1818 Farms

Every now and then Huntsville surprises you with something pretty cool.  Such was this case this past Saturday.  While my wife and I were driving home from the hardware store with items purchased to knock things off of my to do list, she showed me her phone and said "Have you these 1818 Farms people?".  To which I replied, "What is that?".

What it is is something really cool.  1818 Farms has a traveling cut flower shop ran out of the bed of a very cool, restored, 1965 F100 Ford Pickup Truck, effectively known as The Flower Truck.  This past Saturday, they were having the flower truck in downtown Huntsville.  We had to rush home, drop off our hardware store goods and rush downtown to see them before they left for the day.  I'm glad we did!

It's no secret that I tend to buy flowers from my local grocery store for macro photography.  Sometimes you have to end up buying an entire bouquet for one really good looking flower.  What I love about 1818 Farm's flower truck is they sell you one stem of any particular flower.  Oh, and every one of them looked amazing!  I ended up buying 5 or so different varieties. 

One of the flowers I bought that I thought was super cool was the Thistle.  I have never looked at Thistle like this before.  I always just thought of it as a nuisance weed.  The Thistle they had on the flower truck looked so good!  There was no way I wasn't getting one.  

So after I completed the items on my to do list.  I set in on doing some macro work.  I placed the Thistle in my Wimberly Clamp on my dining room table, setup my camera on my tripod and used a small handheld LED light to light my subject.  This is my typical setup for what I call "Dining Room Macro".

Aperture-priority, 0.4 sec, f/16, ISO 200, Compensation: +2/3, 90mm Macro

Here's one of the images I was able to capture.  I used my Nikon D850 with Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  I had my camera supported by my Sirui W-2204 Tripod.  

Macro Monday

I've been keeping an eye out on my "birding" area in the backyard.  While I haven't seen many birds at all this summer, it has turned into a bit of a butterfly hot spot.  

Probably three months ago I planted several butterfly "attracting" plants.  I started with a Butterfly Bush, added some Brown and Green Fennel, some Parsley and finally some Milkweed.  The butterflies are attracted to the Butterfly Bush, Parsley and Milkweed because they enjoy eating it.  The Fennel they use to lay eggs in.  Eggs turn into caterpillars and another photo op. ;)

I was out taking care of some things in the area this past weekend and noticed a new batch of Black Swallowtail Caterpillars had hatched, then noticed all kinds of butterflies everywhere.  The light was also cloudy and soft, so I grabbed my camera with Macro lens and went back out to spend some time with them.

I did something I rarely ever do when I am shooting macro...I shot handheld.  These guys were OK with me getting very close to them, but they moved frequently and trying to chase them with a tripod was not going to work out well.  I just kept an eye on my shutter speed and made sure I turned on the VC on my Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Lens.  Those two things in conjunction worked really well and allowed me to hand hold for these shots.

Aperture Priority, 1/100th second, F/8, ISO 200, Exposure Compensation +1/3

I believe this is a Gulf Fritillary Butterfly feeding on Milkweed.  

There are a lot of "butterfly on flower" photographs, and some of them are really, really good, but I  really wanted to see how close I could get to these guys with my macro lens.  Not only did the Tamron lens allow that, but the VC helped my create this image, too....oh yeah, and the thing is sharp!

Image made with Canon 5D Mk III and Tamron 90mm Macro.

 

Showy Orchis

While in The Great Smoky Mountains last month, we were on the lookout for various wildflowers in the area.  One of my favorites is The Showy Orchis.  According to the US Forrest Service website, the showy orchis only gets between 4-8 inches tall.  The showy orchis also has to maintain a relationship with a certain type of fungi in order to grow.  They also prefer moist soil, like somewhere near streams...The Great Smoky Mountains is a prime spot for them.

Here's an image a I made using my Sony A7R II, Metabones Lens Adapter and Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  I shot this in Aperture Priority at F/4.  I wanted a very shallow depth of field so the background would fall off quickly.  Macro photography is much easier with a tripod.  I used my Sirui W-2204 and K-20 Ballhead for this image.

Here's all the EXIF info:  Aperture Priority, F/4, ISO 100, 1/50th second, 90mm, Exposure Compensation 0. 

Macro Monday

I spent a little time over the weekend making a few macro images.  I picked up a few of these Gerbera Daisies at the local supermarket and brought to the dining room table. 

ISO 100, 90mm, F/16 @ 1.6 seconds

I made this image, like I mentioned before, on my dining room table.  I use what little available window light I have, then I add light myself with a little on-camera LED video light that I just hold in my hand and places exactly where I want the light.

This image was made with my Sony A7R II, Metabones Lens Adapter and Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  All this gear was resting atop my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20 Ballhead.

Another Daisy Macro

Here's another macro shot of the same daisy as yesterday.  This time without a "dew drop" and in color.

ISO 400, 90mm, F/16 @ 0.8 seonds

Nothing real fancy here.  I did add an extension tube to my setup this time, however.  I sometimes add an extension tube to my macro lens just to give me a ratio that is greater than 1:1, or bigger than life size.  Extension tubes merely let your camera focus closer to your subject by moving the lens further away from the sensor.  Some people add extension tubes to regular lenses to give them a "poor man's" macro lens.  I use mine on a dedicated macro lens just to be able to get closer to my subject and allow it to look bigger.  

This image was made with my Sony A7R II, Metabones Adapter, Canon EF25 II Extension Tube and Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  All held up by the Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20 Ballhead.

Pink Lady Slippers

No, those aren't what I wear with my housecoat before bed.

They are wildflowers.  And dang fine ones, too!  Oh, and hard to find, too.  That was until we found this spot during our workshop in the Smokies.

We were walking down this trail where my teaching partner, David Akoubian, had remembered seeing some of these Pink Lady Slippers years ago.  Well, we ended up finding a small group and spent some time photographing them.  As we walked further down the trail we found an elderly couple taking a rest on a log and they told us that just down this other trial there were "bunches of them".  

We walked down the other trail to the point where we thought the guy was just nuts, then we started to see small groups of them, then more of them, then large groups of them.  It was us that was nuts it turns out!

The first image on the left was taken on the day we initially found the flowers.  The lighting was not good and we were trying to use everything we had as a diffuser and background.  I had to push the processing on that one a bit to get an image I liked.  

The image on the right was taken a few days later.  The light was great on this day!  We had rain that morning and it was still very overcast when we arrived.  So the light was better and we got the bonus raindrops, too.

Settings for the left image: ISO 1600, 90mm, F/16 @ 1/10th second

Settings for the right image: ISO 800, 90mm, F/4.0 @ 1/125th second

Both images were taken with my Sony A7R, Metabones Adapter and Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  This setup was of course on a tripod...my Vanguard Abeo Plus 323CT.

One Last Web

Typical things like dew and spider webs are usually mostly gone around here this time of year.  However, this past weekend was unusually warm and we were welcomed on Sunday morning with heavy fog and dew.

As I walked out to get the Sunday Newspaper, I noticed a perfectly dew covered spiderweb in one of our crepe myrtle trees.  I quickly ran in and grabbed my Sony A7R, Tamron 90 Macro Lens and my Vanguard Abeo Plus 323CT Tripod.  I ran back out and quickly setup.  It wasn't going anywhere, I'm not sure why I was in race mode.

I knew I wanted to blur the grass in the background to a soft, creamy green, so I shot this in Aperture Priority Mode at F/11 (which is a pretty small aperture for macro).  You can tell how shallow a depth of field F/11 gives us by how quickly we start to lose sharpness to the left side of the image.  It was also a bit windy, and the web was moving, so I knew I needed a faster shutter speed to help me freeze it.  To accomplish this I raised my ISO to 1600, which gave me a shutter speed of 1/400th.  

dewcoveredweb.jpg

If you are sick of these webs, you are in luck as I don't expect to see much of them around for a while. ;)

Smoky Mountain Dew

So, it's been a LONG time since you've heard from me.  I've had quite a few things keeping me from posting lately, but mostly the lack of a computer.  I ordered a new computer, then when it arrived it had a few issues, so I had to send it back for a replacement...which took about 2 weeks.  So, now I'm back in action with a brand new computer!

A week or so ago I met up with some long time friends for a quick run up to The Smoky Mountains for a half day photo fix.  These trips are always a ton of fun and always produce good photos from everyone involved.

We spent the hours before, during and after sunrise at Cades Cove.  We were treated to a pair of whitetails and a family of bears within our first 15 minutes once we got in the cove.  It was a very cool morning.  I'm saving bear photos for later...today I wanted to share with you a dew covered spiderweb.  In Cades Cove during the late summer, these things can be found literally everywhere.  So, you get to spend time picking the one with the best pattern, the best backgrounds, the best dew...you get the idea.

On this morning I found one with a very nice pattern, nice dew, I found a undistracting background and this one even had prisoners.  Bonus!

This image was taken with my Sony A7R and Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  You can't take these macro shots at this time of day without a tripod, and I used my new Abeo Plus 323CT for this shot.  I shot this in Aperture Priority at F/8 to blur the background into soft, creamy nothingness.  Also, I had my ISO boosted a bit to 400, which resulted in a shutter speed of 1/50th.  I pushed and pulled a few sliders in Lightroom and this is what came out.

 

Dining Room Macro Session

So, I spent some time this afternoon trying to make a video of how I do these macro shots on my dining room table.  The video's looked pretty good, but had no sound.  So, since I know nothing about video...I guess it was a lost cause.

 

Anyway, I did come away with a few shots that I can use here as an example of how I can create different images by adjusting the lighting.  

I am using a small, LED, video light to light most of my macro images.  Sometimes I hold the light in place and snap the photo and other times I place the camera in manual mode with a shutter speed of a few seconds and paint the light where I want it to be.  Moving the light and altering the angle of the light greatly effects the final image.

Let's take the below images as examples.

In the above image, I am simply holding the light in my hand, off to the left of camera.  You can actually see the reflection of the light in my "water drop", which is actually Karo Syrup.  

Now, in this image I have set a longer shutter speed and tried to backlight the front petals while quickly hitting the front side of the flower with the light to show a little detail there, too.  Essentially, painting with the light...like I mentioned before.

Both of these images are the exact same composition.  They were both shot at F/16 and ISO 100 with the later having a longer shutter speed allowing me to paint the light on,

You can see what a dramatic difference moving the lighting has created.  

While I really like the backlit image above, I really think this backlighting works out fantastic for images you plan to create as black & white.  In the image below I have used Nik's Silver Efex Pro 2 and converted it to black & white.  

Again, same composition and settings, this one was just converted to black & white.  Maybe I will have time to try this video thing again in the near future for you to see the process.  I may have to consult with a professional, though.