Search Results for: 18-200 extension

May the best flower photo win

I am judging a flower contest on Photo.net: “Flowers find a way into vacation, portraiture, wedding, landscape, fine art and nearly any kind of photography collection you can think of. How DOES nature create such beautiful, perfect, magical living things?”

The flower photo with the most Photo.net member votes gets a nice Sigma 120-400mm lens (I want one!), and I get to choose a winner who will receive a copy of my new book The Way of the Digital Photographer.

Here’s the link for the flower photography contest.

Dance of the Tulips by Harold Davis

Dance of the Tulips © Harold Davis

About this image: I started with some beautiful tulips from the North Berkeley Farmer’s Market. I placed the tulips on a black background.

I’ve written previously about using my 18-200mm zoom lens with a 36mm extension tube to create a kind of poor person’s macro lens. This kind of setup can get you very close, and it has a neat soft focus feeling and cool bokeh. Of course, I wouldn’t use it if I wanted end-to-end precision macro sharpness. The odd thing is that optically what works best is to set the lens manually on infinity, find your distance, and then “focus” using the zoom ring.

My next step was to add approximately 8 f-stops of neutral density to the front of the lens so I could make quite long exposures, in the 5 seconds to 30 seconds range with the lens stopped down.

Finally, I timed each exposure so that the lens was fixed and “in focus” for about half the exposure, and then a carefully and smoothly rotated the zoom dial to get an out-of-focus effect for the remainder of the exposure.

In other words, the effect combines the hardness and definition of a fully stopped-down in-focus lens with the soft focus of a motion blur and an image thrown intentionally out-of-focus.

Exposure data: 18-200mm zoom lens, starting at about 135mm, 36mm extension tube, 15 seconds at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Posted in Flowers

Creative Effects in the Camera

I guess by now I am notorious for using Photoshop as part of my digital photography. After all, I’ve described my work as “painting using digital photographs as my medium.”

When giving a  workshop, when asked whether an image has been “Photoshopped,” I reply, “Yes. Whichever image of mine you pick, the answer will always be, ‘Yes’!”.

So there is something that some people will find a bit unusual for me when I show a special-effect image that was  created in the camera such as the Dance of the Tulips. Of course, good (and creative) camera technique is always important—whether Photoshop is involved or not!

Dance of the Tulips by Harold Davis

Dance of the Tulips © Harold Davis

Here’s how I made this image: First, I started with some beautiful Tulips from Thomas Farms, bought at the North Berkeley Farmer’s Market. I placed the tulips on a black background.

I’ve written previously about using my 18-200mm zoom lens with a 36mm extension tube to create a kind of poor person’s macro lens. This kind of setup can get you very close, and it has a neat soft focus feeling and cool bokeh. Of course, I wouldn’t use it if I wanted end-to-end precision macro sharpness. The odd thing is that optically what works best is to set the lens manually on infinity, find your distance, and then “focus” using the zoom ring.

My next step was to add approximately 8 f-stops of neutral density to the front of the lens so I could make quite long exposures, in the 5 seconds to 30 seconds range with the lens stopped down.

Finally, I timed each exposure so that the lens was fixed and “in focus” for about half the exposure, and then a carefully and smoothly rotated the zoom dial to get an out-of-focus effect for the remainder of the exposure.

In other words, the effect combines the hardness and definition of a fully stopped-down in-focus lens with the soft focus of a motion blur and an image thrown intentionally out-of-focus.

Exposure data: 18-200mm zoom lens, starting at about 135mm, 36mm extension tube, 15 seconds at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Read about Bokeh and the Zen of Blur on my blog.

Posted in Photography

Water Drop Photograph Techniques

From time to time I repost from my archives. This is a reposting of images and a story originally published in July 2006.



The force that through the green fuse, photo by Harold Davis. View this photograph larger.

I get asked all the time how I make my water drop photos. For example:

I’ve seen many of your photographs and am really impressed with all the water drops. I’d like to know how you do it, and specifically what lens you use.

There really is no one answer to this question. Water drop photography is macro photography with some subject-matter specific difficulties. Macro photography in and of itself is one of the most technically difficult kinds of photography because once you get really close to a small object inherently shallow depth-of-field, precise focus, and motion—even the slightest motion—are all issues that can defeat a photograph, no matter how beautiful it would be otherwise.

What makes water drop photography a bit more difficult than run-of-the-mill photography of very small subjects is the extreme reflectivity of a water drop and the fact that a water drop is in almost constant motion (read more about these issues here).

In this story, I’ll address the equipment I use—and tackle some of the other technical issues related to water drop photography in future stories.

I use Nikon digital SLR equipment, right now a Nikon D200 body. As far as I am concerned, there’s no saying this is any better than any other brand, it is just what I happen to use. (For example, Canon is probably just as good.)

It’s also worth saying upfront that one can take perfectly good macro photographs with relatively primitive equipment provided the camera has a macro mode. For example, check out this photo of wedding rings that I took with a Canon Powershot G3. To get good results, you do need to be sure you are using a tripod, and know how to get the maximum depth-of-field from the camera.

My macro lens are a Nikon 200mm f/4 (used with the photograph above), a Nikon 105mm f/2.8 (the older, non-VR model), and a Sigma 50mm f/2.8. I often use Kenko extension tubes (I have two sets) with these lenses. I prefer these to the Nikon extension tubes because they retain automatic exposure in Aperture-preferred mode. Besides the extension tubes, I have close-up filters for these lenses, a lens reversal mount for the 105mm lens, and a Nikon PK-6 bellows.

I always focus macro lenses manually, and I use a magnifying eye piece for added precision.

I sometimes handhold macro shots with extension tubes and/or close-up lens and a VR (vibration reduction, also called image stabilization) zoom lens, like my 18-200mm Nikon zoom. (Here’s a photo taken with this technique.)

But most of the time I use one of my macro lenses, and these are invariably tripod shots, most often at the maximum possible depth-of-field, using mirror lock-up and the Nikon MC-36 remote to trigger the shutter.

I think my tripod is probably my most important piece of equipment. It is likely to outlast my D200, and probably most of the lenses I currently use as well. My tripod is a carbon-fiber Gitzo MK-2, which combines light weight with strength and agility.

To strobe or not to strobe, that is the question. Using flash as a light source with water drops replaces the natural light source with that created by the strobe (read more about this). When I do use flash with water drops, I use the Nikon wireless R1 close-up kit, which includes two Nikon wireless remote SB-R200 units. I also sometimes use a SU-800 unit connected via wireless to supply additional ambient light.

Leaving the hardware of photography aside for a second, my title for the photograph that started this story is “The force that through the green fuse,” after the Dylan Thomas poem. Here’s the first stanza of the poem:


The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

My point being: that at its best, photography of water drops, like all good art, is about the creative life force, the urges that make us live, breath, yearn and die. A powerful force runs through each water drop, but all too soon (from the photographer’s viewpoint) each drop ends in falling or evaporation, with new worlds to live or die wherever one’s lens is pointed next. Water drop photography is about capturing the brief life of an ephemeral and tiny world.

Posted in Photography

Baby Face

Baby Face

Baby Face, photo by Harold Davis.

Briefly noted: This is a close-up of Katie Rose’s face. It’s probably closer up than you might think, and certainly in macro territory.

I used my Nikkor 18-200 zoom lens with a Kenko 36mm extension tube, hand held, taking advantage of image stabilization. When I use this zoom lens with an extension tube, I leave the focus at one setting, and focus on my subject by position. Next, I fine tune the focus using the zoom ring to alter designated focal length—which also changes the point of focus. A little weird, but it works.

[Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens at 120mm, 36mm extension tube, 1/15 of a second at f/5.3 and ISO 2,000, hand held using vibration reduction.]

Posted in Katie Rose, Kids, Photography

Each Apple Pear

Pear Blossom Special

Pear Blossom Special, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Obviously, I have a fondness for small aperture, fully stopped-down flower macros that use high depth of field to convey sharpness. (I explain the relationship of aperture to depth of field in Chapter 2 of Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers.) For example, take a look at Echinacea Harvest Moon, Rose Study 11, and Lily in a Green Vase.

But sometimes the high-depth-of-field approach won’t work, either for technical reasons or because having the entire photo sharp doesn’t give the desired visual and aesthetic impact. In fact, selective focus can be so attractive that there are special tools you can use, like the Lensbaby, intended for just this purpose.

The apple and pear blossoms in this pair of photos are espaliered along a fence with our western neighbor. These trees have multiple varieties (five in the case of the apple, three for the pear) grafted onto a single trunk, with the varietal branches spread across the fence. It’s an interesting tangent that any apple you are ever likely to eat will have come from grafted stock rather than seed. Apples seeds simply don’t reliably reproduce, so once you get a good eating apple what you do is reproduce it over and over again by grafting, which essentially means genetic cloning.

I do generally believe that a tripod is the photographer’s best friend. But in this case, the blossoms were high up the fence, so I wasn’t going to able to bring a tripod to bear. Besides, there was a steady breeze. So I made the best of it, and hand held these photos using image stabilization at a fast enough shutter speed so that the subject motion wasn’t much of an issue.

The trick here is to get the plane of the camera as parallel as possible to the area of the subject that you care about. Also, you need to press the shutter release at exactly the right instant, because even slight subject (or camera) movement can spoil the focus. But if all the stars line up, selective focus can make for very nice images.

Apple Blossom Special

View this image larger.

[Both photos: Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens, 36mm extension tube, +2 diopter close-up filter, ISO 100, hand held with image stabilization enagaged; Apple: 1/250 of a second at f/8, 95mm (142.5mm in 35mm terms); Pear: 1/160 of a second at f/6.3, 82mm (123mm in 35mm terms)]

Related stories: Cherry Blossom Special; Botany of Desire.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Water Drop Photograph Techniques

I get asked all the time how I make my water drop photos. For example:

I’ve seen many of your photographs and am really impressed with all the water drops. I’d like to know how you do it, and specifically what lens you use.

There really is no one answer to this question. Water drop photography is macro photography with some subject-matter specific difficulties. Macro photography in and of itself is one of the most technically difficult kinds of photography because once you get really close to a small object inherently shallow depth-of-field, precise focus, and motion—even the slightest motion—are all issues that can defeat a photograph, no matter how beautiful it would be otherwise.

What makes water drop photography a bit more difficult than run-of-the-mill photography of very small subjects is the extreme reflectivity of a water drop and the fact that a water drop is in almost constant motion (read more about these issues here).

In this story, I’ll address the equipment I use—and tackle some of the other technical issues related to water drop photography in future stories.

I use Nikon digital SLR equipment, right now a Nikon D200 body. As far as I am concerned, there’s no saying this is any better than any other brand, it is just what I happen to use. (For example, Canon is probably just as good.)

It’s also worth saying upfront that one can take perfectly good macro photographs with relatively primitive equipment provided the camera has a macro mode. For example, check out this photo of wedding rings that I took with a Canon Powershot G3. To get good results, you do need to be sure you are using a tripod, and know how to get the maximum depth-of-field from the camera.

My macro lens are a Nikon 200mm f/4 (used with the photograph above), a Nikon 105mm f/2.8 (the older, non-VR model), and a Sigma 50mm f/2.8. I often use Kenko extension tubes (I have two sets) with these lenses. I prefer these to the Nikon extension tubes because they retain automatic exposure in Aperture-preferred mode. Besides the extension tubes, I have close-up filters for these lenses, a lens reversal mount for the 105mm lens, and a Nikon PK-6 bellows.

I always focus macro lenses manually, and I use a magnifying eye piece for added precision.

I sometimes handhold macro shots with extension tubes and/or close-up lens and a VR (vibration reduction, also called image stabilization) zoom lens, like my 18-200mm Nikon zoom. (Here’s a photo taken with this technique.)

But most of the time I use one of my macro lenses, and these are invariably tripod shots, most often at the maximum possible depth-of-field, using mirror lock-up and the Nikon MC-36 remote to trigger the shutter.

I think my tripod is probably my most important piece of equipment. It is likely to outlast my D200, and probably most of the lenses I currently use as well. My tripod is a carbon-fiber Gitzo MK-2, which combines light weight with strength and agility.

To strobe or not to strobe, that is the question. Using flash as a light source with water drops replaces the natural light source with that created by the strobe (read more about this). When I do use flash with water drops, I use the Nikon wireless R1 close-up kit, which includes two Nikon wireless remote SB-R200 units. I also sometimes use a SU-800 unit connected via wireless to supply additional ambient light.

Leaving the hardware of photography aside for a second, my title for the photograph that started this story is “The force that through the green fuse,” after the Dylan Thomas poem. Here’s the first stanza of the poem:


The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

My point being: that at its best, photography of water drops, like all good art, is about the creative life force, the urges that make us live, breath, yearn and die. A powerful force runs through each water drop, but all too soon (from the photographer’s viewpoint) each drop ends in falling or evaporation, with new worlds to live or die wherever one’s lens is pointed next. Water drop photography is about capturing the brief life of an ephemeral and tiny world.

Posted in Photography, Water Drops

Poppy in the Sun

I photographed this poppy early this morning in my garden. It is a papaver somniferum, or opium poppy, but (of course!) I grow it for purely decorative purposes.

The irrigation sprinklers had just gone off. This poppy was newly opened.

Phyllis had made lunches for the older kids, and was getting them dressed. We were running late to get them to school. I had a meeting in a little up at Nicky’s pre-school. But I couldn’t resist this beautiful new bud, looking like a decorative tent in the sun.

The technique here—besides paying attention to the photography and ignoring the maelstrom around me—depended on the wind. I had my Nikon D200 on a tripod with my wonderful 200mm f/4 macro lens. I got down in the wet grass, waiting for the poppy to stop blowing in the wind, and pushed the shutter with as gentle a motion as I could, for an exposure of 1/10 of a second at f/36.

Here’s a close-up of a clematis bud from yesterday evening. This was a handheld low depth of field image with my 18-200mm VR (vibration reduction) lens and an extension tube:

Clematis

View this photograph larger.

I like this photo of a coreopsis flower taken about the same time as the clematis because it feels like one is down in a forest of the coreopsis flowers:

Coreopsis Forest

View this photograph larger.

Like the clematis image, this is low depth-of-field. Like the poppy, it was done using a tripod, with a “decisive moment” shutter release when the wind had positioned the flower as I liked it. I used my 105mm macro lens.

The moral here: even a fairly limited and precise area of photography like taking macro photos of flowers depends on a wide variety of techniques. Getting accustomed to thinking expansively about the range of possible photographic techniques (and equipment) you can use will be fun and keep your creative jouces flowing!

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Mallow, Mucilage, and Bokeh

I’ve been watching my neighbor Brett’s mallow tree with great interest. Not because I covet a mallow tree, or his mallow tree. Not because of the mallow’s supposed medicinal properties. Which actually boil down to having high concentrations of mucilage, as in the marshmallow.

It’s a total tangent, but if you don’t know, here’s the defintion of mucilage from the Wikipedia:

Mucilage is a thick gluey substance produced by most plants and some microorganisms. Mucilage is an exopolysaccharide—a polymer composed of sugar residues and secreted by a microorganism into the surrounding environment.

Mucilage is what’s used by carnivorous plants to trap their prey, and we happen to have a couple of new carnivourous plants to the great delight of the kids.

Anyhow, to get back to the mallow, the thing that atracted me over the past couple of weeks is that about 5PM the afternoon sun is just at the right angle over Brett’s house to backlight the flowers on the trees.

My Nikon 18-200 vibration reduction lens with an extension tube and close-up filter makes an excellent way to get macros with a sharp center of focus and a nicely blurred background. Particularly into bright light (here’s another example).

An attractive blurred effect (usually combined with fully sharp image elements) is now fashionably called bokeh—I plan to write more about bokeh later.

The point for me of this mallow photo, which is perhaps best viewed larger, is the contrast between the sharp curliques of the flower center and the elegant angel wings of the less-focused flower itself.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

My Cherries

I like the way this cherry blossom is backlit by the sun. Meanwhile, the background has gone dark so that all extraneous elements have been removed and do not distract.

Captured with my 18-200mm vibration reduction (VR) zoom lens at 135mm, handheld, with an extension tube and a +4 diopter close-up filter.

Meanwhile, it’s a great discovery in life that everything has a behind and backside. Little kids don’t know this. They think that if they can’t see something–like the rear view of something that is in front of them, or their parents when they’ve gone away–that the thing (or parent) doesn’t exist.

This is a photo of a cherry blossom from the rear. I photographed it in mid-February before leaving for Yosemite, Boulder, and Santa Fe.

Sometimes I think that unexpected views, such as this rear view, are more subtle and interesting than the lucious (and typical) frontal views of flowers in bloom.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

My Camera, My Flowers, and a Dedication

A French reader of Photoblog 2.0 asks some good questions that you, too, might want answered if you are new to my photoblog (and my life). I blush to translate the entire comment it’s so flattering, but here’s the gist:

Roughly speaking, what equipment do you use? And, how do you get so many different flowers around you to photograph?

Here’s the French original:

Cher Harold,

Vos photos sont si nettes, si précises. c’est abolument magnifique.
Avec quel appareil photo travaillez vous ?
Comment avez vous autant de fleurs différentes autour de vous ?
C’est un plaisir pour les yeux.
Merci.

–Turquoise

Sounds better in French, somehow, doesn’t it?!?

Here’s my response.

Dear Turqoise:

Thank you for your interest in my work and your very kind words.

I use a digital Nikon SLR with a variety of close-up equipment including a macro lens, extension tubes, an extension bellows, close-up filters, and a reversal ring. Most of my photomacrographs of flowers are long exposures on a tripod with high depth of field, but in some cases when I am interested in shallow depth of field I use a handheld vibration reduction lens with an extension tube and/or macro filter.

My belief is that equipment does not matter as much as the eye and spirit of the photographer and having a great love for photography.

Most of my photos are of flowers that I grow in my own garden here in Berkeley, CA. I love to garden, and my young sons are starting to enjoy it as well.

I also photograph in local gardens such as the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, Blake Garden, and Berkeley Horticultural Nurseries. Berkeley has a Mediterranean climate, and plants that are native to Southern Europe, Brazil, South Africa, and parts of Australia all grow nicely here in addition to indigenous California species.

In addition, some of my photos are of cut flower arrangements photographed under controlled indoor conditions.

I dedicate these photographs to you, Turquoise.

Very best wishes,

Harold

Poppy in the Sun

View this photo larger.

Here’s a translation of my response (thank you Keara for help with the French):

Chère Turquoise,

Merci d’être si interesser avec mon travail et de dire des choses si gentilles.

J’utilise un « digital Nikon SLR » qui a un grand varieté de « close-up equipment » avec aussi un « macro lens », des « extension tubes, » des « extension bellows », « closup filters, » et un « reversal ring. » Beaucoup de mes « photomacrographs » de fleurs song des longs « exposures » sur un « tripod » avec « high depth of field », mais dans certains cas quand je suis interessé par un «shallow depth field» j’utilise un « handheld » « réduction de la vibration » lense avec un « extension tube » et un « macrofilter. »

Je croit que l’equipement n’a pas beaucoup d’importance que l’oeil et l’esprit de celui qui prend le photo est plus importante.

Beaucoup des fleurs que je photographe sont des fleurs que j’ai dans mon jardin içi a Berkeley, CA. J’aime beaucoup beaucoup le jardinage et mes fils aussi commençent a l’aimer.

Je photographe aussi dans des jardins près de moi comme ceux a San Francisco Botanical Gardens, Blake Graden, and Berkeley Horticultural Nurseries. Berkeley à un climat « mediterranean » et des plantes qui sont « natives » à Europe du Sud, Sud d’Afrique, et des partis d’Australie, poussent içi avec les plantes qui poussent naturellement.

J’ai aussi des photos de bouquets qui sont photographiés dans des conditions controllées a l’interieure.

J’ai dedié se photo à vous, Turquoise.

Harold

The photo at the beginning of this story is of Gazania petals in my lower (most sunny) garden. I think it would fit well on the Patterns page of my portfolio.

Technical info: Nikon D70 on tripod, 105mm macro lens with 36mm extension tube, +4 macro filter, ISO 200, f/40, and 1.3 seconds.

The poppy is a Raspberry Breadseed, photographed handheld with 18-200 VR Zoom lens at 90mm with 36mm extension tube, ISO 200, f/5.6, and 1/160 of a second.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Flowerific!

Over the last week I’ve been playing around with mixtures. Mixtures of lighting: daylight, tungsten, and spot lighting of various sorts. Mixtures of macro equipment: extension bellows, macro lens, extension tubes, close-up filter, normal lens. I’ve applied these mixtures in a variety of ways to the flowers in this story.

Mixed light is interesting in post-processing. Since the color of light in a digital photograph can be controlled (in one way by re-setting the white balance), the color of a light source seems less important than in film photography. But the qualitytand intensity of the light do still matter: a dully lit photo will not inspire emotional response in a viewer.

Said flowers, by the way, come from Trader Joe’s. I’d say they were variegated gladiolas, and I think they are, but I’m not quite sure because they look mostly like glads, but not quite.

Certainly, they’ve been a lovely subject for trial and error and experimentation. Which is what digital photography is largely about for me.

All photos in this round-up were exposed at ISO 200. The photo at the beginning of this story was taken with my 105mm macro and a 12mm extension tube at f/40 with an exposure of 1.6 seconds.

This photo was taken manually with a PB-6 extension bellows and the macro lens:

Very Close (blog story featuring this photo).

This photo was taken with my 105mm macro lens mounted on a 36mm extension tube and a +4 close-up filter at f/36 for 3 seconds.

Pistil and Pollen

View this photo larger.

The photo of backlit flower petals below was taken with my 105mm macro lens, 12mm extension tube, +4 close-up filter, at f/40 and 2 seconds.

Petals

View this photo larger.

The last photo (below) was taken with my 18-200 zoom lens at 70mm (105mm in 35mm terms) with a +4 close-up lens, f/32 at 1 second.

Light Show

View this photo larger.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Unchain My Ladybug Heart!

Christmas Eve was mostly sunny. A week of rain had come before, and a sloppy wet day was to follow on Christmas. We took advantage of the interregnum to get the somewhat cabin-fevered kids out to the playground.

This ladybug landed on Julian’s thumb. He wanted to take it home and put it in a jar. We told him that ladybugs wanted to be free. He reluctantly accepted this (particularly after she flew away).

I was trying out my new AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED lens. The production version of the lens is just available in the U.S. It features vibration reduction, a huge zoom ratio (more than 10:1), a reasonably light weight, and small size. Altogether an incredible lens, with a hefty price tag (about $700 retail). I expect to write more about this lens when I’ve fully tried it out.

I slammed a 36mm extension tube behind the lens, and took this macro hand-held. When I reviewed the photographs, I saw the shadow of the ladybug formed a “heart.” Coincidence, or a plea for freedom? (Is the Ladybug pleading, “Have a heart!?”)

Here are a few other photos of the munchkins playing on Christmas eve.

Nicky:

Nicky

Julian:

Julian

Mathew:

Mathew

Best wishes on this holiday to everyone from all of us!

Christmas eve ended in a red sunset with the dark sky warning of the next wave of impending rain coming in from the Pacific. A lone sailboat enjoyed the twilight colors:

Christmas Eve Sunset

Posted in Bemusements, Kids, Photography