

Often I have noticed that the toad’s colorations can vary greatly among each specimen that has arrived at the pond. I was delighted to find this specimen with it’s lovely golden yelow tones.

American Toad (Bufo americanus) in pond at night

American Toad (Bufo americanus) in pond at night

Read Full Post »

A Waterfall Along the Nottawasaga River, Organgeville, Ontario

Secluded Woodland Waterfall on the Nottawasaga River near Orangeville, Ontario

The above artistic rendering of a small waterfall located along the Nottawasaga River near Orangeville, Ontario was created using the Photoshop plug-in Topaz Simplify, which is available from Topaz Labs. I visited this waterfall a few years ago and have had the image sitting on the back-burner ever since. This evening I decided it was time to optimize the image file and play around with creating a painterly-like version of it as well. Below you will see the original version of this lovely, secluded waterfall.

Secluded Woodland Waterfall on the Nottawasaga River. Orangeville, Ontario.

Secluded Woodland Waterfall on the Nottawasaga River near Orangeville, Ontario.

In other news: the May issue of the Creative Photography E-Mini-Magazine (The Mini-Mag) is now available on-line here. This wonderful, absolutely free, on-line creative photography magazine is published monthly by Denise Ippolito. Do check out this magazine that is full of useful and creative tips and to see the latest froggie article by yours truly click here.

Read Full Post »

A Large Male Bullfrog on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

A Large Male Bullfrog on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

I created this bullfrog portrait last summer on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. The easiest way to create such images of bullfrogs is to do so from a canoe. Bullfrogs are generally quite approachable and will often tolerate you sliding up beside them in a canoe. By using the Live View mode on my Nikon D800 with a Nikon 105mm Micro lens attached I was able to hand-hold the rig just above the water’s surface for a low perspective – the lens hood was actually dipping into the water slightly. When you photograph frogs in the water from such low perspectives you will be able to get the accompanying reflection. To ensure that I am holding the camera square with the world I place a double-bubble level in the camera’s hot-shoe, alternately you could activate the virtual horizon feature while in the Live View mode. It is also advisable to use auto-focus while doing so as the last thing you need to worry about while leaning over the edge of your canoe is focusing the lens manually.

I am eagerly awaiting this season’s Bullfrog photography on Horseshoe Lake as I will be experimenting with the Sony RX100 in an underwater housing for a completely new perspective on froggies.

Please do click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.

Read Full Post »

Johnstone's Whistling Frog with HighLight Warnings

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog with HighLight Warnings

Above you see a photo of a Johnstone’s Whistling Frog that I created in Port Antonio, Jamaica. This was the first image that I created of these lovely little frogs during my stay in Jamaica. Being excited at photographing a new species I forgot to check my camera settings before clicking the shutter. When I scrolled back through a couple of the frames to confirm my exposures were correct I realized my error and immediately dialed in the correct settings but the frog jumped away. I was left with this image, which on the camera’s LCD screen was showing what appeared to be blown-out highlights (note that in the above image I made adjustments in ACR to mimic what I was seeing on the camera’s LCD screen – the highlight warnings on the camera would have been black instead of red as shown above).

Directly below is the same image as it opened in ACR. You can see that the highlights are not too bad after all. The red highlight warnings seen here red here are the flash generated spectral highlights, which are indeed blown-out with no detail whatsoever.

Johnstone's Whistling Frog in ACR inter-face

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog in ACR inter-face

Now look at the optimized image file below. After making the required slider adjustments in ACR I was able to recover a great deal of detail in what the camera originally indicated was blown-out and lacking detail. I then opened the image in Photoshop and using a series of Quick Masks and Clone Stamp Tool applications addressing the flash generated highlights.

Johnstone's Whistling Frog, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog, Port Antonio, Jamaica

This is why I do not delete photos, in the field, as seen on the camera’s LCD screen. I always wait until I am editing a trip’s images when back home at the computer.

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: