Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Macro Light Play with Queen Anne's Lace

I love seeing Queen Anne's Lace come into bloom. I decided to pick a couple stems in various stages of life - closed buds, just opening, open all the way, and beginning to turn to seed. They were placed in a vase (just to hold them upright) in front of a plant outside - I wanted to achieve the natural outdoor setting. The challenge with this is that the slightest breeze moves the flower resulting in a blurred shot. And my back was killing me from bending over.

1.5 s at f/5.6
So the vase was brought inside. That would eliminate any breeze-movement and I could set the exposure time as long as I wanted. By being able to have a long exposure time, I could also use whatever f-stop I wanted. The comfort of sitting in a chair was just a bonus.

It was completely by accident that I got the lovely colors in the background. It was the brown table cloth and the TV showing in the background.
1.5 s at f/5.6 - TV in the background

By moving the flower so it was in front of the window instead, this pretty blue background happened.

2.0 s at f/6.7 - window in the background
The real magic happened when I brought out the flashlight. The shutter speed was left open for quite a long period of time and the flashlight was used to light the flower. The background is darker because it isn't being lit by the flashlight. The flashlight can be used a couple different ways:

1 - Keep the flashlight in one spot focused on one flower for the entire exposure. This results in a spotlit flower with the other flowers left in shadow.
Spotlight without movement
(same window in the background)
2 - Move the flashlight around during the exposure time. This paints light on everything it touches. 

1/8 s at f/9.5 Paint the flowers with the light
During my play the 250D Close-up Lens was added so I could get even closer to the flowers.
I'm finding that the most important things for successful Macro photos are:
1 - Perfect stillness. Use a tripod. Use a Remote Shutter Release so you finger doesn't move the camera when the button is pushed. Make sure there is not breeze or someone walking thru the room. And keep Jake (my sweet cat) OFF THE TABLE :)
2 - Use the zoom focus to get the best focus possible. When taking photos that close, the depth of field (or the space where things are focused) gets even smaller.

Lesson - An ordinary flashlight can be used to add light to a non-moving subject. This allows for longer shutter speeds and smaller f-stops.

- 1 Photo a Day....makes me happy (and a better photographer) Bonnie McCaffery (always a student)
Here's links to the equipment I used.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Me, My Honey, and My Tripod

The Little Shohola
I was running the day before and saw the beautiful morning light near our local stream and I wanted to go take photos the next morning. I love being with my husband so since he was home that morning I didn't want to loose our morning time together. I suggested we go to the stream. He could fish and I could take photos.
My honey fishing
The morning light was gorgeous and we were lucky enough to catch several Cedar Waxwings flying about. I have learned that my tripod is essential for a good clear shot. So I planted the tripod with the camera firmly attached. Everytime the Waxwings perched, I would try and swing the tripod head into place - and off they'd fly. I kept missing the shot. My Canon 70-200 f4.0L IS zoomed to 200mm doesn't leave much space to miss. Don't get me wrong, it is a super lens and I love it. But zoomed in like that, you gotta be pretty much on target.
Where the Cedar Waxwing had been...
only I wasn't quick enough. Next time.

I did finally get one, but wished I was closer.
This is very cropped...Next Time
So here is what I figured out... loosen everything up so the tripod head is free to move EASILY. This way when the Waxwing was perched, I could quickly swing the camera into position.  The left photo is the branch where the Waxwing had been and I missed it (it would have been an awesome setting). The below right photo is a very cropped version of my best shot of the Waxwing for the morning. I plan on going back and getting that perfect shot - I know where to stand now and how to set up my tripod...

One shot of daisies I did get that I like.
Lesson - Loosen up the tripod head for fast tracking while trying to take bird photos.

- 1 Photo a Day....makes me happy (and a better photographer) Bonnie McCaffery (always a student)
Here's links to the equipment I used.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Monet a Photo - Playing with Nik Color Efex Pro 4

I took this beautiful photo of the hanging Spanish moss while I was in Florida. It's lovely and it sure looked like it would be fun to play with. I've been watching a lot of classes (which are free while they are live and an amazing source of photography information with incredible instructors). While watching they demoed some Nik Color Efex Pro 4 filters. I got to download a couple of these for free. The catch was that when I did that, it loaded Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to my computer for a limited time. The problem is not that they loaded, it's that now that I've played with them, I will want to own them. So let me show you what I've done.

I took this beautiful photo of the hanging Spanish moss while I was in Florida. It's lovely and it sure looked like it would be fun to play with.

Awhile back I had done some portrait photos for a friend of my daughters. I selected one of the photos and used the mask tool to remove her from the background. Then I was able to bring her in to the Spanish moss photo. But before I brought her in, I did a little manipulation with the Nik Color Efex Pro.

First I duplicated the Spanish moss photo. That later was mirrored and moved over. I wanted to see more of the branch to the left and I needed to fill the space to the right.
I used 2 of the Nik Color Efex Pro filters - Photo Stylizer and Sunlight.

Next I brought the masked version of my model into the working file. Then one more Nik Color Efex Pro filter...Classical Soft Focus...over the whole image. I reduce the transparency a little and a little sharpening to her face only and ooolaaalaa.

I am really enjoying this compositing stuff and the Nik Color Efex Pro 4. I'm in trouble now, ha, ha...

Lesson - Try out some add on software like Nik Color Efex Pro 4.

- 1 Photo a Day....makes me happy (and a better photographer) Bonnie McCaffery (always a student)
Here's links to the equipment I used.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Backgrounds & Photoshop Fun

I am learning so much lately... I especially love what I've been learning about Photoshop. I have CS5.5. The masking tool in this version of Photoshop is amazing. Rather than me trying to explain it, here is a link to a video that explains it quite well.

So here's what I've done. I have a lovely picture of Abby on a plain blue wall and a macro photo of a rock I took at the Smithsonia Museum of Natural History.

Duplicate the Abby photo layer (Ctrl J). I brought the rock photo layer into the Abby photo and placed it below the Abby duplicate layer. Then I masked out the background of the Abby photo which revealed the rock photo below.

I did do several other adjustments to the Abby photo including removing a few blemishes, whiting the whites of her eyes, and altering the color of her irises to go with the color of the rock.
I played with this a little more with a great photo I had of Levi and a macro photo of Citrine. This time I changed the color of the rock photo (using a Hue/Saturation layer over the rock photo) to go with Levi's eyes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Close, Closer, Closer...

Sometimes I just like to buy myself a bouquet of flowers - it's for homework, right?

I put on my favorite lens (my Canon 100mm f2.8L Is Macro) and my tripod which is critical if your going to take sharp closeup photos. I started with an average shot - it's pretty with the different colors of flowers. But then I went in a little closer....nice.
Then I popped a 250D Closeup Lens on my Macro lens...which meant I could get even closer. It's kinda like a magnifying glass for the camera lens.
And I just kept going...closer...and closer.
I shifted my lens ever so slightly to eliminate the center of the flower. Which do you think is the better shot?
Lesson - Buy yourself a homework assignment of flowers and play with some closeup shots.

- 1 Photo a Day....makes me happy (and a better photographer) Bonnie McCaffery (always a student)
Here's links to the equipment I used.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lily of the Valley and the Butterfly

One of my favorite smells is Lily of the Valley, so I just love this time of year when it announces the beginning of Spring.
The tiny flowers remind me of music notes - joyfully singing the fragrance of Spring.

We found a butterfly - unfortunately he had metamorphised into the next realm (he was dead). But I decided he could still pose quite nicely in the Lily of the Valley. And the beauty of that is that I could focus and he would not fly away. I did still have to be aware of the slight movement of from the gentle breeze.

After picking a few Lily of the Valley and putting them in the sweetest little pitcher I have, I noticed the rainbow reflections on them from my stained glass door. It was just perfect. Luckily I grabbed my camera and took the photos because within minutes the rainbow was gone.

Lesson 1 - take advantage of whatever you find to take photos - even dead butterflies.
Lesson 2 - When you see a photo, grab your camera and get the shot. It might not be there very long. That's why my camera is always out and waiting to be used.

- 1 Photo a Day....makes me happy (and a better photographer) Bonnie McCaffery (always a student)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Zoom - A day at Animal Kingdom

I love when my travels allow for a day of fun. I had an extra day while I was in Florida so I decided to have some fun with my camera at Disney's Animal Kingdom. And what a great day it was.

1/400 s at f/18.0 - 200mm
I am a great believer is choosing one lens and using that for the day. So for this day I chose my Canon 70-200mm f4.0L IS USM. I knew I wouldn't be able to get really close to the animals and I really like closeup photos. This lens allowed me to SAFELY capture the expression on the animals faces.
1/400 s at f/6.3 - 200mm
 Two things that are important to me with this lens are the ability to zoom to 200mm but more importantly is the "IS". This stands for Image Stabilization. That means that if I move a little bit - and who wouldn't if they were holding a heavy lens without a tripod - the camera has a mechanism to help stabilize the camera to get a clearer shot. It can only do so much, so it is still important to try and stay as still as possible.
 Another tip with a zoom lens is that the shutter speed should be at least 1 over the mm zoom. So if you are at 70mm, the shutter speed should be at least 1/80. And at 200mm should be at least 1/200. You would need to be in "Shutter Priority" mode or "Manual" mode to control this.
 Here was my luckiest shot of the day. This sweet little baby duckling was sitting on the rock - and the sun was a PERFECT spotlight. The 70-200 really helped me get a closeup photo - you can see the details in his down feathers.

1/320 s at f/14.0 - 200mm
 One more lucky shot I got was of a bird in flight. I was just clicking away (oh the beauty of digital because you can toss the ones that don't turn out). I was able to capture the spread of its wings. I just wish I had used a faster shutter speed - but I didn't understand that yet. We'll get into that later.
1/400 s at f/11.0 - 200mm
Lesson - Pick a lens and a fun place. Take your camera for a walk and see what you can capture. If you have a zoom, play with that.
- 1 Photo a Day....makes me happy (and a better photographer) Bonnie McCaffery (always a student)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Allow for Cropping to 8x10

I had the opportunity to do my very first Portrait Photography session - you see, I want to be a professional photographer. My friends daughter was going to have her First Communion, so I volunteered to do some photos for her.

The first challenge was choosing a background. With the dress being white, I couldn't use a white background so I choose black to really make it pop.

Gabriella was excellent. She was not only beautiful but had a talent for hitting a pose and connecting with the camera. After the shoot, I loaded the photos to the computer. The photos were beautiful and  I wanted to be sure her mom could just print the photos.
Uncropped (I specifically framed it off-center)
That's when I realized that these photos (taken on my cropped frame Canon T2i) will not print out to be 8x10 without losing some of the photo. Notice the same photo cropped to fit an 8x10 frame.
Cropped to 8" x 10"

If you intend to print 8 x 10 that will fit into standard photo frame, it might be a good idea to allow a little extra room for cropping so no detail is lost.

We also experimented with some shots at the kitchen window. The background was gorgeous with lots of beautiful bokeh (using a shallow depth of field of f/2.8). It is amazing how the different background gives a totally different feeling to the photo. The cross in the window was quite by accident...looks good.

Lesson 1 -  Shoot a little wide so there is room to crop if it will be printed to 8x10.
Lesson 2 - Try out different backgrounds.

See an album of the photos taken...

 - 1 Photo a Day....makes me happy (and a better photographer) Bonnie McCaffery (always a student) 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Looking for the Light...Finding Beauty in the Dark

In Washington, DC, Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero and I wanted to take our cameras for a walk to the Cathedral...but it was getting late.
If we didn't hurry we were going to miss our opportunity to take photos. We hustled along and got there in time to take some photos of the suns light kissing the Cathedral before it left for the night.

The sun was disappearing and I thought our photo ops were about to end. But while taking just one more photo of the sun setting between the buildings, it happened...I looked at one of the photos on the back of the camera and saw the beautiful glow of the street lights.

So I decided to play with that for awhile. I positioned myself just right to get a nice angled perspective line of the street lights and then I waited for the stop light to turn red...Click...

Just as we were about to head back, there up in the sky was the Moon and Venus. I snapped it, but I'm sure it would have been a really good idea to use a tripod (which I didn't bring).

 Lesson 1 - you just never know what opportunities you'll find...even if it's getting dark.

 Lesson 2 - next time bring the tripod.

ASSIGNMENT - Take your camera out in the evening (with your tripod) and experiment with some longer exposures to capture the evening light.

 - 1 Photo a Day....makes me happy (and a better photographer) Bonnie McCaffery (always a student)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Sun is not My Friend

It's a gorgeous day. The sun is shining and the sky is blue. Perfect to take some photos, right? Well kinda... Abby posed on the deck and I thought the sun half lighting her face would be a good thing. Actually it's a little harsh and I've lost the details in her face.
So I moved her into the shade...that's better.
But when she moved down off the porch I noticed the lighting pop on her face. She was facing her white house and it was acting as a perfect reflector.
 But if I angled her just right, I could get just a soft shading on her face with a soft highlight.
 Lesson - use the sun reflected rather than directly right on the subject.

ASSIGNMENT - Find someone to model for you and see if you can bounce some light off of something white (like a piece of posterboard) to get some soft reflected light on their face.

Feel free to post some photos to the Flickr group. Here's the info Flickr group - 1 Photo A Day ... With Bonnie McCaffery - You upload photos to your Flickr account and when you're in the 1photoaday Group page, that's where you select which of your Flickr photos to post to the group.

 - 1 Photo a Day....makes me happy (and a better photographer) Bonnie McCaffery (always a student)