Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer Flowers

It is high Summer right now and colorful flowers are blooming everywhere. You can find them on meadows and fields, in parks and gardens or just at your balcony or terrace. Flowers are an great subject for taking photos. The are not escaping if you came too close and if the wind is calm they are not moving that much. Blossoms are colorful and interesting to watch in detail if you take a macro like shot. For this month's gallery I selected some beautiful flowers from my archive. I took these photos during the recent view years.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Flying Bee

400mm  f/10  1/800sec  ISO400
In a friends yard I spotted a group of plants with interesting pink colored blossoms. When I went to that group I noticed that hundreds of bees were running and flying around from blossom to blossom harvesting sweet nectar. This was my chance to try to capture some bees in flight. I grabbed my camera and sat down next to the plants. Because my lens has a minimum distance of 1.6 meter, or 63 inches, I was at a save distance. I sat down onto ground to get a nice perspective and to get a stable position with little shaking. To be more stable I rested my arm holding the lens onto my knee and stopped breathing while shooting.

400mm  f/9  1/800sec  ISO400
The time when I was taking these photos was at late afternoon. The sun was quite low and sent some smooth and warm light. I chose a location with the sun behind me for a nice illumination of the scene. Since the insects are quite small I needed a better control of focus point and therefore I switched the settings of my camera to center focus. The same did I with exposure control. I set it to center metering. Now it was my turn to keep the flying bee within the frame center. Later on in post-processing I cutted out a frame with a nicely arranged scene.

400mm  f/8  1/1600sec  ISO800
Taking photos of moving objects is quite challenging. If shutter speed is too low or objects moving too fast they get motion blurred. Another aspect is depth of field. If the time from focusing to releasing is too long, the object moves out of focus range. The key here is to achieve the right balance between aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Lower aperture values result in a narrow depth of field and increases the chance that the object has left focus range when releasing. To enlarge the range of focus you can increase aperture value. But this will slow down shutter speed and increases the chance of motion blur. Furthermore a higher aperture value brings out more background detail which can distract from the scene. ISO value is also in the game, but too high value result in image noise with is quite ugly.

400mm  f/10  1/800sec  ISO400
Usually, when trying to photograph insects, you have only little number of them and have to wait for the right scene. Here I had hundreds of bees flying around and I didn't know where to look first. So I had a lot of chances to play with different camera settings to get interesting and quite sharp photos. I was shooting in P mode and let the camera calculate aperture and shutter speed automatically. Later on I switched to Tv mode to control shutter speed. With other photos I used Av mode to adjust aperture value. All with a fixed ISO value to be sure, the camera does not adjust it too high automatically. I had lots of chances so I was not that sad if one or another photo was trash. A little re-sharpening in post-processing helps with not absolutely sharp photos.

400mm  f/8  1/2500sec  ISO800
One last word about this interesting, strange looking blossoms. Without the magnification of my zoom lens I didn't see their exact shape. That's why I was amazed when watching the photos at my large screen. There are no colorful leaves. Instead some cones with sweet nectar are folded out. In addition the blossoms provide an intensive scent to attract insects. It took me some time to identify the plant. It is some kind of Milkweed or Asclepias, but don't ask me of the exact species.

For those, who are interested: The camera I used was my EOS 500D and the lens was my excellent EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L zoom lens. The camera settings I explained already.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Poppy Art

When I was post processing my recent photos of Poppy I played a bit with the tools of image manipulation. There are several ways to change the appearance of an image. You can change white balance, contrast or saturation. One option in my image processing tool got my special attention: Color tone. When I was moving this ruler around the colors changed extremely, but without loosing any detail, like it would be with saturation or contrast. That was amazing. The same photo in same quality with completely different colors.

Another way to manipulate a photo is playing with black and white. I desaturated the whole image and with a second layer I cut out the strongly red Poppy blossom. This is an excellent technique to point out details or to separate things from it's surroundings. I did this with former photos of mine, like here, here and here.

To be complete, here is the original photograph, which I like very much as well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Red Poppy

350mm  f/10  1/800sec  ISO400
Last year, when I was visiting a friend during Pentecost or Whitsun, I was amazed about the many red poppy flowers spread all over the landscape. I have published photos from that time here, here and here. This year I again was there during Pentecost weekend and I again was impressed by these amazing plants with intensively red blossoms. Right next to my friends yard there was a small field of red poppy. It was my chance to take beautiful poppy photos once more.

180mm  f/8  1/500sec  ISO400
I grabbed my camera and went to that field. To get a nice perspective I got down to my knees. Depending on the direction I was looking at the field the background was either dark by a wall or green by a meadow. The dark wall is a strong contrast and excellently points out the shape and color of these plants. I tried to frame single blossoms, groups of them or the whole field. This strong red color is just amazing. The silky kind of blossom leaves lets the flower appear fragile and vulnerable but also elegant and royal.

150mm  f/9  1/640sec  ISO400
275mm  f/9  1/640sec  ISO400
These large and thin blossom leaves are ideal for backlight photography. Shooting against the sun lets the blossom glow and intensifies the red color. Shadows create different shades of red. The thin hairs along the stalk start glowing as well pointing out the fragile structure of the flower. I cannot get enough of these beautiful and amazing plants, spreading along road sides and train tracks, flooding green meadows and smoothly weaving in light wind.

400mm  f/7.1  1/1600sec  ISO400
400mm  f/9  1/640sec  ISO400
While last years photos were taken with my standard zoom kit lens, this year I used my excellent 100-400mm L lens mounted onto my EOS 500D camera. With most of the photos the camera was set into P mode and calculated aperture and shutter speed automatically. To get reasonable high enough shutter speeds I set ISO to fixed value of 400, even at bright sun light. The background was far away to get blurred enough. The higher focal length creates a nice depth of field even at higher aperture value. Thus the resulting images cane out quite well with automatic calculation. I took the photos free-hand with no use of a tripod.