What more could I ask for?
As far as photography gear, not much if anything, other than a way to lug all of it around. I’m now carrying three lenses and two camera bodies daily, and I typically use four or five lenses each week. If it’s a nice sunny day, I carry one body with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) attached, if it’s cloudy and dreary, that body has the 300 mm prime with the extender attached. In the holster bag that I have, I carry the second body, the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, and usually, the new Canon 10-18 mm lens. If I see something on one day that I can’t get the photo that I would like using those lenses, I’ll switch what I carry, which so far has been to swap the 10-18 mm for the 15-85 mm lens.
The only lens that I seldom use is the Canon 70-200 mm L series lens, which is odd, because a lens of that focal length is considered to be a “must have” by many photographers. I knew that once I had completely filled out my kit that I wouldn’t be using that lens often, which is one of the reasons that I opted for the cheapest of the five L series lenses of that focal length that Canon produces. I would almost consider purchasing that lens to have been a mistake, but I know that there will be times when it will fit the bill for landscape photos. I used it often to photograph many of the waterfalls when I went to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last fall when I couldn’t get close enough to use the 15-85 mm lens, so I know that I will use that lens on occasion.
My latest purchase was the Canon EX 320 speedlite, which I’m still playing with, learning how to use it most effectively. I wish that it had a bit more output, but how well I can control it and its flexibility make up for that, at least that’s what I’m seeing so far. For example, on one my morning walks, I bumped into one of my song sparrow buddies. I asked him if he would pose for me, and that if he would, I’d make him a star on the Internet. His reply was “Oooo, I’ll bet you say that to all the birds!”….
…which is true, but he doesn’t have to know that. 😉
Not wanting to take a chance on missing fame and fortune, he did a little primping…
Then posed for a few photos so that I could see how well the flash did while shooting toward the sun casting deep shadows on the sparrow.
No red-eye, which I’ve always had trouble with before when using a flash on wildlife, and the images look natural, and not as if I had used a flash. But, I had plenty of practice dialing the flash unit in when I went to Muskegon the last time, learning how far I could shoot effectively with the unit, and filling in the shadows in poor light. This photo, that a couple of people liked in particular from the post that I did on that trip, the Baird’s sandpiper….
…was much better than the images that I shot without the flash. The EX 320 couldn’t overcome all the shadow, but it lessened it enough to make a pleasing image.
Here’s a nuts and bolts photo from one of my tests of the flash.
And here’s the resulting photo.
I’m taking this slow, and step by step. As you could see, I set the flash unit up off camera, and fired it wirelessly, with it pointed up toward the flower to provide backlighting. That’s the first step, eventually, I’ll let the flash built-in the camera to fire as well, since I can adjust the power ratio between the two units. That will give me the image that I have in mind for some subjects, but, one step at a time.
More flash examples, a yellow moth mullein without the flash.
Not bad, but with the flash, I can do better!
And, the final photo.
Now, a white moth mullein, just the flash version.
A side note, it was easier to get the flash correct for the white flowers than it was for the yellow ones, but yellow is a color that’s always hard to expose correctly it seems.
However, the main thing is that I’m able to get images that look natural without any harshness from the flash!
I did shoot a few photos without the flash as well, starting with this cardinal asking if his feathers make him look funny.
They do, but he doesn’t have to know that. 😉
BTW, that was shot with the Beast, as were the other birds so far. The mullein flowers were shot with the 300 mm prime lens. I threw that in because one day started out gloomy, so I took the 300 mm prime lens, but the sun came out while I was walking. I forgot to make the required adjustment for these two.
Other than I forgot to adjust for full sunlight with the prime lens, the other thing of note was that the cardinal was imitating a robin, pulling worms out of the ground, which I’ve never seen before. I missed the shot of that, because it dawned on me that I hadn’t adjusted the camera, and the cardinal grabbed a worm while I was making the adjustments, darn!
After making the adjustments, I shot this bee on great blue lobelia.
You can see that the bee waved hello to me, either that, or it was flipping me off. 😉
The ironweed is blooming.
And, it attracted this colorful beetle.
I’ve also been seeing quite a few honeybees lately.
I used the flash on the bee on the burdock, which makes this a good time to mention one short-coming of using a flash, shutter speed. My Canon 60 D camera will synchronize with the flash at shutter speeds up to 1/250, which is a relatively fast shutter speed. However, it isn’t fast enough to freeze any motion of a subject. I’ve had that trouble with birds, and you can also see that in the last photo of the bee.
Here’s a photo of the burdock without a bee.
The flash isn’t the only thing I’ve been playing with, I’ve never had an ultra-wide angle lens before, so I’ve been testing out the new Canon EF-S 10-18 mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM lens whenever I think of it.
Because of the large depth of field of a lens that short, and because the 10-18 mm lens focuses down to just over 8 inches, it works great on larger flowers that I have trouble getting the entire flower in focus with a longer lens. And, it’s fun to play with, testing things like depth of field.
I got as close to the fence rail as I could and still get it in focus, and the barn was about 100 feet away from me. I focused manually on a point about a third of the way to the barn, stopped the lens down to f/16, and was able to get both the rail and the barn in focus.
The more that I play with that lens, the more uses I find for the 15-85 mm lens that I’ve had for a while, but never thought of using for some subjects, such as these flowers.
When I purchased the 15-85 mm, I tried it on flowers, since it focuses down to around a foot, but always at 85 mm, trying to use it as a macro lens substitute. It never dawned on me to zoom out, get closer, and use that lens’ depth of field to get entire large flowers in focus.
So, I’ve been playing with both of those lenses whenever I have the chance. But, when you think of wide-angle lenses, you usually think of landscapes, and I have been shooting a few of them lately. There’s not a lot of beautiful scenery around here, but that hasn’t stopped me from testing my equipment, so that when I do visit an area where there is scenery worth shooting, I’ll be prepared.
That brings me to the subject of dynamic range. No modern digital camera has the capability of matching what our eyes see as far as dynamic range, which simply put, is the difference between the brightest and darkest areas in a scene. In no type of photography that I can think of is that more apparent than in landscape photography.
Even in the best lighting, there are usually shadows that hide details in a photo, yet our eyes have no trouble making out the details when we view the scene in person. The old way to get around these problems were to use graduated neutral density filters when shooting the photos, and burning and dodging in the darkroom while producing prints from negatives back in the days of film.
I was looking into purchasing the required neutral density filters, and then learning to use them. However, I follow the blogs of several very talented landscape photographers, and none of them bother with hassle of trying out the various filters and getting them set-up correctly, they do all the corrections with software these days. Not only are the filters a pain to use, but a full set is quite expensive.
If you’ve followed my blog for very long, you’d know that I’ve been opposed to post-processing other than cropping, and maybe tweaking the exposure a little. I hate the fake looking photos created with software that seem to be all the rage these days. However, the more that I tried to learn how to use filters even before I purchased them, the better that a software solution looked. So, I sucked up my pride and downloaded a trial version of software to create High Dynamic Range photos.
So, here’s my second attempt at a HDR photo using software.
And, here’s the best that I could get straight out of the camera.
I really hate to say this, but the HDR photo comes very, very close to what I saw when I shot the photos, much closer than what I was able to get straight out of the camera. There was better than average light that day for that photo, a bit cloudy and hazy, so the shadows weren’t as pronounced as they would be on a sunny day.
It’s rather obvious from the watermark what company’s trial software I downloaded, Photomatix. They seem to get high marks from about every one from what I saw while doing research. The beginner version is $40 US, the pro version is $100 US, which makes even the pro version cheaper than one quality filter, and I would need several filters for each of my lenses.
I said that this photo was my second attempt, my first came out just as well, a still life that I shot inside my apartment., which I’m not going to post. However, I was quite pleased with the results from both of my attempts, as the images look natural to me. Maybe my vision is impaired by adding up the cost of filters versus buying software. 😉
As soon as I opened the software to try it out, I found out why so many HDR images look so unnatural. I suppose I should tell you how the software works before I get to that. I won’t go into all the ways that you can do a HDR image, just the “standard” way that I used. You shoot three photos, one under-exposed by 2 stops, one at no exposure compensation, and one over-exposed by two stops.
You load the three images into the software, and it blends them together using bits and pieces of all three to bring out the details in the shadows without blowing out the brighter areas in the image. Essentially, it increases the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor by a little over four stops by doing the blending. There are plenty of places on the web to learn more, or you can ask in a comment.
Anyway, back to how fake many HDR images look. The software comes with pre-sets to create fake looking photos if that’s what you prefer, I don’t. In the trial version, you can also tweak color saturation, contrast, and overall brightness, along with a few other settings that I haven’t tried yet. The pro version allows the user to make even more changes to the image than the trial version does, but the only reason that I know that is because I watched a couple of online tutorials on how to use the software.
I know that I used to say that using software to improve the quality of an image was cheating, but, I guess that I’m starting to see things differently. Maybe it’s the cost of all the filters that I would need clouding my judgement again. Besides, even a full set of filters wouldn’t have improved my test image by very much, since there’s no sharp lines between bright and shadow to delineate how I would place a graduated neutral density filter.
So, for right now, I’m leaning toward going over to the dark side and start using software to post-process some of my photos, mainly landscapes when needed.
I still see no need to post-process a photo like this if you get it right in the camera.
And, that goes for most of my photos these days. These may not all be great, but they’re good enough to represent the things I’ve seen this week.
Side note here, after my mom’s funeral, I stopped at a park near where the service was held to look for an olive-sided flycatcher that has been seen there. I didn’t find it, but I did find a different lifer, and Acadian flycatcher.
Some people would think it horrible of me to stop to chase birds on my way home from my mom’s funeral. Well, I’ll end this post with a photo of my mom out for a hike with one of my nieces.
My dad took that photo so it is at least 20 years ago that it was taken, but it could have been taken at any time in her life while she was still able to get around. My mom loved the outdoors, unless there were too many bugs. 😉 So, I don’t feel bad about chasing a bird in the woods near where my dad grew up while on my way home from my mom’s funeral.
I was going to add a poll to this to ask if you thought that post-processing photos was cheating or not, but that part of WordPress seems to be on the blink today. So, any thoughts on the HDR photos that you include in your comment would be appreciated.
I see that now the poll shows up if you’d care to share your opinion on post-processing photos.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!