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Archive for March, 2014

Humans are not only leaving Footprints on our planet !

Shoe sole on the shore of a Lake.

A Beer Can in the Ice on an Old Canal.

Bottle in a river.

Some Forests are also covered with old garbages that are there since many years.

Roadkills are part of the problems we are responsible.

There is hope, Nature can take back what she lost.


Weekly photo, 23 March 2014

This week the photo was taken around sunrise, some Mallard Ducks were resting on the snow. I captured that one as it was preening in the sunlight.

Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6 L, tripod.

Macro Photography: part 2

This time i will talk about how to use your gear to get better results. In part one i talked about the options you have to get into Macro range with different accessories. I did some quick shots just to show you the magnification you can get with each accessories.

All the photos below were taken with the lens set at it’s minimum focusing distance and at f/5.6 with no PP, not a test for IQ.

K-01+Extension tube of 25mm+TC 1.4X+A-50mm/2.

K-01+TC 1.4X+Extension tube of 25mm+A-50mm/2.

K-01+Extension tube of 25mm+A-50mm/2.

K-01+A-50mm/2 with Reversing ring.

K-01+Clubman 24mm with Reversing ring.

As you can see, some combos give about the same magnification. The IQ will vary depending on the lens, you will have to do some test to determine which one is the best, here i can say that the A-50mm/2 is not that good when used with those accessories.

Handholding your camera

If needed you can shoot handheld and it’s where a stabilized lens or a camera with a stabilized sensor will help you. Sure it will not be as effective as in normal shooting distances but it can help.

I often handhold my camera when i’m photographing frogs so that i can have a ground level perspective,  i brace the lens or hood on the ground or my gloves or i use a ziploc bag filled with sand to get the sharpest shot possible. The Shake Reduction (SR) in my Pentax cameras is useful here, with some practice i’m able to get some sharp shot with a shutter speed as low as 1/6 sec., with a low success rate though, but i usually try to have a shutter speed of at least 1/20 sec. I don’t have any experience yet with in-lens IS, i ordered a Tamron 90mm Macro VC for my Canon kit and will soon be able to compare it to my Pentax cameras SR.

Here is one taken handheld with my camera braced on cattails stem, the photo is sharp even printed at 11X14 inches.

Pentax K20D with DFA 100mm Macro WR, 1/20 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 1000

When photographing at ground level i focus manually at about the size i want my subject to be in the frame and then move the camera back and forth to fine tune the focus instead of using the focusing ring, that way it’s easier to nail the focus. I’m often laying flat on my belly to make my photos when handholding my camera for ground level photograhy.


You will need a good tripod and/or flash to obtain sharp photos most of the time. A tripod help you get sharp photos, also it lets you use any f-stop or shutter speed and as a bonus you can fine tune your composition more easily than when handholding your camera. I prefer a tripod that can go very low or there is also tripod with the center column that can be positioned where you want.

A remote release or cable release is very useful to release the shutter to prevent vibrations. You can also use the 2 seconds delay with or without the release cable, i always use the 2 second delay because the mirror locks-up and the shutter is release after 2 seconds, some cameras even have a true mirror lock-up.

Last summer i found a new way to use my tripod for vertical shots at ground level, click below to watch the video.


The resulting photo.

K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR.

Digital cameras have advantages that will help you get sharper photos easier than it was when shooting film. High ISO image quality is so good now that shooting handheld with the help of IS gives you a higher keeper rate and also getting photos that were impossible before. The other thing is Live view, it’s so good now that getting critically exact focus is now so easy especially with cameras that have focus peaking like the Pentax and Sony cameras.

A tripod and focus peaking in LV helped me get a sharp shot and composing my shot while having all the DOF i needed.

 Pentax K-01 with SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4, tripod.

Practice often to get your technique better, especially when handholding your camera. Next article will be about finding your subjects, composition and more.

Macro Photography: part 1

Macro and Close-up photography is a lot of fun and it can open a whole new world of opportunities for a photographer. You don’t necessarily need to buy a dedicated Macro lens, there is other options, we will look at that later.

Macro lenses

A true Macro lens can go to a reproduction ratio of 1:1 but some lenses (often older manual lenses) can be found that only goes to a 1:2 repro ratio and needs an extension tube to go to 1:1. Many zoom lenses have a Macro position but at best they will go down to a 1:3 ratio. Some wide angle lenses have a Macro position, i have an old Clubman 24mm/2.8 Macro that can go down to 1:4 repro ratio. Currently on the market you can find  many Macro lenses in different focal lengths ranging from 35mm up to 200mm, some are stabilized and some rely on the image stabilisation in the cameras (IBIS). If you really want to get close with excellent IQ Canon makes the MP-E 65mm 1-5X which can go from 1:1 to 5:1 repro ratio. Macro lenses are the best way to go because they are easier to use in the field, you just turn the focusing ring as you get closer and the IQ is excellent, but they are not cheap unless you can buy old ones are some newer models on the used market.

From left to right: Pentax DA 35mm/2.8 Macro Limited, SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4 and Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR. As a side note you can see the big difference here between the lenses from the old manual focus Takumar to the modern Macro lenses when you look at the distance scale, the focus throw of AF lenses is so short that those scale are pretty much useless compared to the old time.

Here is my Clubman 24mm Macro, you can see the reproduction ratio on the front of the barrel.

A small Macro lens like the Pentax DA 35mm Macro is easy to carry around and can give effect that a longer Macro lens can’t. Here i was so close that the lens was touching the flower and the result is that we feel like we are in the flower with the insect. 

A longer Macro lens gives you more working distance which can be useful for insects or potentially dangerous animals like this snapping turtle. Here i was using my 100mm Macro lens handheld but a 200mm lens would have been even better to be safer.

Here is a comparison between 2 Macro lenses to show how the focal length affect the background. The photo above was taken with the Pentax DA 35mm Macro Ltd.

Now, this one i tried to kept the same subject’s size with a Vivitar 90-180mm Flat Field at 180mm at the same f-stop. Also notice the different color cast of the 2 lenses.

Reversing ring

Reversing rings are a cheap way to get into Macro photography, you just screw the reversing ring into the filter thread of the lens and then mount it to the camera (BTW they came in different sizes, like filters). You need a lens with an aperture ring to do that if you want to control the aperture ring of the lens even if you don’t gain much DOF by doing so. The wider the lens the closer you can go and gain more magnification but you will be very close and the rear of the lens is exposed to the elements. You can’t vary magnification much by focusing the lens, so if you want a different magnification you need to use another lens. Another advantage is that you can mount whatever brand of lens you want.

A reversing ring is a cheap way to get into Macro photography, you can use it on your kit lens or a small prime like a 28mm, 35mm or 50mm.

Here i used it with my SMC Takumar 35mm/3.5 to photograph this lady bug.

Close-up lenses

Close-up lenses are like filters and when used on any lens they make it focus closer. They come in different strengths, size and quality. I have a Nikon close-up 6T, but Canon makes very good ones also, you will pay more for those 2 brands but the IQ is worth it. The advantage is that you don’t loose light when you use them but depending on the lens the IQ can suffer. You can still use them on a Macro lens for more magnification.

Extension tubes

Even if you have a Macro lens extension tubes are worth having in your camera bag, i use them with my Macro lens and also with my longer lenses to make them focus closer.  There are many choices on the internet, you don’t need to pay for the ones from your camera brand since this is only tubes without any glass elements in them. They come in a set of tree but you can also buy them separately (Canon does that).  I use Aputure extension tube set (13mm, 21mm and 31mm) for my Canon gear and they work very well with my lenses and AF works very well also even on my 400mm lens when needed.

Extension tubes uses the same mount as your camera brand (if you use Pentax you need to buy K mount tubes, Canon EF mount for Canon ….) and you mount them between the camera and the lens. So if you want to use your 50mm/1.8 lens with extension tubes you need to add 50mm of extension tubes to get to a reproduction ratio of 1:1. So here comes the biggest drawback of extension tubes,as you add extension tubes you loose more and more light and you quickly loose 1 or 2 stop of light which results in a longer exposure time. I like to use extension tubes with a zoom lens because the magnification varies as you zoom, so if you add about 50mm of extension tubes to a 70-200mm lens you will gain more magnification as you zoom from 200mm to 70mm.

Here is a photo taken with a 70-300mm lens with 64mm of extension tubes, not in the Macro range but we can call it Close-up.

Another photo taken with extension tubes added to a lens, this time it was to my Tele-Takumar 200mm/5.6.


Yes they can be useful, i use my TC 1.4X with my 100mm Macro lens when i need more magnification but want to keep the same working distance and don’t want to disturb my subject. You can add a Teleconverter between your camera and the extension tubes to gain more magnification or to your lens alone. A good teleconverter is not cheap but the older Tamron 1.4X AF for my Pentax was working very well with my DFA 100mm Macro WR. The TC also cost you light, 1 stop for the 1.4X and 2 stops for a TC 2X.

Sometimes a TC 1.4X is needed even with a 100mm Macro lens.

Other options

There is also bellows that acts like a variable extension tube but they are not very practical to use in the field, too big and easy to damage. You can also reverse a 50mm on a 200mm lens but i’ve never tried it myself. I will post another article soon that will talk more on the use of the options above and techniques for using them.

Weekly photo, 09 March 2014

This week was not very productive but here is one anyway.

Another waterfall photo taken at the same place as usual where i’m photographing Ducks.

Canon T3i with 70-200mm/4 L, tripod with Polarizer.

Common Goldeneye Ducks in a birdscape photography.

This morning it was cold for the month of March (-20C ), also the wind was blowing and with the windchill factor it was around -30C. I was seeing the shake  caused by the wind in my viewfinder, so a high shutter speed combined with good long lens technique was required to get a sharp shot.

I spotted some Ducks on the river and the rising sun added some life to the scene. I took some with them in flight but they were not beautifully placed or their surrounding was not as photogenic as the one below.

Here they are swimming on the fog covered river, they are small in the photo but i wanted to show them in their habitat, it’s what i liked when i saw the scene. I cropped the top and bottom of the photo for composition purposes.

Canon T3i with 70-200mm/4 L at 200mm, tripod.

Weekly photo, 02 March 2014

This week photo is a closer composition of ice and snow taken in a river, i crossed the river to get in place on a small “island” of rocks in the middle of the river. I converted it in B&W since there wasn’t much colors anyway.

Canon T3i with 70-200mm/4 L with a Polarizer, tripod.