Archive for macro photography

Inspirations – Budding 2 by Katarina Fagerstrom Levring

Posted in Inspirations with tags , , , , on November 2, 2011 by sabrina

© Katarina Fagerstrom Levring

1/100 sec., f/0.0, ISO 160, shutter prio, spot metering mode
Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Lensbaby Composer (50 mm) with  double glass optics and macro filters

Using flowers as my main motif and creating abstractions of them has made me realize that I had totally missed out on how sensual they could be. That is before I used the camera as my first creative tool of choice. During the time I have worked this way it has shown that I seem to have a natural talent to make the most out of this special trait in their personalities. I do see each flower as a personality, most often a female and as I spend sometimes several months with each species (the Iris for example) I’ve also learned that there is so much more to discover than what first meets the eye, with each flower. A budding tulip reminded me of how vulnerable one can be in the beginning of say a relationship, with a partner, emotionally and sexually or for that matter, the vulnerability in a beginning artist, hoping to flourish in her medium. ~ Katarina Fagerstrom Levring


Fall in the Canadian Rockies Photo Tour Results – Alan Ernst

Posted in Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2011 by Darwin

©Alan Ernst

Bog Birch Branch

Lumix GH2 with Olympus 50mm/f2 macro lens at f 5.6, 1/15 sec, +2/3 EV, ISO 160

Waiting for a sunrise at upper Waterfowl Lake, I wandered off into a meadow. Mist coming off the lake on this frosty morning made for great close-ups of hoare frost covered vegetation. The colourful leaves of miniature birch shrubs caught attracted me but I had to search for a while to find a branch which had a good mix of colour and could be isolated from its surroundings / background without too much clutter. Once I found a suitable twig, I focused on one leaf and then ran a whole series of shots at different apertures to see the difference in depth of field. The exposures at f4 and f 5.6 turned out to be the best with sufficient selective focus while still keeping the background out of focus completely.

©Alan Ernst

Driftwood in the golden light

Lumix GH1 with 100-300mm Lumix lens at 280mm (35mm equiv. of 560mm) at f8, 1/60 sec, +1/3 EV, ISO 320

On our very first morning shoot at Whitegoat Lakes, participants had packed up and were waiting for the rest of the group to return to our vehicles. Sunrise was over, the clouds were turning white and grey, the reflections on the pond were gone. Time to pack up? Maybe not! When photographing in a group, some people will always be done sooner than others and then sit or stand around, waiting for the rest of participants to wrap up. In these situations, I always continue to scan my surroundings looking for worthwhile subjects.

I had noticed a kaleidoscope of colours on the pond caused by the reflection of warm early morning light on Mt. Stelfox when the bobbing driftwood caught my eye. I knew the moving wood in the water would be problematic in this relatively low light and did not want to step up the sensitivity too much (four thirds sensors are not much good above ISO 400), so set the drive to continuous and rattled off a few shots in succession to hopefully capture the driftwood when movement was minimal. One shot turned out to be sharp.

©Alan Ernst

 Mistaya Canyon

Lumix GH2 with Olympus 11-22mm lens at 14mm at f8, ¼ sec, + 1/3 EV, ISO 160 Polariser and 2 stop hard edge ND

In overcast weather we often venture to canyons and waterfalls or into forests, to take advantage of the diffuse light. Mistaya Canyon never disappoints, with many interesting angles, layered rocks and moving water. At this spot, shooting into the canyon upstream, instead of a solid ND, I used a 2 stop hard edge ND in reverse and at an angle, to darken the foreground and white water, while capturing more detail in the dark of the canyon. Although I bracketed for an HDR image, I found to my surprise that the filters applied were sufficient to even out the contrast to use a single exposure with only a small amount of shadow / highlight adjustment.

©Alan Ernst

  Mount Wilson Spires

Lumix GH1 with 100-300mm Lumix lens at 100mm (35mm equiv. of 200mm), at f8, 1/200 sec, +1/3 EV, ISO 125

When passing Mt. Wilson in the afternoon or evening I always crane my neck to look at the jagged peaks towering almost vertically above the Icefields Parkway. Most people drive right by as they cannot be seen until you look straight up. I have many great images of these turrets in all kinds of moody or warm light, shrouded in mist, covered in snow or ice, etc. On this occasion, stopping a little further along the Hwy, I noticed the almost perfect repetition of outlines of the lower and upper mountainsides, something I had never observed before. We were running late for our sunrise shoot but decided to stop anyway for a quick grab shot from the road.

©Alan Ernst

Nigel’s Navel

Lumix GH1 with 100-300mm Lumix lens at 240mm (35mm equiv. of 460mm), at f8, 1/800 sec, + 1/3 EV, ISO 125

Returning from our photo hike to snowy Wilcox Pass, the early afternoon light was still very intense and not overly suitable for overall landscapes. However, the fresh snow which made walking a little challenging by intermittently turning the steep trail to ice, slush or mud, also covered the rocky slopes of Wilcox Ridge and Nigel Peak, making for very contrasty patterns of rock and snow. I managed to get some good landscape extractions but my favourite one turned out to be these amazing folded rocks on the flanks of Nigel Peak, which beat any fault formations I have seen before. I have walked this trail half a dozen times but never noticed it before.

©Alan Ernst

Windy Point Sunrise

Lumix GH2 with Olympus 11-22mm lens at 12mm (35mm equiv. of 24mm), at f9, 1/2 sec, ISO 160, 3 stop hard edge grad

Usually we reserve sunrises like these for our November tours, when the likelihood for blazing colours is fairly good. However, it takes a number of factors to provide this kind of light and they generally will only occur 10-15 % of the time between end of September and early April . Our fall tour participants were treated to three very good sunrises in six days and were lucky indeed. The wind was fierce on this morning however, ripping along the lake and around Windy Point. I only managed to get two or three shots from this elevated location, when filters flew out of my hand and my backpack rolled down the hill. I could hardly hang on to my tripod and had to retreat to a lower viewpoint which was far less impressive but also, much less windy…

The regular November tour out of Aurum Lodge sold out a year ago but if anyone is interested, an additional tour has just been added to this year’s schedule, which runs from late afternoon on Wed. Nov. 16th to mid day on Sun. Nov. 20th. Four nights, single occupancy, C$ 1,359 all-inclusive – contact Alan at to reserve your spot.

Photographer of the Month – Xavier Nuez

Posted in Photographer of the Month with tags , , , , on September 19, 2011 by sabrina

© Xavier Nuez

This month I’m excited to share the work of artist and photographer Xavier Nuez. Born in Montreal and now living in Chicago, Xavier’s work has been featured in both galleries and museums and is included in numerous corporate, public and private collections.

Darwin:  I notice that many of what I consider the best photographers are also musicians or musically inclined and that these photographers have some of the most evocative visual compositions. What is it about music and photography that gel so well?

Xavier: I’ve never considered the relationship between my music and my photography, so this is a new puzzle. There is something very meditative about the two, both in the production of the art and also in the appreciation afterward. When I’m shooting or playing music I can focus so intensely that nothing else exists, while I find it hard to concentrate most any other time!

They both seem to be art forms that require both left and right brain. In both cases you are channeling emotion through a mechanical instrument, an instrument that requires years and years of practice to master. And I must say here that I’m hardly a master with my guitar. I play just well enough to enjoy myself. There has always been a different level of passion and dedication to perfection with my photography.

It requires patience to master any instrument, and while I think most people understand that to be true with a musical instrument – that it takes years and years to develop the muscle memory and dexterity – I think most people underestimate the commitment required to master the technical skills required in photography, which includes not just the camera but the lighting equipment.  So I guess another relationship is patience.

Lastly, creativity and expression are muscles that need to be exercised for you to be a good artist. Musical and visual art are just different muscles, and I do believe there are intangible benefits to my images, having more than one creative outlet.

Darwin: Besides being a fine photographer and musician, you do things like glaze and paint china and then make stunning detailed macro images of your work. I love the fact that you create art and then make additional art by photographing your first creation. What other art forms do you practice?

Xavier: Funny you should ask! For 15 years I was an avid sketch artist (mainly pencil) and occasional painter, but this passion has waned. Coincidently last week I bought a sketch pad because I miss drawing.

And for some years in my teens and twenty’s I loved writing short stories. I still enjoy writing but I haven’t written fiction in years.

I’ve always loved improv comedy and for a couple of years I studied with a group in Toronto. I wish this had been a bigger part of my life because it’s clear to me that through improv you smash down so many barriers to self expression.

Darwin: Your alleyway work is mind-blowing! What is the worst thing that has happened to you while making your forays in the dark and dangerous heart of the city? And what is the best thing that has happened to you while making alleyway photos?

Xavier: Well thank you very much! When I look at this series, it’s a little hard to believe how often I’ve put my life on the line. But the older I get the more cautious I become.

I just got back from Saint Louis where I just added a new image to the series. I spent hours during the day roaming through rundown areas, looking for something to shoot later at night. I had a long list of prospects, but I kept wondering if I should hire a cop for some of these – something I’ve never done. In the end I didn’t, but I did bring several friends with me, unlike just one the way I usually do.

I’ve had many heart-pumping moments, and I’ve come close to becoming a casualty too many times, but the worst and best story has to come from Compton, CA. First, its Compton – made famous by the dueling gangs, the Bloods and the Crips. While in the middle of a shoot, a gang – 12 guys in black hoodies – chase me and my 2 friends back to my van. We have time to throw the gear in and lock the doors but then the gang surrounds the van and tells us to get out. It’s surprising how organized they were – they were literally standing all around the van. I get the impression that if I try to leave, bullets will fly. Also, and this shows you how truly insane I can be, I’m holding out for the slim chance of actually going back to re-do the shot I was working on!!

It’s a Latino gang and I speak Spanish so I lower the window a crack and try to explain what I’m doing, emphasizing that I meant no disrespect. We have a tense conversation for several minutes, until the gang leader (the only one without a hoodie) asks me if I’m Luis, the friend of a friend. I say, “Yes! Of course I am!” He then starts waving to the gang saying, “I know this guy! He’s cool he’s cool!”

In an instant I go from being a target to being part of the family – it was just a mind-blowing turn of events. I step out of the van and half the gang hugs me. They tell me I can go back to taking pictures, and that I’m safe within certain streets – I’m beyond thrilled that I can return to my photograph. Several of the gang members including Jorge, the leader, decide to hang out with us and I set up again for the earlier photo.

Ten minutes later a cop car appears around the corner skidding to a halt. Two cops jump out with laser guided hand guns and because I’ve jumped in front of the camera to protect the shot, I find myself staring at a vibrating red dot on my chest.

A minute later, we’re all standing with our hands on the hood of the cop car. I’m waiting for the cops to relax before starting to explain what I’m doing, but Jorge jumps in and says “Do you officers know lieutenant Menendez? He’s a friend of mine.” The cops turn white and wide-eyed. They stare at each other and quickly return to their car, saying “We’re sorry we thought something was going on here. Have a nice day.” They get in the car and drive away and we never see them again. This gang has been paying off the lieutenant and you don’t mess with his revenue stream.

Jorge then comes up to me and says, “You’re not Luis, are you.” I say, no, I’m not, and we both laugh. I ended up getting 2 of my best shots that night.

Darwin: You make fine art images and you do assignment work, which do your prefer or do you like both for different reasons?

Xavier: Assignment work was 90% of my income for 20 years. I haven’t done a commercial gig in a long time – I’m not opposed to it but my art keeps me very busy. I’m thrilled that I can thrive by creating the images I’m truly passionate about. It’s no longer something I have to squeeze in at the end of the day.

I enjoyed being a commercial photographer – being paid to create photographs was a dream come true. Shooting architectural interiors for magazines and interior designers was the bulk of my work, with fashion, industrial and product filling in the rest.

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

© Xavier Nuez

Inspirations – Cactus Spikes by Hamish Roots

Posted in Inspirations with tags , on September 18, 2011 by sabrina

© Hamish Roots

I would love to say I was crawling on my belly surrounded by thorny cacti in an arid landscape, dominated by towering pillars and arches of wind-carved stone, lit by the after-glow of a falling sun over the horizon…but sadly no, this image was made in Bristol (UK) on a brief trip to a local flower shop to pick up a gift for a friend. I spied this cactus on a table and was drawn to its soft spherical shape contrasting wonderfully with the sharp spikes jutting out of its surface, the diffused light from a skylight provided just enough illumination to pick out the details.

By chance I had my camera with me at the time (I was returning from photographing some woods near by), I used a shallow depth of field to accentuate just a small number of the spikes whilst still retaining the shape of the cactus body throughout the image. As much as a graphic image of shapes and forms coming in and out of focus, it also reminds me to be aware of my surroundings and details within it – regardless of whether I’m knee-deep in snow ‘somewhere’ within the Arctic Circle or standing on a street corner in Hong Kong. I had no idea what I would find when I went to the shop but I’m glad I had my camera with me! ~ Hamish Roots

Nordegg Mine Tour and Icefield Walk Results – Sonia Wadsworth

Posted in Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2011 by Darwin

On August 19-22, I co-hosted a photography outing with Mark and Leslie Degner, Royce Howland, Samantha Chrysanthou and Alan Ernst to the Brazeau Colleries in Nordegg, Alberta and to the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park. On the tour were six keen photographers that will share their favorite ‘take’ from the outing. Below are Sonia Wadsworth’s images.

©Sonia Wadsworth

©Sonia Wadsworth

©Sonia Wadsworth

©Sonia Wadsworth

©Sonia Wadsworth

©Sonia Wadsworth

This Week’s Photo Contest Winner

Posted in Monthly Photo Contest with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2011 by Darwin

Go over the The How To Photograph the Canadian Rockies website to see this week,s winner of the Canadian Rockies Photo Contest! Be sure to enter your photos in the Canadian Rockies Flickr Group to be eligible for the prizes.

The Weekly Photo – July 11, 2011

Posted in TCBlog, VWBlog, Weekly Photo with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2011 by Darwin

The images below are of Abraham Lake in spring — looks inviting doesn’t it? Let’s go to the beach and go swimming. How about a canoe ride?

If you visit Abraham Lake in Alberta in May or June you’ll mostly see a baked mud flat. If you want big turquoise waters then come in September when the golden falls colours contrast well with the blue-green basin full of water. But in spring the cracked earth makes for some cool photos. Abraham has many faces from the ice bubbles of winter through mud-flats of spring to pristine-looking mountain lake in the late summer and fall.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett