In my last post, I left you with an image of a flower from my own garden that I was desperately trying to photograph against the beautiful spring sky. I was lying on the ground trying for a good angle when Darrell Gulin’s lesson came to mind. Why struggle out in the field? He often photographs butterflies in his own kitchen and uses printed natural looking backgrounds behind his subjects. Why was I crawling in the grass, struggling to get a good angle? It was my flower so I simply clipped it and brought it inside. I went back outside and took a picture of the beautiful sky. Back inside, I printed it on some cheap 13×19 matte paper, mounted it on some stiff backboard, placed it behind the bloom, and voila! The image at top is very similar as I used a printed natural green background, but done outdoors. My question to you is; could you tell that it was a printed background? It was an actual “real sky” (in the last post) and some “real” foliage, in this image. Does it really matter? How is that different than the manipulation in the field with the bark or the snow? That is a choice for you to ultimately make but now, I could easily have any background I wanted behind the subject and the sky literally was the limit! Below is my low-tech indoor setup that I can use, any day of the year, and have any background I want even if there is a foot of snow outside! Just remember to close the window too.
Unlike other genres of photography, macro photography allows you the most control. I find that backgrounds are just as critical to the success of a macro image as the subject itself. My first tip on getting closer was for circumstances where you couldn’t control the background. My second tip is to show you that in most cases, you can control the background and it is relatively easy! The butterfly image above was taken in Butterfly World in Coconut Creek Florida. There are thousands of live butterflies in the aviary with a great variety but many times the backgrounds are less than appealing. What to do in that situation? I will walk though the aviary looking for a location with a nice background and ignore almost everything else going on! Once I find a bloom that is isolated from the background I will patiently wait for a butterfly to land on it and fire away. Using this technique in the field will always make for stronger compositions, as cluttered background will often distract from the beauty of the main subject.
When photographing flowers, people often make the common mistake of trying to capture the entire flower even when there are distracting or unwanted elements in the frame. In many cases an arboretum or flower show do not allow tripods either…so what is the solution? The simple answer is to get closer! You don’t need to see the entire bloom and foliage to get your point across and macro lenses are especially well suited for this task. The image above of the Gerber Daisy is a great example of this philosophy.
I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I was doing some presentations in Kalamazoo […]
I am a wildlife and nature photographer but I often like to step out of my comfort zone and photograph […]
Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park have to be the premier nature photography location in the lower 48 states. Subjects range from stunning and otherworldly landscapes to abundant free roaming wildlife. The best time to visit the parks is either in early spring (June) or my favorite time of year in late September to early October as the leaves start to change. The large summer crowds are gone and the park takes on a much slower pace, as it gets ready for the approaching winter. The image above is of the Teton Range just off the outside road. This image is at first light and I used a Singh-Ray, 3 stop, reverse graduated neutral density filter to help balance the foreground with the much lighter sky and mountain range.
Iceland has long been on my list of photography destinations so I was very excited to finally get a chance to explore the country as well as try out the Sigma 12-24mm. The landscapes were just breathtaking and I got an opportunity to photograph the many waterfalls of the country. The lens quickly proved itself as I was able to compose and recompose quickly given that I was often very close to the falls! One of my favorites is a triple waterfall near Mt. Kirkjufell (shown above). While I normally use split neutral density filters to balance a scene, I decided instead to blend two exposures (one for the sky and one for the foreground) because of the mountain protruding on the right hand side. A split ND filter would have unnaturally darkened Mt. Kirkjufell so an exposure blend was the best option in this case.
When I set out to do wildlife photography, I always have my Sigma 300-800mm lens with me mounted on one camera body and the newest addition to my arsenal; the Sigma 120-300mm mounted on another. I absolutely love the versatility and reach of that combination. It is unmatched by any combination on the market today. I have always used both lenses for a while with great results, but I wanted to see how the budget friendly Sigma 150-500mm worked in the field because sometimes, it is nice to travel light! Another big factor is that many people simply can’t afford the higher end lenses and I would love to give them another option, but I did have a few questions myself that needed to be answered. Was the lens sharp…..even all the way out to 500mm? I set out one morning a few weeks ago and started testing the lens out on simple portraits like the one below. I patiently waited for the bird to walk into some nice sand.
I have been looking for an intermediate telephoto zoom lens to add to my lens arsenal. I have owned the Canon 100-400mm lens for a while now but I have never been happy with its sharpness or overall performance and the push pull mechanism for zooming was not very smooth and made tracking while zooming difficult. I was looking at 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses but I felt that I wanted a bit more reach for an intermediate telephoto zoom lens. Someone suggested that I try out the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 and it looked to be a great idea as it fit nicely in my lens lineup between my wide angle lenses that ranged up to 128mm and my super telephoto Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 lens.