What camera, which lens? I’m not sure if I’ve used every lens I possess when photographing nature, but I’ve used most of them.
It also depends on what camera I have with me at the time, so when on holiday in Umbria I spotted a White Admiral and a yellow variety of the Speckled Wood on an after breakfast walk all I had with me was my phone (I-phone 7).
What cameras and lenses have I used for nature?
Let’s start with the Panasonic Point and Shoot – TZ20 – My brother is a keen flower photographer and when he was here in 2015 we photographed the orchids and we both used a point and shoot for our photos.
Point and shoot cameras can be very good for close-up photography because the sensor is close to the lens and also because the cameras are set up to work with a wide aperture. However, it’s not always easy to see what you have in focus. If you use a point and shoot don’t forget your tripod.
2015 – Canon 24-105mm zoom
I’ve gone back to 2015 because they are the first full set of images stored on the drive that I’m currently using.
Looking at the Metadata I can see that I started out with my 24-105 Canon L series lens on my Canon 7D. The sun was bright, so I was experimenting by shooting into the light. Not something you’d probably want to do if you were looking for a competition winner , but then competition might not be what you had in mind and you won’t know if you like this kind of image if you don’t try.
Sometimes this kind of image can be seen in National Trust magazines and publicity. A kind of dreamscape that encourages you to drift through hazy summer days, preferably at a NT property.
Also using the same lens it’s possible to open up the aperture as far as possible, in this case F/4, and isolate a subject from the surrounding foliage. As I was hand holding I didn’t quite get the focus point spot on in the centre, so the flower is not as sharp as it should be. If I had used a tripod I could have got the focus spot on.
Context shots, which show the plant in its surroundings, are an obvious choice for this kind of telephoto lens. In this image, however, the light was too bright, which meant a bit of post-processing in Lightroom to darken down some highlights and desaturate some of the colours, particularly the yellows and magentas.
I’ve also used the 14-150mm general purpose lens on my Olympus OM5 MK2 with some success in Umbria to take flowers and butterflies.
Macro Lenses: Panasonic 45mm (90mm equivalent) on Panasonic G5
Macro Lenses allow us to get closer to the subject.
The flip out screen of this camera allowed me to get an image from a really low angle; even so I couldn’t quite see what I was doing and I needed to adjust the exposure in post processing across the whole image and also with some spot adjustments.
Without a flip-out screen you’d need to lie down to get these kinds of images but then you risk damaging the surrounding foliage – not appropriate in an SSSI
Sigma 105mm Macro for Canon 7D Mk2 – July 2016/17
Another beautiful late afternoon and evening at Pye Flatts and on this occasion there were plenty of butterflies and insects about, so as well as photographing orchids I also decided to try for some insects. By this date I’d bought a dedicated macro lens for my Canon 7D Mk2. At 105mm it allowed me to be further away from the subject – important with insect photography.
BEWARE THE YELLOW SPOTS – there are lots of buttercups in the meadow.
Though I cloned this one out fairly easily I had another image where it overlapped the edge of the wing and that wasn’t easy to remove.
I missed the June visit in 2016 so most of the orchids were over, though when I visited in July I managed to find and photograph a Common Helleborine.
Finally, a word about your choice of aperture.
There’s a general feeling in the photographic community that with close-up nature photography it’s better to aim for a soft focus background that doesn’t distract from the main image. This is not easy to achieve in a meadow setting, where strands of grass pick up the light, especially on dry grass stems. So my question to you, `Is it more distracting to have an out of focus background with lines of grass stems running across or to allow the detail in the background plants to show.’ I’m not sure there is one right answer to this question, so what do you think about the following images?
This article was written with Penistone Camera Club Members in mind, particularly the ones that asked about which lenses it would be appropriate to use for nature photography on our visit to Pye Flatt Meadows in June. I’m not entirely sure I will have addressed all the areas they wanted to explore, so this blog post might be ready for a re-write after our visit.