Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Black and Orange Butterfly

I saw this unidentified black, orange, and off-white butterfly at the same show as the last post:

A black, orange, and white butterfly sitting on a green leaf tip.
Black, orange, and white butterfly on a green leaf.

The slight motion blur of the wings and antennae make the butterfly come alive for me.

This image, like the last, was taken in available light at ISO 400, 1/80s, f/2.8.

Monday, September 28, 2009

[Howto] Using Canon WFT-E1 with Mac OS X 10.5

The Canon WFT-Ex/WFT-ExA range of products (currently E1..5) are wireless 802.11b/g transmitters that connect to Canon DSLRs and upload photos directly to an FTP server. There is also the option of connecting an Ethernet cable if you do not want or can not use a WLAN connection.

Each DSLR works with a different WFT product, so you will have to check which one is right for your camera. The WFT-E1 works with the 1D Mark II, 1D Mark II N, 1Ds Mark II, 5D, 20D, and 30D cameras, for example. The WFT-E1A is the North American version that only differs in the available WLAN channels from the rest of the world (WFT-E1).

You connect the WFT-E1 via either a Firewire (1D, 1Ds) or USB (5D) cable to the camera. Turn it on ... and nothing happens. It's actually a bit more work than that. ;-)

The following instructions will walk you through how to set up both a Mac with an Airport connector and the WFT-E1 so that you can transmit photos directly to your Mac. This is a useful setup if you want to be highly mobile. It is also possible to go through a WLAN access point, which is often better than connecting directly to the Mac, but that will be the subject of a follow-up post.

There is quite a bit of setup required to get things to work, but I believe it is well worth the effort. Let's get started!

Black and Yellow Butterfly

Earlier this year, I visited a show of tropical butterflies. It was cold outside and way too hot and humid inside. However, the water drops dripping about everywhere made for some really nice pictures with the colorful butterflies:

A black and yellow butterfly sits on a green leaf, just as a drop of water is about to fall.
Black and yellow butterfly on a green leaf.

Notice how the narrow depth of field draws your eyes to the eyes of the butterfly. I feel as though it will dip into the drop of water for a quick drink before taking off again.

Unfortunately, I did not take any notes and I can not find the name of this wonderful little critter.

For the technical minded: the picture was taken in available light at ISO 400, 1/80s, f/2.8. It would interest me to see how the image would look at f/4 or even f/8 with increased depth of field to include the butterfly wings ... next time. :-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fireworks over Church Tower - How to Photograph Fireworks

Freising is having it's 80th annual fall fair this year and the town celebrated the last day today with some spectacular fireworks:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Blue Fireworks over Church Tower."]Blue fireworks in the night sky over a church tower. [/caption]

In case you are wondering, it is actually quite easy to make this kind of photo if you know what you are doing:

  1. Set your camera on a tripod and use a cable release or a remote control (infra red remote, RadioPopper, PocketWizard, you name it) to trigger the exposure. I use a simple remote control cable.

  2. Turn off the auto-focus and manually focus the camera (usually to infinity). This is faster and more reliable than having the AF hunt the night sky.

  3. Crank up the ISO as far as you are willing to live with the noise. For example, on a Canon 5D, ISO 800 is great and ISO 1600 is acceptable. A Nikon D3X will go even higher, as will a Canon 5D mark II. A pocket digicam will probably struggle at ISO 400 and above. Experiment - preferably before the big event.

  4. Use manual exposure mode and open the aperture as wide as it will go.

  5. Still in manual exposure mode select a good exposure time. I find that between 1/125s and 1/8s works well.

  6. Expose at will and enjoy the show!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Green Fireworks over Church Tower."]Green fireworks in the night sky over a church tower. [/caption]

I usually use the camera screen to judge exposure. That is, I set the aperture wide open and shoot at whatever exposure time I have guessed. Usually 1/60s is a good place to start as any.

It is normal to see some blown highlights in the middle of the explosions and at the back of the rocket engines. Because of this the histogram and the blinkenlights are useless. Instead, ensure that the night sky is black and that the fireworks are clearly visible.

If the sky is too light, shorten exposure time and/or reduce the ISO. Similarly, if the fireworks are too dark, lengthen exposure time and/or increase the ISO.

Once I have set up the exposure correctly I point the camera at a likely section of sky and snap away. Since the exposure will not change, I only change it to get a different effect. There is no need to check every image.

In fact, I simply snap away until either the fireworks stop or I grow tired of taking pictures. It's a good idea to have some spare batteries and memory cards on hand ...

That's it. Have fun!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dragonfly Sunning on a Rock

Last weekend I came upon this dragonfly while walking along the Große Laine in Jachenau in the Alps.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Dragonfly Sunning itself on a Rock."]A dragonfly sitting on a warm rock, enjoying the heat of the sun. [/caption]

The dragonfly zoomed about over the water of the river for a while before landing on the face of a large boulder to spread its wings and enjoy the warm sunlight. I was able to get consecutively closer to take some pictures before a child popped up over the top of the rock, peering straight down at the dragonfly. This, of course, was a bit too much for the dragonfly, which took off.

I really love the comment of the child: "I guess it thought I was going to kill it." - Spot on, dear!