The Magic Lantern – Macro Photography

I’ve been experimenting with a new camera lens, Canon 35mm, f2.8 Macro.  What a great lens to use with flowers, food photography and up close still life! Surprisingly, it does take a little practice to get used to a fixed focal length, understanding exactly what will/won’t be blurred in the background and how light hits your subject…….definitely a good exercise for practicing a little of each of the photography rules.

So, how is it going? Here are a few of my practice shots:

On our front porch we have three planter boxes with Geraniums so I started with these.  As you can tell, the Pink Geranium really pops against the black wrought iron railing and the blurred Geraniums in the background.  I was able to get really close to these buds and as you can see captured the detail of the fur and pollen on the leaves.

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I moved to the backyard and focused in (no pun intended) on the Purslane I recently planted.  In the photos below, I was able to capture the detail of the star shaped pollen stem of the Purslane flower.  I love how the lens captures the greens, yellow and oranges of each of the flowers.

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I think my favorite Macro shots are of the rose bud below where the lens picks up the small specs of yellow pollen.  Do you see what I mean about paying attention to what gets blurred in the background?  I love the composition of the full bloom being blurred compared to the closed bud in the foreground (this is actually the same bud, taken from two (2) different angles).

IMG_7192 Knock Out Rose 040318 copyrightIMG_7190 Knock Out Rose copyright 040318

The above photos were shot while hand holding my camera, I can’t wait to see how photos turn out when I’m in a little more controlled environment using a tri-pod and controlled lighting.

If you’re looking to try your hand at Macro photography,  check out this link to Digital Photography School 5 Tips to Better Macro Photography.  This post by James Dempsey is a quick read and gives you the basics.   If you don’t have a macro lens, don’t get discouraged, those I-Phones and Androids are  great for Macro photography, too!  There are even small attachment lenses you can purchase to help achieve great results. Here are a few sites dedicated just for camera phones:   iPhone Photography School                and  How to Get Stunning Macro Photos With Your Mobile Phone

Do you have any tips and examples of Macro photography ?  I’d love to see them in the comments section.

Happy snapping!



The Magic Lantern – “Faithful Picture Style Setting”

I stumbled on a new and fun camera setting today while taking photos of the daffodils that line the driveway of our condo.  When I say “stumbled” I really mean “stumbled.”  It’s a wet, damp and overcast day and while I thought it would help soften the bright yellow color of the blooms, I was struggling with getting just the right sharpness, light, color and contrast.  I tweaked everything from the shutter speed to the aperture and the ISO to the exposure.  I even tried multiple settings with the flash thinking that a little fill light would help.  But, I just couldn’t get it right!

So, I started digging into the other settings like white balance and picture style (bouncing back and forth between standard and landscape) and that’s when I found the “Faithful” setting.  As I dug into it I realized that I could adjust the “sharpness,” “contrast,” “saturation” and “color tone.”  Wow! I could actually adjust all four (4) in the camera instead of waiting to download and adjust in Photoshop!

You can see with the photo on the right I took down the saturation and bumped up the contrast. The yellow wasn’t quite as vibrant as it was on the left, but there is a little more distinction between the pine straw and the green plant behind the blooms.

As I was wrapping up and heading back in I noticed a few tulips pushing up through the ground…….look at the details of the rain droplets I created by using the “Faithful” setting!


IMG_7933 031217 Faithful OVM Tullip

Faithful Settings: Sharpness 5; Contrast 2; Saturation 2; Color Tone -1; TV 1/200; AV 5.0; ISO 250; Auto White Balance

I guess you could argue that to be really precise it would be easier to do everything in Photoshop or LightRoom.  But, how “magical” it is to be in control of the settings and the final piece of art while you’re experiencing the beauty you’re capturing?




The Magic Lantern – “Let There Be Light”

For me, knowing how to use my flash has been the single most hardest technique to grasp.  Yes, even more so than shooting in manual mode!  It’s not that I avoid using it.  No, common sense tells me when it’s needed.  But, it’s knowing how to effectively use the settings (there’s that manual mode again) to recreate (and in some cases drastically improve) the lighting of an image.

So, not being one to actually read an owner’s manual (they don’t make sense anyway) I finally decided it was time to take a few courses.  After three (3) very short and quick classes, I’m once again  reminded of the “magic” you can create with your camera.

So what did I learn?  Here are my top five (5) tips from the course:

  1. Ignore your internal camera settings –  Our instructor said it would be hard to do……and it was!  But, once I determined the “base camera settings” I was able to compliment the photo with the Flash settings.
  2. Bounce  – Instead of shooting directly on your subject, turn the flash head and bounce it off a wall, ceiling, curtain, anything to help highlight your subject versus blowing it out.
  3. ETTL and Manual – Both are great tools and have their own purpose when it comes to complimenting your subject. ETTL works great when shooting events (especially indoor) and when you don’t have much time to continually adjust your settings.  Manual is great for outdoor settings (both bright and dark) because you can control the power of the flash.
  4. Fill Flash is a great tool for outside –  I’ve heard this before, but I’m the photographer who is prone to using natural light.
  5. A higher ISO is your friend – This is probably my favorite lessen learned.  I’m hesitant with increasing the ISO because of that grainy coverage you get the higher you go.  But, what I learned was that with Flash, it will add light to the ISO and will help to eliminate some if not most of the grain.

So how did my photos turn out?  Here are a few practice shots:

“Moss Covered Trees”

 The Photo on the left is without a flash. While I do like the warmth when I added the flash (photo on the right) the colors of the landscape and the depth of the road seem to pop more.

“This and That”

Practice makes perfect (or near perfect) and your home can lend some really good subjects to practice with. Click on the images below to see how each imaged was captured with the flash.


The last thing my instructor told us was to “read our owner’s manual.”  I took it with me on a trip to Canada last week thinking I would find some time on the airplane to read it. I picked it up a couple of times, but for the life of me, I just can’t get into it……. I think I’ll just sign-up for the next Flash Photography course!

Two in One…….

It seems as though life in general has taken control over my “free time” causing the timing of my weekly blogs to be a little off this month.  And, now that it’s the end  of the month I’ve found myself in a little bit of a quandary…….which theme do I leave out to get me back on track?  Then, it occurred to me what better way to accomplish everything I wanted to share than by combining two (2) themes into one (1) blog……..or, two in one!

So, here it goes……….I hope you enjoy both!


This month’s photo tip is multi-exposure photography. It’s not the kind that you do in post production, but in the camera.  I stumbled on this when I was catching up on my DPS (Digital Photography School) weekly updates this weekend.  Not all DSLR cameras have this function, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my Canon 6D does.

Multi-exposure is a fun way of composing two (2) photos into one (1).  Basically,  your first shot will be your background and your second shot will be your foreground or focal image.  Here are a few shots I took last weekend:

The yellow daisy in the bird bath is my favorite.

This was a fun technique and one I plan to work with it more often.  If you would like to learn more, here is the link to the Digital Photography School article: Digital Photography School – In Camera Double Exposure


“For the Love of Photography”

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year, and there certainly have been several signs that it has arrived:

Colorful flowers are in bloom……………………..

IMG_1433 032716 Yellow Daisies


Birds are migrating South…………………….

IMG_1389 031616 Cedar Wax Wing

Cedar Wax Wing feeding on Laquat Fruit


And, the number one sign that Spring is in the air………..POLLEN!  Yes, that yellow, thin haze floating through the Atlanta skyline is pollen!

IMG_1217 031816 Pollen

While I enjoy the warmer weather and how nature has come back to life, the pollen can be challenging at times.  Oh well, I guess it’s the price you pay for living in such a beautiful area of the country!

The Magic Lantern – “Zooming”

For this week’s “The Magic Lantern” theme, I thought I would share something I learned several years ago, called “zooming.”  It’s a fun technique that transforms any image into a kaleidoscope by adjusting your shutter speed to just the right timing (somewhere between 1/2 second and 1/5 second) rapidly “zooming”  your lens in/out on the subject as you click the “shutter release” button. The outcome can be pretty incredible creating a totally new work of art.

Here is one of my first images I took for a photography class.  It’s a picture of an oil painting of Havana, Cuba which was given to me and my husband from one of his co-workers who had traveled back to Cuba to visit her family.

IMG_2068  Zomming Havana

Havana, Cuba – Shutter Speed 1/5 second; f-stop 7.2; ISO 200

It’s been several years since I took the above photo, so I was a little apprehensive about writing this blog and how my photos would turn out.   But, after a few failed attempts…hang on…….these are pretty bad:

I finally began to get the hang of things……and ended up with a few photos I like:

IMG_0816 022116 Bird Food Zooming

Bird Seed – Shutter Speed 1/5 second; f-stop f/22; ISO 200; Exposure Bias -3.7



IMG_0781 022116 Zooming Loquat

Loquat Fruit – Shutter Speed 1/2 second; f-stop f/22; IS 200; Exposure Bias -3.7


IMG_0813 022116 Bird Food Zooming

Bird Seed – Shutter Speed 1/5 second; f-stop f/22; ISO 200; Exposure Bias -3.7

I took these photos in “TV Mode” and spent a lot of time messing with the “Exposure Bias.”  You’ll see in the above captions that the “Exposure Bias” for each was in the negative zone making the colors dull and dark.  Hopefully, once I open them up in the editing program I will be able to push the colors and saturation to make them pop.

If  you’re going to try “zooming” I would definitely recommend that you go straight to “Manual Mode” so that you can adjust both “Shutter Speed” and “Aperture” without having to spend a lot of time reducing the “Exposure Bias.”   Also, don’t get frustrated if you can’t get the hang of it right away…..just go with it and have some fun… will be surprised at the images you will create.

The Magic Lantern – A Few Tips For Shooting in Manual Mode

I believe there is something magical about a camera.  Whether it be the light it captures and how it frames the subject, or  the way it translates what it sees to what is seen after the photo is taken……the camera in and of itself is magic.

A few months back, I challenged myself to 30 Days of Shooting in Manual Mode (TV and AV).  There were a few days when I was in a hurry and only had time to shoot a lamp or some books on a coffee table……but, I did it!  Some shots were similar from one day to the next, some I failed at and into the trash bin they went. But, others were different and magical because I took the time to stop and adjust my settings. Since then, I’ve been consumed with only shooting in manual mode.  So what did I learn?  A LOT!  And, I continue to learn every time I pick the camera up.

Here are a few things I have/am learning by taking control of my camera (note, my settings for each photo are included in the captions):

1. Use That Tripod —- Photos will be sharper….especially when shooting early morning sunrises or night time city lights.  In the photo on the left I was in a hurry and while I like what I captured with the settings, the city lights are not as crisp.  While, in the photo on the right I used the tripod and the clouds and buildings are a little more crisp.

2.  Change your perspective — The same subject can have multiple personalities…….move around a little to see what it tells you.  In these photos I played around with the exposure too!  I took these photos of the Sidney Lanier Bridge (Golden Isles in Georgia) from different angles, but on the same side of the bank.

3.    Keep that camera with you — Ok, so your family and friends may get a little irritated with you always schlepping your camera around, but trust me it’s worth it when those unexpected moments occur.  Plus, it’s a great way to practice shooting in Manual Mode.  My husband and I were out on a jeep ride when he spotted this Georgia Brown Eagle sitting on a rooftop.  If I didn’t have my camera (and the big lens) with me I wouldn’t have been able to catch this guy hunting and eventually eating his dinner.


4.  Magic Lantern — Use your camera to get the look you want instead of waiting to edit in Lightroom or Photoshop.  It’s truly amazing how you can control what your camera captures. With just a few adjustments up or down you can transform the visual completely.  Both photos below are nice, but with the one on the right I slowed down the shutter speed and opened up the aperture just slightly to show more of the city lights (and, yes I used my tripod)!


When you’re ready to try your hand at Manual Mode here’s a great Photography Cheat Sheet I found over on Pinterest.  It’s very easy to follow.



I’ll admit, shooting in Manual Mode can be daunting and it’s not something you want to try your hand with during a special event like weddings, birthday celebrations, etc.  But, you will find (just as I have) that understanding “manual mode” will open up a whole new world of photography.