Friday, May 26, 2017

I want to see his hairy butt! TWSS, or extension tubes

There's going to be some camera jargon on today's blog, but if you're not a camera nerd you can skip that and dance from pretty picture to pretty picture.

To set the scene.
Once upon a time we rescued some hens and chicks from a neighbour that had torn up their garden. They did ok in our front, gradually getting buried. Then a few years ago Linda reorganized, and the hens and chicks ended up just beside the driveway, under the protection of the dread Alberta Rose. It's been doing pretty well.

The first good lens I bought was the Canon 100 mm F2.8L macro, and it's my go to lens for flower photos. I've had some stunning shots come out of it, showing me detail I'd never known existed. That got me hooked, and I wanted more. MORE! There is a specialty macro camera lens that will magnify 5 x. It's expensive just by itself, and buying that essentially commits you to buying macro rails to mount your camera on, a really sturdy tripod to mount the macro rails on, and some lighting. You'd need to budget about $2000 for all that, at least, depending on exactly what quality of rails you got.

Emphasis throughout all this is on sturdy. Even with my macro lens, the slightest movement of the subject or the camera will likely ruin the shot. The tolerances only get tighter as the magnification goes up.

I bought 3 extension tubes, since they come in a bundle. It includes 12 mm, 20 mm, and 56 mm, and they can be grouped together any way you like. These particular ones are by Kenko, and Jill at the Camera Store was happy to help get them, and discuss all the above related equipment with me.

My thinking at first was to mount the camera on the tripod, set up so I could add the various tubes and see what the effect was, without moving the camera. That didn't quite work out. Adding the extension tubes changes how your camera focuses, mainly by having to be between some fairly tight distances from the subject, and the range is really close to the subject.

Unless I say otherwise I have NOT cropped the photos to make it look closer. For my camera that's 6000x4000 px. Except for the last 4, these are pretty much the way they came out of the camera, with no sharpening or Lightroom tricks to make them look better.

Here's the first shot, just the 100 mm by itself. The sensor is about 67 cm from the focus point, and there's about 17 cm of lens and camera in front of that. I took the hood off the lens so as to get as much light on the sensor as possible. I can get quite a bit closer if I was doing a close up. The focus point is right near the centre of the big central flower. Even here you can see depth of field rendering the far flowers out of focus.


Just to give you a bit of perspective, the same grouping from a little later, shot from a slightly different angle, and slightly further away. As you see the later photos when you scroll down, keep in mind how small that central area is.

Adding a 12 mm tube doesn't change much. Still on the tripod, same position as the first photo.

The 20 mm tube, still on the tripod.

Then the 36 mm tube, but I had to move the tripod. There is no way it would focus that far away from the subject. The sensor ended up being about 40 cm from the subject. That means the front of the lens was about 19 cm (about 8 inches) from the plant, and that's the furthest away it would focus, and just barely. If I try this again, maybe I'll start with all the tubes on and take them off one by one.

Then of course, I had to try them all together, and had to move the tripod again. This was starting to get tricky, keeping the camera setup from shading the plant. Up till now I hadn't missed any shots. All were in focus, within the limits of depth of field. But that gets smaller as the magnification goes up. My camera was hunting for focus, shifting from place to place.

I messed up a bunch of shots trying to get in as close as I could. Mainly it was lighting, finding the right settings to get the exposure right. Once there I did an HDR shot, trying to get some detail in that hairy central patch. This has had my 'normal' tweaks, but isn't cropped. From the top of the image to the bottom of the image is about a cm in real life. Enjoy.

Some others, just for fun, shot with the 36 mm tube. This little flower is 5 mm (.196 of an inch) across. I can barely see the spots of orange with my eyes. This one is cropped, and has my normal processing.

In fact, because why not, here's that same flower without any crop at all.

I hadn't known ants had hairy butts. The peony bud it's on is about 1 cm across. This one is cropped. I'd told one of my buddies about this, and she got all excited. Maybe I'd worded the telling in a suggestive way.

Learnings so far:

  • Everything has to be absolutely still, even with settings tweaked so you have a fairly fast shutter speed. On the tripod I could get away with ISO 100, but those last three shots are hand held using ISO 1600 to get the shutter speed up. 
  • Lots of light. I was shooting at noon in direct sunlight for most of this. 
  • Focus is tricky, getting the camera in the sweet spot so it will focus. It's almost certainly much closer than what you've ever done before. Go with manual focus on the tripod is your only chance to compose the photo. Hand-held is spray and pray, hoping that something in the frame will be in focus.
  • Depth of field is a real issue. You can see in the above photos that the plane of focus is very thin, perhaps only a few mm with all the tubes on.
  • The detail you can get is amazing!
  • Be prepared to delete lots of shots. Of the 109 I took, I deleted 25 out of hand on the first pass through.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

See what I mean?

Last weekend was summer. Today is fall. The weekend was as beautiful as summer gets here, and the wise Calgarians were out enjoying it. Today we get a weather statement. Wind gusts to 100 KpH, rain mixed with snow. One of my Facebook buddies says it's snowing heavy and fluffy in a north central Calgary neighbourhood. Here we're getting heavy rain, with bits of snow.

Friday my buddy Sean texted me and asked if I wanted to join him on a photo walk in Big Hill Springs park. Neither of us had been, and we had a lovely walk, with lots of photos of pretty little waterfalls. You can see some of mine here, if you missed them yesterday. You can see his if you follow the link on his name.

Afterward we still had lots of time before my tentative plans for an open water swim, so we decided to go over to Glenbow Ranch, one of his favourite spots. I'd never been and was curious about where it was. We took a short walk, and I'll have to go back for some longer ones. Here's some photos from there. As always, they are in whatever order Blogger puts them.


I'd known you could see the Calgary skyline from all sorts of places, but this was a surprise to me. You drive down quite a ways to get there.

This isn't Morant's Curve by any stretch, but it might be a good place to wait for an eastbound train.

At first I thought someone had painted cave art animals on the clay face of the hill, but no, when you look at it closely it's vegetation.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Celina tormented his soul, poor guy

Our cats have a thing going on. Yours do too, the only question is if you know it or not.

Technically Curtis is only supposed to eat this hypoallergenic food. The theory was that the paw grunge was caused by an allergic reaction. Now that he's eating this hypoallergenic food it hasn't happened again. Beats steroid shots.

Celina really likes the Acana brand crunchies and is only marginally fond of the other ones. Curtis has never met a crunchy he doesn't like, and will help Celina with hers. Normally we try to separate them, and make them eat at least some of their wet food before they get the crunchies. Yes, they prefer crunchies to the wet food, and its good stuff. I think I'd eat it. Lately Celina hasn't been eating her food while separated. She waits, howling at the door while Curtis gobbles his down. Yes, the noises are disgusting.

Then when we let Celina out she begs for her food. We finally figured out that she likes to eat it in front of Curtis, and she knows we will defend her as she pauses to breathe while she eats. We'd like her to be a bit of a bigger eater since she's so tiny. Today I was trying to hang onto Curtis on my des as she crunched away, looking up at him between bites. She licked her paw a couple of times, then went back to the food. Meanwhile, poor Curtis is going nuts.

Look at this photo. Who would think such a sweet kitty would have such malice in her heart?


Here's some of the shots of the little creek at Big Hill Springs park. It was very pretty, and I played with different settings to get different water effects.








Monday, May 22, 2017

Busy day!

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park. There are photos. I haven't had time to go through and edit them.
Glenbow Ranch. You get one photo. Sorry. Loved both, will return another time, more later from both. Stay tuned.

This is the view not far from the parking lot.


The open water swim didn't happen, though not from any shortage of efforts from BRBE. Another time.

Today I consummated the sale of a framed photo on canvas. Yay me!

The garden continues to explode. I've been doing a series of photos of one particular Allium. Linda calls me a stalker, chasing the poor helpless thing. Helpless my ass, it looks like the face hugger alien about to explode from a body. Once it's done than I'll post the series of photos.

The first wine kit of the season is bottled! More yay me!

Yet another pretty flower. This was great for practicing a delicate touch on the Lightroom controls to keep it looking right in the morning light.


Another 4 day weekend gone in a blur, maybe faster than expected because I was outside and busy for so much of it. We have to do that, enjoy summer when it's here. It might not be here next week. What was that weather advisory again?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Celina. And more flowers

Celina is quite a pretty cat, but she's a harder photograph than Curtis. She blends in to more of the backgrounds, and unless she's asleep, doesn't really sit still for me. But here you are anyways. It's only after I edited the photo that I noticed the giant thumb.


Lots of photos of the garden of course. I was thinking, after taking the photos of course, that I should have misted them with a bit of water, and then taken the photo. Maybe next time. Live and learn. Stay tuned.




Ants on the peonies are pretty reliable, and they hold still. I've been reading up on extension tubes to get more magnification. One day soon you'll see me out there the tripod, giving the peonies the giant photographic eyeball, using them as background in order to capture ants. If anyone wants in on the ant-ly action, let me know and I'll make lots of coffee.

One of my buddies is almost obsessed with photos of a flower blossom backlit by the sun, showing the delicate tracery of flower blossom stuff. The top of this tulip is strongly lit by the evening sun, and the bottom was in shade. The whole thing glowed like hot glass fresh from the kiln. Not overexposed or oversaturated, just a beautiful strong orange. I wanted to see if I could get that same effect to show up in a photo. I think this gets a passing grade, but still needs work.

This is one of the shots that happened without thinking. I was on my way somewhere else when I looked down, and loved the almost metallic sheet of the purple, and the twisted blossom shape. Click. Next. The trick was to edit to keep that shade, and not overdo it.

With the abstracts, it's not only easy, it's desirable to push the colour, push the sharpening, push everything. Nobody knows what it really is, so they can't say that looks wrong. All they can do is react to the colours, lines, shapes, and feel what the image says.

Flowers are a little tougher. There's the delicate nature of the leaves or blossoms. Plus most of us know what an orange tulip, or a red rose, or a yellow daffodil looks like, and if you push the photo too far it won't look real. It's easy to tweak it to turn a red to orange or vice versa, and much of the time nobody would know. Depending on the plant and variety, both could be natural colours.

Speaking earlier of unnatural colours, here's one of my recent abstracts.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Be you a ladybug, or be you a lily beetle?

Everybody knows what a ladybug looks like. Red carapace, black spots. They are a great addition to the garden, chowing down on aphids. Not so many know what a lily beetle looks like. The adults have a bright red carapace as well, but no spots. The larva form look like little slugs are are disgusting, doing tremendous damage to lilies. The adults are no slouch in the damage department.

We noticed the lily beetles last year, and struggled all year long with them. This year we got onto them early, and have been killing them on sight. They're tough little things, you have to press quite hard to hear and feel them go crunch. It's very satisfying. I don't think I've killed any ladybugs along the way. They don't seem to like tea tree oil, so I've been spraying the lilies with a dilute solution of it almost every day.

Some gardeners have had to give up on having lilies entirely, which is sad. We love lilies, and are willing to struggle to keep them. You may confidently look forward to many photos of lilies a bit later in the year. So far they are all small, but growing fast. No buds yet.

More garden photos for you.







In other news, BRBE and I rand down at the south end of Fish Creek, south of 22X and on the west side of the river, then up almost to the big bridge over the Bow near the treatment plant. 12 K, 1:33 for a 7:45 pace overall. We stopped for a bio break just after 8 K, and I never really got back in the groove. At 10 K my hip flexors were talking to me so I turned around, and 12 K was close to the car. Michelle's plan had her running a few minutes more so I stretched, walked, and hung out in the shade watching all the activity.



Before and after the run we tried to visit the owls, but they weren't home. It was a lovely day for a run! Sunny and warm but not too hot, with a nice breeze off the river. Pity every run couldn't be like this, but then we'd get soft and spoiled.

Friday, May 19, 2017

I shot Bambi in Fish Creek!

With the camera. Sheesh guys, what were you thinking?


I was out for a lovely ride on Estela down in Fish Creek park. She's really too much bike for the bike paths, but I wanted to get her off the trainer and out in the fresh air. She's a happy bike now. Well, except for the sticky chain that needs to be cleaned. We won't get into the text conversation about that.

Just near bridge one I startled Bambi grazing about 10 feet off the path. By the time I got the camera out of the bag and turned on the distance had grown a bit, but that's why they make zoom lenses.

The ride took me only as far as bridge 4, and some time along the top of the ridge. The park is green everywhere, and the river is running high and fast. Here's a few more photos for you to get your green fix. Yes, Terry, I waved in the general direction of your house during the ride.




That last one might be a nice place for runners to do stairs. Not like the insane stairs at the curling club, or Winter Club, or North Glenmore park.

The ride was only 15 K or so, over about an hour and a half. Not a record pace, shall we say? Then again, I wasn't trying for it. This was a nice ride with lots of stops for photos. I was invited on a 90 K ride on Sunday, and I turned it down. I'd be dropped SO FAST! Just not ready for that. Maybe next year.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

First bee photo of the year

The trees in the back are in full blossom. There's been a few bees around but I think they know it's early yet. Still, one was sniffing around what I think is the cherry tree, and I managed to get a good shot of it. I'm not as close as I'd like to be, but there will be all summer for that. Stay tuned.


It's the beginning of another 4 day weekend for both of us, which is pretty rare. There is much gardening planned. Linda just got a box of more lilies, and has been contemplating where to put them. Plus 4 more peonies. And a bunch of bedding out plants that I think will mostly go in the lodge window boxes and the various planter pots.

I want to get a layer of stain along the top of the fence to keep the worst of the weather off. This should be interesting. I was up there pressure washing it last weekend. If it was going to be visible I might go back and do a better job on parts of it, but nobody will ever see it.

If I could count on this Alleum blossom holding still, I'd love to time lapse it. You can see it's just on the verge of exploding. Stay tuned.


I think Linda's work has finally had it sink in that she will be out of there very soon. It's getting frantic. I suspect she's going to collapse in a heap for the first few days of retirement. My work contract is well in hand. I'm waiting for other people to do some stuff, then I'll be busy, then I'll be done. There are some preliminary discussions about involving me in another related project later this year, but we'll see how that pans out.

The swim has been sort of sucky the last month or so. I'm not sure why. Cranky shoulders, maybe in sympathy with the cranky hams. Or maybe it's the hip bone connected to the thigh bone thing. But where a slow 500 m has been about it for the last little while, I was about 600 m in before I noticed, and finished off 1000 m in 18:50, and that's with a parachute pants floatie holding me up while he tried to decide if he was going to stand in my way in the lane, or go somewhere else. He went elsewhere. Then it was 500 m backstroke. All that was after a 20 minute water run in the dive tank. All in all a great way to start the day. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not sure what it is, but it's pretty

A new flower showed up today. We're not sure what it's called. I love the ruffled orange centre.


That one is just out of frame on the right in this photo.

Another yellow tulip opening up. I almost love this stage for photography more than the fully open stage. Here you get a hint of a peek at the centre, and there are layers of texture right where you can see them and get lots in focus.


In other news the war on the lily beetles is continuing. I've been spraying a dilute tea tree oil on the lilies and it seems to be working. We don't see many anymore, but we keep hunting them. It's very satisfying to crush their little carapaces with a splintering crunch. I think the ants take away the remains. Pity the ants don't take on the beetles while they're alive.

It's still cold here. All the bedding out plants are safely tucked away. All the geraniums froze to death a few nights ago. They say it might snow overnight. Such is springtime in Alberta.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Similar, but not the same, maybe IOTM preview

Here's some tree buds from about a week ago. Just because.



There had been some similar to this, not quite so far along. They are starting to burst out, but it's been cool and cloudy here, so maybe that's slowing them down.

This one sort of reminds me of the Martian death machines from War of the Worlds. I refer of course, to the 1953 classic, not the 2005 travesty with Tom Cruise.

Lastly, a perennial blog favourite, Curtis!

He had been lying beside me on the desk, lounging as only he can. Every time I reached for the camera to capture this, he perked up and looked at me. Of course he expected me to be petting him, that's why he's lying there and what a stupid human I am not to have grasped this basic fact.

While I was editing that shot and getting the light balanced, I realized he had been holding really still, and the camera caught a good look at his eye. Look at the refection of the window, and the neat bits of cat eye anatomy. This is likely the best photo of a cat eye you will see this year, well worth embiggening, so enjoy.


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