Tag Archives: Digital single-lens reflex camera

Ellis Bird Farm Photography Workshops

Two repeat workshops are happening at the lovely Ellis Bird Farm in August!

For new and prospective owners of a DSLR, this workshop will help you understand your camera and how to use it. We will cover camera functions and handling as well as provide information on lenses, equipment and accessories. Then, we will work on understanding exposure, composition and techniques: all the skills needed to create the photographs you imagine. The afternoon session will include practice sessions on the grounds of the Ellis Bird Farm. If you already have a DSLR and other equipment, please bring it, otherwise some loaner equipment will be available for use.

  • AM Intro to the DSLR, Equipment and Accessories.
  • PM Understanding Exposure. Basic Skills, Composition,Techniques and Practice.
For photographers who already own a DSLR and are familiar with manual exposure, this workshop will introduce you to the fascinating world of close-up and macro photography. We will look at specialized equipment and accessories as well as simple ways to achieve great results, no matter what type of DSLR you own. Then, we will work on techniques to overcome the inherent difficulties of magnified photography. We will do an overview of basic composition and have opportunities to practice macro photography on the beautiful grounds of the Ellis Bird Farm. Some loaner equipment and accessories will be available. As a minimum, please bring your camera and lens, and if you have them, a macro lens, an external flash and tripod.
  • AM Equipment and Accessories, Understanding exposure.
  • PM Techniques with Natural Light and Flash, Composition and Practice.
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Photography Workshop Update

Alberta Summer Photography Workshops 2014

Click the links for more details!

5 August. Ellis Bird Farm: Introduction to Photography with the Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR)

19 August. Ellis Bird Farm:  Close-up and Macro Photography with the DSLR

9 September. MacEwan University, Open Studies Program Intro to Close-up and Macro Photography (3 Tues., 6:30-9 p.m. and 1 Sat, Sep 20, 10 a.m.-5p.m.) .

Note that  Small Group Macro Workshops and Private Coaching will occur on a bespoke basis only until 30 September when new workshops will be scheduled. If you are interested, contact me and I will schedule your sessions.

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Approaches to Macro Photography

How many paths to macro photography?

Perilampid Parasitic Wasp by Sam Droege, USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.

Perilampid Parasitic Wasp by Sam Droege, USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. (CC BY 2.0)

Let me count the ways…

  1. the impulse shooter:  “Wow. Quick, grab a picture of that beautiful/weird/yucky bug!BugGuide receives many examples this kind of image every day. 
  2. the natural approach, photographing the subject in situ, making a distinct effort to find good composition by searching for the best angles and backgrounds without moving the subject. The subject is revealed in its environment, showing natural behaviors. “Nature is enough, naturally.” (e.g. Nicky Bay, Kurt Orion)
  3. the scientific approach, those who stage the technically perfect shot, often in sets that show dorsal, lateral and frontal views with maximum depth of field. The subject is moved and placed on a suitable background and they may be dead, pinned or alive when photographed. Techniques such as focus-stacking or scanning may be used. “Look:correct exposure, fine detail sharpness, accurate colour: just right.”  (Sam DroegeAlex Surcică)
  4. the craftsmen who strive to craft images using a formula, following rules of composition and providing perfect creamy-soft, non-distracting backgrounds and sharpness where it matters. These shots may be staged in some way, by moving the subject to more appropriate locations with less distracting backgrounds, or to make the sky a backdrop.  In some instances, natural sets may be created. Focus-stacking techniques may be used. “Competitions, publishers, documentary production? This is for you!” (e.g. Colin HuttonJohn Hallmén)
  5. the artist, who have no need to follow rules, and perhaps cares little about bug ID or realism, but uses a variety of skills (from traditional darkroom/software manipulation to mixed media) to communicate ideas or emotions in the image: “My compulsion, my expression…you may have to work to appreciate it, or not.” (e.g. Jo Whaley, Rick Lieder)

The arrangement of  the approaches does not indicate a progressive worth or value, and the divisions are not strict: most regular macro photographers work across at least two of these approaches, while others, having a mainstream in one approach, will dabble in all the rest. I mention only a few photographers in the examples, there are many more excellent photographers out there, and most of them work across categories. (Check the side bar for links to more excellent photographers!)

Why try to pigeon-hole approaches to macro photography at all?

A newcomer to macro photography, with shiny new camera and lens, perhaps agog at the diversity of amazing photographs now visible on the web, may wonder, “Where do I begin?”. Being able to categorize different approaches to macro photography can help you to better understand the photographer, and give a starting point for your own development. Decide which approach you would like to start with, and make it your goal to be proficient in that before moving on to another method. Seek out books, web articles and mentors to help you along the way;  your growth as a photographer (and in any other endeavor in life) will be enhanced by clearly understanding your goals.

NB: there is another approach that I have chosen to ignore, the highly staged studio work that involves manipulating the live subject and placing them in unnatural positions, situations and associations as if showing a natural occurrence or natural behavior. They may spritz their subjects with water or glycerine to cover them with droplets, they may use wire or other props to create un-natural limb positions, they may turn the images upside-down and/or and apply a variety of Photoshop techniques to add or subtract elements. They span a zone from the downright deceitful through schmaltz to gaudiness…and these are places I don’t want to go.


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New Canon Ring Flash–Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II

Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II

Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II

20140211_hiRes_eosrebelt5_lensring3qTucked away in the press release for the new T5 entry level DSLR (11 Feb 2014) was the announcement of Canon’s Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II. My very first response when viewing it was, “Does that mean a better Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX will be released soon?” And the second was, “What’s with the fat heavy-weight cord? Why isn’t this unit wireless and more compact?”

With macro photography more popular now than ever, will Canon ever grow their macro system up?

Regardless, what does the new MR-14EX II have to offer? From the Canon website:

Redesigned as a perfect complement to contemporary digital SLR setups, it is the most advanced macro flash Canon has ever produced. It has a maximum Guide No. of 34.4 ft./10.5m at ISO 100 and a twin-tube design where both flash tubes can be directed to fire independently or together. Sophisticated white LED focusing lamps and two forms of modeling lights make for easy and accurate previewing of lighting effects. Infinitely adjustable in any lighting condition with its illuminated dot-matrix LCD, the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II has 12 custom functions and supports E-TTL wireless autoflash when linked with one or more Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes. All this in a refined, compact design with shorter recycling times than its predecessor makes the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II a reliable, customizable choice.

20140211_hiRes_mr14exii_backlcdIt is hard to say if this is a macro flash worth investing in. Until I see more details on it, I can see no justification for switching over if you already have the older model. Because it is still a ring flash with the limitations of a ring flash (circular highlights, lack of adaptability, lens compatibility, and the cord…), you will still have a creative advantage with other off-camera flash set-ups. However, if you need a flash for shadowless lighting (within a certain range) while producing consistent, repeatable results (i.e for science or technology imaging), or if you have just entered the Canon system, this may be the flash for you.

Visit the Canon website for more information, and B&H if you want to pre-order.

(Images from the Canon Press Kit)



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Macro Photography: what’s it good for?

Ladybug on autumn flower.

What is close-up and macro photography really good for?

  • getting closer to nature…real close! Macro photography is a great way to explore insects, fungi, mosses, lichens in their habitat.
  • contributing to science through citizen science projects such as eButterfly and the Lost Ladybug Project.
  • documenting the biological sciences: lichenologists, entomologists, mycologists, bryologists etc.–what better to augment your research than photographs?
  • knowledge and learning–there is so much to learn about techniques, identification, natural history…macro strengthens the brain!
  • meeting fascinating people–there are many communities out there that share your passion. Check out your local nature club and specialist societies.
  • exercise–walking, kneeling, crouching, bending, crawling and even some running are all part of the macro photographer’s workout.
  • enhancing dexterity–handling equipment, changing lenses, manipulating subjects, DIY projects…all can help maintain dexterity.
  • an infinite amount of subjects–there is really no limitations for the macro photographer.
  • a winter pastime… macro can be practiced indoors and out, no matter where you are.
  • expanding your hobbies! Macro is a great way to share images of your collections, crafts and art online.
  • unlimited avenues of artistic expression. From realism to abstract–unlimited.
  • exploring a single subject: discover the universe in a flower (or a marble, or an insect…)
  • staying close to home…you don’t have to travel to do macro photography.
  • rediscovering awe and wonder: macro photography has the power to awaken the child in all of us.

There are many paths to achieving macro with a camera, and limitless opportunities to practice it. If you want to learn more, explore the web, visit the library for a book and/or take a workshop! There is no end to the engagement you can find once you begin to enter small worlds with macro photography!


Posted in Bugs, close-up, Collection, Fun, garden, Insect, invertebrates, macro, photography, Technique | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

Book Review: Digital Macro & Close-up Photography by Ross Hoddinott


New in 2013

Matt Cole first brought this book to my attention, and with his recommendation, (and having borrowed the first edition from our local library a few years ago) I did not wait long to order a copy of  Digital Macro & Close-up Photography through Amazon UK.

Ross Hoddinott is a professional nature photographer hailing from the Cornwall/Devon border area in south-west England. He is well-known for his landscape photography, but also–as you can tell from this book–for his excellent close-up and macro work.

In Digital Macro & Close-up Photography he opens with chapters on digital cameras, the benefits of DSLR‘s, lens choices and accessories. The chapter on technique is solid, working on the basis that macro is a very precise style of photography and then providing lots of information on how to achieve that precision. It opens with the essentials of understanding exposure and moves on to offer helpful tips on depth of field, composition, orientation (horizontal or vertical) and perspective (lens choice and the relative position between the camera and the subject).

The section on lighting is useful, beginning with methods of using and enhancing natural light, and moving on to advice on flash use, which now has much more detail than the first edition. There is a new chapter on the Outdoor Studio which is delivered with the very able help of  Matt Cole, who provided some striking Meet Your Neighbours-style photography.

In Still Life section covers common items and techniques:  food, colour, B&W, cross-polarization, flowers and water droplets–all illustrated with excellent photographs–but it left me wishing (perhaps due to the long winter that is looming ahead here!) that there was a more thorough exploration of ideas for indoor close-up and macro photography.

The following two sections–Natural-history subjects and Texture, detail, shape and form–are the heart of the book, providing  pertinent information on macro techniques for bugs, plants, fungi, mosses and lichens. As an example of the approach taken, I’ll take a closer look at just one chapter: Spiders. In this chapter he covers how to approach spiders in the web, how to align the camera, watching for intrusive backgrounds, photographing from both sides of the web, taking advantage of natural light, getting to eye-level and where to focus. There is a fine image of a Dolomedes water spider on the water surface, and a spider’s web bejeweled with dew, set in front of a mauve background. There is one inset ‘Pro Tip‘ advising to be careful when photographing potentially venomous species. The other chapters are delivered in a similar way, with subject-specific advice and supported by outstanding images.

The last chapter, Post-production, provides a basic introduction to some of the most important aspects of any type of photography: image processing, workflow and archiving. He offers basic information on RAW workflow, cropping, adjusting colors, focus-stacking and producing B&W images–all with just enough detail to get you started on your own path.

The new and larger format of this revised and expanded edition greatly improves presentation of the photographs. The chapter Close-up Top Tips, in which Ross uses prime images to illustrate important skills, is particularly striking (although, as one butterfly image reveals, I would not want to see  bright-red backgrounds become a fad!). Digital Macro & Close-up Photography has a strong leaning towards natural subjects and is rich with inspirational photographs. Anyone beginning to enter the fascinating field of macro photography will not go wrong if they select this book as a guide. This revised edition is a step-up from the first release and is now a real stand-out guide to macro–definitely a book that I will recommend to new photographers.



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