The Birds and The Bees, The Flowers and The Trees
The Joys Of Wildlife And Nature Photography
Since I got hooked on photography, my camera and I are rarely separated, especially when on any visits, excursions or holidays. I'm at that stage of sheer photo devotion and quite likely to make the odd rash decision about whether to buy this gadget or that lens, whether I need it or not.
But when one has a love as deep as this, aren't we allowed to indulge ourselves just a little? Of course we are. In 2010, I bought my first digital SLR camera, a Nikon D90 and two lenses. The next year, I added another two lenses, a flash unit and various accessories - oh yes, accessories in photography are too numerous to mention. Then in 2012, I hunted down three little devices called Pocket Wizards, I'll tell you what they are for later.
Armed with my camera bag of tricks, and of course a sturdy tripod, I'm ready to show you in more detail my world of nature photography, so let's go and see the birds and bees, and flowers and trees.
Created on 9 March 2013
All Photos are © Rob Hemphill
A Photographer's Roving Eye
Any camera enthusiast will tell you that they soon developed and eye for detail. Rather than hurriedly taking a shot, they'll scout around the location for the best angle, best light and ultimately the best composition for the picture.
On any walk or drive around, I find I'm always looking for that next good shot or location or sunset. In fact, ones eye becomes so fine-tuned, that a walk with anyone uninterested in taking photos, turns into a snails-pace meander and inevitable complaints of "come on, hurry up"!
There are good and bad things about that. The bad is that photographers should really go shooting with like-minded people, i.e. other photographers. The good is that nature seems to come closer as your beady eye scans every nook and cranny for creatures or any abstract or non abstract beauty.
DETAIL REALLY IS IN THE EYE OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER
The shot of the woodpecker below was taken on a trip to North Carolina.
A Bit About My Camera - Nikon D90 DSLR
Great mid range camera for digital beginners
Before I chose the D90 I had little idea of what I really wanted out of a camera. My research was fairly basic and ended up being between the two old rivals, and both excellent camera makers - Canon and Nikon.
I was on a trip to North Carolina, and with some time on my hands went into a Best Buy shop to have a look around. At this time I wasn't actually in hot pursuit of a camera, but the display of all cameras immediately caught my eye.
There were Canon and Nikon, Sony and Olympus as well as a few other brands. This was my chance to see them all face to face, and hold them to get the feel of which ones were more comfortable than others. It didn't take long, as inevitably the bottom line was the price. The Nikon D90 digital SLR camera won the day, and I got two lenses in the kit rather than just the one.
The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.
Swans gliding down and feeding in a small river in winter in Ireland.
One of my most enjoyable shoots was to my local river in mid winter where I came across a dozen swans or more. They paddled their way up and down stream while feeding at a reasonably sedate pace - perfect for me to be able to set up my tripod in a good location, take a few shots then move on.
Photography Books on Amazon
This was one of the first books on photography I ever bought. It's now been so well thumbed through that it looks like a very old copy! Scott gives clear and concise instructions, and often writes in a humorous way.
Bryan Petersen is well know for his enthusiastic and detailed approach to photography.
He has produced many great video tutorials on YouTube and Adorama.com, which are a great help to any budding photographer.
A Variety of Lenses
Zoom, wide angle and macro
The camera came with what they call kit lenses, these are general purpose all round zoom lenses.
The first lens is an 18-55mm wide angle zoom.
Optimized for use with Nikon digital SLRs for superior performance with quiet autofocus operation.
A Hybrid aspherical lens element minimizes certain types of lens aberration.
Lens accepts 52mm filter attachments.
Separate zoom and focusing rings provide the smooth operation preferred by professionals.
A really useful all round lens, great for landscapes and general wide angle photography.
It features a built-in Silent Wave Motor (SWV) and Vibration Reduction (VR). This amazingly versatile lens with a 3x zoom is affordable, and compact and the image stabilization is a real plus and incredibly effective.
Second lens is an 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
Also with the fantastic Vibration Reduction (VRII) which minimizes the effects of camera shake so you get sharper images.
It has 2 Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass elements which deliver superior contrast and resolution performance.
Internal Focus (IF) system which provides fast and quiet auto-focusing; 4.9-feet close focus range.
I just love this lens, one minute you can be shooting an object 6 feet away, the next zooming in to a very much more distant target.
When using this lens at higher zoom ratios a tripod is a necessity otherwise camera shake will be detected - even though it has the VR system. Having a tripod with you at all times is a good habit to get into.
This is fantastic for those long range shots of birds and other animals that its hard to get close to. As long as you have a tripod, this lens produces some remarkable results.
Ironically, the first ever photo I took with my new camera and this lens was this one of a house martin feeding its young. I did everything wrong from a photographic point of view that I didn't know then, and most importantly I failed to use a tripod. I balanced myself on top of a 5 ft ladder in the corner of a stable and waited for the martin to fly in. I had already pre-focused, so the shot worked OK - for a beginner!
Third lens is a Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor Lens.
Designed for macro photography and versatile enough for almost any other photographic situation.
Vibration Reduction (VR II) technology is superb with a high spec lens like this.
Enhance overall image quality by using Nano-Crystal coat and ED glass elements which help to reduce flare and chromatic aberrations.
Has an internal focus, which provides a fast and very quiet auto-focusing without the need of changing the length of the lens.
This is my favorite lens. It's a prime lens, meaning that it's made out of solid glass and doesn't have a zoom feature.
Primes are generally more expensive but look at what they can achieve. All the close up photos you see here are taken with this fabulous macro lens.
Again you must use a tripod with any close up as the tiniest bit of movement will be magnified and shown as blur.
BEST LENS TO OWN!
This photo was taken with the macro lens above, but as can be seen, it's slightly out of focus as I didn't use a tripod.
Let me tell ya 'bout the birds and the bees
And the flowers and the trees
A robin in my garden waiting to get into the birdbath.
...are challenging to photograph
Photographing birds is quite a challenge, but that is what makes it all the more rewarding when you DO get a decent shot. They don't stay still for too long which means you have to be ready and focused, in more ways than one.
With bird photography, the important thing is to always get the nearest eye to the camera in focus, this sounds easy, but in practice it's quite tricky especially if you are shooting in manual more and having to continually re-focus as the bird moves.
Shooting in automatic mode might be easier, as the focus will be constantly updated, but you have no control over the aperture shutter speed or ISO settings.
Why have control over these settings if it's harder?
1. You might want to freeze the movement if the bird is in flight or about to fly, therefore you'd need to set a faster shutter speed to freeze the motion.
2. Perhaps you want to blur the background to clearly separate it from the bird - set a lower aperture value, i.e. open the aperture setting to say f5.6 rather than f22.
3. Get creative and introduce some form of artificial blur or movement of your choosing.
Seagull feeding frenzy on the River Shannon in Southern Ireland.
Photo taken at dusk in fog.
Seagulls at Sunset
Photo taken at sunset on Atlantic Beach in North Carolina on a September evening.
God writes the gospel
not in the Bible alone,
but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.
~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Martin Luther
The Birds and the Bees on YouTube
Wren in a Hurry!
f 4.8, 1/800, ISO 2000
Photo by Rob Hemphill
Having recently bought a set of three Pocket Wizards from Amazon, I've been having fun learning how they work.
If you're a keen wildlife photographer and want to try and catch those difficult shots whereby you need to be closer to the animal or bird without frightening them off, then these little gadgets are what you need - and they're not expensive for what they do.
This photo was the very first I took with the Pocket Wizards. I set the camera up about 12 feet away from the birdbath in my garden and sat indoors (20 yards away) keeping watch on the activity. The camera was set on high shooting mode to take up to 5 shots per minute, so I rattled off an impressive 200 images in only and hour. I wanted to show you only the first image so you can see how easy it can be - I got better and better as time went on. I'll soon have some of those pics on a new lens.
(keep looking out for Pocket Wizard stuff!)
Pocket Wizard - For Remote Camera Flash - Trigger flash wirelessly
I bought 3 Pocket Wizard Plus III units so I could operate two flash units off camera remotely. They are fantastic and so reliable - I've never had a misfire yet! The new design is sleek and beautiful, with an easy to read back lit digital menu, I just love them!
This will take your wildlife photography to a new level - and they're so easy to use.
They feed on caffeine-containing nectar!
These fascinating insects never keep still for long as they busily go about their feeding. I have found taking photos of bees quite tricky at times, the good old bumble bee is larger and therefore a bigger target, but getting the focus accurately locked on to his eye is not easy.
When taking photos with a normal lens rather than a close up one, it is straight forward enough to set the camera to auto mode, then track your target as it moves around. The camera will then keep re-focusing using its continuous focus mode, and you can just point and shoot when ready. Like I said earlier, auto mode is limiting!
Shooting little insects requires stealth and guile, and once you gain their trust they usually co-operate by staying still and starring at you, giving to time to take a reasonable photo. My favorite insects for carrying out this type of behavior have to be dragonflies and damselflies. I have been reminded many times of the 'relationships' I've had with these inquisitive insects.
Bees Buzzing on Caffeine
Bees may possibly crave a buzz or two. Scientists have recently found that some plants, such as the coffee plant (Coffea), use caffeine to manipulate the memory of bees. The nectar in their flowers contains low levels of caffeine that pollinators find hugely rewarding.
Bumble Bee on a Chrysanthemum
Bumble bee approaching a colorful chrysanthemum flower.
Flight of the bumble bee
Wasp gorging on an old apple
Are You a Regular Photographer?
Do you take photos regularly?
Great Macro Lens
1.4x teleconverter extends the reach of AF-S lenses by 40% with just a one-stop loss in exposure.
Fully supports exposure metering and VR image stabilization capabilities.
When I first bought my macro lens, the subjects that attracted me the most were flowers. Being able to get in close and capture the petals and stamens in fine detail was addictive, especially when I saw the results. The colors of flowers are the first attraction, but it is in natures detail that has us photographers, among others, in awe.
I remember seeing flower images that my father had taken in Kenya, East Africa more than 40 years ago, and was struck by his composition. What helps is that you have a flower of stunning shape and color, but what he did was to photograph these flowers after a rain shower, or deluge as it was there! He captured such freshness and beauty that I wanted to emulate, so my quest began soon after I got my camera - and I'm still at it.
Below is a selection of just a small sample of my flowers taken using a macro lens, but for all of these photos I had fixed a teleconverter to the camera body, then attached the lens to the teleconverter. This allows me to get just that bit closer still (depending on the ratio - mine is this one, the TC-14E II or 1.4 magnification). This means that I'm able to get nearly one and half times closer than by just using the macro lens on its own.
There are two other Nikon teleconverters in the series, the TC-17E II (1.7 multiplier) and the TC-20E II (2.0 times multiplier). Before buying you must check the compatibility with other lenses on the Nikon website.
N.B. Don't forget SHOOT IN CALM CONDITIONS TO AVOID SUBJECT MOVEMENT
ALWAYS USE A TRIPOD
I feel like a bee as I flit from flower to flower with my camera and trusty macro lens. Looking into the depths of the flower head is like discovering something new, as they are so many new views to the eye.
The tapestries woven within nature are divine, from the folds in flower petals to the textures in bark, the makings on creatures to the shape of all things; and having my camera with me makes me appreciate of our beautiful world all the more.
I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.
~Henry David Thoreau
And a Few More! - Who doesn't love flowers?
The Best Tripods on Amazon
My first tripod was this Manfrotto. It is sturdy and well made and a breeze to open up with positive clips that don't stick. A good one for a start.
This tripod is very much recommended for the beginner, it's not as sturdy as the ones above, but for starters it will get you going OK.
Majestic and embracing
I have written about trees before, I find them absolutely fascinating. What captured my attention while I was researching the tree lens (link below), I was staggered at their diversity, the tallest, the widest, the oldest as well as extraordinary circus trees - if you're not sure what they are, do pop over and take a look.
Trees are majestic on their own, in winter, in summer, in the fall, and most photographers will at some stage spend time capturing trees either in forests, woodland or on their own.
Oak Tree Sunset
Ansel Adams, a pioneering and gifted photographer was renowned for his zone system. This was a method developed to determine the correct exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print and in order to get the desired effect, it was important to capture the light correctly.
<< This photo is probably the most famous photo he is remembered for.
A Walk on the Wild Side
Walks in the Appalachians are full of the wonderment of nature. I love visiting in the fall when the leaves are all colors from green, red, and brown to gold.
Beech in Winter
This beech tree shot was taken here on the farm in County Tipperary in Southern Ireland
Winter time in the Irish countryside where hard frosts and snow used to be rare.
And the moon up above
And a thing called Love
John Keats Poetry of the Earth
Taken in the Appalachian Mountains, North Carolina