Monday, September 28, 2015

Showy things from here and there

I haven't let much grass grow under my feet of late. I took much of last week off work to help conduct a photo workshop with David FitzSimmons, then it was off to Shawnee State Park at the opposite end of the state to meet with the Mothapalooza planning committee. Long days and not much sleep, but a lot of fun. Following is a small selection of photos from these excursions.

Dave FitzSimmons gets into the surf to make interesting wave photos. Note the tripod, and the remote shutter release in his hand. Those tools make it easier to focus on tripping the shutter when the timing is right. We based our photo workshop at beautiful Lakeside, right on the shores of Lake Erie, and visited a variety of spots on and near the lakefront. It was a great time with a great group of people, and we're planning on doing it again in September 2016.

To get the silky quality with the waves, I used a very slow shutter speed, 1/8 of a second. The camera was tripod-mounted of course - hand-holding would not allow for a sharp image at such a sluggish shutter speed.

We were up EARLY both mornings of the workshop, to get in good locales for shooting sunrises, before the sun appeared. This shot shows the sun popping above the horizon over Lake Erie near East Harbor. Timing is everything - you have to be in position and ready to fire away right as the sun appears. Sometimes a wide-angle perspective looks great, but I often prefer a smaller field of view as seen through a larger lens. This one was shot with a Canon 5D Mark III and Canon's superb 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens set to 135mm. Settings were f/8; 1/160; ISO 100.

After shooting sunsets one evening on Lakeside's pier, I turned my lens to the moon, which looked especially striking in this waxing gibbous phase. It was the same camera and body as was used in the previous photo, but this time the lens was extended to 400mm. While overkill is probably possible with the moon, in general the more reach the better for shooting distant celestial objects. For this shot, the camera was set to f/11; 1/40; ISO 100. Overexposing moon images is common, and easy to do. One must remember that it is necessary to underexpose. The previous settings are good starting points; play with speeding up or slowing the shutter speed until the exposure is correct.

A young Herring Gull tugs entrails from a dead fish washed up on a Lake Erie beach. We had a lot of fun with this bird, waiting until just the right moment to trigger our shutters. Everyone wanted the entrails shot. This one was shot with the same rig as the previous images, but at f/5.6; 1/400; ISO 200, at a focal length of 400mm. The sun, unfortunately, was coming in at an acute angle from the right. Not optimal, but not bad. Some post-processing would make it look even better, but I am a post-processing minimalist.

The gorgeous textures and patterns of a land snail make for an irresistible shot. This one was shot with the amazing Canon 7D Mark II, rigged to their equally proficient 100mm L macro lens. This is a crop-frame sensor camera, and one I was using mostly for birds and distant wildlife. I've come to find that it works just great for macro work, too, and have been experimenting with that. This one was taken at f/16; 1/250; ISO 100. In general, an f-stop range between f/11 and f/16 works well for many macro situations.

We spent a fair bit of time looking for interesting art in seemingly mundane things, such as milkweed seeds bursting from a pod. This photo was shot with the same rig as in the previous photo, but at f/6.3 and a much faster shutter speed of 1/500, no flash used. It was breezy, and I wanted to ensure a reasonably sharp image. The plant, by the way, is Green Milkweed, Asclepias viridiflora.

Our group hit the botanical jackpot when we stumbled into a nice stand of Fringed Gentian, Gentianopsis virgata, in the Castalia Prairie. Scores of photos were taken of these stunning flowers. For this one, the fringing of the rear petals of the foremost flower was my focal point. Again, the Canon 7D Mark II with 100mm macro lens was used. I set f/11; 1/200; ISO 100, and fired with Canon's twin-lite flash rig. In hindsight, I should have used f/16 for greater depth of field.

OK, to the opposite end of the state and my beloved Shawnee State Forest. After the Mothapalooza planning committee meeting - yes, this strange but wonderful event will be back at Shawnee in 2016! - we headed afield for a bit. And saw many interesting things, but unfortunately for the others, I found this gem on my way out of the forest, after we all went our separate ways. It is the state-endangered Sampson's Snakeroot, Gentiana villosa. Not quite as flashy as the previous gentian, but it has its charms. More 7D Mark II/100mm macro work here, with settings of f/16; 1/250; ISO 100. A big part of making decent images of stuff like this is getting the flash intensity right, and that's what I tend to play with the most.

I was struck by the pattern and texture of fruiting Hairy Angelica plants, Angelica venenosa, and exerted some effort in making photos of them. The little grooved fruit form clusters in arrangements known as umbels. The aggregate of the umbels forms one big umbel - the inflorescence in its entirety. It wasn't until I reviewed my images that I noticed numerous tiny, unfamiliar insects among the fruit. The dominant one appears to be some sort of true bug (Hemiptera), but I have no idea as to the species. There are oil tubes located in the grooves of the fruits, and I wonder if the insects aren't tapping into those to extract food. Had I noticed this in the field, I would have produced the Canon MP-E 65mm mega-macro lens to try and shed light on this mysterious world dwelling within the umbels. Another time, perhaps.

Finally, I'll end with this beautiful plant, the Downy Lobelia, Lobelia puberula. It reaches its northern limits in Ohio, occurring in only a dozen or so of our southernmost counties. Downy Lobelia is common along Shawnee's forest roads, and I find it an irresistible subject. This specimen was particularly compelling, as it meets the criteria of the pleasing Rule of Thirds. Once again, after reviewing the image on the computer, I noticed a stowaway I missed in the field. Some tiny green insect is hiding under the calyx of the top flower. As with the other Shawnee flower images, this one was taken with the 7D Mark II and 100mm macro lens. Twin-lite flash was used, and the settings for this one were f/16; 1/250; ISO 100.

I'll be back.

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