Philosophical About Fall Maple Leaves

Over the weekend, while mostly lying on my back watching football on television after a back sprain earlier in the week, I decided I needed to go outside, walk around the property, and see if there were any photos to be had. I needed some fresh air and some camera-time between back exercises!

I thought I might get a nice photo from among the growing number fall-colored maple leaves that had fallen to the ground, and I looked for a perfect specimen as a model. The task was impossible....there were so many that were quite attractive but nowhere near " perfect ". The one below is an example. 

For some reason after holding and photographing this leaf (against a blurred and richly green background which is our lawn), and then admiring its own beauty on my computer screen, I got a bit philosophical.

I thought to myself that the downed maple leaves were a lot like people: each is unique, all have imperfections, and most (many ?) are beautiful in their own way. 

Fall Maple Leaf - Imperfect But Beautiful
Panasonic GX80/85 with 60mm Olympus F2.8 Macro
1/125sec, F4, ISO 200


Photo+Story: Backlit Flowers on Sunny Days

In my prior post I was bemoaning sunny days when out shooting flowers at our local botanic garden, and I suggested that finding a few flowers in the shade was a good option.  But I thought of something else that worked for me on Sunday.

I remember walking through the gardens looking at flowers and seeing behind the flower beds a group of palm leaves (or similar plant) growing out of one of those big 18" diameter clay pots.  With the powerful sun lighting them from behind they appeared very colorful, and certainly bright enough to attract my attention.  So, I am thinking that backlit flowers would be a good theme or project on sunny days.  I need to remember that for the next time I feel like photographing flowers and it is a sunny day.

For these images I put the Panasonic GX80/85 with Olympus 60mm macro in my backpack, as the prime lens did not have enough reach, and pulled out my E-M1 with Olympus 12-100mm F4.  Even zoomed in at 100mm (200mm equivalent) this image is cropped a bit.  One reason I always bring a zoom with me is that botanic gardens have rules about walking on the paths only. This means if the desired flower or subject is off the beaten path, you have no option but to go for a longish zoom or telephoto lens.

Backlit Palm Leaf
Olympus E-M1 and 12-100mm F4 @ 100mm

1/250 sec, F8, ISO 400


Photo+Story: Look For Shade On Sunny Days (Flowers)

Well, of course, not always is shade what you want.  But I’ve learned to dislike bright sunshine when shooting flowers.  Without clouds to diffuse the sunlight, the lighting is just too harsh.  And even if you hold a diffuser between the sun and the flower with your left hand while holding the camera with your right hand, there is always the background that will be a mix of bright and dark areas.  I find such a background very distracting, and improving it in Lightroom is time consuming, if not challenging.

So the story is that on Sunday I drove to our local botanic garden in hopes for some nice flowers and photos.  The flowers were nice all right, with lots in bloom.  However the overcast day that I was in hopes of having (for the diffused light) turned into a 100% sunny day almost as soon as I got there. I was not happy with any of the flowers I shot in the sunny conditions.

I did find one bed of pink flowers in the shade of some tall evergreen bushes.  I like the image below. You will see that there a no deep dark shadows on the flower, nor bright or blown out highlights.

With my mFT cameras (Panasonic and Olympus) I generally hope for enough light to shoot at ISO800 or less, and at a minimum shutter speed of 1/250 to account for possible plant movement. It is also be nice if I can get away with a aperture as small as F8, though I typically shoot wider open than that.  I might use F8 (on mFT) for the depth of field, but all too often F8 brings too much of the background in focus. 

Pink Flower
Panasonic GX80/85 with Olympus 60mm F2.8 Macro
1/160 sec, F4, ISO 200

This photo was taken at 1/160sec, F4 and ISO200.  It looks like I was shooting in aperture priority and neglected to see that the shutter speed was below my target minimum of 1/250 sec.  Nevertheless 1/160 was quite adequate for the day’s wind conditions.  Also, I was able to hold the camera very steady because I was sitting on an 8” stool with my elbows on my thighs.

But notice that although the flower was in shade, the background was not in the shade and was a bit blotchy with dark and bright spots... which I find annoying.  I did, however, use the radial tool in Lightroom to darken the area outside of the flower.


Walk Around: BMW's First Motorcycle - the R32

The R32 was manufactured between 1923 and 1926.  It was BMW's first motorcycle.  It had an 8.5 hp 486 cc engine (about 30 cubic inches), and could reach about 60mph.  I'm not sure how safe it seems, to be taking your hand off the right handlebar to reach the gearshift lever (see wood knob next to the BMW logo).  On the other hand, I spent years riding a racing bicycle with dual derailleur shifters on the downtube without incident.

Here' a link if you'd like to hear and see an R32 (not this specific one) under operation, though not nearly at 60mph.



Photo Story: First Signs of Fall?

After a bit of dark and gloom and rain today, the sun came out in the late afternoon as I went out of the house and down the driveway to the mail box.  The sun had a really nice angle on these well-lichened maple trees in the wetlands beside our house, and it is the neutral colored bark of these trees that made this vine of Virginia Creeper stand out and catch my eye.  The leaves had recently turned a brilliant red, and they were on display in the afternoon sunlight.  As we know, it's all about the light.

I read on the Internet (so it must be true!) that Virginia Creeper is sometimes grown as an ornamental plant because the leaves turn a brilliant red in the fall.  I certainly agree with the red part of that statement.  But it's hard to think of actually planting this vine.  It's much less problematic for us than the Bittersweet vines which wrap around a trunk and eventually strangle a tree.

At least Virginia Creeper grows straight up the trunk.  However, it is all over the place.  The vines grow along the ground sending roots down into the soil, until the vine finds a tree to climb. According to the "Ohio Weedguide" put out online by The Ohio State University, each vine can grow 20 feet per year. No wonder I keep pulling it out of the garden.

Panasonic GX80/85 plus Panasonic 100-300mm @ 300mm
1/640, F5.6, ISO200


A Few Triumph (Motorcycles) Colors

Larz Anderson Auto Museum.  European Motorcycles lawn event
spread far to the right and out of the view of my camera.

I photographed the collection of Triumph gas tanks below at "European Motorcycle" day (September 2017) at Larz Anderson Auto Museum:


Photo Story: Bee With a Coat of Pollen

What is so fun for me is that this potentially (I haven’t decided yet) portfolio photo was shot while out photographing motorcycles!  How interesting that the motorcycle photos are all snapshots and not worthy of a portfolio.  None of my car photos are worthy of a portfolio either, nor do I expect them to be; but it just seems so ironic that I would end up today with my favorite photo being a pollen-covered bee. The fact that this was not my intention makes it all the more special.  It’s sort of like pond fishing for sunfish and catching a beautiful little brook trout.  

Panasonic GX80/85 with Olympus 60mm macro
1/125, F5.6, ISO800
A circular polarizer was on lens but was ineffective at this angle.
The polarizer explains the ISO800 as it cuts 1.5-2 stops of light.

The morning had been spent at Larz Anderson Auto Museum for a lawn show called “European Motorcycles”.  It was a beautiful day and the place was packed with motorcycles both new and old from BMW, Triumph, Ducati, Norton, etc. I’ll be posting some of the photos later. I enjoyed a couple of hours walking around, taking photos, and chatting as best I could (as I know little about motorcycles.)

Halfway home I stopped at a small grocery store to buy a fresh cookie and a soda, and spotted a bench in a small park with blooming flowers. Perfect for sitting and eating a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie!  As it happens, in addition to the Olympus E-M1 with 12-100mm zoom which was the combo I used for the motorcycle images, I had my new Panasonic GX80/85 with the Olympus 60mm macro attached.  Perfect!  

Scouting around I saw zillions of bees.  But looking closer, almost camouflaged, was this single bee covered with pollen.  I can certainly understand how this happens, because each little ball of pollen has little velcro-type protrusions, appearing under magnification like miniature thistles. But this was the only bee I spied with a coat of pollen.  He did not get it from this flower. My guess is that it came from entering one of the daylilies nearby.


Auto Walk Around: 1931 Ford "Model A" Deluxe Roadster

This Model A Deluxe Roadster is owned by a couple from New Hampshire who I unfortunately did not meet.  It is in pristine condition, both inside and out.  There does not appear to be a speck of dirt or grease on the engine. Could that odometer possibly be showing original miles? It indicates 1653 miles!

The Model A was produced between 1927 and 1931, and replaced the old Ford “Tin Lizzie” (the Model T) which Ford had produced for 18 years.  This particular vehicle, a Deluxe Roadster, cost $475 when new, and prices ranged from $385 for a basic roadster to $1400 for a town car.  All had 4-cylinder 40hp engines.  The spinning speedometer appears to go up to 80mph, though the advertised top speed was 65mp.  Of special note is that the Model A was the first automobile with safety glass used for the windshield.


Photo Story: A single sunflower and a bit of flash

I am so happy with this image that I had to share it and a few thoughts.  Your mileage may vary as to the attractiveness of the subject and lighting, and my chosen composition.  But what I like best is that half the light came from a flash and half from the morning sun, without looking like a flash was used. Whenever I can use a flash without the image looking like a flash image, I am happy.

The sunflower here (a cultivated hybrid Helianthus) is the only full size blossom (of three) in a single 8" plastic pot on the railing of our small wooden deck.  Laurie picked two of these pots up at the local grocery.  We were having company for lunch on Saturday and she thought (and I agree) it might brighten things up a bit.

Saturday morning while having my morning coffee on the deck, I noticed some nice morning light.  I positioned the flower so the light came in from the side.  For many people that would be enough, as the light coming across the flower created some nice texture.  But I tend to prefer my macro and closeup images to be a bit “flatter”.  That is, I like front-light as long as the light doesn’t look unnatural.  I want to avoid that “deer in the headlights” look created often with flash photography.  I realize that a flatter image has less contrast and creates more mid-tones and less dynamic range, and many people might not like that approach… But one of the nice things about being a hobbyist is that I really only need to please myself.

This image was taken hand-held. ISO was 200. I used aperture priority with EV compensation at minus 1 stop.  This increased the shutter speed from 1/80 to 1/160 thereby cutting the ambient light by half (i.e. one stop).  A flash was then used to “add back” that one stop of light.  

I do not recall what power on the flash was used.  I think the Olympus 36R flash was set up for TTL, but I don’t recall if I added or subtracted any flash exposure compensation.  With a non-moving subject it is easy to experiment. Manual flash is also very easy to use.  Just try, say, 1/16th power and adjust upward or downward from there until you get a good exposure.

"Hybrid Helianthus"
Panasonic GX85 and Olympus 60mm F2.8 Macro lens
1/160, F3.5, ISO 200, -1EV, flash (Olympus 36R)
Processed with Lightroom