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Wex Entry: Damselflies

This weeks #WexMondays competition was take in a nearby nature reserve of Thompson Common which is owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. I like this reserve mainly for fungi in the Autumn and bugs and insects at this time of year. 

I wanted to see some bigger dragonflies as I have already seen and photographed some Damselflies on the previous day at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen. However all I saw were Damselflies on the way back to the car and the odd butterfly which I were expecting to see more of.

The main thing I learned from this photoshoot is that it pays to be patient. It was only after I stood still for awhile till they started to land on the leaves to make it possible to photograph these tiny insects, and on occasions I got very close with the sigma 105mm about 15cm away from them

My technique was to set the camera at around F/16 and shutter speed at least at 1/250 seconds and manual focus with the ISO to create a good exposure being around 800. The idea was to make very slight adjustments to my body position forwards and backwards to achieve an image where I had the correct focus. With the camera set to high speed shooting I could easily take 10 images with the hope one of those would be useful, all taken in RAW mode.

Stay tuned for a video on my editing process from this trip.

Macro Weekend

This last weekend I went out hoping to photograph Swallowtail butterflies which are rare and only appear on the Norfolk Broads. Getting up at 5am to travel to RSPB Strumpshaw Fen just outside of Norwich teamed up with someone from the camera club we spent a few hours walking around the reserve while visiting the various bird hides. I tried out his Sigma 150-500mm super zoom on my Nikon D7100 for a short while capturing a few birds but nothing too interesting or of good quality, not too sure I have the patience to sit around for hours with the keen bird watchers.

Not having any luck seeing swallowtails which we put down to the wind we made our way back to the car, we soon saw a row of wild flowers growing along a hedgerow which were full of Damselflies.

I shall be visiting Ranworth or Hickling Broad in the next few weeks in the hope the Swallowtails will be showing themselves for me to photograph.

Macro Tips

Spring is well on its way and summer is close by which is ideal time for capturing bugs and insects. Its when you get up close you see the beauty of these varied creatures.

Thankfully you don't have to travel far to find interesting subjects. The above image was taken along a path just a down the road with hedgerow on either side. Most bugs need to warm up in the sun before they become active so early morning is the best time to photograph.

A macro lens is required for small bugs while a zoom is better for butterflies as they tend to fly away if you get too close. When taking macro images auto focus is often useless and best used in manual and then move your body to get the subject in focus. A minimum aperture of F/11 is highly recommended and shutter speed to suit the subject.

I can find it difficult to see where the focus is on bugs is correct and instead look at the texture of its surrounding for textures to focus on. Another tip is to set the camera to fast continuous shooting as any slight movement makes a huge impact to what is in focus, the idea is to make slight adjustments to your position backwards and forwards while taking images with the hope at least one will be sharp as you can easily delete them later. 

If you find these tips useful then please share your results with me on twitter @nealtraf    

The Yellow Star of Bethlehem

During the last week I have been spending time in Wayland Wood as it has started to wake up from winter. 

I have been focusing too much on bluebells which isn't a bad thing but it would be too easy to miss other beautiful flowers that are currently in bloom such as The Yellow Star of Bethlehem which was pointed being a rare plant and only appears in a small number of locations in the UK and Wayland Wood is one of those places.

Macro photography to me is very rewarding as I find a sense of achievement when I can capture something beautiful that you would otherwise not even notice.

Using a Nikon D7100 with a Sigma 105mm lens I was sitting down on a bin bag and using a tripod to get a rough position. With the wind and the size of the flower being not much bigger than a 5p coin taking a picture that was usable was very difficult. I carry a small water bottle to create water droplets on flowers to create a more interesting picture.

I often see small insects around flowers which I find fascinating and fun to watch and getting any detail from them is even more of a challenge.

As spring is well on its way im sure many more will popup on here, so please visit often to see the results.


Dersingham Bog Fungi

Dersingham bog, for me is one of the best places in Norfolk to visit. There is a vantage point that overlooks the nature reserve that is stunning, I took a sunrise a couple of months ago. The only downside is the lack of parking. I bumped into another local camera club on a workshop, with the amount of cars I had to park on the verge. 

Just before the sunrises from behind the hill, Using HDR to achieve a good exposure.

Fungi is still very much in mind with it still being autumn. When I first visited Dersingham Bog last year with the camera club there was a wide variety of fungi fruiting. This time I was unable to find as many specimens, can only presume that there has been less rain so far making the environment damp enough. 

Over the last few fungi forays I have been using focus stacking technique to get the fungi and foreground in focus which is impossible to achieve with a single image. Although this method requires heavily editing to fix the defects caused by the focus stacking, the results I have been achieving easily justifies the time and effort. A single image can take 30 minutes to find, prepare and photograph the "stack" and then up to a further two hours in post production. 

I shall return to Dersingham Bog before the autumn finishes to find more fungi to photograph. One image that I have in my head is a puffball fungi releasing its spores, black and white. I need to figure out how to release the spores and then photograph without getting a stick in the shot, a flash would most likely be required.