Monthly Archives: September 2013

Wide Field astrophotography

Been away on holidays and I took with me my Astrotrac to try to get some Wide Field Astrophotography shots.  As luck would have it the first night at Parkes in New South Wales the moon was the predominant feature in the sky.

Now Parkes has a very nice radio telescope which makes for a great backdrop for wide field photos.  So I ventured out with the vain hope that I could get a reasonable shot.  No such luck. The moon was out and nearly full  and there was some cloud around.  Still I took one shot of the radio telescope with the moon and clouds, which I quite like.



Then the next night was at Coonabarabran where there are a number of optical scopes one being near 4 metres.  Again it was a full moon night and the moon was up early so no nice shots at all, very frustrating.


Finally on the way home we stopped at Forbes, about 30kms south of Parkes.  That night despite having driven 600kms I thought I would try one more time for a wide field shot.  After setting up and waiting for night fall I finally got  a reasonable image.  This was taken in the town of Forbes and there is some flare from the town lights.  The trees are well lit because of lights in the caravan park.  The red streak top  middle is from an aircraft.



Then my son joined me and we took a few more.  After a while we decided that it was worth while driving to the radio telescope at Parkes, mainly because it is a dark spot 21kms away from town lights.  Now the stars were spectacular, no light flare, this is the result.


Hope you like this capture of our milky way,  the galaxy we reside in.



Working with smoke

For a long time I have meant to venture into trying out those wispy smoke images.  Well today, with a bit of spare time I thought it was time.  So it was down the street to buy some cheap incense and then out to the shed where the perfume would not bother anyone else.  Also it is darker out there so it is easier to get the images I was after.

It is simple and worth a go.  Set up the camera on a tripod, light the incense tune the flash to 1/64 power set the shutter speed for two seconds and go to it.  A black cloth for background provides a nice contrast.  I found if I nudged the incense stick just before firing the flash I could get some nice swirls.  Of course other techniques would produce their own particular patterns.  After capture I just inverted the image so that black and white were reversed, in fact it is now a negative.  I prefer the black on white however others may prefer the white on black.

Here are a sample of todays fun.  Hope you enjoy them.

_MG_0936 _MG_0942 _MG_0918 _MG_0905 _MG_0919

Extreme Macro work

I have a MPE 65 macro lens which if one is aware of they will know that it is capable of 5 times magnification.  However that does have some drawbacks.  The MPE 65 has no controls and a very shallow depth of field.  And I do mean no controls other than selecting the magnification one wants.  Focus is by moving the camera closer or further away.  No auto focus.  Aperture is still via the normal process.  The need to move the camera makes this lens a difficult beast to use.  One needs either a tripod and macro rail ( a neat tool where one can move the whole camera on a slider), or a very good flash and a steady hand.  Normally I would use the MTX 24 with this lens as it is optimised for it.  If using the flash one must go to 1/200th with synchronisation.


Despite these difficulties one can take shots that are not possible with any other lens, at least in my experience.  One can get just the eye of insects or indeed magnify one grain of rice so that it fills the entire viewfinder.  I have done the rice image but it is not very interesting.


Now some time ago I saw a shot taken with this lens of bubbles with the label of a beverage showing in the bubbles.  I have on numerous times tried to do the same, more so in an attempt to understand just what was required to get a half decent shot of such a tricky image.

Today I decided that I would have another attempt.  In the past I have used champagne, soft drink and beer bubbles all to no avail.  Today I decided to use a small amount of vinegar and Bi -Carb and let the water stand until the bubbles were a reasonable size, in this case about pin head size.  Why, because all other attempts resulted in too small a bubble and often the desire to finish my champagne overcame the desire to wait for larger bubbles.

The next consideration was placement and then light.  I first tried backlight through the window but that allowed to much of the world into the picture.  So I blanked the windows and lit the bottle with strip florescent.  Success.  the bottle was clear, the colours were ok and there was not much else to distract.  Then it was just down to adjusting focus using the macro rail, adjusting the glass and bottle until I had some bubbles where I could clearly see the label.


This is the resulting image, a bit christmasy but I have achieved what I wanted.  Hope you like it.  Oh and if you are wondering what the beverage is it is Moet Champagne,  not opened though, pity.  you can read part of the word in some of the bubbles.


Working towards the image one likes

We see many photos some truly superb some beautiful and of course some we don’t like,  a taste matter.  Despite this when we take a photograph we are trying to capture something that stirs an emotion in us.  If that emotion has been captured in a manner that conveys its meaning then one has something that others may admire.


So how does one go about this?  Well Edward Weston espoused the idea that the creative work of photography was no longer conducted in the darkroom but in the mind before taking the photograph,  pre-visualisation.  So one has pre visualised an image found the scene or topic and captured the image.  Now for some that will be just the start as post processing will be required to take the image further  to the pre visualised idea.


Today I wanted to do another photograph of some flowers picked from the roadside.  I had a certain look and feel in my mind.  So after arranging the flowers I took the first few photographs,  not that happy with them.  So it was time to adjust the light, include some flash and try again.  This involved many different angles, compositions and distances, looking for that image that I liked.  After thirty attempts I thought I had one that did something for me.


This image has been lit from underneath with a strip florescent light, light from above, window light from behind and a flash set at 1/32 power.  Now I just didn’t get there on one attempt, it required experimentation, changing composition, light angles and intensity.  However it satisfied my pre-visualisation. Post processing was minimal as the effort went into the pre photograph thinking and  photographic variation.  So it is important to do some pre visualisation, to have in ones mind the sort of image one is seeking before venturing out with the camera.


Hope you like the image and that my ramblings are of some use in your photography.

Another Floral arrangement

Not feeling inclined to go out today but still wanting to do photography I decided that I would try something I was thinking about after doing the last floral arrangement with the Pear blossoms.

So it was out to the garden and pick about a dozen flowers from a weed growing in one of my veg beds, (actually in fallow at the moment as I wait for a few seedings to grow).  Then it was arrange on a piece of white foam-core, again using random placement.

After a few shots from different distances and angles I decided that I liked this version, so it was a quick adjustment in Photoshop to the exposures etc and here it is.

Hope you like it.


Lake Corangamite

In Victoria to the west of Melbourne is a large lake called Corangamite.  It is Victoria’s largest lake and according to Wikipedia is hyper saline.  Which I guess means it has a lot of salt in it.  Today I took a drive to see what the lake looked like, never having been there before.

Well it was somewhat of a disappointment as it was dry for quite some distance from the shore.  Just flat grey mud that some one had driven on recently.  Not that I was going to do that even though I have a four wheel drive.  Just not wise when one is by oneself.

Here is one of the captures taken today.  Hope you enjoy the unrelieved boredom of the grey flat lake bed.






And a close up version of the car tracks.  A not so inviting lake!















A different take on a floral arrangement

Yesterday I thought I would try a different approach to taking high key photographs of botanicals.  Whilst this is not strictly high key any more and it is not backlit like all of my other high key botanicals it does provide for a different view and feel in the photograph.


I have taken a piece of foam board, white in this case and added in a white backdrop, a canvas paint board.  Into the foam board I have stuck a few pieces of blossoming ornamental pear and then.  After that it was just adjust for the light using a low flash setting and the natural light through the window.  Took about 20 shots and found only one that I halfway liked.

What appealed to me about this photo was the subtle refections of the stems in the white surface and the soft greys in the backgrounds, different from the very high key work I usually do.


What is lacking is the floral arrangement,  that is where my less developed artistic abilities fail me.  I rely more on randomness than the ability to arrange flowers for their maximum effect.


Hope you like it.