Retrospective: September 2018.

It’s the middle of October, and I should have written this weeks ago. But today is the next best day to do it, so here it is. A look back on September, and what I got up to.

Here where the goals I set for myself from the previous entry:

My focus is on mastering the use of the flash. I am also trying to be more aware of everything in view when I take the photo, especially the background. It’s all too easy to become entirely focused on the subject matter and ignore everything else going on in the scene.

Using the phrase ‘mastering’ was a bit optimistic of me there! One doesn’t just master the use of anything in a month. But I was indeed much more careful with my use of it, trying not to cause the backgrounds to go totally black. This mostly involves metering for the background, where possible using slower shutter speeds and allowing the flash to freeze the motion of the subject.

As I stand here scrolling through my photos from September, I’m pleased to say the vast majority of them do have some colour to the background. Not all the backgrounds are great, though.

Untitled 106

I like this photo well enough, But there are issues with it.

To get straight to the criticism, that background is a bit distracting. The amount of blurring is fine, but the position of the two large leaves in the top half of the frame pull my eye away from those of the fly. Just having the background flipped, with those light leaves at the bottom and the darker foliage at the top would make for a much more pleasing image I feel, and give a clear line of sight from the fly’s eye.

This image does however also show something that I’ve come to like in my photos. Any photo I am particularly pleased with I print out at postcard size and hang them in my room, so I can constantly see them to critique. Ones I’m less happy with get replaced with new ones.

The pictures that stay up for the longest are those with a wider angle of an insect, just like this one. With a few exceptions I’m finding images that show the bugs in context with their surroundings much more interesting. I think it comes in part with being able to tell more of a story that way. ‘Here is a picture of a bug’ vs ‘Here is a picture of a bug hanging upside down off the edge of a leaf with a large expansive of nothing below’ for example.

That follows along with the rest of my goal for the month, being aware of what else is going on in the scene. In many ways that other stuff is what makes the photo for me, and just as important as the insect.

Moving on, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to mention it here, but for the sake of completeness I will. Towards the end of the month I acquired another piece of photography gear. And given the price it will be my last purchase for quite a while.

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It’s all about that focusing distance. With a closest focus of 0.3m at 1:1, vs 0.097m of my 28mm it opens up a lot more possibilities. One of my largest issues was getting close enough to the insects without spooking them, or simply getting the camera and flash in amongst the foliage they hide in. Having that longer working distance helps immensely. The optics aren’t bad either!

But, I’m not going to dwell on that. I have no interest in turning this into a gear blog, so back to the photos.

I’ve been trying to decide which was my favourite picture of the month, there are a couple of candidates. But I think it has to go to this one:

Untitled 96

The subject is interesting, there is some context, and the background has some nice subtle patterns, while the grey colour provides a sharp contrast against the golden lightning on the subject. The focus is on the right spot (the eyes), and the use of f/16 aperture gives just the right amount of depth of field. This is a prime example of the sort of picture I wouldn’t have been able to take without the flash, everything would have been black without.

Don’t worry though, I’m sure I’ll come to hate this photo as I continue my journey! It is going to be important not to dwell on past photos too long, else I get stuck into predictable patterns. Need to always moving forward.

Now, where does that leave us for this month? Other than the fact we are already half way into it.

Mostly I’m just getting used to the new lens. Not only do I keep getting too close, being so used to the shorter focus distance of the wide angle, but the added weight is taking some time to get used to. So I’m just continuing with that, getting out and adjusting to the new gear. Both lenses always come with me though, I need to ensure I don’t get into the habit of just leaving the 100mm on. Especially with trying to keep things in context there are some shots that will simply require the wider angle of the 28mm.

As always, your comments are most welcome, either below or over at Mastodon.

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