If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough Photographer Robert Capa
Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view. I’ve created these images a little larger so that you can see more detail.
One of the most important criteria when I recently selected my new DSLR camera model was size – in that I wanted a small – and light – one. I want to be able to carry a decently capable camera and yet walk as lightly as possible.
I realise that, to a large degree, it rather defeats the object to choose a DSLR and then not want to change lenses, but to me, traveling light, coupled with decent image quality and speed and smoothness of reaction are my main criteria at the moment.
So I’ve been considering what equipment to take away with me on holiday next week, to give myself a good working set up, yet not increase the gear I carry. There are perhaps three main scenarios I like to photograph; landscapes, close ups and zoomed shots of things like wildlife that is distant from me. On most walks, the first two are the most likely to crop up and I was perhaps prepared to forego the third category in my desire to reduce weight – as a decent zoom lens would weigh as much as the camera – and I will still have my bridge camera with 720mm equivalent zoom lens.
I did actually decide to buy the 18-55mm kit lens that has been made available with the camera – not something I’ve done before, but it had several features I rated highly; such as image stabilisation, 10″ minimum focus distance, silent focusing and zooming, along with no external movement when you focus. It seemed to be well reviewed everywhere I looked and didn’t add a huge amount price-wise to the camera body – and certainly a lot less than buying it independently. It also has a plastic chassis making it very light and consequently pairs beautifully with the light body. I’ve only had it a week and like it very much – it focuses very fast and accurately and I’m pretty happy with the image quality.
The zoom range of the kit lens covers most ‘scenic’ shots I’m likely to take, so I wanted to see how it would fair at close ups (a reason for me to value the 10″ minimum focus) and have given some thought to how to get the best of my set up with minimal additional equipment. So I’ve been tinkering with extension tubes which reduce the minimum focus distance, thereby allowing you to get that bit closer to your subject, thereby making it larger in the resulting image.
Then I looked at diffusers to allow me to use the camera’s on-board flash and after a bit of trial and error with on-line tutorials have made two different ones that both seem to work surprisingly well – one or other has been used in all of the photos on this page.
So I thought I’d share the results with you. The weather hasn’t been very good over the last few days, when the sun has come out briefly, it has been accompanied by a stiff breeze, which isn’t conducive to establishing good focus on little things, no matter how fast your lens can focus. I’m pretty happy with the results considering that I can use things that I already have, weigh a few grams and I didn’t spend any more pennies. All of these images were taken with the Canon 100D DSLR with 18-55mm IS STM kit lens and one extension tube (either 13mm or 22mm) and the on-board camera flash.
I’ve put the remaining images into a gallery and the images now all open in a simple pop-up ‘lightbox’. If you want to view them all in sequence, simply start with the first one and scroll through them using the left/right arrows at the edges.
My sea holly is the most fabulous indigo colour, even the stems. This flower is around half an inch in diameter and an incredibly complicated structure.
This is a much smaller daisy with a different species of hoverfly.
Bumble bee heading inside a fuchsia flower. They’re hard to catch in an interesting pose as they move so fast.
This ‘small skipper’ butterfly was an unusual visitor in the garden and seemed happy to pose for me.
My sea holly has proven to be popular with all the insects that visit the garden.
All the varieties of daisies in the garden are attractive to insects.
This bumble bee disappeared right inside the fuchsia flowers, then would come out, turn around and delve back in again.
There is a constant buzz of insect activity around this sea holly plant.
Hoverflies love my large daisies and when the sun is on them you’ll often see several species at once.
A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera. Dorothea Lange. 1895 – 1965
Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.
I’ve been thinking a lot about cameras and photography recently and appraising my equipment and image processing workflow. My photography has meant different things to me at different times in my life, but has been an important constant since childhood.
Ideally, I’d like to swap my now rather heavy DSLR for a smaller, lighter model, as my use for it has changed in recent years. But at the moment, I can’t make the numbers work for me or justify the additional expense. I was lined up to trade in my heavy DSLR for a lighter modern model, but the retailer concerned reduced their part-ex offer to me at the last minute, so in rather a fit of pique and annoyance, I asked them to just return my old camera to me and took the new camera out of my shopping cart.
I took ownership of a new (at least to me) computer a few months ago and am gradually replacing software for the multitude of things I use my computer for, so image editing processes were important things to consider.
Until my last computer got too tired to handle it, I habitually took all my photographs in a RAW format to process later and would never consider buying a camera without that functionality. But I had more recently started working just with JPEGs – it seemed a better solution with the bridge camera and compact I was currently using as walkabout cameras.
If you’d like to see an even larger version of the bluebell woods to the right, I’ve also uploaded a large version of the file – sometimes with detailed images like woodland, you need to see them large to appreciate the details. I wish I was there right now, perched on a log with a cup of coffee, a book to read and to just enjoy the birdsong.
But having installed several trials or free programs for RAW conversion, now my computer can handle it, I started looking out older photos from different cameras to test with and it has been fun to tinker with images again. The program I’ll probably settle on using is so feature-full that it’s going to take some time to learn in order to get the best from it.
Although I have concluded after several days with the programs open and periodically tinkering with them, that I’m still getting better results with JPEGs with the two general purpose walking cameras I’m using, the RAW format files just don’t seem to work as well (almost certainly down to some degree to my own ineptitude) as the cameras own purpose designed processing algorithms. Whilst I can certainly improve exposure, tonal range and colour, it seems to be at the considerable expense of noise and deteriorating image quality – probably due to their tiny sensors. So the exercise has been worthwhile, even if what I take from it is ‘as you were’.
But revisiting some of my old RAW files from the DSLR (and the previous model), those certainly do very well. I’ve got great results even with quite old files with the new apps and have rescued images I’d written off as unusable.
It has however thrown into sharp relief the quality of image that I get from the DSLR (even though it’s a 10 year old model) compared to the newer digicams and made me even more determined to get a smaller walkabout DSLR model.
I’ve salted a few of these recently re-worked images above. It has been enjoyable, whilst I count down the weeks to some holiday time, to look again at some of my favourite spots as I work on the images. It’s not quite the same as being there, but for now, whilst we have another summer of unseasonably poor weather, it’s been a little treat.
This image on the left, of a new path we walked over the weekend, is an example of what I mentioned above about working with JPEGs. Due to the extremes of light, I took it as a large JPEG and a RAW file together (on my bridge camera) and spent some time trying to get the result I wanted from the RAW file and wasn’t especially happy with the result. So I opened the JPEG and used my usual workflow and within 5 minutes had got a much better result. I doubt that would be the case with RAW files from my DSLR, but certainly with this camera and its tiny sensor, I don’t seem to be gaining enough to be worth the effort. It also trains me to ensure I get the exposure right at the point of taking the image and not allowing myself to be sloppy, knowing I can pull it back in processing, so perhaps this is a complimentary technique to ensure I keep my mind on good camera practice.
I do however have my camera set up to give me the best possible neutral file to work with, knowing that I like to post process my images to my preferred result later in software. I keep processing parameters to a minimum, like sharpening, contrast and saturation.
This means that my images tend to come out of the camera looking a little soft, flat, dull and bland. Which is fine by me, it preserves highlights and detail and gives me a good neutral foundation to work with. This wouldn’t work if I wanted to print directly from the memory card or wasn’t prepared to work on images, but for me, that’s half the fun. It’s not an approach that most people would wish to adopt, but I see it as a pseudo-RAW intermediate format; the best possible JPEG data is recorded, but it certainly needs to be knocked into shape visually. So until I can find the pennies for a new DSLR, I’ll use my old one when that’s needed and make the best of what I already have.
My work this week:
I’ve not just been tinkering with photos and thinking about cameras this week, I’ve put in some quality time with some silver clay. I bought some at Christmas when it was a good price, but this is the first chance I’ve had with the time to crack it out and get something made. My copper wild rose pendant sold soon after going on sale, so I also wanted to try a smaller one in silver. I scaled down the component shapes and worked in just the same way as previously, except I replaced the round disc I’d used as a base on the back of the copper one with a proper calyx shape, so that it’s as nice on the back as the front.
I’ve always been very fond of simple, uncluttered jewellery and especially silver with sleek lines. I wasn’t sure how sleek I could get with silver clay, so this pendant was a bit of a trip into uncharted waters for me, but it worked rather better than I’d hoped. I also love marquise shaped stones and have had a few put aside for the right design for some time. I decided that the greater shrinkage rate of copper clay might render it unsuitable for setting a stone with such a long perimeter distance (a lot of distance to shrink and potentially crack), but it worked perfectly in the silver, which I’m finding only shrinks around 5% from dry after firing.