Cactus Macro photography

28 07 2009

I realized that I haven’t seen much macro photographies of cactuses in bloom, to be honest I don’t remember that I have seen a one. And cactuses have such a nice blossoms!

My wife has planted a lot of cactuses before we got married and she still has about two dozens of them. Their blooming season just started and so I decided to take some close-up and macro photos of them. The first one which I present today is of genus Echinopsis (probably Echinopsis multiplex), a cactus that is home in South America, blooms only once per year, has usually only one blossom¬† and blooms 1 – 2 days. The blossom has trumpet-like shape, it’s around 20cm long and it has around 8cm in diameter by the blooming end. The centre of the blossom is bright green, petals are rather greyish around the center and changing into pink in the direction to petal edges. At the end the colours were not much appealing to me so I turned photos into B&W.

Here you can see the centre of the blossom with lot of details.

Echinopsis-eyriesii-I

1/160 sec. @ 100 mm, f/5, ISO 200

Following photos are rather abstract in my opinion.

Echinopsis-eyriesii-II

1/800 sec. @ 100 mm, f/4.5, ISO 200

Echinopsis-eyriesii-III

1/125 sec. @ 100 mm, f/4, ISO 200

Technical information: all photos were taken with Canon EOS 450D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro USM lens, hanheld and under natural conditions.

Let me know what you think and enjoy these summer days!

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Japanese Maple Leaves

26 07 2009

I like tree leaves, especially when they are backlit by warm evening rays of sun light. I don’t have any favourite tree but if I would have to choose one it would be a Japanese Maple, especially the one with red leaves. I like how they decorate garden by it’s nice red colour, how it bows above a garden lake creating calm shadow – an oasis of peace.

I took following photos two weeks ago when I was on our cottage in Beskydy mountains testing new macro lens. Our neighbour has a small lake with couple of trees, bushes and flowers around it there and one of trees is Japanese maple. It was in the morning, sun was not so high in the sky, yet, and its rays beautifully illuminated these red leaves.

Japanese-Maple-Tree-Leaves I

1/100 sec. @ 100mm, f/4, ISO 320

Here I tried something more artistic and I like the result.

Japanese-Maple-Tree-Leaves-II

1/100 sec. @ 100mm, f/4, ISO 400

On the last one I really like the contrast between red colour of leaves and green veins.

Japanese-Maple-Tree-Leaves-III

1/125 sec. @ 100mm, f/4, ISO 200

There is infinity of possibilities so if this is not exactly your cup of tea why not give it a try? Maybe you’ll be surprised by the outputs.

Technical information: all photographs were taken with Canon EOS 450D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro USM lens.

Have a nice summer days!





Meadow Dreams

22 07 2009

Couple months ago I read Rod Barbee’s article on NatureScapes.net called “Meadow Diving” and I realized that that’s exactly what I sometimes do. I like this expression and I use it nowadays. I collect photographs taken this way in a series called “Meadow Dreams”. What is it all about?

Well, you grab your camera with macro lens or a zoom lens and optionally a close-up filter, set it to the longest focal length and set aperture wide open, equip yourself with patience, and waterproof trousers if there was a rain, go outside, find some nice meadow with blooming flowers and simply dive into it – knee or lay on the ground, depending on the hight of grass, and look through the viewfinder of your camera for some interesting compositions.

As you need a blooming meadow the most suitable season for taking this kind of photography seems to be spring but you can try it even in summer or maybe also during autumn. There is a LOT of interesting things and details, not only flowers and blossoms, which you can include into your photos.

I found some appealing compositions when looking through higher grass straws to some smaller blooming flowers behind them focusing to nothing particular as on the following photo. Those pink hues are blooming clover.

Meadow Dreams I

~ Meadow Dreams Series ~
1/60 sec. @ 70 mm, f/8, ISO 200

You can even try to focus on some subject but then it should be only one subject or if you want to have more in focus you should assure that the composition is still pleasing.

Meadow dreams II

~ Meadow Dreams Series ~
1/60 sec. @ 70 mm, f/8, ISO 320

If you are lucky, you can struck on the macro landscape like the following one. The yellow “sun” is some kind of Ranunculus and the blue “pond” are Myosotis flowers (Forget-me-nots).

Meadow dreams III

~ Meadow Dreams Series ~
1/60 sec. @ 70 mm, f/5, ISO 800

The key element in this type of photography is light. It doesn’t matter in which phase of a day you take the photo but you definitely need the light bringing very nice atmosphere to the photograph such as in the first photo. The afternoon and evening light is great, I haven’t tried the morning light but I guess that it will be pleasing, too, as it is very soft.

For your information: all the photographs above were taken by the end of last May, first two after noon, the last one in the early evening. Canon EOS 450D with Canon EF L 70-200mm f/4 IS USM and HOYA close-up filter +4 was used.

So, if you like this kind of photography, there’s nothing easier than getting outside, finding some nice blooming meadow and diving into it ūüėČ

Have a nice summer days!





Day lilies

20 07 2009

Day lily (of the genus Hemerocallis) got its name from the fact that every blossom blooms only one day. Fortunately one flower has plenty of stems and every stem has around 5 blossoms which means that it has a lot of blossoms and blooms for quite a long time, usually couple of weeks. There is a lot of different varieties and hybrids varying in colours and size of blossoms. Petal leaves are usually quite thick and contains big amount of liquids  therefore they seemsto glow when sun is shining through them. When you consider that some varieties are really colourful where one colour changes into another one very smoothly you realize that they are very suitable for close-up or macro photography. If you have light lens with f/2,8 and you open it up fully you will get very interesting colourful photos.

Yesterday were all the conditions perfect so I took few shots of these wonderful flowers. First image shows a bit more details of the blossom with stamens as the main subject.

Hemerocallis-1

1/125 sec., F10, ISO 200

Stamens and pistil have very nice colours and great curves so they are wonderful theme for macro shots as the following one.

Hemerocallis-2

1/1000 sec., F3.2, ISO 200

It’s really fun to set the macro lens to magnification ratio 1:1 and follow the stamens or pistil curves. Once something grabs your attention you just push the trigger.

Hemerocallis-3

1/1025 sec., F2.8, ISO 200

Sometimes the image may be interesting even without anything in focus. Only colours, light and shapes.

Hemerocallis-4

1/1000 sec., F2.8, ISO 200

The stamens are too dominant hence too luring to have them in an image. Unfortunately, they are too close to each other very often so it may be very hard to find suitable composition where nothing is cut.

Hemerocallis-5

1/800 sec., F2.8, ISO 200

The last image is the most appealing to me. I like the combination of nicely hazed low right corner with deep purple hues and then the curved stamens pointing diagonally to the top left corner.

Hemerocallis-6

1/1000 sec., F2.8, ISO 200

All images have been taken with Canon EOS 450D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens and hand held.

There are also other photographers taking this kind of photos, actually one of them, professional photographer Michael Brown, brought my attention to this and he’s still my main source of inspiration. Beside Michael I know Ramamohan Pai, yet. You can see their work on following links:

I hope you enjoyed this post and wish you to have a nice summer day!





Photos from new macro lens

17 07 2009

Finally, I was able to prepare some of the very first photos from my new macro lens for posting. To say at least few words to the lens – it’s very sharp and the AF is incredibly fast and precise. It’s just perfect. Unfortunately the viewfinder in my camera seems to be too small for shooting macro so I see the image sharp in the viewfinder but later when I look at it on monitor I can see that the focal plane is 1 or 2 mm off (this happens when I use manual focus). I’m starting to consider buying a tripod seriously. OK, enough talking, here are those new images:

Cosmos-bipinnatus

~ Cosmos Bipinnatus ~
1/100 sec. @ 100mm, F5, ISO 400
Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

We call them Beauties in our language. They are not commonly seen wild, they are mostly planted in gardens even though they are not considered to be priced flowers.

White-Campanula

~ White Campanula ~
1/125 sec. @ 100mm, F8, ISO 200
Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

These are quite rare to be seen growing wild whereas their blue cousins can be seen everywhere in late spring.

Daucus-Carota-750px

~ Daucus Carota (Wild carrot) ~
1/250 sec. @ 100mm, F5.6, ISO 200
Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

I never knew it’s a wild carrot until I looked into an encyclopaedia for an ID. These are pretty common here, it seems that they are on every single meadow blooming now.

I hope you like it. Have a nice weekend!





Interesting tools and techniques

14 07 2009

To fill the time until I will post my first photos taken with my new Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens I would like to mention few interesting software tools and techniques which caught my attention in last couple of weeks.

The first technique is Michael Brown’s Orton method for boosting colours. This easy technique containing only a couple of steps in Photoshop provides very interesting results which may be suitable for some kind of images. You will probably get better results with lighter images but basically it can be used with any type of photo. Here is an example:

Click to see larger version.

Click to see larger version.

On the left side is original image, in the middle is fully applied Orton method and on the right side it is set up to pleasing level. You can see that this method really boosts colours and brighter colours seem to be glowing. Note that this is just one Orton method, you’ll find more of them if you’ll search the internet.

Another interesting technique is High Pass Sharpening. So far I used simple Sharpen filter or Unsharp mask in Photoshop but High Pass Sharpening has some indisputable advantages. As the sharpening is done in different layer, you can cancel the effect any time and moreover the sharpening works even if you resize your image and that’s what I like about it the most. As this technique works with edges in the picture it’s rather suitable for images with blurred parts where normal simple sharpening doesn’t work so well. Here’s an example:

'Before and after' comparison. Click to see larger version.

'Before and after' comparison. Click to see larger version.

On the left side you can see original image before applying sharpening, on the right the high-pass sharpening is applied fully to exaggerate the effect a bit. You can see that the petal leaves are not sharpened much while on the green leaves a lot of details have been sharpened.

Third tool/technique which interested me is the Mogrify plugin for Photoshop Lightroom 2 created by Timothy Armes, presented by Jim M. Goldstein on his photo blog. This plugin allows you to add borders, watermarks and notes to your photos during their export from Lightroom. As this plug-in looks very interesting it’s not much useful for me because I usually enhance a photo in Lightroom, then take it to Photoshop, make final tweaks there and then export it. The Mogrify plug-in for Photoshop would be handy here. If you’re using only Lightroom then you can give Mogrify a try, though.

Last tool that I would like to present here is Topaz adjust plug-in for Photoshop developed by Topaz Labs and tried and presented by Mark Graf on his photo blog. This plug-in allows you to enhance your images dramatically in a matter of exposure, contrast, colours and overall feel so they look light HDR images then. I haven’t tried this tool yet but I’m convinced to give it a try as soon as it will be possible as well as try other tools by Topaz Labs which look really great. You can find samples and tutorials on Topaz Labs homepage.

That’s all for today, I hope it was useful for you.

~ All images in this article are copyrighted by the author of this blog, Tom√°Ň° Tureńćek.





A new toy

10 07 2009

Just a short announcement today. I received my new toy yesterday and this toy is nothing else than Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens (see the Equipment page for more details). Thanks to Oehling e-shop for quick delivery.

I’m going to our cottage in the mountains with my family for this weekend so I hope I’ll have a plenty of opportunities to play with it. I’ll post first impressions and hopefully also some first shots early next week.

I had only a couple of minutes to try it yesterday and the very first impression was “Damn, the auto focusing is really quick!” It’s faster than an eye wink even in cases when focusing through whole focusing range! As I’m now thinking about it the very first impression probably was when I took it out of the box and the impression was “It’s moderately heavy”, it’s around 600 grams. The quickness was the second one. The third impression was that the focusing seems to be quite reliable in good lightning conditions but failing sometimes in bad light.

OK, that’s all for today. Have a nice weekend!
Tomas.