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    

East Somerton - Behind The Photo

In this new weekly feature I will be talking about an images on where it was taken and what I like about it.

Today its East Somerton Church ruins that I visited earlier this year in during a week off work. This was one of many locations I visited that day with Thornham and Horsey as they were close by. This village is located just off the coast near Winterton-on-Sea which I foolishly didn't visit.

The ruins are tucked away down a narrow road between a few houses and could easily pass it if you were not looking for it. Like with all old buildings I am attracted to textures of brick work. To create this image I used a technique called HDR to capture enough information to bring out details in the very bright and dark areas, branches of the trees behind the window for example. 

Making this a black and white image creates an atmosphere to emphasise the emptiness of this ancient building and brings out the texture in the bricks and rendering. 

These ruins are worth exploring if you're in the area but not to keep you busy for too long. While I was here I managed to see snowdrops which was one thing I missed out from last year. 

Thanks for taking the time to read about this picture and I shall raid the archives for next week's image.


Initial Thoughts on Youpic

Click to read a newer blog post for my more recent views on this service that I no longer use!

My desire to share the images I take is very strong as I want people to enjoy my work, otherwise what is the point of taking images if no one can see and enjoy them?

Currently I am focusing my efforts on Twitter which has been a slow but enjoyable and fun interacting with organisations who own and manage the places I visit such as the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

Flickr I upload virtually everything to and have been using this website from the start of my photographic journey, and if you go back far enough you can see how poor my first attempts were comparing what I am capturing now.

500px I use much more selectively and only upload images that I consider to be my better images and the social interaction for me has been minimal. 

Google Plus is primarily used to store my images that are synced to my Android devices and occasionally share to communities, social interaction here has also been limited. I need to figure out how to increase the social interaction of my work. 

While looking through my Twitter feed I saw an advert for  that looked interesting and when looking at the website I was drawn in with the clean and simple design and appears to be similar to 500px. The signup process was simple using my facebook account to create my profile and was quickly setup with my first image soon uploaded. 

 Over 6 thousand views in about 3 days on Taken in Cromer

I soon received community interaction in the form of likes and shares on many of my uploads and with one image showing up on the "inspired" page, similar to the explore on Flickr with my Cromer Pier image currently achieving over 6 thousand views. 

My current strategy is to upload an image a day carefully selecting what images I use and to only show my better images like I do with 500px and  galleries on this website as this should keep the up activity on my profile while increasing my exposure which is what I am currently aiming for. 

What I think could be improved with the uploading process is the tagging system to be more user friendly. Flickr and 500px will read the tags from the metadata that is embedded with Lightroom. 

When trying to speedup the uploading process, I tried to copy the tags from Lightroom and paste them into the Tag box on the upload form which turned out not to be as simple as I first thought.

I expected the comma to automatically separate each tag, so if a beach image had the tags "beach, sea, coast, sand" they would be individual words. What happens with Youpic if you paste that in, would be "beach sea coast sand". I have to do tagging the harder way by doing them separately when Flickr and 500px would do it much much easier and quicker. 

Taken in London on November 2014, currently my second most viewed image of a thousand views on Youpic

The lightroom plugin will export the tags correctly but will miss out other steps such as being able to add a title and description before it publishes which I find to be annoying and you then need to find the edit option that took sometime to find.

I want the app to export the image to an preview state and then add in the missing information before making the image public.

Otherwise I have found my experience with Youpic to be a positive and enjoyable experience that I intend to continue with.

Exploring Norwich & Narborough


I belong to a Facebook group called Norfolk Countryside Photowhere people post their photos that have been taken in Norfolk on a wide variety of subjects, usually landscapes, animals and birds. I find it a good resource to discover new locations to visit and enjoy. The admin team had organised a meetup in Narborough for Saturday but due to the weather forecast it was delayed till Sunday.

Only been to Narborough to visit the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve which is known for the butterflies in the spring and summer. 

I'm still learning the Fuji camera so I decided to just bring this instead of the Nikon to get used to it more and also to keep the weight down and I definitely noticed the difference. Also not knowing the route this was going to be a scouting and socialising exercise. This was the first time I had meet this group so I was more interested in listening (i'm not much of a talker) and getting to know them.  

The only point of interest I saw was an old disused derelict watermill. Otherwise the usual farmland and trees are plentiful. Could be better in the summer with insects flying around. 

A map for this walk can be found on the Norfolk Trails website or click HERE for the PDF download.


As Saturday was now free I decided to visit Norwich to see a friend and to watch a film at the cinema, Night At The Museum 3 is worth watching. I intended to do a little street photography that would be a good subject to take advantage of using a smaller camera which is more discrete. However I just wasn't inspired and moved onto my preferred type of photography of architecture.

After going back to the car to off load some light shopping I started at the bridge near the cinema taking images interesting buildings either side of the river which I have done before. What was new to me was following the river around to Jarrolds Bridge passing by Cow Tower that I had yet to see. Considering how close it is to Jarrolds bridge that I have visited many times is just stupid.  This time I focused more on the materials of the bridge. 

By the time the film had finished it was close to sunset and decided to hang around till it was dark. For sometime now I have been wanting to visit Jarrolds Bridge at night as i've been told it lights up and I wasn't disappointed. 

On the way back to the car I decided to go by the Cathedral where I setup the tripod and took a series of images to merge into HDR later. What surprised me is when processing the image on the PC the camera had picked up the stars that I was not expecting and add to the final image. Normally stars do not show up when taking images in a city due to the light pollution.

The next part is a bit technical and can be skipped.

After using the Fuji I have noticed a couple of drawbacks compared to the Nikon. When doing bracketing to take multiple exposures to create an HDR image later I am used to the camera keeping up. On the Narborough trip I was taking images to stitch into a Panorama and often I bracket them. On the Fuji I was waiting for the camera to write to the card which isn't a slow card and I never had the same issue when using the same card in the Nikon so it is the Fuji not keeping up which was annoying as I take the sequence of images in burst mode to avoid using a tripod and remote control.

On the Nikon I set the bracketing option to take three images at +/- 2 stops whereas the Fuji only goes to +/- 1 stop which can be an issue. I would need to get a newer version that has the ability to use wifi and remotely control and take each image manually as changing the exposure settings. The Fuji is a bit fidley to change while taking a sequence of images. 

That being said the X-E1 with the 35mm lens is a fantastic camera, the image quality coming out is excellent and I just love using the camera. Once you know the limitations you can work around them.   

My Addiction To Macro Photography

All cameras and lenses have a limit of how close they can focus. This can be demonstrated by using a smartphone. How close can you get the camera to the end of your finger with the camera/phone getting it in focus ? A macro lens allows you to focus much closer, effectively making a camera into a microscope. 

Getting closer to a subject allows you to get more detail out of smaller objects. Another advantage of macro is almost anything is interesting when you get closer which means you don't have to travel far to find interesting subjects, unlike landscapes where you need to allow time and research to capture anything meaningful. 

I find it very therapeutic when walking in woodland looking for fungi (when i'm not being bitten) and can take my time while never knowing what I will find. Also it takes my mind off the weekly grind for short awhile.

Trapped in a spiders web

The whole process of setting up and finding the composition is a rewarding process, there have been tools that i've discovered that has made this a bit easier such as Helicon Remote that allows me to remotely control my camera using my Android phone or tablet, very useful when the camera is laying on the ground. I also use this software to automate focus stacking, there are a few useful video tutorials on YouTube by searching "Focus Stacking" and "Helicon Remote".

Behind The Photo: Debenhams Bury

I have had this idea for awhile. To explain why I have taken a particular image, what grabbed my interest and what I did to the image in post production. 

Original Image, no adjustments 

Today I am talking about this Debenhams store in Bury St Edmunds. It truly is a beautiful building. I wasn't working that week and visited Lackford Lakes nearby that morning and popped into Bury on the way home. I wanted to retake an image of the old Abbey Ruins and the cathedral . Parking in the shopping centre I passed this store and had to take a picture of it.

It took a little time to find the right angle to avoid bollards and other distractions 

Starting in the roof we see panels of metal of varying shades of gray, curves and diagonal lines that provides plenty of interest. Same with the panels of glass on the front of the store, not to mention the reflections.

We then get to the pavement with more lines and curves of the smaller brick work.

When editing this type of image, architectural images are often better in black and white, shapes and lines are stronger. Black and white has brought out the different tones of gray on the roof panels.

Final result and lightroom settings are below, click to enlarge. I hope by posting these you will see my approach to photography and maybe you will pick up something useful, or at least have ideas of where to visit.  Tweet me your favorite spots @nealtraf, on my facebook page or  comment below.

Final processed image

Lightroom Adjustments and Camera Settings. Nikon 18-105 Kits lens was used

Aston Martin Owners Club Snetterton

A friend suggested that I go along with him to Snetterton race circuit as he belongs to the Aston Martin Owners Club or AMOC. As I don't have an interest in cars and motorsport I have little experience with this type of photography and was keen to try it out.

Typically with sports and wildlife photography a long focal length is required in the 200 to 300 millimeter range or more. I do own a sigma 70-300 F/4.5 for Nikon. This is a cheap starter lens that cost me £120 on ebay a few years ago.  I try not to use this as I don't like the results I get from using it and rarely get pleasing results. A professional 70-200 lens would cost about £1000.

Using my sigma 105mm lens I have an effective focal length of 204 millimeters. Crop factor of 1.95 when using the extra crop mode which was not enough. To achieve an acceptable image I cropping most of the image. I try avoid cropping as you waste all that information from the original picture which limits how big a picture can be printed without degrading. 

Good day out, the sun was very bright which is difficult to photograph in. Overall the pictures I took were reasonable but certainly could do with improvement .The fee was £14, but during the week the race circuit hosts track days where entry is free. I will return next year to have another go and practice the panning technique. 

Visit the flickr album for more images from the day.