My Week, the macro learning curve
Well, here we go again, starting another week out very early on a Sunday morning, drinking coffee, and pondering the possibilities for the coming week. I’ve always been a morning person, I love being up before dawn to greet the sunrise and enjoy the quiet as the day begins.
The weather forecast for this week looks depressing, more of the same very cold temperatures that we’ve been having so far this winter, and of course, more lake effect snow at times. Today is the anniversary of two of this area’s worst blizzards, in 1967 and 1978, both of which occurred in my lifetime.
The storm that’s winding down now was no slouch, but it hasn’t been as widespread as the other two were. This one has been one of lake enhanced snow, areas along the Lake Michigan shore have seen well over a foot of snow, we received about 6 inches here, and the snow totals taper off quickly off to the east. I say that the last one is winding down, it’s hard to tell around here, as another shot of snow is headed this way for today.
I talk about lake effect snow all the time, and here’s why. Muskegon has received close to seven feet of snow this season, here in Grand Rapids, 40 miles to the east, we’re closing in on six feet. Meanwhile, Detroit, on the far east side of the state, has just gone over two feet of snow for the season.
This coming week looks very, very cold to start out, then it may moderate a bit, to the point where day time high temperature reach what our average low temperatures for this time of the year are. Yuck!
To beat the cold and snow, I’m going to do something that I don’t normally do, as far as my blog, I’m going to an orchid show today, at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. I’ll have to wait to see the photos that I shoot to decide if this trip will warrant a post of its own, especially since I doubt that I’ll get many photos this week while walking.
I’m back, I shot 350 photos today, and I knew that there would be a learning curve to getting good macro photos, so you’ll have to excuse some explaining as I start out here.
I started out with the Tokina 100 mm macro lens with the Tamron 1.4 extender behind it. That combo works very well as far as photo quality under the right circumstances, from what I can tell so far.
However, I found that indoors in an exhibition hall as dark as the one that the orchid show was in, my panel light was about useless. Even using the flash unit of my camera, I couldn’t get the lens stopped down to get the depth of field that I would have liked for many of my photos, after just a few shots, I removed the extender, and used just the macro lens.
To make a long session of trial and error shorter, I ended up using the flash with the ISO set at 1600, and I still could have used more light.
Part of that was the way that the orchids were displayed, which also made using my monopod impossible.
Instead of being spread out a little, the orchids were jammed together in multi-tiered displays, starting at ground level up to eye level, with the top tiers well back from where a person could stand.
I did use my monopod for a few shots, but I had enough trouble getting the compositions that I wanted without it, with it, it was hopeless. Besides, I haven’t used the monopod enough, as I had more problems holding the camera steady with it than without it.
Also because of the way the flowers were displayed, I seldom had a good background for many of my photos. If I was able to stop down the aperture enough to get the one flower that I wanted in focus, I often got many other out of focus flowers in the shot. Opening the aperture up let me get rid of the distracting backgrounds, but then I couldn’t get an entire orchid in focus. But then, orchids are more difficult to photograph well than most flowers, because of their shapes and sizes.
Anyway, here’s a few more from today.
After taking in the orchid show, I went through the greenhouse portion of the Gardens, and with some natural light, I was able to use the new LED panel light rather than the flash.
I can see that there are real possibilities for the LED panel outdoors to enhance natural lighting. It isn’t as harsh as the flash is, and it’s much easier to control.
I shot many, many more photos that these so far, but I’m going to weed through the rest of them, and parcel them out over the next few days or weeks, depending on when this cursed cold spell ends.
Not much to say today, the weather is horrible, bitterly cold, a little snow off and on, and wind.
I’m about to go out for my daily walk, and I’m not going to bring my camera along, there’s no reason to in this weather. It’s going to be a tough, but boring week around here as far as blogging, work is going to be a major pain you know where. Once I get home from my walk, I’ll add a few more photos from yesterday.
Okay, I’m back, and I haven’t seen any snowfall totals from this weekend, as all the weather related websites seem to be down, probably due to too much traffic. I do know this, we got dumped on, and the wind has built up some huge drifts, at least by our standards.
I can remember the harsh winters that we had in the 1960’s and 70’s, and this one will go down as one of the worst. Those winters in the past were marked by storms that dropped a lot of snow in a short time, where as this winter has been relentless. Day after day of extreme cold, snow, and for the past week, wind blowing the snow around.
Well, enough of that, I could go on at length about this winter, but I’m going to try not to.
Instead, I’ll end up repeating myself somewhat about what I learned yesterday.
The Tokina 100 mm macro lens is incredibly sharp, I love it. I was able to get good photos of even tiny subjects close enough that no cropping of the photos was required, as in the red seed pod on the cactus above.
Using the Tamron 1.4 extender behind it doesn’t seem to have any effect on photo quality from what I can see in my photos. I have no qualms at all about using that combination together for macro photos.
The LED panel light is about worthless for macro photos indoors if I’m not using a tripod, it works well for fill in light outdoors, with or without a tripod.
A good tripod is essential for good macro photos, hopefully, the tripod that I ordered will live up to the hopes that I have for it.
My photos of the orchids from yesterday would have been so much better if I had used a tripod, but that wasn’t practical at a public flower show. I can’t wait for spring to get here so I can put all my new gear to use in the way that I intend, when I have the time and space to set up everything for really good photos. Who knows, I may become known as a flower photographer more so than birds?
Speaking of birds, since I don’t have any photos from today, here’s a photo that I found on my computer where it shouldn’t have been, so I don’t know if I have posted this one before.
And, here’s a few more from the orchid show.
Well, that’s it for today, time for a shower, then visiting my mother.
While I’m tired of whining about the weather, my blog is meant as a record of my life, and right now, the only thing that there is to talk about is the weather, so I’ll start with a few stats.
Here’s a few seasonal snowfall totals, South Haven, which is on the route I drive each night for work is up to 98 inches ( 249 cm) for the season. Muskegon has gone over seven feet at 89 inches (226 cm), and Grand Rapids is up to 72 inches (183 cm). We are now just two inches short of our average seasonal total snowfall, gee, I wonder if we’ll make it?
Enough of Lake Superior has frozen over that most of the lake effect snow in the UP is confined to the far eastern end of the peninsula. Areas around Houghton and Hancock which normally get dumped on aren’t getting much lake effect snow any longer.
Lake Superior is much deeper than Lake Michigan, so in theory, Lake Michigan should freeze quicker. However, the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior, with its many bays and areas protected from the wind, give the ice a better foothold which to start from than the smooth coastline of Lake Michigan.
Lake Michigan is only 30% frozen over, so we’re still receiving lake effect snow, but a few more days like today could change that.
The official temperature this morning when I checked was -3 F (-19 C) with the wind chill at -10 F (-23 C), but at least that’s warmer than our overnight low of -9 F (-23 C) which just happened to set the record for this date.
I didn’t do my full run last night for work, the counties in the South Bend, Indiana area had all declared a snow emergency, and were threatening to ticket any one caught driving. I have always thought that such threats were some what hollow, as how can the cops ticket you if they can’t get around to find you. But, our South Bend branch is right across the street from police headquarters in South Bend, so they could walk over to ticket me, so I didn’t risk it.
Since I had some unexpected free time, I posted another installment of the My Photo Life List a day early for something to do last night. This weather better break soon, I’m beginning to run short of photos for that project.
The good news, for what it’s worth, after today, our temperatures are forecast to moderate a bit, up to below normal rather than the way below normal like we have today. But, they are already predicting another shot of extremely cold air for the middle of next week.
Well, time for breakfast, then I’ll bundle up and head on out into the cold.
I’m back. I walked through the subdivision next to the park to access the park, as the trail into the park from the main road has snow so deep that I’d rather not tackle it. That was just as well, as the snow has gotten deep enough all through the park to make walking very hard work.
If this weather pattern that we’re in doesn’t break soon, I’ll be reduced to walking up and down the roads, and skipping the park altogether. If a few other people were braving the cold to keep a trail packed down it would help, but I doubt that it will happen, as most people have enough sense to stay indoors when it’s this cold.
That’s a really depressing thought, as even when this weather pattern breaks, it will take a week of temperatures above freezing to reduce the snowpack to the point where walking on unplowed trails will be practical here in my area. It will take even longer to reduce the snowpack in the parks along Lake Michigan.
As I’m typing this, I can see that the sun is trying to burn through the clouds, and from its position in my window, I can tell that it is higher in the sky than it was a month ago, so there is some hope that spring will get here eventually.
Since there are no photos from today, I’m going to insert a few more from Meijer Gardens on Sunday.
That’s about it for the day.
Wow, there’s sunshine today! I was all fired up to get going when I first woke up, but then reality set in, the snow is so deep that it’s going to be hard for me to get around to get any photos.
For the record, we’re now over 6 feet of snow for the season, and we’ve topped our seasonal average of 74 inches. Since it has been so cold all winter long, there’s a lot of that snow left on the ground, there’s between 2 and 3 feet of snow cover, depending on who you believe.
It’s also still very cold, but at least today, the temperature should climb into the double digits above zero Fahrenheit, a heat wave of sorts.
The long-range computer models are forecasting that much of February is going to be just as cold as January has been, but that’s OK, February is a short month, so it should just breeze past like a snowflake in the wind. 😉
Remind me in a week or two that I said that. 😉
There seems to be a difference of opinions between two of the local meteorologists as far as the forecast for next week. One is saying almost as cold as this week, but with several sunny days, based on the assumption that enough of Lake Michigan will be frozen over to shut off the lake effect. The other is predicting slightly warmer temperatures, but with clouds and snow every day, his thinking is that the wind will prevent enough ice from forming on the big lake, with the lake effect continuing. I’d like to see some sunshine, but warmer temperatures would be welcome as well.
I’m back from my walk, and if today is any indication, I’d have to put my money on the cold but sunny forecast for next week. The wind was quite strong straight out of the west today, which is close to ideal for lake effect here, yet it was sunny, with just a few cumulus clouds.
With a little sunshine, I shot a few photos today, my first ones outside in almost a week.
I would have shot more photos if I had taken my 15-85 mm lens for more landscape photos, but there’s always the chance of seeing a rare to this area bird when the weather is so extreme. I know that it may sound funny for me to say that, but I can remember seeing my first shrike and northern goshawk during the hard winters in the late 1970’s. Those species typically winter father north than my area, but as cold as it has been, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few showed up around here this winter in their search for food.
Anyway, all the photos from today were shot with the L series lens and the Tamron extender behind it. I missed a shot of a mourning dove whistling past me because my footing was so bad in the deep snow that I couldn’t turn quickly enough to follow the dove.
The biggest news from today though was that once again, I could feel the heat from the sun. In the few minutes when I was in areas sheltered from the wind, it felt forty degrees warmer, practically balmy. So I suppose that I would prefer the cold with sunshine forecast over the warmer but cloudier one for next week, if I have a choice. 😉 Days like today at least bring a hint that spring is getting closer, which helps my attitude if nothing else.
The tripod legs set that I ordered is scheduled to be delivered on Saturday, if it arrives early enough, I may go to the camera store to shop for a head to mount to it, so that I’ll have something to play with indoors this weekend, since I doubt that I’ll be travelling anywhere to hike.
There’s another snow storm headed this way for tomorrow, and yet another forecast for Saturday, so I’ll be walking around here this weekend.
Well, we’re back to the gloomy grey cloud that stretches all across the sky, but at least the snow hasn’t started to fall yet, that will arrive later this afternoon. The wind is still quite strong as well, it won’t be a fun day to go for a walk, but at least it’s gotten a little warmer than it has been so far this week.
I really don’t have anything else to say before I go for my walk, other than be prepared for a few more photos of orchids when I get back, as I doubt if I’ll get any photos today.
I’m back, with quite a bit to report. I did an even shorter than normal version of my walk today, as I wasn’t feeling very well today. Nothing serious, but with the wind today, added to fighting through the snow, I felt like cutting my time outside short. I knew that the path that I had opened up through the park would have drifted closed again, and I didn’t feel like trudging through the drifts to open it up today, since the wind would have drifted it shut before I had made it back home.
Since I had some extra time, I thought that it would be a good day to pick up some items that I have forgotten when I’ve been out and about the past two weeks. Since the store I needed to stop at was in the same area as the camera store, I decided to stop there as well, to save yet another trip after the tripod arrives.
I did decide on a head for the tripod, it isn’t a top of the line model by any means, but it is much better than the head on the tripod that I already have.
I brought a camera body and lens with me, and set up the head that I bought, along with several other options, on the legs that I ordered and played around for a while.
I am never going to feel guilty about ordering online again. I got stuck with the same clerk as last time, and he doesn’t know even the basics. I asked some specific questions about assembling the head to the legs, and he was wrong, as soon as I open the instructions for the head, the very first line contradicted what the clerk told me.
Okay, before I go off on a long rant about how ignorant some of the sales staff at the store is, I’ll change the subject. The combination of head and legs that I have purchased are not going to function quite as I thought that they would, but I haven’t given them a full test yet, and the little testing that I did in the store told me that they will work much better than my current set up. And, I think that I can purchase a twenty-dollar accessory that will allow me to use my new set up as I originally intended, but I’ll probably have to special order that item as the local store doesn’t stock it.
But, the most important thing is that with my camera and lens mounted to the tripod, there is no motion when everything is locked down, and that’s a huge improvement over the tripod that I have been using. The new tripod and head is going to be just the ticket for macro photography, which is why I chose the components that I did.
When I got home, I checked my mail, and they had tried to deliver the legs this morning while I was out shopping for the head to go on them. That package was scheduled to be delivered on Saturday, it arrived two days early! No big deal, I can pick it up at the post office which is just up the street from where I live.
In a way, it seems silly for me to want to get ready for macro photography now, when there are few if any subjects to shoot right now, but it hit home while playing today in the store, as on Sunday a the orchid show, that there will be a learning curve to all this new stuff I’m getting.
Speaking of the orchid show, here’s a few more photos from it.
Well, I guess that’s about all for today, unless I either rant about store clerks, or go on and on about my new tripod.
In yet another cruel twist to this winter, our temperature here actually made it above freezing for a few short hours overnight. Of course with a 30 MPH wind blowing, it didn’t feel that warm, but at least it warmed up enough so instead of all snow we got some freezing rain to go with it, along with extremely slippery roads.
Now this morning, it’s back to the normal clouds, light snow, and cold, although the wind has died down quite a bit.
I could do an updated report on the snowfall total for the season, but there’s really no need to say anything more than that it continues to increase, and there’s another big storm in the forecast for tomorrow.
I should dig out my snowshoes, I think that I will if I decide to go someplace else to walk other than around here. Since I start and finish my walks here walking along the road, I would have to carry the snowshoes for a good portion of the distance that I walk each day, and that doesn’t sound like much fun.
If there’s any good news, it’s that there are hints that this weather pattern is going to begin breaking down, although it will take almost the entire month of February before we get into a more normal pattern. At least that bodes well for March, and maybe a pleasant spring.
I was thinking of going to the Air Zoo this weekend, but since they are forecasting yet another major snowstorm, I think that I’ll hold off for now. There’s plenty of winter left, and I see no reason to drive through a snowstorm when that’s what I do for a living.
Besides, I’ll have my new tripod to play with this weekend. I probably won’t post any of the photos taken with the camera mounted on the tripod from my playing, but I hope to post a few of the set-ups that I use while playing. Unless my imagination has been running completely out of control, I think that what I have in mind as far as the tripod, the LED panel light, and the Gorillapod with work extremely well for macro photos, and I’d like to share those ideas with others.
I’m seeing a few peeks of the sunshine that the forecast promises for today, so I think that it’s time to trundle out in the cold and see if I can find anything to photograph.
I’m back, and I did find a few things to photograph, although none of them well. The sunshine has never been very bright today, which was the biggest obstacle that I faced. There were a few peeks of sunshine from time to time, and even a few patches of blue sky, but I would call today mostly cloudy, but pleasant.
With just a very light wind, the little bit of sunshine, and warmer temperatures, I spent more time outside than I have in weeks I think. I saw a few birds, but didn’t try very hard to get a good clear shot of them, which is the other reason that I wouldn’t call my photos from today very good.
But, they do show what the L series lens and Tamron 1.4 extender can do as far as sharpness even on a day like today, so here they are.
After my walk, I paid my rent and then drove over to the post office to pick up the tripod legs, and excuse me for gloating, but what a great set-up I’m going to have for macro photography!
Yes, I’ve been playing already, so I don’t have much time left before work, so I’ll gloat some more tomorrow, along with posting a few photos.
In a complete departure from my normal routine, I’ve been up playing with my new tripod and the entire macro set-up, and I have to say, I am very excited about how well that it all works together.
Before I forget, we’re getting dumped on again as far as snow, a heavy wet snow today. I may or may not go out for a walk later. As hard as it’s snowing, I doubt if I would shoot any photos if I were to venture out, especially since I wouldn’t take a good camera and lens out in this wet snow. If I do go, it will be with the Powershot.
Anyway, I’m going to post a photo or two of the possible set-ups with my new kit, starting with this one. If you notice, I have the Gorillapod holding the LED panel light wrapped around the lens hood of the Tokina macro lens.
It’s hard to see, but the center post of the new tripod can be flipped to the horizontal position, which allows me to reach over or around obstructions and position the camera exactly where I want it. This set-up is surprisingly stable, something that I had been worried about. But, as long as I keep the camera within the reach of the tripod legs, it is a very solid set-up.
But, just playing with the possibilities wasn’t enough for me, so on my way home from work last night, I stopped and did my grocery shopping and picked up a cheap potted flower to practice on.
Here’s another set-up that worked very well. In this case, I moved the Gorillapod holding the LED light to hanging down from the center of the tripod.
My new toys may not look professional, but they sure do work well!
Okay, so it isn’t perfect, that’s the reason for practicing to learn how to get closer to perfect.
That was taken with the Tokina macro lens with the Tamron 1.4 extender behind it to check how much magnification I can get for the very small wildflowers and other subjects. I think that the combination of the two will also work well for insects, allowing me to stay a little farther away.
However, for normal size flowers, I can shed the extender for shots like this.
Since the LED panel light is adjustable as far as output, I can play for artistic effects.
I’ll tell you, I’m about as happy as a clam right now! The flexibility of the tripod as far as getting to what I want to photograph is even better than I had hoped. I can use the articulated LCD display of my camera and not get into awkward positions or places to see what I’m going to photograph. That will come in extremely handy when shooting some of the wildflowers that I have found around Lost Lake and other wet locations. I’ll be able to set the tripod up using the center post horizontally to reach the flowers that I want to photograph, and use live view to see the composition without getting my feet wet, or laying on my belly in a swamp like I did last summer.
The tripod is very solid when everything is locked down, much better than my old Vanguard. I would say rock solid, but that would be stretching the truth. It’s as solid as I think that a tripod can be. Not only that, but it is very light, making it easy to carry. It extends much higher than my old tripod, yet weighs just over half of what the old one weighs.
The adjustable LED panel light mounted on the Gorillapod allows me to throw just the right amount of light at a subject, at the angle that I want. Now, all I need to do is practice more to learn what those angles are. And you don’t need to worry, I won’t flood my blog with hundreds of photos of the gerbera flower as I practice. 😉
Of course the Tokina macro lens is both a joy to use, and as sharp as a tack, a wonderful combination! I see no loss of photo quality when I add the Tamron extender, the only downside to using it is that it gets me too close to many subjects, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
I am really excited about the possibilities of this set-up, if you haven’t been able to tell so far. 😉
I do need to change a few things in my saved macro mode, but those things are minor, that’s one of the things that I’ll do today since the weather is less than great outdoors.
Since I’m still all fired up to play around some more, I’m going to end this post here, and then practice some more, and maybe go for a short walk this afternoon.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!