Friday, August 22, 2014

Little Gecko

400mm  f/10  1/800sec  ISO400
On a hot and sunny afternoon in Spring this year I was relaxing at a friend's terrace. Suddenly a little Gecko came onto the terrace looking for a sunny place to also relax and get some warmth. It looked like he would join me in enjoying the silent scene. But, what I did now was to slowly and carefully get up to grab my camera. I was moving very carefully to not chase him away. Luckily he didn't feel disturbed. He changed position a bit but did not run away and I was preparing my camera and looking for a good position.

400mm  f/9  1/800sec  ISO400
I layed myself flatly on the ground in front of the Gecko. My huge tele zoom lens was resting on the ground. This way I got a stable position with minimum shakes and a really nice perspective. Photographs of animal should be taken at their eye level which is really difficult with such a small thing. To give you an impression of his size, he was approximately as thick as a finger. With the tele zoom lens I had the chance of magnification and bring out details, that are not visible with pure eyes.

400mm  f/11  1/1000sec  ISO400
After relaxing and sunbathing for some time he started action. There are some gaps between the tiles of the terrace. The Gecko moved to one gap and started to inspect it. He was looking around and sticking his head into the gap. With his claws he was digging deeper and throwing the dirt out of it. He must have noticed something interesting. He was digging deeper and deeper, sticking half of his body into the gap. That was very interesting to observe.


400mm  f/10  1/800sec  ISO400
Suddenly he came up again with some worm or grub in his mouth. That's what raised his attention. It looked so funny, like he had a cigar in his mouth. With two more bites the lunch was over. And I was laying there in front of him observing all that through my magnifying lens and taking one photo after another. That was so interesting and so much fun although the whole action took about 5 minutes.

400mm  f/10  1/1000sec  ISO400
Afterwards when I was checking the photos at my computer screen I was amazed about all the details. Because of my stable position with nearly no camera shakes the images got quite sharp. OK, with such a high focal length the depth of field gets very narrow and therefore several parts are out of focus. But the narrow depth of field also helps to separate the reptile from all the stuff around. It is very interesting to see that such a small animal has exactly the same skin texture as a large lizard. To give you one more impression of his size, the "stone" next to him is a cherry stone.

400mm  f/11  1/1000sec  ISO400
Last but not least the technical details again: I used my EOS 500D with an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens mounted to it. The camera was set into P mode and calculated aperture and shutter speed automatically. ISO was at fixed value of 400. Because I was laying flatly on the ground there was a wide distance range within the frame. This is challenging for using auto focus because usually it focuses at a near distance. To avoid this I switched auto focus to focus in the center only. With that setting I can control focus even when using auto focus. Similar did I with exposure metering. I had bright parts in front and really dark shadow areas in the back. To get the scene exposed correctly I switched into spot metering. This way I can use automatic exposure control and still get a perfectly exposed photo.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Airplane crossing the Moon

400mm  f/7.1  1/500sec  ISO400
Yesterday evening I was relaxing at my balcony when I noticed the rising full Moon at a nearly clear sky. During that time there were a lot of airplanes approaching our nearby airport. This was my chance to capture a scene I was looking for a long time: An aircraft in front of the Moon. While one plane after another was crossing the scene the Moon came up higher and higher. I was grabbing my camera and tried out some settings in preparation for the right moment. Moon and airplanes came closer and closer.

400mm  f/7.1  1/400sec  ISO400
Then it was my time. A first airplane was crossing the Moon in it's upper half. I took several shots so I catched it before and while entering the Moon, while completely in front of it and while and after leaving. The scene I like most is the one where the plane is leaving the Moon. You can even see hot air blasting out the engines. A second aircraft was soon entering the scene. This time it crossed the Moon at the center line. Again I took several photos, but this time I managed to capture it right in the Moon's center.

400mm  f/7.1  1/400sec  ISO400
A third airplane was reaching the scene, but unfortunately the Moon was too high already. I didn't expect the Moon to rise that fast. The whole action took about five minutes and I only got two chances for my long awaited scene. Today the sky will be overcast again and thus the earliest next chance would be in a month. In the end I'm quite proud with the results, but the photos are not of a quality that I would accept as good. The scene is great and the blue hour gives it a special touch. But the photos are not that clear and very noisy, although the ISO value was not that high. A layer of thin clouds reduced contrast of Moon and sky. The scene is great but the image quality could be improved.

The camera settings: For Moon shots I use my excellent EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L zoom lens which is mounted onto my EOS 500D camera. Since it was blue hour with enough light I chose P mode and let the camera calculate aperture and shutter speed automatically. ISO was at a fixed value of 400. For stabilization I used a tripod.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thunderstorm

This Summer we already had several thunderstorms crossing my city but either it happened at a time when I was in office or I was busy with other, more important things. This was very frustrating to me, because I love hunting lightning strikes, as I already mentioned in a former post.

Yesterday evening a non-forecasted storm came closer to the city. First I saw those huge dark clouds and soon they were also some flashes within them. The thunderstorm was moving very slowly, so I had plenty of time to get my camera and tripod ready. It was late in the evening and quite dark which is good for achieving long exposure times. After choosing an area where I expected to happen most lightning strikes I've set up my camera to continuous shooting. Every now and then a flash appears, but not very often. I immediately reviewed the last taken photo to check if I catched the strike. After about an hour with the storm coming closer slowly the was a bright flash suddenly. Again I checked the just taken photo and was amazed. What a beautiful lightning strike did I catch!

29mm  f/4.5  15sec  ISO100

For those of you who are interested I will explain how I do try to catch lightning strikes. I used my EOS 600D camera and chose the standard zoom kit lens with 18-55mm focal length. Using a lens with standard zoom or wide angle gives you the chance to frame a larger part of the sky. The key in catching flashes is long exposure time. I tend to use some between 10 and 30 seconds. Since flashes occur unexpectedly and last fractions of a second you are not able to release the shutter just in time. That's why I switch my camera to lowest possible ISO value, which is 100. This reduces image noise and enlarges shutter speed. Both is very welcome here. Then I switch the camera to shutter priority mode, which is Tv mode at my Canon. Depending on daylight situation I adjust shutter speed between 10 and 30 seconds. Aperture is calculated automatically. Luckily, in a city there is always enough light to get autofocus working. Even at night. So I adjust the focus with autofocus first and switch to manual focus afterwards. All the following shots are taken with this one focus setting. Furthermore I disable image stabilization which is recommended when the camera is mounted to a tripod. A tripod is essential with those long exposure times. To not miss any second I setup my camera for continuous shooting. By using a remote control with lock feature I can permanently press the release button and thus take photos continuously. With these settings I maximise the chance of catching a lightning strike.

Catching one flash is one thing. Post-processing the image is another. When using semi-automatic mode during night time you will always get quite bright images with usually a too warm color temperature. Furthermore, aperture is calculated on a night scene, but flashes are very bright, which usually results in overexposed areas. To get a more dramatic result I turn the color temperature to some lower and colder value. This results in a more blue shaded scene. I darken the image to increase the night feeling and reduce overexposure of the lightning. With adjusting the white balance I darken dark areas and brighten bright areas to increase contrast and intensify drama. From the original frame I crop out a frame that brings the lightning strike to best attention. At last, re-sharpening the image gives the final touch. To demonstrate all these post-processing steps, here is the original, un-edited photo of the above shown scene. (The dotted line is a departing airplane.)

29mm  f/4.5  15sec  ISO100

For rounding up today's post I present two more lightning strike from yesterday's thunderstorm. They are by far not as dramatic as the one above, but I also like them very much.

29mm  f/4.5  15sec  ISO100

29mm  f/4.5  15sec  ISO100

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.