Day 112 – Back Button Focus

Today something new … back button focusing – I have not tried it, I can customise my camera to do it, and it is a whole different way of shooting – and a new method to learn.

This great post not only explains what back focusing is, it tell you how to set it up on a canon camera like my … so rather than explain why don’t you pop over and have a read – Back Button explained!

These are my first attempts… shot on a forest walk with my 18-250mm lens … it takes some getting use to, as I need to think when I focus … but then I thought about that… I do think when I focus, I just have to get my brain to process pressing a different button, however I do already see how the images I take can be taken at faster shutter speeds which could be a great thing.

I can manage flowers in a light breeze… now I need to experiment more – hopefully I will get use to it!

ISO 400, F8, 1/250 sec - Back focusing cropped. Focal Length 250mm
ISO 400, F8, 1/250 sec – Back focusing cropped. Focal Length 250mm
ISO 400, F6.3, 1/1600 sec - Back focusing cropped. Focal Length 250mm
ISO 400, F6.3, 1/1600 sec – Back focusing cropped. Focal Length 250mm
ISO 400, F6.3, 1/250 sec - Back focusing cropped. Focal Length 95mm
ISO 400, F6.3, 1/250 sec – Back focusing cropped. Focal Length 95mm
ISO 400, F5.6, 1/200 sec - Back focusing cropped. Focal Length 50mm
ISO 400, F5.6, 1/200 sec – Back focusing cropped. Focal Length 50mm
ISO 400, F5.6, 1/400 sec - Back focusing cropped. Focal Length 95mm
ISO 400, F5.6, 1/400 sec – Back focusing cropped. Focal Length 95mm

Later today I get to photo new life … a new baby … will share the photos later on in the month once I have mum’s OK… it will be another first!

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Day 111 – Shutter speeds and sharpness

A forest walk looking for signs of spring… and today I spotted definite signs that Spring is on its way in the New Forest. I was out with my 18-250mm lens and wanted to capture the detail of Spring at the lowest depth of field, what I hadn’t considered was how shutter speed effected the sharpness of the image…  something I read about after I took today’s images.

ISO100, F6.3, 1/100 sec - 250 mm zoom
ISO100, F6.3, 1/100 sec – 250 mm zoom

It was lovely to see how the shallow depth of field totally blurred at the background twigs, creating a calm muted image – but looking at a larger version of the image it really isn’t sharp enough – based on the fact that I was hand holding the camera I need to pay more attention to the focal length and the shutter speed.  Gavin Hoey suggests that I should “use the rule of thumb that the shutter speed should be double (or more) then the lens focal length. In other words if you were using a 50mm lens your shutter speed would be 1/100th sec or faster” with that in mind a 500 sec shutter speed would have been a much sharper shot, as I was focused at 250mm! By doubling the ISO, I could have doubled the shutter speed.

Both below photos are sharper – the idea shutter speed would have been 1/240 sec, as they were both taken with 120mm focal length  – this was achievable if I had used a small F number, a shallower depth of field or increased the ISO, although I read up on this once I got home….

The first photo below also highlights that where you focus when using a shallow depth of field is incredibly important, the most dominant leaves are out of focus and so is the background as the leaves were relatively close to the camera, in this image nothing is completely sharp and you are left wondering what to look at – my focus was off 😦

ISO100, F7.1, 1/200 sec at 120mm focal length
ISO100, F7.1, 1/200 sec at 120mm focal length

Taken with the same settings as above – this image is much less cluttered and therefore a stronger composition but not sharp enough … I shall keep trying, and learning along the way – difference lenses make more of a difference than I realised.

ISO 100, F7.1, 1/200 sec - 120mm focal length
ISO 100, F7.1, 1/200 sec – 120mm focal length

Day 110 – Owl Photo Experience Day – Part 2

I have finished editing the 900 photos I took on Saturday for now… I edited down to 349 to keep as raw files, and then edited my favorite ones of those so that I only only sharing my favorite 24… you saw some yesterday, and today I am sharing the owls that you may see native to the UK. I have processed the photos in Lightroom with the help of some actions from the Nik Collection.

European Eagle Owl

European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F5.6, 1/800 sec, focal length 150mm
European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F5.6, 1/800 sec, focal length 150mm

This owl was similar in colouring to the Northern Great Horn Owl I posted yesterday, but this time the eyes were a bright orange colour.

European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F8, 1/800 sec, focal length 370mm
European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F8, 1/800 sec, focal length 370mm

When I listened to the lifestyle talk the other day, I was reminded to look at some of the details… so as well as his amazing eyes, we can see the details on his claws and feathers.

European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F6.3, 1/2000 sec, focal length 150mm
European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F6.3, 1/2000 sec, focal length 150mm
European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F6.3 1/800 sec, focal length 500mm
European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F6.3 1/800 sec, focal length 500mm

Barn Owl

My first shot of the barn owl I capture with a smaller aperture – I was using half the range of the camera and although I like the context of the surroundings in which you can see the Barn Owl, I think the background is really busy and distracting, so I am going to stick to a shallower depth of field and work with shutter speeds that allow that.

Barn Owl, ISO 160, F10, 1/500 sec - 340mm focal length
Barn Owl, ISO 160, F10, 1/500 sec – 340mm focal length

Below is a classic “bird on a stick pose” which my camera club seem to frown on… this like birds doing something and sadly this experience was very much “bird on a stick” variety… as they did not have permission to fly the birds in the forest.

It was though a tricky shot to capture with the light sky, the Barn Owl lit by sunlight from behind, which almost gives him rim lighting yet exposing the shot to capture the details in the feathers without blowing all the highlights.

Barn Owl, ISO 200, F6.3, 1/400 sec - 229mm focal length
Barn Owl, ISO 200, F6.3, 1/400 sec – 229mm focal length

The next two photos of the Barn Owl are exactly the same shot,  edited differently using Lightroom to create two different images – for me this is one of the amazing things that you can do in your digital darkroom –  and it is what inspired my interested in photography in the first place … I know now that if we all started with the same raw image we would develop them our own way and all create different end images… Lightroom, Photoshop and creative thinking are not new – it has just become more accessible…

Barn Owl, ISO 200, F8, 1/1000 sec - 500mm focal length
Barn Owl, ISO 200, F8, 1/1000 sec – 500mm focal length
Barn Owl, ISO 200, F8, 1/1000 sec - 500mm focal length
Barn Owl, ISO 200, F8, 1/1000 sec – 500mm focal length

Tawny Owl

The Tawny Owl had lovely colouring and was the last owl we had the chance to photograph, amazingly everyone was still with us, we had all been aware of each others lenses and moved our feet to change angles and to try and create different unique images on the various cameras present.

Tawny Owl - ISO400, F9, 1/200 sec - 213mm focal length
Tawny Owl – ISO400, F9, 1/200 sec – 213mm focal length

It was amazing how moving feet and moving the owl made a difference … I do wish that we could have incorporated more greenery into the shots, but Spring growth is only just arriving, but equally more foliage could have created more shadows and distractions, it was hard enough trying not to include the tether that the owl was tied on with in the shots … these ones I have purposefully left it in!

Tawny Owl - ISO400, F8, 1/400 sec - 150mm focal length
Tawny Owl – ISO400, F8, 1/400 sec – 150mm focal length

Looking out into the wood – the Tawny Owl captured in a more natural setting.

Tawny Owl - ISO400, F6.3, 1/1000 sec - 340mm focal length
Tawny Owl – ISO400, F6.3, 1/1000 sec – 340mm focal length

I finally managed to get some green foliage into this shot in front and behind the Tawny Owl which really adds depth to the image – it is just a shame that it is not in focus due to my shallow depth of field, but with the wind ruffling the owls feather shutter speed was more important.

Tawny Owl - ISO400, F7.1, 1/1000 sec - 229mm focal length
Tawny Owl – ISO400, F7.1, 1/1000 sec – 229mm focal length

My final share – I really wanted a shallow depth of field for this one, the Tawny Owl ducked down inside the tree to escape the wind and I just loved how you could capture the eyes and the beak peaking out – this to me felt like one of the most natural shots I achieved today as I could imagine the Tawny Owl in her nest just like this, watching, waiting …. it has more of a story feel.

Tawny Owl - ISO400, F6.3, 1/1000 sec - 370mm focal length
Tawny Owl – ISO400, F6.3, 1/1000 sec – 370mm focal length

I was not the only person who attend the Owl experience – yesterday I included my son in the photos, he edited his and I choose my three favorite to share with you, he normally spends his time working with computers or drawing… so it was lovey to share a day with him.

My fav. photos Jake's captured during his experience
My favorite photos Jake’s captured during his experience

I hope you have enjoyed sharing the Owls with us… it was a great day out and I would recommend it and for £45 I think it was a great price too.. and if you are looking for some pointers for your own photos … I found this post helpful – photographing raptors!

Day 109 – Owl Photo Experience Day – Part 1

Wow, what a day – I spent yesterday on an Owl photography experience day, I had the opportunity to photograph 6 owls that were taken from their home in captivity to a location in the New Forest National Park so that I could take photos of them in natural surroundings, with natural sunlight, it was a bright day, shadows and wind.

I took over 900 photos – so culling them down was the first job … I took so many as I used a high speed shutter as I wanted to ensure that I captured the owls with their eyes open, I took my tripod for stability and my big lens – my sigma 150-500mm, the draw back of which was that other photographers could get a lot closer to the animals than I could.

The day was run by Captive Light photography – there was a photographer on hand to offer advice if you have specific questions, he often emphasised the importance of checking the histogram to ensure you were exposed to the right for the highlights – you really wanted to capture the details on the owl feathers, and had a falconer  from Liberty’s Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre who was looking after the owls and was able to share with you interesting facts when you asked him questions.

I took all the photos in Raw, so processed only my favorite few which I am going to share with you today and tomorrow…

Siberian Eagle Owl

Siberian Eagle Owl - ISO 200, F8, 1/1250 sec - 174mm focal length
Siberian Eagle Owl – ISO 200, F8, 1/1250 sec – 174mm focal length

The photographers – there was about 17 of us, were able to get within a couple of meters of the owls… I was joined today by my son Jake, he has always been interested in owls, so he came to take photos too and to study the owls for a painting…  I was able to catch him with a couple of the owls too.

Siberian Eagle Owl - ISO 200, F6.3, 1/500 sec - 150mm focal length
Siberian Eagle Owl – ISO 200, F6.3, 1/500 sec – 150mm focal length
Siberian Eagle Owl - ISO 200, F8, 1/800 sec - 247 mm focal length
Siberian Eagle Owl – ISO 200, F8, 1/800 sec – 247 mm focal length

I wanted to take a good selection of photos – landscape dimensions and portrait – capturing the whole owl and getting close to some of the details and with an aperture that would give a great Bokeh for a background.

Siberian Eagle Owl - ISO 200, F7.1, 1/3200 sec - 439mm focal length
Siberian Eagle Owl – ISO 200, F7.1, 1/3200 sec – 439mm focal length

Asian Brown Wood Owl

A different location, and my son again – as each new owl came out it was a challenge to adjust the exposure so that the highlights were not blown out as the bright sunlight, dapple shade, changing locations to work with the light and the direction which the owl wanted to face … interestingly they generally liked to face into wind!

Asian Brown Wood Owl - ISO 200, F16, 1/25 sec - 150mm focal length
Asian Brown Wood Owl – ISO 200, F16, 1/25 sec – 150mm focal length

The Asian Wood Owl had really dark eyes, and it was hard to capture any detail in them, this was because he was a nocturnal owl, which usually roosts during the day – quite often he had his eyes shut or partly shut.

Asian Brown Wood Owl - ISO 200, F8, 1/250 sec - 150mm focal length
Asian Brown Wood Owl – ISO 200, F8, 1/250 sec – 150mm focal length
Asian Brown Wood Owl - ISO 400, F8, 1/640 sec - 150mm focal length
Asian Brown Wood Owl – ISO 400, F8, 1/640 sec – 150mm focal length

Northern Great Horn Owl

The Northern Great Horn Owl had such amazing eyes, the yellow was so bright and striking they just had to be captured close up. This owl just seemed to ooze character, and had a stronger presence about him.

Northern Great Horn Owl - ISO400, F8, 1/160 sec - 500mm focal length
Northern Great Horn Owl – ISO400, F8, 1/160 sec – 500mm focal length

This triptcych shows the member of staff fro Liberty’s trying to get the Northern Great Horn Owl to sit in an ideal spot for photos.

Northern Great Horn Owl and the member of staff from Liberty's
Northern Great Horn Owl and the member of staff from Liberty’s

It was amazing how he seemed to disappear into the tree – you can see why owls are so hard to spot, and he had quite a lot to say for himself.

Northern Great Horn Owl - ISO400, F8, 1/200 sec - 174mm focal length
Northern Great Horn Owl – ISO400, F8, 1/200 sec – 174mm focal length

The final shot I am going to share today is this one… it the eyes that I like most about this owl, and I think the background here is lovely.

Northern Great Horn Owl - ISO400, F8, 1/800 sec - 370mm focal length
Northern Great Horn Owl – ISO400, F8, 1/800 sec – 370mm focal length

Pop back tomorrow and you can see the other three owls that I photographed.

Day 55 – A touch of Sunshine

At the end of my road on a clump of grass there are a small patch of crocus growing, and this morning I decided that more people needed to be aware they were there, the signs of Spring are arriving and I popped out with my Canon 100 mm lens and take a photo.

I choose a nice shallow depth of field – wide aperture – F2.8 as I wanted to focus on one little grouping of crocuses and blur the background as suggested in this weeks #Remarkable2015 challenge

ISO 200, F2.8 and 1/320sec
ISO 200, F2.8 and 1/320sec

But it wasn’t what I wanted, so as I am using a fixed lens – I had to move, and a what a difference getting closer can make, the depth of field is much clearer, the raindrops on the flowers are prominent … but I don’t like the grey/white highlight in the background – I think it is the sky…  it distracts from the details… so I had to move again….

ISO200. F2.8, 1/500 sec
ISO200. F2.8, 1/500 sec

This time I got so low I could not see through the viewfinder, so relied on live view … I completely got rid of the sky highlights, but I have focused closer and lost the amazing softness of the foreground.

ISO 200, F2.8 1/2000 sec
ISO 200, F2.8 1/2000 sec

Moving back at a lower angle and this is the result. You get a bit more sense of scale, an understanding that the crocuses are small and delicate in the grass.

ISO 200, F2.8, 1/1000 sec
ISO 200, F2.8, 1/1000 sec

I read something the other day about using portrait more … in magazine articles images are often portrait, a whole page and this can give a sense of scale … do you agree?

ISO 200, F2.8 1/640 sec
ISO 200, F2.8 1/640 sec

I don’t think the composition is strong enough though … two clumps of flowers is slightly unbalanced… so I moved closer again and I feel it gives a great sense of scale.

ISO 200, F2.8, 1/1250 sec
ISO 200, F2.8, 1/1250 sec

I found this a fantastic exercise about visual awareness, my aperture and ISO stayed the same in every image, the shutter speed changed depending on the available light but the only thing that changed was the position of the camera… closer gave a stronger depth of field, too close and you lost the sense of scale … but amazing to think so little changed although the images changed enormously… I think I finally have realised this morning why good photography is hard to achieve because there are so many variables. You can use the same fixed lens, the same camera, the same subject, the same aperture and ISO but the light is always changing (unless you control that with flash) and the distance you are holding the camera varies and even a few millimeters can make a big difference.

If you have took the time to read today’s ramblings… I would love to know which is you favorite shot?

Day 50 – Capturing the rain

Not much time for taking new photos today … and as it’s raining… I have captured the rain with the old nifty 50. In the first image I wanted to capture the raindrops on my window – essential for this was a wider aperture – shallow depth of field so that I the garden in the background was out of focus.

ISO 125, F2, 1/125 sec - no flash but with a tripod.
ISO 125, F2, 1/125 sec – no flash but with a tripod.

Next I got down low and tried to capture the raindrops on the patio … I kept to a shallow depth of field as I aimed to focus on a particular area of the patio, with the idea that the background would be blurred out and the detail would be where the raindrops landed.

ISO 125, F2, 1/250 sec
ISO 125, F2, 1/250 sec

This one had much better timing, but raindrops are totally unpredictable, there is not regular timing, no regular landing spot – so getting the right shot is down to trial are error….

ISO 125, F2, 1/320 sec
ISO 125, F2, 1/320 sec

Ideas for the future:

  • Capturing drops
  • Capturing rain – grey lines of water … so you can tell it is raining
  • Looking in raindrops … reflections!

Day 44 – Aperture Challenge

#Remarkable2015 suggested that it was a great idea to do an Aperture exercise with your camera … so today I had a go … in the first instance I used my 100mm canon prime lens – I focused on the red candle in the middle of the staggered line, kept the same focus point for all the photos and used a tripod. The candles are in a diagonal line going away from me and slowly decreased the size of the aperture …  f2.8 is the widest aperture, the red candle is the only one that is really in focus… the background and foreground is blurred and darker and the movement if the flame is quite distinctive… as I the aperture gets smaller, the time the shutter opened increased and more movement can be seen in the flame due to the longer shutter speeds.

Canon 100mm prime lens
Canon 100mm prime lens

This second series of photos is the same lens but I position myself much closer to the candles, the same focus point… but not so many candles in shot. Here you can se the time delay… the candles are much shorter than in the first series of photos, but because I am closer the depth of field is much more apparent… it is a macro lens, and you can see that it benefits from being closer to the subject and the detail – but with the smaller apertures you can still see so much more movement in the flames.

Canon 100mm prime lens - positioned closer
Canon 100mm prime lens – positioned closer

Same setup, different lens – my sigma 18-250mm lens focused at 120mm, I was trying to get a similar shot to shot 1 above.  The zoom lens lens at this aperture does not have such a wide aperture to go down to, but it does have a narrower one – which surprised me. I was at a similar distance to the first shot, and once again you can not really tell that the candles are on different planes other than the amount they are in focus, the longer zoom and the distance seems to compress them together.

Sigma 18-250 mm lens at 120mm
Sigma 18-250 mm lens at 120mm

Same lens, but moved closer and at 63mm zoom, I have the whole range of candles in the shot but I can’t get sure a small aperture this time, but at the same time I can get a wider aperture… so the lens functions differently depending on the amount I have zoomed.  The depth of field is not as share on the 100mm lens but the widest apertures appear to create a lovely bokeh behind, whereas on the 100mm lens at a smiliar distance there is not enough light to reach the background.

Sigma 18-250 mm lens at 63 mm - positioned closer
Sigma 18-250 mm lens at 63 mm – positioned closer

The blog does not really show the photo detail that well… but if you click on any of the photos you can take a look – why not give it a try yourself?

f2.8 - the widest aperture and one of my fav shots today!
f2.8 – the widest aperture and one of my fav shots today!

Day 42 – my flowers

I thought I would share my flowers … I thought I would also play with aperture settings … then I decided to switch to manual and add a little flash (off camera).

The lens was my canon EF 100mm, I used a tripod and kept it in the same position almost throughout – except when the dogs knocked it and the flowers were on my windowsill with a grey overcast sky beyond, with a fixed ISO of 100.

F32 - 8sec
F32 – 8sec
F22, 2.5sec
F22, 2.5sec
F18, 1.6sec
F18, 1.6sec
F14, 1sec
F14, 1sec
F11, 0.6sec
F11, 0.6sec
F8, 0.3sec
F8, 0.3sec
F5.6 1/6sec
F5.6 1/6sec
F4, 1/13sec
F4, 1/13 sec

It is a really interesting exercise to complete, first you loosed the dirt on my windows (the cleaning thing again) and the the background drops out and then as the depth of field gets even narrower you loose the details in some of the flowers and leaves that are further away.

Based on the last couple of days of experimenting I then decided what happens if I add off camera flash and OMG, I love it … the first with the light focuses on the flowers it darkens the background, an amazing reflection appears on the glass window behind and it is the kind of photo I would love to send on a birthday day…

F8, 1/200 sec - off camera flash
F8, 1/200 sec – off camera flash

Moving the angle of the flash creates a whole different result, there is real depth added to the roses, the light catches the detail in places and it looks like it is almost lit be a ray of sunlight although it isn’t…

F8, 1/200 sec - off camera flash
F8, 1/200 sec – off camera flash

Lighting from behind my final shot from today and the next thing I need to look at with the flash – amazingly another totally new look.

1/250 sec, F2.8 off camera flash
1/250 sec, F2.8 off camera flash

Day 37 – Aperture and zoom

Emma posted another focus today for #remarkable2015, this time on Aperture – you can watch her videos on it here… and I really recommend signing up…  so today I headed out with my Sigma 18-250 mm lens (my old best friend in terms of lens) and had a play with the zoom function and aperture to enhance my understanding… The ISO for all images was ISO800 today, as I was shooting in the shade and handheld!

This first two photos are taken with my camera at a wide angle – so that as much of the picture is included. They both struggle with too much foreground and background to tell what the subject really is, but saying that the send picture with the widest aperture – F4, has a much shallower depth of field and you can see that the pine cones are what you are suppose to be looking at… you can also see how the grass and distractions in the background soften and become less intense.

ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 28mm in the shade. F25, 1/6 sec
ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 28mm in the shade. F25, 1/6 sec
ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 28mm in the shade. F4, 1/250
ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 28mm in the shade. F4, 1/250

Full zoom on the lens, so at 250mm and focusing on a relatively near object you can see more clearly the impact of aperture – at F29 – the maximum for the lens you can make out clearly the trees across the field but you can also see a number of lens marks and splodges which are really distracting as well as the droplets of water and the cobweb. The wider aperture, F6.3 (it can not stop down as low on full zoom), makes the depth of field more blurred and in this case really smooths the background, removing all the detail to make a calm and pleasing shot.

ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 250mm in the shade. F29, 1/15
ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 250mm in the shade. F29, 1/15
ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 250mm in the shade. F6.3, 1/250
ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 250mm in the shade. F6.3, 1/250

This is one of my two bored companions this morning – this is Mack .. I wish i could come up with a way to lighten his eye, but this shot of him sniffing around was all to do with getting low to the ground and playing around with aperture controls.  I have zoomed in a bit for this one, largest aperture was F5.6 – and you can see the depth of field with the foreground and background grasses softened – so you really need to be aware of how far into the pcture you need to focus.

ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 95mm in the shade. F5.6, 1/250
ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 95mm in the shade. F5.6, 1/250

This is my other companion – I love how the light was bouncing into his eyes – that is what I wanted with Mack – he was slightly closer to me, but I still wanted to soften the background and foreground slightly, so a shallow depth of field was used, large aperture, it was also important cause he was moving and the large aperture meant a higher shutter speed – but in this case it is maybe too shallow as it softens off on his second eye.  I thought about positioning with the photo and got down low – I like how he is looking straight at me, but my timing was off – as I took the photo he somehow rotated the twig so the branch towards me was vertical, straight across his face… grrr!

Time to another shot – not today… his interest was them off somewhere else….

ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 63mm in the shade. F5.6, 1/200
ISO 800, 18-250mm zoom lens taken at 63mm in the shade. F5.6, 1/200