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!

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7 responses

24 11 2009
Barbara K

I love the first image. The composition and lighting are great. Put a tablecloth (red?) on the table and have an entirely different background! Was unsure why you stacked the images. Please explain that further.

The 2nd image is a wonderful abstract and well done. Because you filled the frame with this, you could have stopped down even more to give more sharpness to the entire length of the edge. Always experiment with different f/stops – which maybe you did already.

I guess to have a good ‘shooting through’ image you would have to find a very translucent petal and shoot through that. The petal will need to be practically touching the front part of the lens. Sometimes you can hand hold a petal or bit of color against the lens.

Glad you’re experimenting here! And, yes, be sure no one is walking about when you’re about to push the shutter!

24 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

First of all, thank you very much for your comment, Barbara. It doesn’t only give me valuable tips but also makes me think more about my techniques of taking photos and about reason why I took it in the way I did.

To the 1st photo, to be honest I like it least from these 3 🙂 The idea with tablecloth or any other material is briliant. I said that I’m a novice in this field of photography, right? 🙂 This photo is made of 6 stacked images and the reason is that due to some reasons I wasn’t able to get sharp photo with longer shutter speed than 1/2 second (I think it was because of the floor) so I couldn’t go for higher f-stop number than 10 with ISO 100. Moreover, even with f/10 the sharpness plane (plane of focus?) was very shallow, not covering a one whole anther, so I took 3 photos for anthers and another 3 for pistil which was curved and bend in the direction from the lens.

To the 2nd image, I tried more f-stops but I liked this one most. I guess that I didn’t play with the theme enough to get whole edge to the plane of focus. Now I think that it could be even hard to achieve because I focused on those tiny soft thorns, not on the edge itself. I’ll try to bear in mind to play more with a theme and not to be satisfied with something only ‘good’. I’m starting to recognize that this “hurry to another shot/theme” attitude is my weekness and I should think more about it.

To the 3rd image, I explained that I wasn’t able to find any suitable/appealing see-through composition but noticed how the light shone through those red petals and liked it. This led me to this image. Again I’ll take your suggestion to my heart for next shooting.

I want to thank you once more, Barbara, for your invaluable advices and suggestions. I should write down all suggestion I get, the list is getting longer and longer 🙂

25 11 2009
Anita

How disappointing to have your first experience with your new tripod be a disaster. However, you figured out the problem. I, too, have wood floors, and have to be sure not to move once I’ve pushed the shutter. I use the 2 second delay. I’ve wondered about getting a remote release cord.

I think the first two images work. The red in the first may be a bit over the top. You did an excellent job with sharpness on the pistils. The second image is compositionally pleasing. It may need a little cleaning up with cloning. The last image doesn’t work for me, but it is a good experiment.

25 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

Thank you, Anita. You calmed me down a bit by saying that you have the same problem with wooden floors. I also thought about remote release, I only don’t understand photo business policy which makes photo accessories ridiculously expensive: Canon IR remote release for budget DSLR’s is around 45$, for higher or older models it is around 100$ for cable remote release and 750$ (!!!) for IR remote release, another 230$ for original Canon tripod mount ring for macro lens I have, or 115$ for no name tripod mount ring (I have absolutely the same for 23$ from e-bay like web). Just yesterday I bought a reduction ring to allow use of polarizer filter with diameter 67mm on my macro lens which has diameter 58mm and it was again some 17$. Sometimes it’s not much but still it’s ridiculously expensive considering that production costs must be under 1/10 of market price 😦

Sorry I let my mind going in wrong direction 🙂 Thanks for your comment on the images, I appreciate them. In the second image I cloned out only some really significant spots and I decided to leave the rest as it is. Good to know that all those specks bothers you.

Next post should be with some autumn theme (mainly leaves) and then I’d like to take more indoor images with a tripod for next posts.

26 11 2009
Anita

I know what you mean about the cost of camera equipment and accessories. This is why I don’t have very much. Also, probably wly I haven’t bought a remote cable.

27 11 2009
Mark

Sorry to hear your first experience with your tripod wasn’t so good Tomas, but I am sure you will find ways to work around it.

Very creative imagery.

27 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

Thanks for stopping by, Mark and thank you very much for your encouraging words!

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