Saturday, 26 February 2011

St Andrews Cross Revisited

I spent an hour yesterday trying to improve on Thursdays photo of a St Andrews Cross spider.  It is a small juvenile and has itself positioned in an awkward spot because of the surrounding branches and the pot the lemon tree is growing in did not help in getting the camera into the right posistion.  Because I had to set the tripod centre post at 90degrees so the camera could be positioned over the pot, I then had to adjust each tripod leg individually in order to set the camera at the correct height which was tedious and frustrating.

This time I made sure the camera sensor was as near as I could to being parallel to the web and consequently the spider in an effort to have even sharpness over the subject.

Again I used the car window sunscreens to even out the bright sunlight and and am more happy with the result.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

More Spiders

At the risk of becoming repititious I found another spider in the backyard today.  This time it was a young St Andrews Cross spider.  Not only are they smaller than a mature spider but their web is different with a disk in the centre of the web instead of the usual cross, which makes it a more interesting subject in my opinion.  The disk was almost the size of a five cent piece and smaller than the abdomen of my previous subject.

With the Garden spider in the last post to this blog I used the hand held tele lens so this time I dragged out the 100mm Macro and trusty tripod.  The bright sun was creating burnt out areas so, to cast a shadow, first I tried draping a white handkerchief over the bush to lessen the effect and then I used a car window sunscreen I had picked up in a $2 shop.  It worked nicely and much cheaper than if I had bought it from a specialist camera shop.  Where the hanky cast a darker, constant shadow, the screen let though sufficient variation in the lighting to give a more natural effect and much softer than using flash.

I'm still not happy with this shot though, as the focus is all on the left side.  I need to go back tomorrow and make sure I align the camera square with the web.  This is the hardest challenge I have found with using a macro lens, to get the shot you are striving for, the lens must be positioned precisely in the exact, correct position due to the miniscule DoF.

I need to use it more to become more comfortable with it.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Garden Spider

I have been watching a spiderless web off our back verandah for some time and promising myself each day for about a week to check it out at night when the spider would be at home as it was obviously a nocturnal type.  This was evident because the web would show definite signs of damage through the day or be almost nonexistent and the next day had obviously been reconstructed during the night.

So last night I checked it out and, sure enough there was someone at home.

The challenge was, the spider was 2/3 of the way up the glass balustrade around the first floor verandah about three metres off the ground, with its web anchored to the clothes line, a tree and a wall.  Whilst I could have squeezed myself between the web and the balustrade in order to use a macro lens, the frame of the clothes line blocked off that access and I could not remove the frame without destroying the web.

I did consider shooting through the glass but decided that would cause too much of a problem by reflecting the flash.  So I decided to use the Sigma 80-400 and shoot from the ground.

I'll be back again tonight and, who knows, I might get lucky enough to catch the spider with it's dinner.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Wanda Surf Carnival

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to take photos of the activity at a junior surfing carnival alongside a group of professional photographers.

As there were children involved we all had police checks and the whole day was so well managed by the company engaged to take photos of the participants we were even supplied with cameras. This was a challenge for me as I normally shoot Canon and the Nikon D100 I was given to use was totally alien. In fact I was so focused on the camera (was that a pun?) I missed a lot of the action.

I have done sports photography before, including Rugby League, Water Polo, Hockey and Motor Racing, but this was a totally different style. Whereas I normally approach the task with the intent of including additional elements such as competitors to add context, here the intent was to isolate the subject. More a case of Sports Portraiture than Sports Action. Unfortunately I did not realise this until it was pointed out later in the day.

Although I am disappointed not to have been able to fully match the pros, I did enjoy the challenge and the learning experience of shooting in full manual mode as well as dealing with the weather which went from cool in the morning to windy and then built up to heavy wind and rain in the afternoon. I was certainly glad not to be using my own camera in the salt and sand blown up by the wind but did manage to keep the camera reasonably dry even when the rain was so heavy I could not see to focus.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Does Equipment Affect Creativity?

In recent times there has been a lot of debate about "Creative Photography" with claims the type of camera or other photographic equipment the photographer chooses to use has no effect on the creative process.  While I agree that a "point and shoot" can produce creative and impressive photos when placed in the right hands, the question remains.  "If a 'point and shoot' is all that is needed, why do serious photographers spend so much money on their gear"?

I took many good photos with a Nikon 5700 but I also took a lot where the "magic moment" was missed due to shutter lag.  Today I came across an interesting article by Mark Dubovoy which articulates the issue in what I believe is a clear and concise manner.  It is offered here for your consideration:

Does Equipment Affect Creativity?

My last blog post was about how I had a butterfly pose for me and below is the setup I used to get the shot in my 'outdoor studio'.

The technical gear used:
Canon 7D - Mid range but not Pro level camera
Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro lens - much easier than a telephoto lens to get in close
Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod - Tall for when I do bird photography (easier to aim high without the pain of having to kneel)
Manfroto 322RC2 Tripod Head - Awkward for miniscule compositional adjustments but a good flexible compromise.
Light Box - Home made from a cardboard carton, silk fabric and glue.
Backdrop - Card sheet from art supply shop
Lighting - Natural overcast sky (no expensive studio lighting) with a bit of fill from the Canon 580EXII flash

So you see from this shot taken on my back verandah I do not necessarily believe we must always use the 'best' (i.e. most expensive gear), but I have learned from experience that for consistent performance, it is always best to use appropriate gear in order to maximise your creative opportunities.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly

Went to The Gap in Sydney on Wednesday evening for sunset and had an unsuccessful photo shoot.  I tried to implement Hyper Focal Distance technique looking up the Harbour for a shot of storm clouds over the City and the Harbour Bridge using 3 shot bracketing for HDR but only the silhouetted trees in the foreground were anywhere near sharp so I ended up with nice enough compositions but the cityscape was too fuzzy for my liking.  I will have to go back soon and try again.

On a better note, on Thursday evening my wife told me she had seen a butterfly caught up in a net she had draped over a lemon tree in our backyard.  The net is to protect the fruit from possums and birds.  I went to investigate and slowly persuaded the female Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly to come into a pet-tank I have for such events and we both enjoyed a good night's sleep.

Early this morning (Friday) while the butterfly was still calm before warming up in the morning sun I set up my light box outside on a table and adorned it with a few bottlebrush twigs before letting the butterfly onto the flower and took the above photos.  It remained there posing for me for about 15 minutes before slowly taking to the air where it circled a couple of times as if to say "goodbye" and flying off.

I have in fact been watching perhaps this same butterfly for about a week hoping to get a chance with her.  It was a wonderful experience, almost as though she was enjoying it as much as I and I'm glad I didn't resort to the trick of putting the creature in the fridge.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


Today I wondered what was disturbing our dog Sam and causing him to bark.  When I went to investigate it was not his usual target of another dog in the street, it was this lace monitor (goanna) in the lilli pilli tree by our verandah.  So I ran and got the camera to fire off a couple of shots before the goanna quietly turned and hid itself among the branches of the tree.

But that was not the end of the adventure.  When I returned a short times later after checking the mail box, Sam ran up and cornered the lizard behind a lounge chair in the house.  The doors were wide open to try to cope with the hot weather and Mr Goanna had decided to check us out.  It took a bit of coaxing but we eventually got it out, back where it belongs.  None of us were injured during our encounter.

It's amazing where photo opportunities present themselves.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Sydney Weekender

Spent a stinking hot day in the Royal National Park today participating in the recording of an episode of the tv programme Sydney Weekender to promote an activity to be held there during Seniors Week in March.  Our camera club has been invited to assist groups of Seniors taking photographs on guided walks though the bush.  We will accompany them and provide assistance to help them improve their photography.

This is a great opportunity to promote our club not only on the day but during the promotion carried out by the event organisers and will hopefully result in us gaining some new members.  If the day in Seniors Week is organised as well as today, I think anyone lucky enough to participate will be well satisfied.

I even managed to renew my National Park visitors pass and ducked away for a quiet stroll to enjoy the solitude of the bush for a few minutes.  It has increased my desire to explore the Park to seek out photo opportunities.

About Me

This Blog is about my journey as I try to rediscover photography and all it's pleasures. I took up photography with a passion following my retirement from work and have had ups and downs as I aspired to learn and become the best photographer I could be. I have no interest in becoming a professional in the field, merely that others may enjoy the results of my achievements.