In the main role: Oak leaves!

29 11 2009

By now you should already know that I am attracted by tree leaves of all colours and shapes and I often take photos of them. One of my most favourite leaves are oak leaves. They have wonderful curved rounded shape and its back side is often brighter than back sides of other leaves. I spent previous weekend with my family on our cottage in near hills covered by woods and when I was looking for something interesting I found oak leaves in following interesting placements.

The first one was lit by nice autumn sun light and I was attracted by its texture as well as its shape.

1/200sec. @ 100mm, f/11, ISO 200

Then I noticed another oak leaf with very nice dark green moss only few steps from the leaf and I thought those two might make nice contrast together.

1/125 sec. @ 100mm, f/5.6, ISO 200

Here is the leaf as I found it surrounded by beech leaves and leafless blueberry bushes.

1/125 sec. @ 100mm, f/4.5, ISO 200, 2 stacked images for bigger depth of field

Subject for last photo was  a thin stem of young oak tree with few yet gripping dried leaves on its end. The background here is dried grass. I tried to capture the melancholic autumn atmosphere here.

1/250 sec. @ 100mm, f/5, ISO 100

Technical information: all photos were taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2,8 USM macro lens under natural conditions and hand held.

Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions for improvements, don’t hesitate to share them.

Enjoy the first frost where you have it!





Christmas Cactus (A tripod test)

24 11 2009

It’s been a while since I posted information about my purchase for a tripod and you may already wondered when I will post some first experience and shots from a tripod testing. Well, the time is now 🙂

To start from the beginning, the very first test shooting was a disaster. I bought the tripod with intention to be able to take photos inside our house during upcoming short days so it’s obvious that I wanted to test it in these conditions. With the Christmas Cactus already blooming the subject for testing was clear. It was a nice sunny day (Saturday 2 weeks ago if I remember well) sun wasn’t shining directly to the room, yet, so I had a nice strong natural ambient light, cactus standing on the wooden dining table, camera upon the tripod and the testing started. I already found pleasing composition beforehand so I just started shooting. I decided to go to a Live View mode, 5x magnification and then I immediately noticed that whenever I touch the camera, it moves. I “pushed” it with every single push of any button. When I removed my hand the camera came back to its original position so it was not a problem at all. First I tried some shots with shutter speed around one second (with 2s delay which automatically shoots in mirror lockup mode) and was surprised when I saw that the images were blurred 😮 I immediately recognized what was the problem – it was the floor! In Live View mode I could see that my every move on the floor makes the image on LCD to move.

We have wooden floors in the house and they seem to be quite soft. Made of wooden planks, it often creaks (is it the right word?) on certain places and bends down when stepped on on others. You can also notice smaller things rattling on table, fridge and so on when you go over the room fast 🙂 So, I tried some different positions and places in the room and became almost desperate because the only thing I found out was that if I want sharp images I need enough light for shutter speed > 1/2 s. And before you ask, no, I couldn’t try any other room. Our kitchen is currently the only available room due to windows position and due to the fact that we (meaning me, my wife and son) share our house with my wife’s parents and grandparents and I don’t want to bother others with my hobbies.

As I said in the beginning, the first shooting was a disaster. I had 0, yes, ZERO, usable photos after maybe an hour of shooting.

I had another chance after a week during next weekend. Maybe I was more patient or what but I have found out that some planks are maybe less soft… :), anyway, this time I took some photos that I dare to present here even thought they are far from what I would proudly present. Still I find them appealing.

The first one is rather a test of post-processing skills as it consists of 6 stacked images automatically aligned but manually stacked in PS CS4. The background is our beech table with a bit enhanced colour. I’m a complete newbie in shooting against “blank” background so any tips are welcome 😉 See larger version, please.

6x 1/2 sec. @ 100 mm, f/10, ISO 100, stacked manually

For second image I was attracted by bright green colour of back-lit cactus “leaves” and I especially liked the contrast between a back-lit and not back-lit leaves.

1/5 sec. @ 100 mm, f/8, ISO 100

For the final image I looked for some see-throughs and even though I didn’t find any suitable, I really liked how a group of backlit blossoms was almost glowing with white, red and all the shades between them.

~ Red Vision ~
1/30 sec. @ 100 mm, f/5, ISO 100

I like how the small bud on the leave is “hidden” from the light and guarded by soft thorns. Several names for this image came to my mind and the one I like most is Red Vision. It’s like looking on the world through a window covered by a raspberry jam (think of anything YOU like instead of jam) 😀

Technical information: all images in this post were created with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100 f/2.8 USM macro lens upon tripod, and under natural conditions.

I hope that you like it and am impatiently awaiting your comments.

It seems that Father Autumn don’t want the Lady Winter to rule the world yet, so enjoy every single warm rays of sun light you have, they’ll be cooler soon!





Peach Trees Leaves

17 11 2009

We have several peach trees in our garden and two weeks ago on one warm sunny day I noticed that one peach tree has leaves with nice warm yellow colour while another one has leaves with dark red colour. I thought that these 2 colours would make a good contrast so I picked up couple handfuls of those yellow leaves and one red leaf. I dropped those yellow leaves on the ground and arranged them so no ground was visible. Then I tried to drop the red leaf several times on those yellows and looked for appealing composition. After some time I came up with something that I liked. When I processed the image in computer I liked the result but wanted the colours even more enhanced so I tried the Orton effect and really liked the warm glowing colours.  Here it is (see larger):

Peach-Tree-Leaves-I

1/400 sec. @ 100 mm, f/4.5, ISO 100

I have posted this photo in 2 photo forums, on one I got several answers that the light is too harsh, on the second they liked the light 🙂 So I wonder what you will say. And for your information, there’s nothing over exposed according to histogram 😉 Just today I’ve noticed that the top half of the image is significantly heavier than the lower part but the composition does not work when it is upside down. What do you think?

When I had a couple of images that pleased me I squated to look closely on the leaves and I was attracted by their jagged rims. I took another couple of shots and was quite surprised by the results.

III-Dragon-Wing

~ Dragon Wing ~
1/640 sec. @ 100 mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

What you see is about 2/3 of original image. I know that it is too tight in the lower left corner but it’s the best I could come up with. It’s another addition to my Floral Curves Series (very slowly growing) and as I’m big fan of fantasy the first thing that appeared on my mind when I saw the image was “wow, it looks like a dragon wing” 🙂

Technical information: both images were shot with Canon EOS 450D and Canon EF 100mm f/2,8 USM macro lens under natural conditions, hand held.

I hope you like the images,
enjoy the autumn/fall colours and light!





How to improve in photography?

15 11 2009

First of all I want to thank you for sharing your experience and observations about using photo forums. The most discouraging reasons from posting your photos at such forums are:

  • it is too much time consuming,
  • you need to comment other photos to get some feedback on yours,
  • some forums are based on unwritten rule “give me nice comment and I’ll give nice comment to you”.

Most of you answered that mainly because of the first reason you don’t post your photos on photo forums no more or only seldom. This leads me to question: what do you do to improve your photography?

Practicing? OK, but how do you know that you do it right? Taking photo courses? All right, but that’s mainly one time event so it doesn’t tell you that you improve continually, right?

I’m really looking forward to your replies and while thinking about answer you can let your eyes wander over following image 😉

A-Hazelnut-Tree-Leaf

~ A Hazelnut Tree Leaf ~
1/100 sec. @ 100 mm, f/8, ISO 640

Technical information: the photo was taken with Canon EOS 450D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens under natural conditions, hand held.

I took this shot in our garden last July when I was walking with a camera in my hand, looking for something interesting. I noticed this leaf and it attracted me by the way how it was lit by sun and how the veins in the leaf were dropping shadows.

Enjoy every warm day as winter will arrive soon!





PN, NSN, NPN…WTH?!? (My experience with photo forums)

10 11 2009

If you are new to the world of photography and you are also keen on photography, you want to show off your photos to other people. You create a web page or perhaps a blog like this one. Great! You’ll get some responses, mostly positive, of course.

Now you know that you can create something that is appealing to others but if you’re self-critical enough you most probably realize that your work is far from perfection which feeling can be even stronger if you saw photographs by some masters in the field. So what next? Fortunately, there are various forums throughout the vast net created for the purpose of gathering both amateur and professional photographers with the intention of sharing their skills and experience. I have joined several photo forums in past years and I’d like to share here my experience with them.

Photo.net (PN)
The first bigger international portal with different threads/topics that I joined was photo.net (PN). It hosts the biggest photo forum I’ve ever seen and visited. I joined it more than 1.5 year ago and I already presented my experience with it here in this post.  Beside photo forum where one can critique and rate images of others there are also forums about cameras, lenses, various technical accessories, techniques, reviews of photographic stuff and also interesting photo tips. PN is huge community and if you’re looking for the most excellent photos in any possible type of photography (nature, street, still life, portraits…) you’ll find it there. Focusing on photo forums I have found these:

  • pros:
    • HUGE community covering amateurs and professionals
    • HUGE amount of information about photography in general as well as about photographic equipment
    • free unlimited space for your photos with one condition: you can have maximally 4 photos not posted for critique
    • 28 topics including very specific ones such as Insects or Birds and also very general such as Nature, Events or Travel.
  • cons:
    • HUGE amount of new photos added every day and if yours is not at least excellent then it’s forgotten very soon due to the procedure of posting new photos
    • absence of moderator for different topics
    • even anonymous viewer can rate and critique your photos which often results in rating without a comment
    • in this huge amount of viewers (members+anonymous) there are ALWAYS anonymous who rate your image as average or even worse without leaving a hint of what they dislike. Especially this can discourage new shy amateur photographers
    • You will receive negative critique or a critique with suggestion on improvements very rarely so if you want to improve your work PN will not help you much
    • 1 photo post for every 24 hours – the amount of daily photos is tremendous
    • no possibility to include hyperlinks in a photo description by author so no possibility to link a bigger version of photo

NatureScapes.net (NSN)
It was almost half a year ago when I joined NSN. By that time I was looking for a place where I could show my images and get valuable feedback with suggestions on possible improvements. The NSN was one of the very first responses that uncle google gave me and it looked pretty well so I decided to give it a try. I already gave some of my impressions here in this post from July.  Now after couple more months I want to share more experience and also pinpoint the pros and cons. NSN is again a photo portal hosting photo forums where photographers, both amateurs and professionals, can post their works to receive comments and critiques from others. Signing up to the forum is for free but there are certain benefits if you pay for it. The most noticeable benefits are a possibility to have your images hosted on NSN servers (for the purpose of posting them in forums), a possibility of having your personal portfolio on NSN, and possible discounts on workshops provided by NSN. Full list of benefits is here.

Beside photo forums you can find there interesting news from photographic world, interesting articles in more than 10 different categories, portfolios of paying members, workshops presented by NSN members, e.g. professional photographers such as Greg Downing and Rick Sammon, list of upcoming events such as shows of NSN members and finally NSN store with photographic equipment.

Focusing on photo forums I have found these:

  • pros:
    • mandatory membership for viewing photos and commenting on photo forums
    • at least 2 moderators for every photo forum. These experienced photographers always give their comments to every posted photo! Moderators of Flower and Macro forum are fantastic photographers Thomas Whelan and Matthew Pugh.
    • smaller community creating almost family atmosphere
    • smaller community posts smaller amount of photos, e.g. around 10-15 in Flora and Macro forum every day which is easy for daily follow up
    • announcing Image Of The Week (IOW) including also photos by free members
    • challenging photo motifs for every 2 weeks
    • commenting members are not afraid to give constructive or even negative feedback with suggestions on improvements
    • 1 photo post in 24 hours
    • authors of photos almost always answer to questions raised in comments
  • cons:
    • only 5 photo forums for posting photos
    • Flora and Macro topics together in one forum combining photos of insect and flowers
    • smaller community makes only around 20 persons visiting forum (Flora and Macro) daily and commenting new posts
    • posts are usually commented on daily basis so most of comments you will receive during one day. Photos are quickly forgotten and no one will get to them later on.
    • as free member you need to have another host for your images
    • no possibility to search for your posts only

NaturePhotographers.net (NPN)
I’ve been invited to NaturePhotographers.net (or Nature Photographers Network (NPN) or officially Nature Photographers Online Magazine) by Bernie Kasper, if I remember well, and I’m really glad for it.

NPN is a photo magazine with various articles about nature photography, image galleries, photo forums with number of topics, paying member portfolios, e-shop with photography equipment and more. Behind NPN are sound names such as Mike Moats, Varina Patel, Darwin Wiggett, Guy Tal, Steve Foss and others. A membership is free or you can pay a fee for additional benefits such as own portfolio, image hosting service, discounts on online workshops and others. You can read whole list of benefits here.

Focusing on photo forums I have found these:

  • pros:
    • 9 image gallery topics + 1 with weekly theme
    • separated flora and insect galleries
    • 1 moderator for every topic commenting on every single photo
    • free viewing of galleries and photos
    • mandatory membership (at least free) for commenting on photos
    • in TOP 100 photo webs on the internet according to web100.com
    • visited also by stock photography buyers
    • commenting members are not afraid to give constructive or even negative feedback with suggestions on improvements
    • the size of NPN community is just right for posting up to 10 images daily so it is easy for follow up
    • very high quality of posted photos – very challenging and motivating
    • new photos are not forgotten so quickly and you can receive new comment even after a week
  • cons:
    • monthly and weekly picks only for paying members
    • pick for magazine cover photo only for paying members
    • posts older than 1 month posted by free members are automatically deleted
    • 1 photo post in a week (for not paying members)
    • authors of photos answer only rarely to questions raised in comments

To sum it up I would say that posting photos on photo forums is definitely beneficial if you want to improve your skills and techniques, well, finding a suitable forum may be hard and time consuming.  A single photo forum may not suit you and I must say that combination of NSN and NPN suits me pretty well. If NPN had a slightly bigger community and if authors of photos answered on questions in comments I would be considering paying a membership for real.

I hope that this post will be helpful to some of you and to make it more “juicy” here is one photo from my Meadow Dreams series, which wasn’t yet published here:

Meadow-Dreams-IV---Dream-About-Summer

~ A Dream About Summer ~
1/500 sec. @ 100 mm, f/4, ISO 200

Technical information: the image was taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens under natural conditions, early morning summer light, hand held.

Enjoy the last colours of autumn/fall!





Bloody Dahlia

4 11 2009

I used to post more photos in one post in mini series connected by theme or object but sometimes the result of taking photos is only one good image and so far I haven’t presented these “singles”. So here is the first one (see larger, please):

Bloody_Dahlia

1/100 sec. @ 100 mm, f/3.2, ISO 200

Technical information: photo was taken with Canon EOS450D camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens, hand held, in natural conditions. Post-processing contained levels and contrast adjustments in PS CS3 and intensity of red colour was decreased by value -10 on 255 scale.

We have few mini Dahlias (I don’t know proper name) in a garden, each around 30cm high with blossoms around 5cm in diameter. They are in bright colours of red and yellow and as the blossoms are so small they are not very good for abstract images I like to take. I was attracted by inner curved petals in this one and also by the contrast between bright yellow and bright red. The magnification here was something around 1.5:1.

Hope you like it. Any suggestions for improvements are warmly welcome! Is the red too powerful, too bright?

Enjoy the first snow as I do today!





A tripod… ordered!

2 11 2009

When I started to focus on floral macro photography early this year I was very strongly AGAINST the idea of taking photos with a tripod. I was convinced that it would only slow me down and instead of taking 50 different photos I would be able to take only few  in the same time. Moreover I was convinced that a tripod is not necessary as I’m often shooting with low f-stops which allow me to have higher shutter speeds.

As time passed by and number of taken photos significantly rose I started to realize that sometimes a tripod could be handy such in cases with low light conditions or when  I had to be bent in a position which was painful or when small thing spoiled the composition and I noticed it only afterwards. In that time I started to consider work with a tripod for the first time and so I borrowed a tripod from my friend. Unfortunately it was a cheap one, nowhere near to sturdiness and reliability, and so I remained sceptical.

Sometimes in August a colleague of mine, also a photographer, bought a new tripod and I was happy being able to borrow it from him for a day. It was a Manfrotto brand (known as Bogen in USA) and it was completely different experience to shoot with it. I played with it a bit and was really excited! After this experience I started to consider buying a tripod for real.

Since that time I realized during almost every  shooting that a tripod would be very handy and so I finally decided to buy one. Just yesterday I ordered Manfrotto 055XPROB aluminum tripod with a Manfrotto midi ball head 488RC2 which is the same as I had borrowed from my colleague only with larger ball head.

I’m really looking forward using it and I will surely share my first experience here but until that time I would like to ask you for mentioning your shooting techniques with a tripod here. Do you look for a suitable composition without a tripod and after finding it you shoot it with a tripod or do you even look for a composition with a camera on tripod? Or do you always have the idea of image in your head and just go to the subject with a camera on a tripod, place it and shoot? I am really interested in your attitudes to this. Don’t hesitate and share it, please!

All images are linked to http://www.manfrotto.com.