Six on Saturday: 25.7.20-Anatomy of a photo

This week I have been aiming for a few decent photos in the garden. There are a few photo competition deadlines coming up including the Countryfile calendar competition. Going off previous years where the ‘wildlife’ has been faked in home-built studios I probably don’t stand much of a chance. But the theme this year is ‘bright and beautiful’ and I have an idea of a photo I wanted. The rules have been changed a bit for this year in that people can enter wildlife photos taken closer to home as we’ve been on lockdown rather than the countryside. So I wanted to try and get a photo of the wildlife in my garden that has brought me comfort during lockdown.

1. The aim

I have been wanting to get a decent photo of the bees on this allium. The allium was randomly placed in Alice’s fairy garden. It is growing out on in its own but the bees are loving it. It frequently has two or three bees on it.

Being out on its own it has the advantage of standing out dramatically on photos as I can angle photos to either have the bright green of the grass of the bright pink of the Hydrangea macrophylla. I knew the combination of a bee, the allium and a striking background could make for a stunning photo.

2. Initial attempts

My initial attempts were taken with my telephoto lens (Nikon-300mm) as the bees were a bit skittish when I got too close and they weren’t settling for long. I can focus this lens quickly for the quick movements of the bees and take shots from a little distance. The results were ok but using such a long lens limited my freedom to compose the shot with the background as I can’t gain the height to get the background how I wanted it. It also lacks the detail I felt I could get on the bees.

3. Lens change

I decided I’d try with the macro lens to get a higher level of detail on the bee.

It’s been a bit of a grey week so the photos are a bit muted. But, you can see the level of detail on the bee went up from the previous photo. However, it lacks the depth of field to have much of the allium in focus.

4. Flash

I’ve been hoping for brighter days, but as they haven’t happened I got the flash out. I don’t often bother with it as I mainly use my previously mentioned telephoto lens for taking pictures of the birds. The flash doesn’t make much difference at those distances. But for this close up work it stops me or the camera shading out the subject. It does add quite a bit of weight to the setup.

The best result with the flash.

5. Diffuser

The flash helps give the extra light to really show off the hairs of the bee but it places all the light in a focussed spot. So I had quite a few photos with the light bouncing back at me or spread unevenly. So I added the diffuser to the lens. This covers the flash and allows some light through but more evenly.

This got me some much better photos. With a little bit of digital editing to increase the colours a little bit more so they reflected the colours the bee and plant really are. I don’t generally edit my photos much after except cropping as I mainly just take photos to illustrate the blog but I was aiming for a particular result here. I was close to results I was happy with.

But they both had elements that were wrong. On this one, the allium is still out of focus. The bee’s positioning meant all of the bee was pretty much in focus though not the most exciting composition. But the bees aren’t that accommodating at poising.

On this one, the position was more dynamic but key elements around the face were out of focus.

6. Tripod

Over the week I’d seen that in the evening the bees become more sluggish and they stay on the allium for longer. I thought I’d try for a few more shots using the tripod to make up for my shakey hands. The camera weighs a lot by the time you add the lens and focussing with the macro is precise. So the tripod allows for less camera shake allowing for things like a slower shutter speed without the photo becoming blurry. With the tripod and flash, I was able to manage a photo with both the bee and allium in focus and the hydrangea background I was hoping for.

I’m unlikely to win as like I already said many of the winners have been staged photos within studios or certainly look that way. Then of the actual natural shots, there have been some far more stunning and technically better photos. Photos of mammals almost all win the public vote. People seem to be able to relate more and go for that ‘cute’ factor. But, I have enjoyed the process of trying for a better photo. If I do get a day with better natural light I’ll try for some more photos. I’ve probably got another few days before the allium goes over. But Amy is complaining that I am on infringing on her photo specialty of macro, so back to birds for me. Thank you if you’ve read this far and tolerated me writing a different six on Saturday again. If you fancy seeing more garden pics or taking part check the participant guide.

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26 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 25.7.20-Anatomy of a photo”

  1. The more I read your Six, the more successful the photos are: Bravo! I don’t have such advanced equipment as you. Only a tripod and a macro lens.
    You’re lucky to have had a patient bumblebee for you to take the pictures … He’s cool!😂👏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My wife is teaching photography to a higher level next year so she’s been geting more serious spurring me on. And she’s been investing in better kit. I’d like a better telephoto but the next step up is a serious amount of money. No cheap options.

      The grey days have meant light was worse for photos but the bees are sluggish and will sit for ages on the alliums as a result.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Two “tricks” I’ve seen used to photograph bumblebees – place a drop of sugar water (sugar dissolved in water) on the flower and this will keep the bee’s attention for longer so it will stay in position longer. Another is to actually catch the been, put it in a contained and put it in the fridge for a while to cool it down and, so, slow down its movements when you place it on the flower again. What camera are you using? A Nikon something-or-other. I have a D200 for about ten years now and, though there are newer versions available, I still like it. I have become used to it and will continue with it until it gives up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed reading about what is involved in taking really good photos. I have a decent camera but have never learnt more than the basics, which I keep meaning to rectify. I’ve been resisting the urge to fork out for a macro lens so far, but I’m rather envious of the shots people manage to take with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I so enjoyed this. I’ve recently lost a bit of enthusiasm for my photography, partly because, as you so admirably describe here, it’s time consuming. It is worth it, as your results show. Lovely bee shots!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I rather prefer #5 because of the background. I think with insects you need a plain background so you are not distracted. Using a tripod is something I really need to do when using my macro lens!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the more dynamic position of the bee in 5 but I went about this pretty much as a technical challenge to see if I could get bee and allium with a good level of detail and a blurred background. I rarely get the tripod out and should as I suffer from shaky hands. I’m happy with the process. Pushed myself. Getting to know new camera better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My wife has just bought a Nikon D610 which is what I was using here with a sigma macro lens. The full frame and extra detail I can get using this is a massive step up from the decade old Nikon D3100 I had been using.

        I’d picked up a D3200 which while only the next model on and still old but moved on a lot in terms of MP, speed, etc. Been considering one of the Coolpix bridge cameras with the mega lenses but now they’ve been around a while the reviews are a bit more balanced saying they can’t really achieve that much at their full focal distance.

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  6. I read an article recently about using high ISO and small apertures to take pictures of insects with better depth of field, then correcting the resultant noise and loss of sharpness from diffraction with software. It’s a couple more things to try.

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