Tag Archives: wildflowers

Manage the Background – Part three.

I previously discussed managing the background through Depth of Field and through contrasting tone values. This last discussion revolves around the third method of setting off the subject, using contrasting or complimentary colors.

To understand this color concept better, we need to review the theory revealed in the Color Chart. For purposes of discussion in digital photographic terms, we use the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color chart (below), an additive color scheme.

RGB Secondary Color wheel

In the RGB color chart (above) we see the photographic Primary Colors of Red, Green and Blue labeled in white. You may notice they are spaced evenly in thirds, or 120 degrees, around the wheel. Across the wheel from each of the the primary colors we see the Secondary Colors of Magenta, Cyan and Yellow. These secondary colors are actually made up of equal parts of the two adjacent primary colors.

Colors that are opposite each other on the chart have maximum color contrast, and are called complimentary colors. Two colors commonly found in nature are blue and yellow, a maximum color contrast of two complimentary colors.

In this sunflower photo the yellow flower contrasts perfectly in color with the blue background. This is because the yellow is exactly opposite the blue on the color chart. That makes them complimentary colors and one of the most visible of color contrasts.

Sunflower-2014
_DSC6502-Sm Nikon D2Xs, 200mm F4.0 Micro Nikkor, daylight.

For this cone flower (above) we have the  secondary color of magenta petals against the primary green background. Based upon our understanding of the color wheel these colors are still complimentary, thus of maximum color contrast.

GalliardiaMoth-1533-SmNikon D2Xs, 200mm F4.0 Micro Nikkor, daylight.

However, in the Indian blanket flower photo (above) the reds and oranges are not complementary to the green background. This is because they are not opposite on the color wheel.They are in fact, analogous, meaning adjacent on the wheel. Analagous colors work well together and create a harmonious color scheme. Here, the yellow tips to the flower petals separate it from the background primarily by contrasting tones rather than color.

However , the Shinia moth near the flower  center, a symbiotic insect to the Indian blanket, does not contrast well with the flower. This is actually to the moth’s benefit- a color mimicry trait that protects this moth from predators.

So, what ever the method you can use to separate your subject from the background, it’s a good tool to help attract the viewer’s attention to the subject. If more than one technique can be used in a single image, that’s even better.

Good photographic composition begins with a visual preview of the scene. Do everything you can to find and use as many elements of good design to give your image as much impact as you can within the camera. That will make the task of post processing must easier and allow your images leave the viewer with a lasting impression.

Copyright © 2016 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.

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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.

DA01-bloflin0312   MacroSetUp-4352-Sm

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. 

Why do macro lenses come in several different focal lengths?

Which one do I need?

TX Bluebonnet-3560-Sm

Texas Bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis. This flower was photographed  at half life size on the sensor (0.5X) with a Nikon macro lens. Which focal length was used?

True macro (or Micro) lenses allow subjects to be photographed much closer than normal minimum focusing distance, thus greatly magnifying the image size. Often, these are prime lenses of single focal length with various focal lengths available from each manufacturer. And macro lenses produce high quality images. Because these are complete lenses that focus to infinity, many other uses of high quality are possible.

Macro lenses are the more expensive of the alternatives to focusing close. Most retain all automatic features, but have limited magnification range, frequently up to 1:1, or life size. With accessories they can produce magnifications from 1.0 X to 40.0 X life size. Because no lens extension is required per se, little exposure compensation required.

Most manufacturers make more than one macro lens. Canon, Nikon, Olympus and others produce high quality macro lenses. True macro (or micro by Nikon) lenses are produced in various focal lengths, commonly from 40mm upwards to 200mm. And they may all focus very close; most focus to life-size or 1.0X. (Also called 1:1.) Essentially, they all do the same thing.

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Three Nikon macro optics (clockwise, from near left) 60 mm F 2.8 AF Micro Nikkor, 200 mm F 4.0 AF Micro Nikkor, and 105 mm F 2.8 AF VR Micro Nikkor.

So if that is true, why would there be a variety if they all do the same thing? The answer is simple: working distance. Working distance is the actual distance between the subject and the camera’s sensor when the lens is focused. As the focal length of the lens increases, the working distance also increases at the same image magnification.

Let’s look at the working distances provided by three popular focal lengths above: the 60mm, 105mm and 200mm macro lenses. All these lenses below are accurately focused at life size or 1.0X and the reproductions are at the same scale. Canon has lenses in similar focal lengths; the 60mm F2.8, 100mm F2.8 and the 180mm F 3.5 lens trio. All are magnificent optics to be sure.

Nikon Macro Lens

This lens is the 60mm F2.8 Micro Nikkor focused on a small portion of the flower at life-size. It focuses to 1:1 at 8.6 inches.

Nikon Macro Lens

The second is the 105mm F2.8 Micro Nikkor. It focused to 1:1 at 12 inches.

Nikon Macro Lens

This last lens is the 200mm F4.0 Micro Nikkor. It will focus at 1:1 at a distance of 19.2 inches.

Working distance is important to macro photography. Greater working distance allows several advantages. These include the freedom from making a shadow on the subject, the ability to get ample light or lighting fixtures onto the subject, the ability not to frighten or run off a live subject and the ability to work at a safer distance from a dangerous subject.

One additional attribute to remember is that the angle of view of any lens gets smaller as the focal length increases. So as a result, a 200mm lens focused at 1:1 will have an area of coverage of one half that of a 100mm macro lens at the same magnification.Three Focal Lengths-Sm

These three images were made with the macro lenses described above.  In making the photographs, emphasis was given to producing the flowers at the same size in each frame in the camera when shot. To do so the image with the 60mm lens is made from fairly close; the 200 mm lens much farther away.

The resultant images look the same, but upon close inspection there are notable differences. First, the longest lens tends to compress the image more than the other two. The distant flower looks closer to the close one. This is an example how the focal length of the lenses affects perspective. The second difference is an apparent difference in angle of view. Notice the black form in the upper right of the images. We see less of it in the 60 mm view and it tends to move and get larger as the lens focal length gets longer. Otherwise, there is little difference perceived in the three images. Because the subject size is the same in the three images, the Depth of Field is also the same. All images were shot at the same F5.6 aperture.

So, to answer the question: The lens that’s right for you depends upon your most common use. If you need a lot of accessory lighting like flashes, diffusers and other modifiers in your set up, you may enjoy the freedom of the longer focal length/longer working distance. If you want a real compact lens, then the shorter lens may be perfect. A good compromise and my recommendation is the 105 mm F2.8 AF VR Micro Nikkor.

Copyright © 2014 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

 

 

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 Ranch 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:

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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.

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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

SoTXComposite

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

What color are cactus flowers?

Many people are lovers of cacti- or cactophiles- you might say.

There are many reasons for this fact. Cacti are most interesting plants. They grow in many  shapes and sizes. They have spines in many diverse shapes, patterns and numbers. They reproduce easily. And maybe the number one reason for enjoying cacti, is that they take very little effort.

Cacti are a New World plant group and are mostly found in arid parts of this side of the globe.They thrive from the high, cold and dry Altacama Desert of Chile, to the hot southwestern United States. In fact, cacti occur naturally in each of the mainland 48 states and into Canada.

Because they are xerophytes, they require little water or time-consuming care as do other vascular plants. That makes cacti real user-friendly.

But an additional reason to enjoy cacti are the many variety of flowers. When a cactus gets moisture in nature, it believes that it’s time to reproduce and puts out its flowers in hopes of polination by bees, moths, bats and other critters of cactus country. Again, cacti are show-offs. They may frequently flower with large multi-colored, spectacular flowers, or put out only a few. And some produce blossoms larger than the plant itself. Sometimes, because of the plant’s natural camouflage, these flowers and the bees that they attract are the only method to find the cactus itself.

So what color are their flowers? Every color except blue!

© Copyright 2012 Brian Loflin. All rights protected.

Texas Spring

I believe this image is all about wildflower season in Texas. This photograph was taken at the entrance road into private ranch land just south of Llano, Texas, during the first week of April, 2012. This scenic vista is typical of the vegetation and topography found in “The Hill Country”. The area is predominant  oak-juniper woodland where ashe juniper, live oak, shin oak and mesquite are the dominant trees. Deeply dissected limestone hillsides, broad, undulating divides and stony plains establish biodiversity in this region. The soils are shallow and are frequently calcareous in origin. Limestone outcrops are everywhere, frequently presenting seemingly-impenetrable, solid limestone plates just inches under the surface.

But, as poor as the soils seem, The Hill Country supports one of the most spectacular explosions of colorful wildflowers that may be found. People travel from far and wide just to witness Wildflowers in Texas.

Nikon D2Xs, 28-70mm F2.8 Nikkor lens. Seven frame HDR image.

© Copyright 2012 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Portraits vs. Patterns

More frequently than not, most photographers discover a wonderful object and line it up in a traditional sense for a nice portrait shot. Myriad numbers of flowers are captured daily around the world. We like flowers; the colors and aromas dazzle and mesmerize us and stimulate our desire to capture the beauty.

When we set up, we think of the many things we have learned about exposure, depth-of-field and the rules of composition and nine out of ten times come up with a very nice image when it clicks. The backyard iris below is one of those images.

Nikon D2Xs, 200 mm F4.0 Micro Nikkor lens, Gitzo tripod and hand-held diffuser. (Both images.)

But if you work with your subject long enough- and you should- you will discover other marvels, often overlooked at first glance. To work your subject I will repeat the instructions of my mentor, Bob Sisson, 45-year natural science photographer at National Geographic.  “Hoover the subject,” he would say. Like using the vacuum cleaner of the same name, Bob would admonish me to, “move around the subject on all sides, get low and high and move in close for the details.” Here is where the magical image lives.

And Bob’s advice is most always correct. There is magic in the details. And it usually isn’t the first image the you visualize. Compare the image below of the same blossom. You choose.

So the story goes. Take your time and make photographs don’t just take pictures. Hoover the subject for the best images. And take at least three views: the environment (or habitat) shot, the portrait (or habit) shot and then go in for the close-up details. That’s where the real beauty may hide!

© 2012 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Painted surprise

Boy Scouts have a motto that states: “Be Prepared”. This motto is a perfect one for the field photographer because one will never know what you may see if you really inspect the environment closely. This may change your photographic direction significantly.

Yesterday while on a wildflower trip to the Texas Hill Country near my Austin home, I stepped out of the vehicle prepared to make a wide angle landscape image of a display of wildflowers. However, I stopped to look at some Indian blanket flowers (Gaillardia pulchella) and spied this well-hidden moth  on one of the blossoms. Not to pass up the opportunity, I quickly switched to a macro lens and fill flash to capture the miniature surprise in front of me.

Painted schinia moth, (Schinia volupia). Nikon D2Xs, 200 mm F 4.0  Micro Nikkor, SB-800 flash, Gitzo tripod.
 

This Painted schinia moth has a wingspan of 20–22 mm and is found from Arizona to Texas, and north to Nebraska in open fields and meadows where the host and larval food plant Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) thrives. It is often seen resting on the flower heads of the host plant, as above, and is attracted to lights.

Copyright © 2012 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

It’s Snowing! (Somewhere)

Austin, Texas is not known to be the snow capital of North America. And it’s not even the rain city. With the long drought recently broken by nice rains, we have begun to accumulate a little of the much-needed moisture for our spring wildflower germination. If it keeps up into January and some in February it should be a nice year.

While watching some of the snows in New Mexico, and the Northern Plains, I was reminded of a great photo day in the mountains west of Denver in February several years ago.

I thought I would resurrect one of those images to post here.

Nikon D2Xs, Nikkor 80-200mm F2.8 D AF zoom lens, Gitzo tripod.

While this image is not of grand mountains nor famous skiers, it evokes a sense of place for me as it was taken at at a favorite old haunt at Guanella Pass just west of Georgetown, CO.

I enjoy the composition leading upward and to the right from the rock anchoring the lower left corner. Except for the spot of color on that rock, this image could easily be mistaken for a black and white. It is important with images like this to nail the exposure. The blacks need to be good and dark with detail remaining and the white highlights pure, but with detail and texture of the snow remaining.

From a traditionalist standpoint the composition works well with the Golden Rectangle (or Fibonacci Spiral) superimposed on it (black) and the Rule of Thirds grid (red). But those are rules.

I say rules are simply guidelines to coach our eye for compositions that work. Must we follow rules? Well, of course not! We have to feel the composition, and when it feels right, voila! Some say that rules are made to be broken. When? There must be another rule for that.

But that’s another story. If it feels good, save it. Print it.

© Brian Loflin 2011. All rights reserved.