I was really delighted when, over a year ago Luis Manuel Iglesias Nuñez asked me to provide a preface for a book he was writing.

 

 

We have never met but we have built up a strong link because of our shared interest in the small things in this world. Luis had bought and read a copy of a book of mine on macro photography, quite a few years ago, that had been translated into Spanish.

And here is the result, a superbly illustrated work – the text is authoritative and in Spanish …but the pictures are that universal, visual language and they are of superb quality with a very wide range of subjects and techniques on display.

This is a highly personal book for it reveals the way Luis takes his photographs and provides an insight into his lifelong passion for the natural world….particularly its smaller inhabitants.

It is easy to get locked into a particular style in any photographic field and many do so in close-up photography, using one macro lens and depicting the same few species in the same way. For example, if you look at the results in various UK competitions, then there is a sameness…nice pics yes, but nothing to write home about…and yet, when you begin to look wider into European competitions there you see a tremendous diversity of techniques, styles and subject matter. It comes as quite a shock to see the standards out there… and we all need that jolt at times to prevent complacency setting in. Read More

Nowadays, we are spoilt by technology and there is a tendency to think in terms of a camera controlling the output of flash guns via its DTTL exposure system. Even better, it can do this without the use of cables via a WiFi set up. However, the arrival of digital cameras has made the use of older manual flash guns easy, even though you are denied the camera’s DTTL system.

Once upon a time, a flash gun was simply triggered by a camera hotshoe or, off-camera, via its flash synchronisation (synch) socket. Other ‘slave’ flash guns for fill-in or back lighting could be triggered via  simple photoelectric triggers that fit the flash hotshoe and reacts to the main flash pulse with a very slight delay.

To get correct exposure demanded a flash meter – an exposure meter that can respond in a very short time (milliseconds). Readings were transferred from meter to camera and flash gun positions adjusted accordingly. Many professionals in studios used a polaroid film back to get a rapid assessment: with close-up work experiments had to be done with flash gun position noted and frames taken over a range of apertures to find the optimum. Nowadays you can use your camera’s LCD screen to make a visual assessment of exposure.

Eyespots of the wings of the Spanish moonmoth (Graesiella isabella) photographed using a Nikon SB 29 macroflash as a manual gun - designed for a TTL system it did not function with DTTL flash meterin

Eyespots of the wings of the Spanish moonmoth (Graesiella isabella) photographed using a Nikon SB 29 macroflash as a manual gun – designed for a TTL system it did not function with DTTL flash metering so the exposure was tweaked via the camera’s LCD

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Shortly after I put my experiences with the Pansonic GH4 4K post focus mode on the Learn Macro site I had a very helpful email from Catherine at Helicon Focus. The more recent versions of Helicon Focus cope directly with MP4 video snippets which you can send directly from Lightroom thanks to a plug in. Last year I had a hard drive in my iMac fail and re-installed most of what I had lost but omitted to upgrade the version of Helicon Focus… I can also speed things up by ‘trimming’ clips in QuickTime™

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The depth of detail in this image of an Oleander hawk caterpillar (Daphnis nerii) is something I cannot achieve in any other way… it employs macro lenses used at optimal apertures, diffraction minimised by not closing down to small apertures and a soft background blur associated with a wide aperture.

The program cleverly extracts the individual frames and they appear in the right hand panel in Helicon Focus. There will often be far more of them than you need – at both the beginning and end there might be extraneous frames:

  1. where recording begins before the first frame of the stacking sequence
  2. at the end where it extends focus to the background.

It is also better to remove these because you tend to get artefacts in the image which take time to clean up in Photoshop and I also like the soft Bokeh achieved by working at f/4 – 5.6 in the original frames and do not need the sharp background images.

NB I find this happens to a much greater extent when using a cable release  than when using ‘touch focus’ from the LCD of the Panasonic GH4 or via the App for my iPad Air. In the latter case the camera focuses first on the closest detail and then the sequence begins: with the cable release there is a tendency to start recording whilst focus is being found. Read More