Saturday, March 31, 2012

Palm Sunday prep

And the road is decorated, we've taught them how to make palm crosses and how to do the chant.

Now we're just feeding them pizza and then we'll send them home :)

Setting up for Palm Sunday

Matthew and I have just finished laying out the "Road to Jerusalem" ready for the Confirmation Class to come and decorate it with cobbles and palms :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ground wasps part 2

I was walking the dog in the woods today, taking the odd picture of flowers and buds as has become my habit recently-

I took a break to throw the ball for Holly, then, just past the bridge where I take my picture every day, I decided to see if I could get a picture of one of the ground wasps that made all the holes I mentioned a few days ago.

After persuading Holly she didn't need to come and examine what my camera was pointed at and that she's be happier exploring a pile of old leaves off to the side of the trail I knelt down and picked a spot to focus on in the hope that if I held still one would come out. After about five minutes I was rewarded with this little chap who came out and started doing a little housekeeping to his hole. He was backing out and pushing the sandy soil behind him with his back legs-

Holly was very patient while I was photographing the wasp, but she'd been in the stream and had had some solid tennis ball chasing time, so she was feeling pretty mellow :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Back from the movies...

... after seeing the Hunger Games (very good by the way!), and what could be better than burgers, dogs, chicken,fries and video games in the Undercroft? :)

Sunday morning scary picture :)

I spotted this little guy on one of the church doors when I opened up this morning, so I grabbed my camera, popped on my small diffuser and took a quick couple of shots of him. He's actually really tiny, about half the size of a dime, so here's a crop of the above picture so you can see him properly :)

Handheld, f/16, 1/250 sec, 200 iso

I love this lens- you can see the individual hairs on his legs!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Diffuser shots

So here, as promised, are some shots taken using my home-made diffusers, all taken with my 60D with the 60 f/2.8.Macro USM (and none of these are crops, these are the full-size pictures):

First, the big diffuser on the speedlight-

Dime on the kitchen table, f/32, 1/250 sec, 100 iso

Star Magnolia bloom in the columbarium, f/32, 1/250 sec, 100 iso

Star Magnolia bud in the columbarium, f/32, 1/250 sec, 100 iso

And using the little diffuser with the on-camera flash in Saxon Woods-

Yellow flower, f/11, 1/250 sec, 100 iso

Very delicate little wildflowers, f/16, 1/250 sec, 200 iso

These tiny little flowers are less than 1/2 an inch across, f/16, 1/250 sec, 200 iso

They're so small I almost walked right past them, f/16, 1/250 sec, 200 iso

Leaves starting to appear, f/16, 1/250 sec, 200 iso

Little grasses, I'm not sure if this is how they flower, f/16, 1/250 sec, 200 iso

Home-made Macro Flash Diffusers

This is going to be a camera-geek post, so if you find it boring you have been warned ;)

One of the wrinkles with macro photography is lighting. When you are taking super close-up pictures you end up with a very narrow depth-of-field (how much is in focus), sometimes fractions of an inch. So to get as much in focus as possible you want to use the smallest possible aperture, which means you must then use a slow shutter, which means you risk any movement (you or the subject) producing  blurred pictures.

My speedlight diffuser
The answer to this is to use a flash, which gives you the light you need to use a small aperture and has the added benefit of freezing movement :) However, the on-camera flash on a DSLR is usually pretty wimpy, and as it is low on the camera you also have the problem of the lens blocking the light when you are right up close to the subject (my macro lens allows me to get within inches what I'm photographing). But using a speedlight (a flash that mounts on top of the camera) can have almost it's own problems too- the flash is high over the subject, and though speedlights tilt up to allow you to bounce the flash off ceilings, they don't tilt down (well, mine tilts down a bit, but not enough), and they can be overpowering.

From the back
The answers to all of these issues are to use flash diffusers, devices that sit over the business end of a flash and soften and diffuse the light coming from the flash so that the light is not as harsh. And although this is what you need for a speedlight for macro photography, you also need to direct the light as well- and this is even more important for the on-camera flash, which needs softening, but also directing and almost concentrating to the spot where you need it.
Camera, speedlight and diffuser

After a little research on the interwebs, I found some interesting examples of DIY macro diffusers both for speedlights and on-camera flashes. So I decided to have a go at my own- and these are what I came up with :)
The speedlight fits snugly into it

For the speedlight I took the reflector off one of those clamp-on painter's lights and cut a hole in it to receive a plastic plumbing adapter I found at Home Depot (it's actually for connecting rectangular gutter downspouts to round drain pipes) which has a nice, rectangular hole on one side, and an offset, round hole on the other.  I used foil tape to connect them together so it all stayed reflective and I covered the big hole in the front of the reflector with thin, translucent plastic (actually it's plastic cut from Holly's first head cone). With some foam sheets rolled up and glued into the rectangular hole so that the speedlight head fits nice and snug it puts a nice, large light source right over the area in front of the lens and I can get decent shots all the way down to f/32 @ 1/250 sec @ 100 iso- I'll post some examples of pictures taken in the next post :)
Small diffuser for on-camera flash

That works great for taking pictures at home or close by, but it's too unwieldy to take into the woods with me. So I also made another one to use with the on-camera flash that I could take hiking with me. I used an aluminum water bottle rather than the Pringle's can I saw others had used , it has a reflective interior, is light, and is tough enough to be hung on the side of my camera holster and not get hurt when it swings about.
From the front

I cut the end off the bottle at an angle and covered the opening with more plastic from Holly's cone; then I cut a slit at the other end to fit over the on-camera flash when it's open. I also added a small tab of the plastic that slips into the camera's hot-shoe (where the speedlight mounts), with an elastic band hooked under the bit that sticks out under the flash in the front (where it says "Canon") and pulling in the other direction it sits quite happily on top of the camera and since it adds almost no weight it's perfect for hiking into the woods. The reflective interior directs the light to the diffuser at the end which bathes whatever is in front of the lens in light. The flash is nowhere near as powerful as the speedlight, but decent shots at f/16 @ 1/250 sec @ 200 iso are possible.
Camera and diffuser separated

Nice and compact
A little fine tuning of the gear and my technique is obviously going to improve things over time, but I'm quite pleased with both of these for a first attempt :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New toy

My long-awaited new lens arrived today (well, only long-awaited coz my stupid credit card company changed my address without asking me and then Canon wouldn't ship it coz the billing and shipping addresses didn't match- took a few days to clear up)- it's a Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM that I got a really nice deal on from the Canon refurbished store.

I have no problem buying refurbished from reputable sources like this, I figure it's either been returned because someone didn't want it, or it had a minor fault, but either way it's probably been on a technicians bench and has been more thoroughly checked out now than a new one- and it's way cheaper!

This lens is what they call a "prime" lens, that means it is a single focal length, no zoom; but it is also a "macro" lens, which means it focuses really close and takes awesome close-ups. It's not an "L" series (Canon's professional, wonderful, but very expensive lenses), but it uses the same USM (ultrasonic) focusing system, just like the 28-105 I got in trade last week, and it gets amazing reviews that say it's as good (if not better) than an "L" lens.

Macro lenses tend to be very sharp as any faults would show up when photographing close-up, but this is also a very useful general purpose and portrait lens as it is the equivalent of a 96mm lens on a full-frame camera because of the 60D's 1.6 crop factor.

Anyhow, I took it out to play with for the first time this afternoon, and so far it seems to live up to it's reputation :) There is definitely  going to be a learning curve to macro photography- especially lighting- but I'm looking forward to it. Here are a few of the first shots I took...

Little yellow flower- I used the on-camera flash which has created some blown reflections

The dog is getting a bit bored with having her picture taken :)

Jackie's basil plant on the kitchen windowsill with just natural light

 Bud on the star magnolia in the columbarium- on camera flash

Star magnolia bloom, again using the flash

Tiny ants on a branch

Happy dog in the woods

Dog and tennis ball

I love this one, it's moss growing on a rock in extreme close-up, so it looks like a weird, alien forest :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Early morning wisdom from CJ

I just went to wake Crispy up and found him sleeping cuddling a plastic baseball bat.

I gently woke him, and asked him why he was sleeping with a baseball bat. As he rolled over (taking the bat with him) he replied, " You never know".

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ha ha!

I love the interweb!

Rick Perry has a "Rick Perry for President" page over on Facebook, and as this website explains,

"Women are taking the piss out of Governor Perry (Tx-Big R) trolling his ‘Rick Perry for President‘ page (feel free to add a comment) over his signing of the State sponsored rape bill. Rape by the State has taken effect solely in Republican controlled states. After the stuffy, all male hearing on reproductive rights, an uproar ensued. Since these overbearing, self righteous men know more about vaginal concerns, the trolling was on.

It must be comforting to have a Governor whose knowledge of the female body surpasses that of a gynecologist."

 I went over to have a look myself:

and I particularly like the fact that humour is being used instead of just rants and attacks- although I don't think Mr Perry will get most of the jokes :)


This whole living across the Atlantic from my folks is difficult!

Jackie reminded me yesterday that today is Mother's Day in the UK (a fact I had actually noted on my Google Calendar), but, what with work and everything, by the time I remembered today it was 6 o'clock- which was too late to call especially as they haven't switched their clocks yet.

Of course in reality we're actually only 4 hours apart because you spring forward. So, not only am I forgetful, I'm also dumb :)

Sorry Mum- Happy Mother's Day- I'll call you tomorrow!

Spring in the woods :)

Green things are starting to pop up in the woods, so I took my camera with me today when Holly and I went for a walk.

Of course I had to begin with a pic of the pooch

This one would be great- except she has her eyes shut!

I love the full-time manual focus on this lens- it means the difference between this....

...and this!

Leaves are appearing...

...the grass is sprouting...

...and green shoots are pushing up through the dull brown of last year's leaves :)

The moss is turning bright green after it's muted winter colours

Green spears appearing by the stream

And of course I must finish with another of the Doofenshmirtz ;)

Canon 28-105

I did a little swap at my local camera store on Friday, giving them a couple of old lenses I don't use for a used (but mint condition) Canon 28-105 f3.5-4.5 (it's the Mark I with the 7 blade aperture, made in Japan- the good one according to this eBay guide).

It's a fantastic lens, a definite step up from the "kit" lenses, though not quite up to the 24-70 "L" series f2.8 quality, but not far off- and I don't have $1,350.00 to spend! And though it doesn't have image stabilization, the fact that it has the same fast, accurate and silent ultrasonic internal focus as the "L", with full-time manual focus, more than makes up for it!

I took it into the woods today (see the next post), and so for I like it :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bjursta (!)

New kitchen table from Ikea- square instead of the old round one, and it has leaves that pull out to almost double it's size :)