Wednesday, 22 December 2021 03:42

    Photograpy lessons from evening stroll through a nature reserve

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    Butterfly in yellow wildflowers
    The golden hours are usually used for landscape photography, but this field of yellow flowers became especially golden in the last light of dusk. I may be wrong, but this is possibly a "Golden Sun Moth". Located in Mulligan's Flat Reserve.

    When most people come home from work, they prepare dinner, maybe go through the usual conversation of "How was your day?" and then relax in front of the TV. I get it, it's a precious time where people can take some much need time to "switch off" mentally, and maybe consider how lucky we are not to be caught up in extraordinary real world events, or if fiction is your preference, over-dramatized stories of whatever show we're watching. However, Wren and I decided to get some fresh air and maybe a sneaky shot or two.

    We had a short drive to one of the local nature reserves, and we set about strolling along until we came to a fork in the road. I asked Wren which way, and she chose a path that basically followed the side of the road, and was apparently, a horse riding trail to boot. Honestly, I thought "Urgh, dodging horse manure and any wildlife is unlikely to be found where the nearby traffic pummeled water grates with repetitive loud bangs. I honestly didn't hold much hope out of getting anything decent. I didn't know the half of it.

    Walking along the chosen path. We saw some distant, difficult-to-identify birds through the foliage of multiple Eucalyptus trees, but they were not going to stick around for us to get a shot off. Even with me armed with a Canon 7D + 400mm prime (effective focal length, 640mm) and Renee, using her big Sigma 150-500mm zoom, which we call the "Bigma" on a 700D, effective focal length of 230-800mm) these are not small lenses, but could not get in range of the birds before they took flight. Also, because we're "mere mortals"  on a budget, my lens has a maximum aperture of F5.6, and the bigma F6.3 at the long end. That's not hugely bright, and the light was fading.

    Trying to take a shot was a wake up call!... My first camera, the 7D... was flat. It took about 6 shots, then the battery died completely. My second camera, a 5D with a much shorter 24-105mm lens had power, but no reach. Fortunately, the 5D and the 7D take the same batteries, so I swapped some batteries over. I could have swapped the lenses over, but the extra "reach" from the crop factor of the 7D would have been lost.

    Incidentally, I took a couple of shots with the 5D later.. and discovered that while it had power from it's second battery... there was no memory card in it! Talk about a double whammy failure of my own due diligence! I had no one to blame but myself. Sad fact is, that the cameras haven't had much use lately as I focus on other projects... and I just did a "grab and go" thinking my batteries would have charge from a shoot I did a month ago, and the memory cards would be still in there. In 95% of cases, I'd be right... just not this time.

    Here I was thinking that there were no opportunities to take photos because of the location, but when I found out that I was disorganized.... I told myself:  "It's ok, I probably won't see anything great anyway...."

    As the sun approached the horizon, we walked over a crest directly into a field of wild flowers and butterflies, beautifully lit by the last direct golden rays of sun. Ok, these butterflies/moths were fluttering from one flower to the next, the yellow flowers went a particularly golden hue, it was pretty, and I was literally warming my battery up to get get a little more power out of it.

    Using my 400mm lens to shoot insects... wasn't what I expected to be doing... and the minimum focal distance of the lens is somewhere around 3.5 METRES. Renee's bigma can focus on subject as close as 2.2m... so she had the ability to get closer, with a bigger zoom range, and longer focal distance which really gets "close", oh it also has optical image stabilization... which mine certainly did not have. The only disadvantage she had was the slightly slower F6.3 at the long end... and she had to carry the heavier lens... which was no problem.

    We took a few shots, and the one above is one of mine. We walked a little further before turning back, and saw some wallabies, a kangaroo or two in the distance, Wren may have gotten some shots of a wallaby... but the light was getting pretty dim amongst the shade of the trees.

    So what did I learn?

    1. Never assume your gear is in a ready state. I should know this by now. I blame the impromptu "let's go" on my lack of equipment testing.

    2. It's only due to the fact that my cameras each have a battery grip, each grip allows the use of a second battery, and that the batteries are interchangeable between my two camera models, that I got as far as I did. If I took one camera, I'd have either had no power, or no memory card. So I'm pretty lucky that I could get this shot.

    3. Things never go as planned. That can be a good thing, as well as a bad one. I was pleasantly surprised by the field of flowers and moths/butterflies. However, there were some obstacles to overcome to get a shot (minimum focal distance, power restrictions, fading light, slow-ish lens, lack of image stabilization, lack of ability to blur the background, and slight breeze causing motion blur). I wouldn't normally shoot butterflies using a telephoto lens, but in this case, it worked well, purely because of the distances involved, and the last direct sunlight of the day was just enough to get me into a "workable" situation. If I had turned up 10 minutes later... it would've been too late.

    Now things went wrong, but I consider the trip a success, and I consider myself fortunate to have had a way to get by. Obviously, these issues were avoidable, and I'll keep that in mind. I also know where a field of wildflowers and insects are. Sometimes, it takes "getting out and about" to truly appreciate the natural beauty, and/or whatever else we have in our local area.

    I hope this inspires you to take more photos in your area.

    As always, I hope you're all well! Take care out there. Merry Christmas (or other holiday/reason to celebrate at this time of year) and all the best for 2022.


    Read 133 times Last modified on Wednesday, 02 February 2022 10:14

    Wayward Ham

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