June Macro Photo Workshop

June Macro WS-7688

Ten avid participants from as far away as Minnesota discovered great surprises as they developed new skills in the exciting small world of macro photography. The workshop was held in the heart of the Texas Hill Country at the historic Mo Rance Conference Center in Hunt. Everyone expanded their understanding and skills through classroom instruction, and intensive, hands-on field and lab photography sessions.

Participants said their macro images are much better than any they would have taken before this instruction.  Most participants were also in for a big surprise as they learned precisely how little DOF their macro lens has. All appreciated learning how to use flash to improve their work and learning to use Live View for better focusing on tiny objects.

Of special interest was the use of a macro focusing rail, focus stacking, flash for additional depth of field and techniques for mitigating wind.

Mo Ranch was a really great place to hold the workshop–very relaxing and lots of nature to photograph. Participants would definitely recommend this workshop to others.

Several of the images from the workshop are shown below:









Photos:© Melody Lytle, Rose Epps, Steve Houston.

See more participants small world images on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brian-Loflin-Macro-Workshop/469018396566911

Copyright © 2014 Brian K. Loflin. All rights reserved.










New Photography Workshops for Fall and Winter

Three new workshops are slated for the months ahead including one Macro Workshop and two South Texas Bird Photography Workshops.


Field Macro Photography Workshop • October 10-12, 2014
MO Ranch, Hunt Texas

Join us in the very heart of the magical Texas Hill Country for a three-day macro photography workshop geared to shooting in a field setting. This workshop will be packed with hands-on instruction to help you grow your photographic abilities with new found skills, techniques and proficiency.

The historic, 500 acre Mo Ranch is located in a beautiful setting on the North Fork of the Guadalupe River. Here, habitats include: aquatic, riparian areas, grasslands, oak-juniper woodlands, and limestone hills. We will make use of all of them.

The workshop will feature hands-on learning and demonstrations with native flora and fauna of the area and will cover many subjects including discussions on: Equipment for getting close, Tools to make macro work easier, Wide Angle Close-Ups, Lighting with Flash, High Speed Flash, Focus Stacking, Extreme Macro, and much more.

Don’t miss out on this workshop. Only four slots remain.
(The June workshop sold out in ten days.)

For more information see: http://www.thenatureconnection.com/files/Macro_Photography_Workshop_in_the_Field-Oct_2014.pdf


South Texas Bird Photography Workshop •Laguna Seca Ranch Edinburg, Texas
• October 23-26, 2014
• February 27-March 1-2015

This instructional, hands-on bird photography workshop is located in the heart of the South Texas flyway. The workshop features a half-day of hands-on instruction and a day and a half shooting (or two and a half days) in some of the best South Texas birding habitat available where neotropical South Texas varieties abound.

The workshop will be held at the Laguna Seca Ranch north of Edinburg, Texas in the heart of the lush Rio Grande Valley. The facilities of the 700-acre ranch are purpose-designed for photography and preserved with all native species. It features four constant-level ponds, each with permanent photography blinds oriented for the best use of light. A fifth blind is set up specifically for raptors.

Each location has been hand-crafted to provide the most outstanding bird photography opportunities. With nearly eighty species found on the property, Laguna Seca Ranch clearly offers a uniquely outstanding South Texas bird photography adventure!

For more information, see: http://www.thenatureconnection.com/SoTxBirdPhotoWS.html

Loflin completes publication of book on “Austin’s Promise for Tomorrow”

Austin's Waller Creek CVR 10-2013-sm


A book about the past, present and future of the creek grew from a newspaper column.

It all started with the column published in the “Austin American-Statesman” by Michael Barnes. His recent review is reproduced in part below:

Barnes writes, “A walking survey of Waller Creek from its headwaters in the Highland neighborhood to its silty mouth on Lady Bird Lake included some excerpts from Joseph Jones’ meditative “Life on Waller Creek.”

Walter Wilkie, a recent transplant from New York, read that column. Intrigued, he ordered a copy of the out-of-print 1982 book by the late University of Texas professor.

Wilkie soon discovered what this columnist had not bothered to mention: Jones could have used a forceful editor. A man of independent means, Wilkie tried to obtain rights to Jones’ book in order to publish a trimmed edition about the urban creek that runs below his downtown high-rise.

After failing to land the rights, Wilkie, with the help of some literary heavyweights, instead backed “Austin’s Waller Creek: Promise for Tomorrow.”

The recently released picture book, edited by Phillip Fry and Carolyn H. Wright and published by Loflin & Associates, calls upon the expertise of geographers, scientists, engineers, designers and activists. It also supports the efforts of the Waller Creek Conservancy, a nonprofit seeking to transform the sometimes sketchy lower mile of the creek.

Like the result of any group effort, the book’s content is inconsistent. Yet it is unfailingly lovely from beginning to end.

The reader views the creek in its semi-natural state and then reviews its past as well as multiple efforts to revive its shores, including the current Waller Creek Tunnel under construction and a series of proposed parks that would stretch from the UT campus — where the stream is well-tended — to its mouth, where it is not.

Why a big runoff tunnel? The book’s historical sections make it clear: Waller Creek flooded badly in 1836, 1843, 1852, 1866, 1869, 1900, 1909, 1915, 1935, 1936 and 1981. Two of the worst, 1869 and 1915, were particularly destructive. During the 1915 storm, the detritus from Waller and Shoal creeks converged on the Colorado River.

From the city’s inception in 1839, people have lived right next to the creek. Although some prosperous neighborhoods grew up there — and the upper creek still cuts through the leafy Hyde Park area — those living closest to the water were generally impoverished. The arrival of a noisy, smelly train line across the creek in 1876 pretty much drove out all residents except those who had few options.

Kevin M. Anderson contributes a helpful natural history of the riparian system, making sure to include references to the great naturalist Roy Bedichek, who lived on the creek’s banks near the UT campus. He also nods to UT’s Joseph Jones, who packed his lunch to Waller Creek for more than 40 years and meticulously recorded his observations, including lists of mundane objects fished out of the valley.

Oliver Franklin informs the reader about the stretch of the creek domesticated by sculptor Elizabeth Ney, including her controversial Lake Ney, which the city ordered her to drain in 1898.

Joe Nick Patoski adds a short chapter on the history of music-making near the creek — an essential part of its cultural legacy, since the Conservancy’s plans include preservation of the Red River Street entertainment district. (One revealing photo shows the 1879 Saengerrunde Halle clad in wood planks, not brick.)

Dramatic pictures of the tunnel will make readers want to tour the underground course before it opens later this year or early next. A particularly instructive set of schematics shows how three inlets allow water to flow downhill to an outlet that actually starts below the level of Lady Bird Lake. A pond in Waterloo Park and a lagoon at the lake exit will contribute to the ongoing improvements.

Conservancy leaders such as Tom Meredith, Melanie Barnes and Melba Whatley write about their areas of interest, while Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole relates the city’s role in the process. The book gives over plenty of space to images from the MVVA design team, chosen in a Conservancy competition to create the vision for the lower creek. Their delicate, aerial traceries sometimes look like something out of the film “Avatar.”

One historical note: The book generally follows the accepted notion that Edwin Waller, the city’s first mayor and Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar’s agent during the capital city’s founding, designed the grid plan that set Austin between Waller and Shoal creeks on high banks above the Colorado River. It also reproduces W.H. Sandusky’s weirdly truncated version of that grid from 1839.

L.J. Pilie, the man who actually surveyed the land and drew the famous “Plan of the City of Austin,” is credited with the drawing only. Waller, a man without any known background in surveying or city planning, continues to be honored for laying out the city in such a rational and beautiful manner. “

This substantial full-color, coffee-table volume measures 9 x 12 inches and is 240 pages in length. The book designed by Brian Loflin has 312 photographs, diagrams and illustrations, some dating from as early as 1838-39 and others as of 2014.




Thirteen ways to mount a camera

We all know that a tripod is a recommended way to mount your camera for better pictures. The use of a tripod helps to stabilize the camera and prevent unwanted camera shake. It also provides a very precise platform for framing and composition. It provides repeatability from frame-to-frame. And, it nicely slows you down so that more thought and refinements may be worked into every image.


In addition to the standard tripod, there are many methods to securely mount a camera where perhaps a tripod is not practical. And in many cases, a perspective other than the often used 5′ 7″ view point is often welcome. Let’s review some:


The tripod may be outfitted with a very short, or no center post at all. This allows the camera to be placed almost at ground level.


For the lowest perspective of all, an inverted center post of the tripod allows the lens to be at ground level.


A tripod accessory option is the right-angle mount. This unit provides an unobstructed vertical view downward. Be certain to counter weight the tripod with a sand bag or shot bag for safety.


One of the most useful grip accessories is the Magic Clamp. It will mount securely to pipe, rafter, door or window frame, limb or other sturdy fixture. A standard ball head is fitted by the use of a threaded stud.


Here the right-angle mount us used for mounting multiple cameras. One camera is on a ball head on the threaded end of the mount and the other on a tripod ball head on a Magic Clamp with stud. A heavy, sturdy tripod is called for with this set up.


Another near-ground perspective may be obtained with a common ball-head mounted to a piece of lumber for ground placement. Additional holes may be drilled through the wood for large nails to anchor the unit against movement.


Another low-perspective approach is a Hollywood head or grip head fixed to a platform with a baby stud on a plate secured to a piece of lumber.


Another use of the Hollywood head is on a Hollywood arm on a light stand. This can provide a vantage point inaccessible with a tripod. This rig must be secured with plenty of sand bags.


An articulated Magic Arm with a magic clamp provides versatility in mounting and positioning the camera. A flat plate with tripod screw on the far end of the arm facilitates camera mounting. Whenever rigs like this are mounted in a remote position, a safety cable must be used to prevent a fall with subsequent damage or injury.


For smooth surfaces like windows or doors, or on car hoods, this vacuum cup and mount is ideal. It is often wise to use redundant mounts for moving vehicles. Additional vacuum mounts with Magic Arms and steel rods make good secondary supports.


A variety of ground supports are commercially manufactured. This one also doubles as a car window mount.


And, last but certainly not least, is the tried-and-true sandbag. Whether commercially manufactured, or home-made, the sand bag provides a lot of solutions. Some commercial sand bags have built-in tripod threads for a ball head. Many folks use dry beans for the unit. I personally like heavier aquarium gravel. When traveling, take the bag empty and fill it on location.

Please remember, that with any camera mounting, safety and security are paramount. Use common sense. And always use safety cables and sandbags for all  equipment and accessories. This is especially valid if the mount is remote and the camera is not being attended.

Copyright © 2014 Brian Loflin. All rights protected.

Small, smaller, smallest: A work in progress

Commonly, when we think of close up images we envision filling the frame with subjects the size of a butterfly. When we think of macro, that subject size becomes smaller by a factor of five or so. That might be a small beetle or maybe a fly. There is a vast world that is much smaller that is worthy of our photography prowess. That is the world of ultra macro or indeed micro photography.

There are many tools used for life-sized images. The macro lens, extension tubes, bellows attachment and even microscopes. Each has its advantages,  disadvantages and limitations. Some of the major considerations when doing image capture at magnifications vastly greater than life-size include, image resolution, focus, depth of field, lighting and vibrations to name a few. The micro world is a challenging one indeed.


The above image is the head of a bee. It is magnified about 1.6 times on the sensor. This is not a very great magnification, but in order to capture sufficient depth of field in this image 53 individual images with a different point of focus from the antennae to the rear of the head were made. Each image was spaced 0.005 inch from one another from the front to the back. These multiple images spanned the overall distance of o.265 inch.

Image making like this calls for a stable specimen and camera platform, precise and uniform movements in focus and absolutely uniform, clean lighting. In order to accomplish this a bellows and true macro lens was used with a micrometer specimen stage and electronic flash. All this apparatus may create a big problem: movement through vibrations. This really reduces image resolution.

To overcome the problems, I am assembling a specialized piece of equipment to enable the precision required. This is my work in process. The idea is not new, per se, but getting all the pieces together has been interesting. It looks like this:


This micro set up is designed for versatility and for use from magnifications of 1:1 or life-size on the sensor with a 55 mm macro lens to magnifications of close to 40:1 with a true microscope lens on the bellows.

Camera movement is facilitated by a geared linear positioner with provisions for a stepper motor, an Arca-style plate on the positioner table and the focusing rail of the Nikon PB-4 bellows.

Subject positioning  is possible in all three X, Y, and Z planes. A cannibalized AO microscope stand provides coarse and fine movement in the vertical direction. A linear motion micrometer stage provides movement in X and Y directions. The specimen is held by an articulating holder mounted on the linear stage. (See Variable macro specimen holder) This holder will facilitate the use of pinned insects in addition to other larger materials fastened to the stage itself.

All this assembly is mounted together on a platform to reduce independent vibrations. The weight is substantial, providing additional aid in mitigating vibrations. While the current prototype mounting base is dimensional lumber, future refinements include an all-metal positioning table and the addition of a stepper motor for automating focus stacking.

The clean design without bulky tripods and other equipment in the way allows the use of SB-800 or SB-910 electronic flash on articulated arms in a unobstructed manner.

A future post will visit images made in much greater magnifications. Improvements to image resolution will be measured and discussed. Stay tuned!

Now only one spot left!

My newest South Texas Bird Photography Workshop takes off in just three and a half weeks. This four-day workshop is held at a great, purposed-designed birding ranch in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley and will be in high season for south Texas migrants and specialty species. There is a spot left for you and or a friend. For further details, please check out: The Nature Connection .

Read what a recent participant has to say:
“Thanks to Brian for the extensive preparation that he did for the South Texas bird workshop and always does for classes and meetings, as well. Brian has expansive knowledge and photographic expertise. On top of that, he is a very capable communicator and teacher who shows much interest in his students. He goes above and beyond what you would expect in order to make the learning experience worthwhile and memorable. Our South Texas trip was first rate!”
–N. Naylor, Austin, TX


Variable macro specimen holder

Many times when photographing tiny specimens with great magnification, the best subject angle is difficult to obtain. When attempting to make a change, the images change is too great or still not the best view.

This simple subject holder provides good stability and almost infinite angles to work with. Several microscope stages are commercially available from suppliers such as BioQuip of California. However, the construction of this holder is easy and much less expensive with a only couple of dollars of common hardware store parts.

Specimen Holder-One-Sm

Variable specimen holder-three views.

The holder is made with a 3/8 x 1/2 x 1 inch steel spacer sleeve, a 3/8 inch cap nut, a magnet and a bit of wire and cork. The magnet is shaped to create a friction fit when recessed a bit into the sleeve so that when the cap nut is inserted into the sleeve it will hold the nut securely in place but provide infinite rotary motion. To finish off the project a short length of wire for a handle is inserted into a hole drilled on the face of the nut and, along with the piece of cork, is epoxied into the nut. Lastly, a machine screw is epoxied into the lower end of the sleeve to use as an anchor to the macro stage.

Subject Holder-CU-SmAnnotate

A- 3/8 inch steel sleeve; B- 3/8 inch cap nut; C- cork disc; D- piece of stiff wire.

Copyright © 2014 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.