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Weekly Photo, 03-August-2014

This week it’s an interesting Bug, quite frightening if you look closely, by chance it’s a very small bug ! It’s full name is : Jagged Ambush Bug.

The plants were covered with dew as well as the bug as you can see on it’s back.

Taken with Canon 7D and Tamron 90mm Macro VC.


Weekly photo, 27 July 2014

This week it’s an adult Gray Tree Frog that was hiding in a tree at the day camp of my older girls. I found it just beside the entrance, i even removed some weeds in front of the Frog to have a better view.

Taken with Fuji X-E1 and Vivitar 100mm/3.5 Macro, tripod.

 


My 1st Street Photography experience !

I’ve been a Nature photographer for the last 26 years but i’ve always liked what Street photographers were producing, especially in B&W. I recently bought a Fuji X-E1 because i wanted something smaller, it’s a camera that reminds me of the old rangefinder cameras often used by street photographers in the past. So i was tempted to try street photography, so i took my X-E1 with my 27mm and 18-55mm and headed for a town near my home with a boardwalk along a river where big boats are anchored. There is also a lot of restaurant and stores are all side by side so i was hoping for some interesting occasions.

I started with the 18-55mm because of the OIS which was useful around sunrise, i thought that i would use the 27mm when the light would be sufficient but i stayed with the 18-55mm because of it’s versatility …. maybe next time i will bring only the 27mm to force me to use it. It was difficult, it’s not easy to photograph peoples in the street and found that i didn’t had much time to compose/focus and set the aperture needed for the shot.  Also i found it not easy getting close to peoples and take their photos, i will need more practice to find confidence at getting closer to peoples.

I liked the experience, it was fun and challenging to try a new photographic discipline, i will certainly continue to do it when i have time to get better at it.

Here are some of the photos i took this morning, all taken in RAW and converted to B&W in Silkypix and PS Element 12.

One of the first shot i took this morning.

Looking for glass bottles in the recycling bins.

Time to clean, kids had done drawings last night.

Waiting at the toilet cabinet.

This worker was taking a break while talking to a boat owner.

A beautiful and relaxing place to read the daily newspaper.


Weekly photo, 12 July 2014

Plants were covered with dew this morning and added something to the photos of  Gray Tree Frogs i took. But there is one that i prefer because of the colors of the leaves this Frog was perched on.

Taken with my Canon 7D and Tamron 90mm Macro VC, Tripod.


Gray Tree Frogs are out of the pond.

I was waiting for that moment with excitement, it’s the first time of the year that i went to the pond where there is a lot of Gray Tree Frogs, they are my favorite Frog that live here in my corner of the country  (Canada). At this time of the year i’m looking for the young ones that just got out of the water, some still have a small tail. I have a favorite pond where i go every summer, it’s a Beaver’s pond, many species turns from tadpoles to juvenile Frogs at the same time (American Toad, Gray Tree Frog, Spring Peeper Frog and Leopard Frog).

Those little fellows are quite small, about the size of my thumbnail, so a Macro lens is the best way to go and i would add that a lens with IS, VC, VR or a camera with IBIS is a bonus that help a lot since i often handheld my gear. They are often hiding on plants where it’s difficult to get a good view and a tripod is not always practical.

The King of the pond ! You can see the remaining of it’s tail.

Just to give you an idea of how many Gray tree Frogs there is on the shore of that pond, i was standing among the vegetation and i was counting at least 30 Frogs around me hiding on the plants, i even saw 13 of them on a single plant. Sure i have a lot of subjects to choose from but often the background is busy so i have to find a Frog where the background is more interesting or less busy. With the combination of early morning, handholding the camera, wind and the need to blur the background i often end-up shooting from f/4.5 to f/5.6.

I found this one hiding in a Pine, i was able to use my tripod and close my lens to a smaller aperture to have more DOF.

The Spring Peeper Frogs juveniles are even smaller, some are the size of a fingernail. This one was walking on a leaf, i only got 4 frames before he jumped on another leaf.

All the photos i posted here were taken on the same morning, when i arrived at the pond it was raining, a perfect situation for photographing Frogs. I used my Canon 7D and Tamron 90mm Macro VC either handheld or on a tripod. Hope you like them 🙂


Weekly photo, 29 June 2014

This week it’s not a Frog shot that i’m posting 😉

I captured those Boats at sunrise, i liked the tranquility of the scene even if it’s not the most spectacular sunrise i’ve seen.

Taken with my Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm, tripod, some cropping on the foreground to cut distracting vegetation.


Weekly photo, 22 Jun 2014

This week it’s a photo of a Green Frog in a dark waterhole taken with a 14mm lens.

Taken handheld with my Fuji X-E1 and XF14mm.

 


National Geographic “Earth Explorer series” Holster bag 2342.

When i bought my Fuji X-E1 with the 18-55mm and 27mm i needed a smaller camera bag to carry that the camera would fit with one of my 2 lenses with accessories like a spare battery and SD cards. I wanted a camera bag that didn’t look like the regular camera bags, at first i wanted a waist bag but changed my mind and decided to go for a small shoulder bag style. I had two brands in mind, Billingham and National Geographic bags because of their look and materials.

Here is the link to the USA site, that bag was not available in Canada even if the others from the series are available, so i had to bought it in USA:

http://www.geographicbags.us/holster-small-for-mirrorless-camera-and-2-lenses

Here is the main site without the prices, but all the collections are there, some interesting products:

http://www.geographicbags.com/?loc_off=1

After some research on the web and thinking i finally ordered the National Geographic “Earth Explorer series” Holster 2342 bag. The material and look reminds me of the old backpacks that my grandfather was using while going hunting and fishing. The size was just about perfect to carry my Fuji X-E1 kit without ending taking too much gear, the bigger the bag you use you will always end up filling it and it’s finally heavier than you wanted it  to be in the first place. If i need more gear i will use my Lowepro Inverse 100 AW waist bag which can holds a little more gear.

My goal was also to just enjoy using my kit like the old days of Manual focus cameras, old style bag, old style camera with my old manual cable release that i was using with my Pentax K1000 when i started photography. You might think that  i’m crazy to put that much thought for just a camera bag but i wanted to have a different kind of experience when shooting with my X-E1 compared to when i’m using my Canon DSLR kit which is more of a plastic, modern feel and heavy to carry in the field.

Here is a short video i made with the bag and my Fuji X-E1 + 27mm:

http://s47.photobucket.com/user/leopold44/media/MVI_7419_zps87144440.mp4.html

I tried my X-E1 + 18-55mm, it fits with the lens pointing down, i had to remove the divider in the bag though, it’s the biggest and longest lens it will fit. So it’s best to use it with smaller lenses like the 27mm, especially if you want to bring a filter, spare batteries and SD cards. For just my X-E1 + 27mm it’s perfect, i was able to fit a Polarizer, SD cards, a spare battery and even fit it with my QR plate for my big Ballhead. It would be a great bag for the Pentax Q series cameras, you can certainly fit the camera with a lens attached and still be able to bring 1 or 2 lenses ! I was able to fit my Pentax K-01 body only, i’m sure it would also fit with either the DA40mm XS, DA40mm Ltd or even the DA21mm Ltd attached.

In the field the bag work really well, it’s comfortable since it’s small and the camera in it is small and lightweight as well. The camera is easily accessible when you need to get it out as well as the accessories in the front pocket. I like the zipper and flap that closes the bag, it’s a double protection. The material looks very tough, there will be no problem using that bag in the field for many years to come. The padding looks not as thick as the ones in my bigger camera bags from Lowepro and ThinkTank but since the cameras that fits in it are small and lightweight it’s probably more than enough to protect them. There is a rain cover available for the Earth Explorer series, i might buy it eventually if i see that i need more protection against the rain.

So this is my first impressions after a short time of using this bag, will certainly do an update later this year to see how it survive in the field.

 


Weekly photo, 08 June 2014

Frog season is great, we had good periods of rain, the water level in the small ponds is still high and there is a lot of Mosquitoes as well. This week i tried a more artistic rendering of this Green Frog.

Taken with Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm, handheld with OIS activated.


Family portrait !

Last Week-end i was lucky to be able to photograph a cooperative Canada Geese family. Around here they tend to be nervous and difficult to get close to, but at that pond there are a lot of peoples going there for fishing and walking, so they are easier to photograph.

Nice family portrait, the young geese are so cute, they came very close to me after that shot. Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6 L.

The little geese up-close. Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6 L.

 


Weekly photo, 25 May 2014

Frogs are easier to find now that the temperature is warmer, so this week it’s a photo of a Green Frog. I converted it in B&W because i felt it would look better that way.

Taken with Canon 7D + 400mm/5.6L with Ext. tubes, tripod.


Weekly Photo, 19-May-2014

Yesterday we went to the Omega Park in Montebello, Province of Quebec, Canada and it’s about an 1 hour drive from my home. My kids love to go there ….. OK …. me also 😉

Yound Black Bear, they were 3 who were born last January. This one was coming down from a tree and i was just in time to take it’s portrait.


Sometimes Frogs are very cooperative !

Yesterday before going to work i stopped at a local Park where there is some small and bigger ponds with different species of Frogs and Turtles. But it was cold (10C) and there was not many Frogs to be seen, i took some photos of a frog but not very good, after 30 minutes i had to go to work.

Today was another story, the morning was warmer and humid, Frogs were easy to find and i just choosed the ones that were more photogenics and cooperative. However at that place they are more nervous than at another pond i go also for photograpphing Green Frogs, i usually use my 400mm lens with Extension tubes (all the photos posted here were taken with that lens).

I started with this Green Frog, not satisfied because of the OOF branch in the foreground.

Not far away, this one was on the shore probably waiting for something to eat.

Watch your back my little friend, they were 2 on that mossy rock, the other one jumped as soon as i tried to get close. Fortunately this one stayed there. At first i wanted to photograph it from the side but it would have been difficult to get a good shot, so i took it from behind.

This one was very well camouflaged amongst the dead dark leaves, i liked the reflection in the water which adds to the photo.

Just as i was walking back to my Truck, i saw another Green Frog on the shore on moss covered rocks.

It’s a beautiful Park for photographing Frogs because of the different ponds setting, some are surrounded with Cattails and like the photos posted here where i concentrated myself on the series of small and shallow ponds.

Again after 30 minutes i needed to leave and go to work, will try to go again tomorrow morning and see if i will get lucky!


Weekly photo, 11 May 2014

This week i finally photographed some Frogs, it was about time ! Not many Frogs yet, in one of my regular pond i found only 3 Green Frogs that morning but i managed to get a couple of good shots.

I was at water’s level to get that view, the tip of the lens hood was in the water. Canon 7D with Tamron 90mm Macro VC handheld.


P.O.V. when photographing Frogs.

When i’m photographing Frogs i always try to have the best point of view (POV) to show them at their best, it’s not always easy since they are small, so you need to get low and be ready to get dirty. The lower to their level you can get the best they will look on your final shot. Another benefit is that usually the background will look better when shooting low, that is if the background behind the from is not too distracting and select an aperture that will blur it.

Here is an example i took this morning, same Green Frog, both taken with 7D and Tamron 90mm Macro VC at f/5.6:

For this one i was on my knees and looking through the VF to compose the shot.

I switched to LV and put the camera as close to the ground as i could and tried to compose the best i could without falling into the pond !

I prefer the second photo because the Frog look better because the POV give it more pride. I nearly fell into the pond to get that second shot, the shore was steep and muddy and when i tried to get up my boots were just slipping on that muddy terrain ! As i was fighting to get up the slope the Frog never moved, it was probably waiting to see if i would fell into the pond to have a good laugh at me 🙂

For this photo of a young Bullfrog it was a different story, it was on a Moss covered branch at a good distance from me. The challenge here was to position my tripod mounted camera with a 400mm and 64mm of Extension tubes in a pile of branches to get the view i wanted. I would have liked to get lower to clear the branch in the background but i couldn’t get low enough and still get a good view, so i set the lens W/O at f/5.6 to blur the background as much as i could and did some burning in PP.

Those photos were all taken this morning at a local pond, it’s a great place to photograph different species of Frogs in a beautiful habitat and also Snapping Turtles. It offers a variety of backgrounds and mossy rocks and branches, i just need to look around and find the forg with a better surrounding that will make a great shot and reminds to get low.


Tamron SP 90mm/2.8 Macro VC USD, is it a good choice ?

My first Macro lens i bought back in 1992 was the Tamron SP 90mm/2.5 (1:2 ratio, Manual Focus) , i really liked that lens, very good for the price. I used it until i switched to digital in 2006 and found that it was prone to sensor flare. After that over the years i’ve used many Macro lenses from Nikon, Olympus (OM and m4/3), Vivitar 90-180mm Flat Field but mostly from Pentax. Before switching from Pentax to Canon i was owning 3 Macro lenses: Pentax DA 35mm/2.8 Macro Ltd, SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4 and Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR. The Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR is my favorite Macro lens that i’ve ever used, so when i switched to Canon i wanted to have the same advantages …. Weather sealing and IS (IBIS for Pentax) since i like  photographing frogs i often shoot in wet and muddy habitat and also often handholding my camera because a tripod is not always practical.

At first, i wanted to buy the Canon 100mm Macro IS L, price, size and weight were cons for that lens compared to what i was used with my Pentax (FF lens also). Then i found that Tamron was making a 90mm Macro with VC and weather sealing (Unfortunately not available in Pentax mount), smaller and lighter than the Canon. Sure it does not feel as solidly built than the Canon and especially the Pentax which the barrel is made of metal, but it’s good quality plastic and should be able to survive regular use in the field. A Canadian store had a good rebate on the Canon but especially on the Tamron (600$ CDN) … more than 400$ cheaper than the Canon! So after reading reviews and user opinions i finally pulled the trigger on the Tamron 90mm Macro VC USD, as a bonus here in Canada the Warranty from Tamron is 6 years.

For the moment i will be owning only 1 Macro lens for my Canon kit so a lens in the 90mm-100mm range was my choice. A longer Macro lens is helpful for insects that are difficult to get close, for the moment i will use Ext. tubes on my 70-200mm/4 L if  i need more reach when photographing Frogs.

Weather Sealing

This lens is Weather sealed but couldn’t find a definitive answer on how much weather sealed it really is, so i did sent an E-Mail to Tamron Canada and the next day i received the following answer:

“The weather sealing on your 90mm F/2.8 VC lens is provided by the gasket on the rear of the lens. There are no other gaskets or seals in the lens.”

Compared to the Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR, which have several gaskets inside the lens also, the Tamron can’t be used in constant rain like the Pentax can, but there is no gap between the focusing ring and the plastic barrel, so maybe it can take some light rain, the weak point might be the switches. The seal around the lens mount doesn’t look as tough as the one on the Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR but i will have to wait and see how well it will hold-up in the long term.

I made a short video showing the gasket on the rear mount of the lens:

http://s47.photobucket.com/user/leopold44/media/MVI_4892_zpse0417590.mp4.html

Lens design

The lens is made of plastic but feels solid, i like tha it’s an IF lens, it will not extend when getting close to my subjects. The focusing ring is large and easy to grip. I would have liked the focusing ring to be more progressive, by that i mean taking more turn from infinity to minimum focusing distance (it takes 1/2 turn from minimum to infinity). Because of that, at close range, just a little turn of the focusing ring and it makes a big difference on where the focus is made, compared to the old Manual focus lenses it’s not as easy to use  … but most of the AF lenses suffers from that unfortunately.

On the lens you will find 3 switches (focus limiter, AF/MF and for the VC On/Off), all 3 are easy to use and i have no complaint about them.

Before going to results in the field i want to talk about a little thing that i like about that Tamron lens …. the lens caps ! They are the best i’ve seen on a lens, thick enough and easy to use with a good firm lock, easy to use even in winter with cold fingers, same for the lens hood. Compared to the Canon front lens caps which are the worst i’ve used , too thin and difficult to use.

Results in the field

Modern Macro lenses are all very good, the choice of one over another is based more on features and focal length. Depending on your needs and the subjects you want to photograph there is a Macro lens that is more suited for the task.

The lens also performs very well at normal shooting distances, like this shot of a frozen waterfall, taken at f/11, tripod.

 

Chain in Winter. Taken at f/14, tripod.

The wind was blowing at 35 km/h and the the Black Spruce Tree was swinging so it was not easy keeping the cone in the frame. It was more to test the VC, AF and Bokeh. The shutter speed was fast enough not to require VC but it helped me to get the composition i wanted by stabilization of the image in the VF. 1/250 sec. at f/5.6.

Leaf on an Ice patch. Taken at f/13, tripod.

 

For this photo i did use a CPL filter to cut the reflections from the leaf and rock. Taken at f/13, tripod.

 

Skunk Cabbages were covered with frost after a cold night. I activated the VC and used f/5.6 to blur the background. The VC worked pretty well, sure the shutter speed was around 1/80 sec, not too slow but at close range and handheld you need all the speed you can even with VC.

 

Frog in an Aquarium at a local ZOO, it was taken handheld with the help of the VC. 1/200 sec. at f/4.0.

Crop of the Frog photo above to show the OOF area (the Bokeh). Quite good at f/4, there is some Bokeh fringing at the edge of the circles but at normal size we don’t see it.

 

I was photographing waterdrops on Moss at the base of a tree on a rainy day. Then, an insect appeared in my composition, i boosted the ISO to 800 and waited until it took an interesting position. It was taken at f/4.0, tripod.

I finally had some time and opportunities (spring was late this year and subjects were difficult to find), this lens performs really well and IQ is very good. I have no doubt and use it at any aperture, sure there is a little drop of resolution as you stop it down to f/11-16 but still very usable, wouldn’t use f/22 as the drop in IQ is too much for my taste.

The Bokeh looks good even if there is some Bokeh fringing (green in the OOF background), which is not that evident at normal viewing distance, i can live with it. In the photos posted here the OOF area are smooth and doesn’t distracts the eyes from the main subject.

This lens is bigger and heavier than my previous Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR but it handles quite well on my 7D and T3i and it works well for ground level subjects with the VC and the articulated LCD of the T3i.

Tamron produced different versions of this 90mm (f/2.5 and 2.8) over the years and they all have a very good reputation for delivering great results and this one is no exception, Tamron did another great version of their 90mm Macro. It may not be as weather sealed as my Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR was, but it’s a great lens that fits my needs and at a very good price. If you’re looking for another option than the Canon, Nikon or Sony brand Macro lens in that range this one certainly deserve a good look before taking a final decision. I will post updates when i will have more experience with that lens for photographing Frogs at my favorite pond.

 


Weekly photo, 04 May 2014

This week i didn’t had much time so i will post a photo i took when we visited an Ecomuseum on Easter day with my family. The ZOO keepers showed animals to the public and we were able to get very close and learn about the animals.

Great Horned Owl close-up taken at the Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. Canon 7D with 70-200mm/4L + TC 1.4 X II.

 


Weekly photo, 27 April 2014

This morning i went to a pond close to my home to see if i could find some Frogs to photograph, i could hear some but couldn’t find any of them. It was 5C and raining, it’s probably too cold, so Frogs or not as active, maybe in a week or 2.

I saw a Canada Goose defending the pond against another Goose who just landed on the pond, not long after i found why, there was another Goose on a nest ! They are very wel camouflaged in the vegetation and they keep a low profile. I took some photos and left them alone not to disturb them more than necessary.

Canon 7d with 400mm/5.6L and TC 1.4X II.


Frogsicles !

This morning i took my first photos of Frogs in 2014, but it was not what i was hoping for as my first shots ! This 2014 spring is cold like the winter we had and it looks like we will have 2 more weeks of cold days. This morning it was -1°C, again, and there was ice on the waterholes. What i found in a small waterhole (about 2×6 feet) beside the small pond (about 5×20 feet) both not very deep, is 5 dead frogs caught under the ice.

I found 5 Frogs dead in that small waterhole, maybe too small for them.

So it looks like these frogs choosed a too small waterhole for the long winter and just suffocated.

Here is an interesting article i found about the subject:

http://www.naturenorth.com/winter/winterkill/Winterkill.html


Weekly photo, 20-Apr-2014

Spring is quite cold this year and we still have frost on some mornings. While i was phtographing Canada Geese i found that plant with frosted leaves.

 

Canon T3i with Tamron 90mm Macro VC, tripod.


Live View helped my Photography.

Back in late 2008 i was shooting with a Pentax DS2, i dropped it on my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 and broked the LCD, i had to replace my DSLR! I bought a Pentax K20D to replace it, it’s equipped with LV but i’ve never liked it in that camera so never used it in the field. Then a couple of years later i bought a Sony NEX-3, i liked the focus peaking feature, it was so easy to get accurate focus now with my old Takumar (M42) lenses !

When the Pentax K-01 came out i bought one immediately, the focus peaking was a big selling point. This is the camera that really get me hooked on LV, the AF was accurate and getting photos from different angles was a lot easier than trying to look into the VF of my K20D.

Getting a low POV is easy now, even if the LCD screen of the K-01 is fixed you can see relatively well from about every angles. For this photo my K-01 was directly on the ground and i was able to shoot from a comfortable position instead of being forced to lay flat on the ground … it’s good when it’s wet and cold or you’re getting older 🙂

AF in LV is useful for wildlife also, especially when they are a long distance from you. If the light is good it locks easily on your subject, if not i switch to MF. My 7D with 400mm/5.6L+TC 1.4X II can’t AF but in LV that combo can be use in AF, sure it’s not fast but it works. I’m using LV more often now for wildlife when my subject give me the time, it’s certainly a must have now for me when photographing frogs with my 70-200mm or 400mm with extension tubes and/or a TC 1.4X.

For this long distance shot of a Cormorant in a tree i switched to AF in LV and zoomed in to get more accurate AF. I used my 7D with and 400mm/5.6 L on a tripod.

This is a good example of using LV for manually focusing precisely on the eye of a frog. Here i took that shot of a Bullfrog with my 7D and 400mm/5.6L.

Having a big screen to compose is so much fun, better than looking at a VF, especially the VF of the entry level cameras. It’s more like a small View Camera. You can stay away from your camera in a more relax position, i use a cable release while looking on the LCD until my subject is at it’s best.

 

Here is an example of using LV with a cable release and waiting for a subject to flew in my composition. I was waiting and in a comfortable position without having to wait with my eye glued to the VF.

I never thought i would buy a DSLR with a tilt and swivel screen but i did it when i bought a cheap Canon T3i. I learned to appreciate that screen and can’t wait to use it for photographing frogs with it at my local pond, it will be useful when my tripod will be low in the water, it will be easier to see and focus on the LCD.

Sure they are not perfect, in bright sun it’s still difficult to see well compared to a VF, but i managed to use them anyway, if i really can’t see anything i use the VF.

Here is a short video on how i use my K-01 for ground level shots, a lot easier than trying to see in the VF:

http://s47.photobucket.com/user/leopold44/media/M4V06483.mp4.html

For this photo of a Green Frog i had to lay down on the shore of the pond and was holding my K-01 equipped with my DFA 100mm Macro WR as far as i could above the water. The big LCD, Focus Peaking and SR made that shot possible.

LCD will get better in the coming years, resolution is already better than just a couple of years ago. There is LCD that have touch screen now, i have some experience with the Panasonic GX7 and it works pretty well, like an I-Pod. The camera manufacturer will include those touch screen more and more in the coming years for sure and probably other features that we can’t imagine yet but will make our life easier as photographer.


Weekly photo, 13 April 2014

It’s been a couple of weeks now that i didn’t post my weekly photo because i haven’t shot any interesting subject. Canada Geese, Great Blue Heron, Cormorant and even Swallows are back from the South. Yesterday i was on the shore of the St-Lawrence river before sunrise to photograph Canada Geese in the early light, my goal was to get more artistic shots of them. I got some interesting ones, here is my favorite.

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


Macro Photography: part 3

Now that i talked about the gear and how to use it, i will talk more about the artistic part and how to record and compose shots. The good thing about Macro/Close-up photography is that you can do it everywhere, you don’t need to live in a wild area, you can get some great shots even in your backyard. When i’m walking in the forest most of the time i’m looking on the ground to find an interesting subject. Once you found something interesting you will need to look for the best angle from which to photograph it, walk around (if possible) and get down on your knees if necessary.

I like this photo of a young Leopard Frog that i took early one morning on the shore of a small pond because it shows the animal in it’s habitat. There is enough DOF on the frog but not too much that the background would become distracting, the Bokeh of the lens also helps here. The low point of view and the dew covered grass adds to appreciate that little fellow.

Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR, ISO 1600, 1/60 sec. at f/5.6, handheld.

Background and DOF control

When shooting Macro photos you need to be aware of the background and always position your camera and also choosing the appropriate aperture to blurr the background so it will not distract the viewer from the main subject. You might need to move some weeds or branches in the background to have a cleaner composition. Color of the background can affect the final look of your shots and give different feelings when looking at the result.

Sometimes the background can add to your subject especially if the subject is smaller in the frame and it’s part of the habitat (like the photo above of a Leopard Frog).

In this photo of a Leopard Frog i selected a wider aperture to blurr the surrounding of the frog and was shooting handheld at ground level but the lens was braced on a kind of bean bag.

Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR

Controlling light

You might need to control the light hitting your subject, you can use a flash, but personally i prefer natural light (i don’t own any flash). I often use myself, camera bag or even took off my shirt to shade my subject from direct sunlight when necessary. If i need to fill-in some light i use my DSLR book (which is always in my bag) to do that or you can have a small reflector.

I was looking for photographing frogs at one of my favorite pond and saw this Crab spider with her prey on a flower. Since they were underneath the petals the light was not so good so i used my DSLR user guide to fill-in some light, even then the white petals were blown-out but i can live with that. So always keep your eyes open, you never know what you can find.

Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR, tripod.

Finding subjects

Often the most difficult part is finding an interesting subject, taking time to look around, taking time to relax will open your mind and be more productive than walking too much in hope of finding a better place. Usually the longer i stay at the same place the best shots i get. When i’m shooting frogs it’s the same thing, i try to find the frog that is in a better surrounding and let me get close enough to make a good photograph. After that i work around it and try different lenses if possible.

This was taken after a rainy day followed by a cold night, the water drops just frozed on the leaves. The difficult part was finding a subject with a beautiful surrounding. The technical part was easy, just stopped down the lens to have enough DOF to render everything in sharp focus.

Sony NEX-3 with SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4, tripod.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with shutter speed, DOF, lenses or even WB and ISO. Modern cameras give you a lot of choices and  you’re only limited by your imagination. Don’t forget to bring your camera with you as often as you can since a Macro lens and a camera don’t take that much space and you never know when a small subject will cross your road.

This photo of a leaf caught in ice is a good example of having a camera with me. I took that photo on my way to work, i stopped on the shore of a lake and walked on the ice until i found the best subject.

Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR, Tripod.


Weather sealing in Lenses and Cameras, a new trend !

Weather Sealing is not a necessity for the Outdoor photographer but it’s certainly a desirable option when choosing a new camera or lens. When i was shooting with film cameras my Pentax gear was not sealed and there wasn’t many of them that were sealed at that time. I was using plastic bags when it was raining, not the best thing but it gets the job done, i’m still using plastic bags and/or raincover for my gear with no weather sealing.

Camera and lens makers are including Sealing into more of their products now and it’s a good thing for the Outdoor photographers (Wildlife, Landscape , sports …..).  Even Fuji with their new X-T1 and some WR lenses coming later this year is joining the party. Unfortunately not all manufacturers indicates clearly which lenses are sealed and to which degree they are. Canon L series of lenses are not all sealed, some not at all, some partially (they require a filter with a gasket to complete the sealing) and some are fully weather sealed. Nikon is also vague on this point, i’m not too familiar with their lenses and which ones are sealed.

Olympus and Pentax have a very good reputation for working in bad weather. I’ve been shooting with some Pentax WR and DA* lenses for some years now and i can attest that they can be used in any bad weather  that we have here in Canada.

This photo of a Green Frog with friends was taken with my Pentax K20D and DFA 100mm Maco WR, it was raining and after 2 hours i was soaked but my gear had no problems at all.

Pentax is clear on which lenses are weather sealed and to which level:

http://c2b6d376b97bcc466063-5420c200a1f030d1394a9548df6eadbd.r5.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/support/Pentax_Ricoh_WR_White_V2%20_2_.pdf

Recently i bought a Tamron 90mm Macro VC for my Canon kit and it is equipped with a rubber gasket around the lens mount but no other seal in the lens. I don’t know if the Tamron seal will be as good as the Pentax or if it will still work well after some years in the field, but it’s good to see a third party lens makers adding this feature to their lenses.

I did a short Video to show the difference between the Pentax and Tamron gasket around the lens mount:

http://s47.photobucket.com/user/leopold44/media/MVI_4892_zpse0417590.mp4.html

The camera is also important, not all cameras have the same degree of protection against rain and dust. The Card and battery doors of my Canon 7D doesn’t have any gasket even if the camera is said to be weather sealed, however there are seals in other parts of the camera, compared to my Pentax K20D which have the best doors i have used with rubber gaskets and a very good locking mechanism.

All in all weather sealing is now part of the choices you have to make when choosing a new camera, lens or system, when i have choices i will buy a sealed lens over another one if all things are similar. It’s not a necessity but it certainly makes your life easier in the field and gives you a worry free experience while concentrating on getting the best shots you can.