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Photo tips
Selected tips

The best time to photograph maples at Westonbirt Arboretum, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire is the last two weeks in October.

Acer japonicum, Westonbirt
image 1447-297

Maple tree, Westonbirt Arboretum
similar image CA
Maple tree, Westonbirt
image CA_F08

Maple tree, Westonbirt.
image CA_F05

Rearing ladybirds for Photography  (Adalia bipunctata).

On 14th May my ladybird eggs arrived from www.insectlore-europe.com Some had already hatched into tiny larvae and by the evening a few had escaped from the container. Files of food arrived with them. This has to be kept frozen and the larvae fed every 48 hours. I'll keep you posted as to their development.

25th May All the larva have now pupated.

29th May The first ladybird has emerged. They are yellow when they first appear and then turn red shortly afterwards.

30th May As the ladybirds develop I separate them from the larvae and put them in a container with aphids collected from the garden.

31st May I took my first photos of the ladybirds

Ladybird on lupin leaf  31st May 2004
Canon EOS 10D, 100mm macro lens +2x25mm extension tubes.

Rearing Painted Lady Butterflies for Photography

Painted lady butterfly resting on clematis
25th May 2004
Canon EOS 10D, Canon 100mm macro lens

Painted lady butterfly resting on french lavender flower
24th May 2004
Canon EOS 10D, Canon 100mm macro lens

It's been good to hear from photographers following the progress of the butterflies.

On 6th May 10 painted lady caterpillars arrived from www.insectlore-europe.com and www.greengardener.co.uk two plastic containers with food at the bottom.  

The caterpillars grew quickly and on 18th May they began to pupate. On 22nd May the first butterflies emerged. I photographed them on a variety of different flowers and on 27th May opened the window and watched the butterflies flutter away. It was a wonderful experience and one I hope to repeat.

Sequence showing development.

Painted lady caterpillars
on 8th May 2004
Painted lady caterpillars on
12th May 2004
Painted lady caterpillars
on 15th May 2004
Four painted lady chrysalises and one caterpillar on
18th May 2004
Last caterpillar attaches itself to lid ready to pupate 19th May 2004
Hatching net hung from ceiling
20th May 2004

Paper disc with five chrysalises attached pinned to hatching net 4cm from bottom.
20th May 2004
Chrysalis in close-up.
20th May 2004

The first butterfly emerged on 22nd May.

Eight  butterflies have now emerged
25th May



End of April and beginning of May is bluebell time. In the U.K many a woodland floor is a carpet of intense blue. At least that's the way they look through the viewfinder but do they turn out that way when your film is processed or your digital images downloaded?  Recording bluebells as blue is nigh impossible, particularly on a sunny day. They reflect ultra violet light and in bright sunshine will look pink. They'll take on a purplish tinge at the best of times but shooting on an overcast day will minimise this effect. Some photographers recommend the use of a blue filter but in my experience this gives the entire photograph a bluish cast so fresh spring leaves suffer. Anyway its worth tracking down your nearest bluebell wood and having a go.
Bluebell woods near Ringshall, Hertfordshire.
Canon 28-135mm lens, Canon EOS 10, tripod, Fuji Velvia 50.

Flower photography with compact digital camera

How close can a compact digital camera focus? Far closer than you might think. My Nikon Coolpix 885 focuses 4cm from a subject.

Try taking close-ups of flowers. First switch off the flash to produced a saturated natural look. Select the flower icon and close in on the flower watching the monitor to see if the camera is able to focus. Frame your subject using the monitor as if you look through the view finder what you'll see is not what you'll get.
Pink rose close-up,
Nikon Coolpix 885


Use a reflector.
I visited Westonbirt Arboretum near Tetbury, Gloucestershire to photograph spring flowers. It was a bright sunny day which isn't ideal for flower photography so photographing magnolias, camellias, rhodendrons and plum blossom was no easy task. Fortunately I had a reflector with me so was able to bounce light back onto the plum blossom to fill out the shadows. 12" Lastolite reflectors fold up  small enough to fit into a largish pocket.
Plum blossom with no reflector
Plum blossom using a reflector

Your house as a hid

Feeder hung from cherry tree
Canon EOS 10D, 500mm Sigma lens, tripod.

Great tit on coconut filled with fat and wild bird seed.
Canon EOS 10D, 500mm Sigma lens, tripod.
Robin perched on cherry tree.
Canon EOS 10D, 500mm Sigma lens, tripod

Great tits feeding from bird feeder hung from Cherry tree.
Canon EOS 10D, Sigma 500mm lens, tripod.

Can you use your house as a hide and photograph birds in your garden? Have a look out of every window and door and see if it's possible. I hang feeders from a cherry tree on my patio and shoot through the closed kitchen window. Above are some of the photos I took a few days ago. There's no problem photographing birds on the feeders but you have to be quick to catch them elsewhere on the tree.

Photographing Camellias

Camellia x williamsii 'Brigadoon'

Camellia 'San Dimas'
Camellia japonica 'Mathotiana'

Camellia williamsii 'Donation'
In April I went to Wisley RHS Gardens and there was so much choice I wasn't sure where to start. Camellias are just coming out and make beautiful subjects. Pick a time when there hasn't been a frost for a few days. Remember some are very pale in colour so you may need +1/2 stop exposure compensations. If you're shooting into the light and patches of sky are showing through the branches you may need  + 1 stop exposure compensation. Good luck.

  Red squirrels photographed during week at 'Wildshots',
www.wildshots.co.uk Glenfeshie, Kingussie, Scotland

It's a sad fact that red squirrels are rarely seen in England now. I'm fond of the grey squirrels that frequent my patio but had a longing to see red squirrels again so went to Scotland with the express purpose of photographing them. 'During a 'Wildshots' holiday www.wildshots.co.uk I sat quietly in woodland in the hopes red squirrels would find hazel nuts placed nearby. As the squirrel is an early visitor I had to be in position by 7.45am. Luckily I managed to bag a few shots, they're not great pics, but I 'm delighted  to have photographs of a red squirrel to add to my collection.

Red squirrel on fallen tree trunk

Red squirrel in pine forest

Red squirrel amongst the heather

Red squirrel on fallen tree trunk.

 Photographs taken during week at 'Wildshots', Ballintean, Glenfeshie, Kingussie, Scotland using Canon EOS 10D and Sigma 50-500mm lens.

I'm just back from a week's photography at 'Wildshots' in Scotland www.wildshots.co.uk

We photographed from hides and just sitting out in the open.  It struck me when I got home and watched the numerous birds coming to my feeders that I too could set up a hide in my garden or simply create a perch close to the feeders and snap the birds as they landed, or queued for a place on the feeders.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Canon EOS 10D, Sigma 50-500mm lens
plus 1.4mm converter

Cole tit
Canon EOS 10D, Sigma 50-500mm lens plus 1.4mm converter.
Practical Photography March issue Wildlife Special BIRDS pages 30-35
Leafing through my March issue of PP I noticed
they'd had the same idea. Associate Editor,
Andrew James, is pictured setting up a hide on
 pages 32 and 33. Hides available from
Warehouse Express www.warehouseexpress.com
(4ft dome hide £169,  5ft dome hide £199.
Postage £7.95) and Wildlife Watching Supplies http://www.wildlifewatchingsupplies.co.uk/
 01884 860692 (phone number misprinted in PP)

Inspired I ordered a 5' Advantage dome hide from Warehouse Express and it arrived the next day.
I'll let you know how I get on.

Turn to page 94/95 to see Rosemary's granite
pebbles at Hurlstone Point taken on the last PP
Exmoor weekend.

Great tit
Canon EOS 10D, Sigma 50-500mm lens plus 1.4mm converter.

Blue tit
Canon EOS 10D, Sigma 50-500mm lens plus 1.4mm converter.

Spring photography

Spring comes earlier each year. In February I have snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils all out at the same time.  It's a wonderful time of year for photography
but over all too quickly, so make time to capture those transient blooms on film so
that you can enjoy them for longer.

Wisley RHS gardens is a picture in February as I'm sure are many other public gardens. Remember to take a plastic bag to lie on as the ground is permanently wet at this time of year and if your tripod can't be adjusted to a low level take a bean bag to support your camera.

                Crocus                                    Daffodil

Valentine's Day

Buy a bunch of red roses and select from it the two best looking roses. Remember that the smallest imperfection shows up in close-up photography. Put the red roses in a vase on a chair close to a window and place a piece of red card behind them. A macro lens is the best lens to use but you can adapt a normal lens for close focus by using an extention tube or supplementary close-up lens. Good luck.

Winter photography indoors

It's Saturday morning and the rain is lashing down. No hope of outdoor photography today. If you have similar problems why not pop out to the local florist and buy a bunch of flowers to photograph indoors. There's plenty of choice in my florist, colourful tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and bunches of rose buds. Place a table or chair close to a window and either move in with a macro lens excluding the background or pick up a sheet of card and put that behind your subject.
Red Rose,
Canon EOS 10, Canon 100mm macro lens,
Fuji Velvia film, tripod.

Frost ice

When the UK is going into a cold snap get out for some frost and ice photography. Look for frozen dew drops on spider's webs, frost on vegetation and icy puddles. If it's a sunny morning try to use the sunshine creatively.
Frozen dew drops on spider's web

Winter ideas

When the days are dark and short why not stay indoors and do some still-life photography. Try making something of the simplest of objects such as a safety pin, bunch of keys or cutlery. No need to use flash or artificial light. Just set up in front of a window with your camera on a tripod, between 10am and 2pm, and think creatively.

Safety pin

December indoors

Working outdoors on damp, dismal December days isn't much fun so why not try some greenhouse or conservatory photography. There are superb orchids at Wisley RHS gardens and Kew.

Try to avoid including panes of glass and parts of the greenhouse frame in the background. Choosing a wide aperture will help to blurr the background if distracting features are impossible to avoid.

Orchid, Phalaenopsis 'Brother Pirate King'
Canon EOS 10, Sigma 180mm macro lens, Fuji Velvia 50, f5.6, 1/8 sec,  tripod.


Frosty mornings are often sunny so get out there as quickly as you can to catch the frost at its best. It's hard feeling inspired when you're half asleep and haven't even had a cup of tea but well worth the effort.

Look for isolated leaves with attractive surroundings. If the leaf has an interesting shape and is colourful so much the better.

This week's tip is transferred to the 'Tips' page at the end of each week. Do download these tips if you find them helpful. All 2003 tips will be removed at the end of the year and replaced with 2004 tips.
Frosted  maple leaf
Canon EOS 10, Fuji Velvia, tripod, f11, 1/20 sec.

Deer  photography

In the northern hemisphere November is a great time to photograph deer in early morning light, mostly because in autumn you don't have to get up so early. Check to see if there are deer in a park near to you. I've photographed them in both Bushy Park and Richmond Park in Surrey.
Check when the park gates open and try to be there just before sunrise. Approach deer slowly taking a zigzag path rather than walking directly towards them.
If they begin to look nervous stop and wait until they settle and get used to you.
If it is mistly open up +1/2 to + 1 stop.

Red deer at sunrise, Richmond Park, Surrey, England.

Rapids and fallen leaves

 I've just got back from Exmoor where copper coloured beech leaves were trapped in small rapids in the streams. The tip is to use a fairly slow shutter speed of 1/15th to a 1/2 second and use a long lens to extract the most interesting part of the scene. If you're shooting on Velvia film dial in +1/2 to +1  stop exposure compensation depending on how much of the frame you expect to be white. With a long exposure more white will accumulated than you see at the time .

Canon EOS 10D, Sigma 50-500mm lens, f16, 1/8 sec. tripod

Autumn photography
Get down to it this autumn
photo:Jenny Faye

Take along a plastic bag bin liner to lie on as the best views of fungi are from ground level and get in close for shots with impact.

Use a bean bag to support your camera, or your folded jacket to improvise.

Photograph a good specimen as soon as you find it as fungi don't last long in perfect condition.  Look what had happened to a stinkhorn when I returned  just 45 minutes later.

Stinkhorn with flies

Autumn berries

In autumn get out and photograph colourful berries in gardens and hedgerows.

Use your depth-of-field preview button to check for distracting backgrounds. Adjust your aperture until the background is out of focus but try to retain as much depth-of-field in your subject as possible.

Spindle berries
Canon EOS 10, 180mm macro lens, f5.6, 1/60th sec. Fuji Velvia 100, tripod.

Frosty flowers

When leaves and flowers in your garden are decorated with frost get out as early as possible, before the sun melts the delicate crystals, and capture this short lived beauty.

Daisy decorated with ice crystals.

Autumn maples

The Japanese maples at Westonbirt Arboretum,  near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, are at their best mid to end of October. I was there with a Practical Photography Reader's Break and the colour was magnificent, although some of the leaves have shrivelled as a result of the drout.  

If you're shooting autumn leaves on a sunny day I recommend you look for leaves that are being back lit, not leaves with the sun shining on them. Bright sunshine can give rise to harsh shadows and burnt out highlights.
Back lit maple leaves at Westonbirt Arboretum October 2003.

Enhancing digital images

Visitors have been asking if the Canon EOS 10D 'High Arctic' images could be enhanced in Photo Shop to bring them closer to the Fuji Velvia images. So here are the results. Each column shows the original unenhanced digital image, the digital image enhanced and the Fuji Velvia image. I'm delighted with the difference simple enhancement has made. The enhanced images are very close now to what I saw at the time.

Iceberg and zodiacs, Rodefjord, Scoresby Sund, East Greenland
Iceberg and rocks reflected, Ofjord, Scoresby Sund, East Greenland
Iceberg in sunset light, leaving Scoresby Sund, East Greenland
Leaving Scoresby Sund at sunset,
Digital image enhanced by adjusting colour balance and saturation
Digital image enhanced by adjusting colour balance and saturation
Digital image enhanced by adjusting colour balance and saturation
Digital image enhanced by adjusting colour balance and saturation
Zodiac cruise, Rodefjord, East Greenland

Icebergs and rocks in reflection, Ofjord,East Greenland
Iceberg at sunset, Scoresby Sund, East Greenland
Sunset leaving Scoresby Sund, East Greenland

Autumn dewdrops
Photograph dew. As autumn approaches and the nights get colder take your camera out first thing in the morning and look for dew drops on spider's webs, blades of grass and flowers. Use your depth-of-field preview button to check what is in focus. An out of focus background gives the subject greater emphasis, but if you are using a wide aperture adjust the film plane so that it's parallel to the subject to give sharpness across the frame.
Dewdrops on spider's web

Digital versus film
The first photo in each pair was taken digitally  with a Canon EOS 10D (not enhanced ) and the second taken with Fuji Velvia 50 or 100F. I gave digital shows to passengers during my trip to Greenland in August using a laptop and we were all very pleased with the results. It wasn't until I had my films processed that I realised how differently Fuji Velvia interpreted the scenes.
Iceberg and zodiacs, Rodefjord, Scoresby Sund, East Greenland
Zodiac cruise, Rodefjord, East Greenland
Iceberg in sunset light, leaving Scoresby Sund, East Greenland
Iceberg at sunset, Scoresby Sund, East Greenland
Iceberg and rocks reflected, Ofjord, Scoresby Sund, East Greenland
Icebergs and rocks in reflection, Ofjord,East Greenland
Leaving Scoresby Sund at sunset,
Sunset leaving Scoresby Sund, East Greenland

Aurora Borealis
I've finally worked out how to photograph the aurora borealis. You never know you might find the information handy one day.

Use the widest angle lens you possess ( I used a 15-30mm lens).
Set the aperture wide open ( I used f5.6 but use f2.8 if possible)
Focus on infinity.
Set your camera to bulb.
Make exposures from 30secs to several minutes depending on the brightness of the display. Bracket lots.
Use 100 -400 ISO film or digital setting (I used 200 ISO)

The method is similar to photographing fireworks. The more you let the display build on your film the brighter the result.
Aurora Borealis, Iceland
Aurora Borealis from deck of ship, Scoresby Sund, East Greenland

Magnification with lower end digital SLRs
Using a Canon 10D camera during my recent trip to Spitzbergen and North East Greenland made it possible to get shots which would have been impossible to capture using slide film.

The polar bear shot was taken from a bouncing zodiac using a Canon 10D and Canon 100-300mm lens. The digital 1.6 x factor meant the lens was the approximate equivalent to a 450mm lens but was light enough to hand hold. In Photo Shop I cropped the polar bears and enlarged them using the sharpening tool to improve the image.

The musk oxen image were taken with a Canon EOS 10D and Sigma 50-500mm lens
(appox. equivalent of a 750mm lens) on a tripod. I then cropped the image in Photo Shop and enlarge the musk oxen using the shapening tool to improve the image.
Female polar bear with two cubs, Spitzbergen
Musk oxen North East Greenland

Velvia 100F versus Sensia 100
With Fuji Velvia 100F new on the market I couldn't wait to try it out on my flower photography. Well, here are the results. They're definitely different but which do you prefer?

Verbena bonariensis
Fuji Sensia 100
Verbena bonariensis
Fuji Velvia 100 F

When shooting reflections remember that the reflection in the water is one stop darker than the subject. To avoid the scene bleaching out and retain detail in the sky use a 1 stop graduated grey filter (graduated neutral density filter). Disguise the transition between the grey and clear area by placing the junction along the horizon.
Drie Molen, Leischendam, Holland.

Flower photography

Overcast skies are ideal for flower photography, particularly if you are looking for pattern. Dark shadows and bright highlights created by sunshine break up pattern and design so overcast conditions are perfect. You'll need a macro lens, extension tube or supplementary lenses for close-ups but you can use any lens to capture the larger patterns created by a collection of flower heads. Where ever you live on the globe have a go and good luck.

(For more patterns have a look at the 'Natural Patterns' page accessible through 'Gallery' at the top of this page)

Convulvulus 'Royal Ensign'

Chrysanthemum 'Foxtrot'

 Buddleia has a reputation for attracting butterflies and the one in my garden is no exception.  By 9 am this morning Saturday 9th Aug) there were clouds of butterflies feeding . The majority were small tortoiseshells but there were also peacock, comma and painted lady butterflies visiting.

Using the Canon EOS 10D I was able to grab a few shots of the butterflies and have one loaded on my website a matter of minutes later. The delay on some of the point and shoot digital cameras could make butterfly photography frustrating but if you're lucky and have a Canon EOS D30, D60, 10D or Nikon D100 photographing butterflies is a joy and the 1.6 x factor makes filling the frame easier. Now's the time to  have a go.
Canon EOS 10D, Sigma 180mm macro lens, tripod.

Bees in summer

My garden is buzzing with bees at the moment so if yours is too then now is the time to try some bee photography. A 100mm or 180mm macro lens is ideal but if you don't have one adapt a normal  lens for close focus by adding supplementary lenses to the end of the lens or an extension tube between the camera and lens.

Use manual focus and make sure the eyes of the bee are in focus. Choose the fastest shutter speed possible to still movement.

Digital photography

If you're bought a digital SLR camera wildlife photography has just become easier. The position of the sensor in the camera gives a times 1.6  factor. A 500mm lens becomes approximately equivalent to a 750mm lens. Add a 1.4mm convertor and you have approximately a 1125mm lens.  Crop and enlarge your subject in Photo Shop and an animal which can barely be seen with the naked eye becomes recordable.

This polar bear was photographed in the Arctic using this technique. A Canon EOS 10D camera and Sigma 50-500mm lens with a 1.4mm convertor was supported on the side of the ship using a fleece jscket to reduce vibrations from the engine.

For more photos taken during the trip click on 'Arctic' at the top of this page.
Polar bear on sea ice off Baffin Island

Beach photography

If your family holiday is going to involve lots of time spent on the beach with the children take your camera along and photograph natural patterns created by pebbles, sand, seaweed or shells.

Pebbles, Hurlstone Point, Somerset.
Patterns in the sand, St Ives, Cornwall.
Flint on  the sand, St Ives, Cornwall.

If you arrive home from holiday to find the lawn in need of a cut look for  dewdrops at the tip of the long blades of grass and photograph them. A bean bag made from dried beans from the supermarket makes an excellent camera support.

Dewdrops on blade of grass.

Magic light.

When photographing landscapes catch the magic light just after sunrise and just before sunset. It will probably mean careful planning and missing sleep but it is worth it.

Whitesands National Monument closes before sunset and opens after sunsrise so to capture this shot I camped in the park over night. Before pitching the tent I found exactly where I needed to be for sunrise, walked there in the dark and was ready with my camera on the tripod as the sun came up.

Whitesands National Monument, New Mexico, U.S.A.

If you'have a Canon EOS 10D, Canon EOS 20D, Canon EOS D60 or Nikon D100 put it to the test with some macro photography. The 1.6 multiplication factor makes close focus a doddle. I put my new 10D to the test and here are the results. I think they could be sharper so I've ordered a cable release and I'll let you know if that makes a difference.
                                      Rose                                     Love-in-the-mist                            Chrysanthemum

Canon EOS 10D camera with Canon 100mm macro lens


For maximum shutter speed to still movement of butterflies and other insects select the widest aperture your lens permits. This will produce a very shallow depth-of-field so
make sure the eyes and antenna are in focus.
Comma butterfly on Chrysanthemum
F5.6. 1/125 sec

Macro lens

If you have a macro lens now is the time to photograph close-up flowers. It's essential to use a tripod as when you magnify a subject you also magnify movement
Viola 'Moonshine'