Focus on your subject


During my daily walk around my garden with the trusty camera gripped firmly in my hand, I will normally focus on the flowers that are now happily growing in this beautiful sunshine. Occasionally a bee or butterfly will fly into the shot and the result is always unsatisfactory. Of course the reason for this is that I am not focusing on bugs but the flora, the camera being set to aperture priority with the lens opened wide to reduce the depth of field allowing my background to bokeh properly. Not sure if bokeh is a verb as I only learnt that word or synonym recently and I haven’t spent any time researching the word but get the gist.Anyway back to the point….One morning last week I was doing my normal patrol and noticed that the bees were taking special interest in some very large self seeded pink poppies by the well. I need a challenge and decided there and then to get my first proper bee shot.

The time is 9:31 AM, the light is fairly low and casting a heavy shadow with a 4:1 ratio from highlight to shadow. Time to decide on equipment. A light meter and strobe for sure but which lens? I only have two lenses, a wide angled zoom, Nikkor 18-35mm, and my portrait lens,a Sigma 28-300mm. To get the close up of the bee it will be important to get the sharpest lens being the Nikkor which means me getting in close and personal with the happy bees. As bee stings and I disagree and having been chased across a field last year by a bunch of the little chaps wanting to swarm I decided on the Sigma for reasons of health and safety. Chicken I know and already making the job a little harder. No tripod for the camera as I wanted mobility but a stand for the strobe with a new gadget I just bought to mount it. Now I just need a little more light on my subjects and time solves that along with the strobe.

Time 10:30, all set up. Strobe is directed on opposing side to the sun to balance the light ratio back to 2:1. I will need a high shutter speed to capture the bees in flight. The light meter shows me that I will need to set the camera to 400 ISO to get my preferred 1/250th sec and an aperture of F13. Steady light with few clouds so manual settings for the camera. Set the strobe to F8, observe my meter and a half perimeter around the subject to satisfy the focal length of the lens, and away we go.

The images were then processed using CS5 Raw editor. The new sharpness tools were a great help. In most of the images I had to extend the lens to it’s fullest extent, 300 mm, and this leads to a drop in the overall sharpness in the lens quality. Also shooting at 400 ISO will obviously result in more noise that you should have for a macro shot. Both problems fixed using this new tool very effectively. Minor adjustments to clarity, levels and vibrancy and here are the results. Let me know how I did.

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