Tag Archives: Fill flash

Life after central Texas flooding

Early this year parts of the Texas Hill Country were in the most severe category of soil moisture drought – “exceptional” – for the first time since February 2012.

We can remember however as recently as 2010 when lake levels around Texas were near all time high levels, more than 50 feet higher than they were in the first part of this year. It was more than five years ago when Lake Travis was completely full. Contrast that with April when Lake Travis was less than a few feet from its all-time low.

Wimberley bridgeBlanco River bridge at Wimberley, TX, Memorial Day, 2015. Photo by Jay Janner, Austin American Statesman.

Change came quickly and with devastation this Spring as weather conditions brought record conditions. May 2015 became the wettest May and the wettest month on record for the lower 48 states dating to 1895, according to the State of the Climate report released by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Record rainfall ripped through parts of South Central Texas over the Memorial Day weekend causing flooding and displacing thousands of people.

In Austin extremely heavy rainfall on May 25 dumped 5.20 inches of rain at Camp Mabry, lifting Austin to its wettest May. The month’s rain tally was 17.59 inches, making it by far the wettest May on record since 1895.

The welcome and much-needed rain came with a serious price — severe flooding and catastrophic devastation. The Memorial Day weekend storms, combined with more rain from Tropical Depression Bill, brought widespread flooding to Texas, killing more than 30 people and resulting in flooding that damaged thousands of homes and other structures.

After the floodwater subsided, I had the chance to conduct a macro photography session with a friend and student, Nancy Norman. We went to a wooded  roadside parcel on the banks for the Blanco River near the town of Blanco, Texas. This is the same Central Texas stream that rose more than 43 feet above normal, wiping out several bridges, destroying more than 800 homes and resulting in the deaths of ten people in the Wimberley area.


Our purpose was far from photographing flood damage, but to photograph the life thereafter. And we were quite successful. We found many birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, lichens and fungi in the wake of destruction. As we were focusing on macro, we concentrated on insects, and fungi.

Hundreds of cave swallow nests line the concrete structure of one of the bridges destroyed over the Blanco. Photo © Nancy Norman.


A small, yet perfect mushroom arises from the stem of a Possum grape vine on the river bank.

_MG_9756-cicada.blanco A small, recently emerged Rush cicada found near the water’s edge.


Nancy concentrates on several small groups of mushrooms. Her equipment includes Canon 70D, 100mm macro and 430 EX Speedlite flash, all on a tripod with ball head and Mike Kirk flash bracket.

All together we had a good morning. Lots of good images were made successfully. We also learned that Mother Nature rebounds quickly. Life goes on.

Copyright © 2015 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.


Nature & Macro in the Texas Hill Country

Join me at Mo Ranch in the very heart of the magical Texas Hill Country for a three-day nature and macro photography workshop geared to shooting in field settings and indoors. Dates are Friday-Sunday, September 18-20, 2015.

This workshop will be packed with hands-on instruction to help you grow your photographic abilities with new found skills, techniques and proficiency. Two nights lodging and six meals provided.

GalliardiaMoth-1533-Sm TX Bluebonnet-3560-Sm

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.

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The workshop will feature classroom instruction, hands-on learning, and computer demonstrations  with native flora and fauna of the area. A computer lab is available for all participants for processing images. The workshop will cover many subjects including discussions on:

•    Equipment for getting close   •    Wide Angle Close-Ups
•    Backgrounds   •    Tools to make macro work easier
•    Lighting with Flash & High Speed Flash
•    High Key and White Box
     •    Macro Panorama
•    Extreme Macro   •    Focus Stacking

For more information, visit my website: Nature-Macro Workshop 
Or, E-mail me direct: bkloflin@austin.rr.com  .

Copyright © 2015 Brian K Loflin. All rights reserved. 

“Poor mans” macro

I frequently tell my macro photography students not to run out and buy a macro lens right off the bat. I believe that after they complete my macro course, students will have a better understanding of the process, of the equipment and what lens may best fit their needs.

In the meantime, I illustrate several alternatives to expensive glass. The first is the one they may already have: their “kit lens”, plus an accessory diopter lens.

To illustrate this arrangement for the class, I made the following image:

This image is of a small pair of poppy buds growing in my garden. To produce the image I went back to very basic equipment. I put the Nikkor 17-70 mm
DX F 3.5-5.6 D “kit lens” on my 10 year-old Nikon D-70 D-SLR. To decrease the minimum focusing distance, I added a Canon 500D accessory diopter lens to the front and carefully composed. Because of the magnification, the camera is mounted on a tripod.

The image is made with natural sunlight as back light at 1/500 sec @ F8.0  and the camera’s pop-up flash for fill. (ISO=320; WB=Daylight “Sunny”) To help the pop-up flash a bit, I used a sheet of plain white copier paper as a reflector, directing more of the light to the subject. For fill, I generally dial the flash intensity down to -0.7 F stop (sometimes a little more reduction)  so as not to burn out the highlights. The image is shot as a JPEG, Large, Fine on that camera which produces a file of about 2.6 Mb.

The image above is almost full-frame from the camera and final magnification in the camera is just about half-life size ( o.5X ).

There are many inexpensive solutions to achieving close up  images in addition to this one that may be accomplished prior to purchasing the dream macro lens.  The Canon 500D diopter, at $150.00, is not the least expensive out there; yet it is a very good one. It is a compound, multi-element accessory lens that produces edge-to-edge sharpness. It simply screws on the front of your lens and, because it is optically clear, there is no light loss to deal with. These characteristics should be sought when purchasing a diopter close-up accessory lens.

© Copyright 2011 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.