Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Contest Results: May 2007 - Love, Mother's Day

Results are in! Here are the winning entries!

WINNER: "A friend and her lil daughter" by SukiZ
nap time
A friend and her lil daughter

RUNNER UP: "Love of Parenting" by me...
Love of Parenting (by hermanau)

2nd RUNNER UP: "Piggy-back with mummy" by AlfieUK
Piggy-back with mummy

Congratulations all! :-)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

River Ruins 3

River Ruins 3, originally uploaded by saliv8.

1st Place of Efania April 07 contest, by saliv8

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral, originally uploaded by iceman9294.

1st Runner up for Efania April contest 07, by iceman9294


abstract, originally uploaded by adrian.C.

2nd Runner up TIED for April 07 contest by adrian.c

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Lonely River

Lonely River, originally uploaded by Wenspics.

Efania April 07 contest 2nd Runner-up

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Competition April, 07: No Subject

I'm proud to present to you our first group competition. :-) Here are the details below:

(picture must be taken in April 07)
1. One entry per member only. Additional entries will be removed.
2. Small/Medium sized pics to be posted here.
3. Write the number of photo on top of it. for example, the first poster will write #1 above the HTML code he pastes. Second poster will write #2 above the HTML code which will become header of the photo and will be used in voting when competition ends.
4. Last date of entries is 30 April, 11:59pm PST.
5. Administrators / Moderators sorry you can only vote... (duh)
6. We're limiting the number of entries to 30 at this time. If the demands are popular we may open it up and have 2 rounds of voting.

Winners will be featured in the Efania blog and also get a spot on the group front page. :-) That's it! Go out and take some pictures and post your best shot!

To enter, go to the Efania flickr page at, and post your picture in the April Contest thread.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Macro Technique Article by Dalantech

I’ve been asked a couple of times to do a tutorial on macro photography, and I’ve given a few "quick and dirty" explanations on various forums. But it’s easier to write about it formally in an article and just point someone to a link. So here is my first ever article on macro photography –and if it’s well received it won’t be the last ;)

Disclaimer: I am not the last word, nor in my humble opinion is anyone the last word, on any photographic discipline! There are many different ways to take a photo, but I really don’t think that any technique is inherently wrong -just different. In this article I’m going to explain how I shoot macro and hopefully there will be something that you can use. The important thing to remember is that my technique was developed based on my experience with a camera -and the things that I do may be detrimental to you! So take my technique, experiment with it, and adapt it to your own style of shooting. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to have a certain piece of equipment for a particular type of photography -think outside the box! If I listened to the conventional wisdom concerning macro photography I’d be chasing fast moving insects with a camera on a tripod and only have a handful of usable images...

Using Natural Light

When I’m out shooting there is one basic question that governs how I’m going to set up the camera: "Is there enough natural light for the shot?". If the answer is yes then I set my camera to shutter priority -I know, most would use aperture priority instead. But here’s my logic (you get to decide if it makes sense): I normally shoot insects that don’t sit still for long, and I’m going to use the flash as a fill light. Since I’m hand holding the camera and the subject isn’t going to give me enough time to set up a tripod, I need to shoot at the fastest possible speed and still get the shutter to synchronize with the flash.

With my current camera (the Canon Xti) that’s 1/200 of a second. Shooting at the fastest possible flash sync speed also means that I have a better chance of eliminating camera shake. So I want to stay at 1/200 of a second irregardless of how much light is coming through the lens, and that means shooting in shutter priority. Granted I could set the flash to high speed sync mode and go above 1/200 of a second, but then I’d lose another stop and some depth of field.

The down side to being in shutter priority mode is that the camera is going to adjust the exposure by shifting the aperture, and if the available light is low that means taking a photo with a narrow depth of field. But you can use a narrow depth of field to draw the viewer’s attention to an area where you want them to look, and as long as the insect’s eyes are in sharp focus the image as a whole will work. Another benefit that I noticed about shooting in shutter priority mode is that my images all have a different look and feel to them -shoot at F11 all the time and you’ll start to think that every image looks the same. It’s also easier to isolate the subject with a large aperture (small Fstop) because there will be little or no detail in the background. If the aperture becomes too large to give you enough depth of field for the photo you can always increase the ISO -but you’ll also increase the noise in the final image.

Here's an example of using a large aperture to isolate the background. There are lots of reeds and other grasses behind this Violet Darter -but you really can't make much of it out because the aperture for this shot was F3.2

Dragon for macro article 1

Along with setting the camera to shutter priority I also set the exposure compensation from -1/3 to -1. The sensor in a digital camera reacts to under exposure in that same way as color positive slide film -colors saturate in post processing when you bring the exposure up. You’ll also get an increase in Fstop (a smaller aperture) with the camera in shutter priority mode (or an increase in shutter speed if you are shooting in aperture priority). The only "gotcha" is the ISO speed: at higher ISO settings under exposing can increase the amount of noise (or grain) in the final image. So be careful under exposing above ISO 200.

I use to have my camera set to ISO 200 because the difference in image quality compared to ISO 100 is insignificant (with the 20D) and shooting at ISO 200 gives me a full stop advantage on the aperture setting that the camera selects. If the sky is a little overcast, or the subject is in an area that’s partially shaded, I’ll go up to ISO 400 -maybe. Most of the time if the light isn’t good enough to give me an aperture around F5.6 then I’ll shift to manual mode and take full control of the light (more on that later on in the article). For the Xti, and because I’m getting more strict about what I think is acceptable image quality, I’m shooting at ISO 100 now.

Here's a bee shot at ISO 100, with the camera set to -2/3 EV. At F6.3 there is plenty of depth of field for the subject and the background is blurred.

Bee in Wild Flowers

Using Flash with Natural Light

Now we get to the fun part -setting up the flash. If you’re shooting with natural light you don’t necessarily need a flash and for shooting some subjects, like butterflies, flash might not be a good idea since they are very light sensitive and prone to jumping when they see the pre-flash fire. But I like to use a flash to give me a little more detail in the area of the subject that would normally be in shadow. Shooting dragonflies last summer convinced me that using a flash was a must for getting images with maximum detail. With the sun providing the primary source of the light that you need you don’t want to use the flash at full power. If you do the background will be correctly exposed, but the colors of the insect that you’re shooting will be blown out. So set the flash to under expose by at least 2 stops (adjust the flash to -2 FEC) and then adjust from there. Most of my shots were taken with the flash set to -2 1/3 FEC.

Example of shooting without a flash. Notice the loss in detail, especially in the shadows.

Dragon for macro article 2

The type of flash that you use, and to some extent where the flash is mounted, doesn’t matter. But the quality of the light that your flash produces is very important! I started out with a Canon 430 EX flash camera mounted with a Lumiquest Min Soft Box and got good results with it. I’ve even cut a slit in a ping pong ball and put it over the camera’s built in flash for a cheap and easy diffuser. After the 430EX I switched to using Canon’s MT-24 ring flash and ran into trouble because the light it produces is very harsh. I ended up using a set of Sto-Fen diffusers stuffed with cotton.

I’m now using an MR-14 EX ring flash and it works extremely well right out of the box! The flash heads have better diffusers than the MT-24 and the quality of light that the MR-14 produces is "warm". I still use the MT-24 when I need a lot of separation between the flash heads and the lens (like when I’m shooting something that’s very reflective), but the MR-14 is my full time flash for insects.

A word on Canon’s ring flashes: They DO NOT produce flat light -unless you configure them to! You can set one flash head to be brighter than the other (it’s called ratio control) or you can turn one flash head off completely. I normally set my ring flash to a 4:1 ratio with the brighter flash toward the top of the lens and the weaker one toward the bottom. If you read that ring flashes produce flat light then know that either the person has never used one (and are just repeating what they’ve read) or they had a ring flash but didn’t read the manual that comes with it...

This image was taken with a Canon MT-24 EX ring flash used for fill light. Nothing flat about it :)

Violet Darter in the Reeds

I’m going to tell you something that sounds counter intuitive; the further your flash is from the subject the more harsh the light will be, since the flash has to dump out more power to provide a correct exposure. So if you’re having problems with the flash giving you a harsh light then get the flash closer to your subject…

Brace Yourself

The trick to getting sharp hand held macro shots using natural light is to find a way to brace the camera. If you can’t find something to lean against then tuck your elbows into your chest and breathe normally. When you’re ready to press the shutter release do it slowly -don’t jerk the camera. If the subject is low enough to the ground you can use the "knee pod": Go down on one knee with your left knee on the ground, and have your right knee bent. Place your right elbow on your right knee and remember to tuck in your left elbow.

Here's a knee pod shot taken with a Canon 100mm macro lens and 37mm of extension tubes. This is one of the images that I like to post on forums right after someone says that you must us a tripod for macro photography.

Violet Darter at 1.6 times life size

There are a few specialty devices that can help you steady a camera without a tripod. I used a BushHawk camera mount for several months in 2006, and I’m currently using a Novoflex Chest Pod that’s even better at helping me keep the gear steady. I know of a couple of people who use a bean pole by holding on to the poll with the same hand they use to hold the camera. There are lots of different ways to avoid camera shake -be inventive and practice, lots of practice...

Using Flash as Your Primary Light Source

Sometimes there just isn’t enough natural light to take the shot, so it’s time to set the camera to manual mode and take control of the light with a flash. Sounds simple, but there is no hard and fast rule as to how to do it. But I’ll cover a couple of the ways that I’ve done it and hopefully give you a starting point.

Taking Full Control of the Light

On days when it’s very over cast you can set your camera to manual mode, the shutter at the maximum sync speed for your flash, and the aperture set to F8 to F11. Set the ISO to 100 and your flash to 0 EV. Take a few test shots and adjust the flash until you get the exposure that you want without getting a lot of glare. The advantage to this technique is that your shutter speed doesn’t really matter because the speed at which the flash fires becomes your shutter speed. Let me explain...

If you set your camera to ISO 100, the shutter to 1/200 of a second, and your aperture to F11 and shoot indoors, or outside on a cloudy day, odds are the image will be completely black if you’re not using a flash. In low light, at those settings, there just aren’t enough photons coming through the lens to be registered by the sensor in your camera (or on film). The photo receptors in your cameras sensor are like buckets for light. Not enough light and the bucket doesn’t get full (under exposure). Too much light and the bucket overflows (over exposure). At ISO 100, F11, and 1/200 of a second there just isn’t enough natural light coming through the lens to fill the light buckets in the sensor –unless you use a flash.

So the flash is really the only light that the camera is going to record, and on average the flashes that I use emit light for 1/1200 of a second. So even though the shutter is staying open for 1/200 of a second it’s only during the 1/1200 of a second that the flash fires that an image is recorded by the camera. Ever wonder how people take photos of water drops and freeze them in mid bounce? Now you know...

This image was taken in manual at twice life size on a day that the wind was gusting, and since I caught this little bee as a storm was rolling in it was actually shivering! But the flash froze the scene...

Bee at twice life size series 1-2

Taking Partial Control of the Light

This one is a little bit trickier. If you’re setting your camera so that the flash is the only light source odds are the subject of your photo will be correctly exposed but the background is going to be completely black. Personally I don’t really like images with completely black backgrounds, even though I’ve taken a few of them. I like to see the insect, flower, whatever in context -I want to see what environment it’s in. There is a way to do it on overcast days, I’ll call it "partial flash", and here’s how.

The trick is to set your shutter speed, ISO, and aperture to get an exposure that’s within about 2 stops of the ambient exposure. So you might dial in, for example, 1/200 of a second, F5.6, and ISO 200 and adjust the aperture or ISO until the exposure meter hovering around -2. Set your flash to 0 FEC, take a shot, and adjust if necessary. The goal is to get the subject correctly exposed, and to be able to see something in the background. Tricky because the available light is going to dictate what your camera settings are -and you’ll have to experiment a little. Camera shake can be a problem when you are shooting with partial flash, but one way to make your images a little sharper is to set your flash to second curtain sync. That way the strongest light to reach the sensor is the last one that went into the lens...

Here's one where I'm shooting a little over two stops of the ambient light (the sun was low and at my back). Notice how some of the background is exposed even though I was using a camera mounted Canon 430 EX flash with a Lumiquest Mini Soft Box diffuser.

Drinking with a Straw

Keep in mind that shooting close to the ambient exposure can cause a lot of problems with white balance. If your images are consistently looking “overcast” or gray then you might want to switch to using the flash as your only light source. Sometimes adjusting the white balance it post processing does not work…

Focus Grasshopper, Focus

A quick word on focusing: There are two basic methods that I’ve seen people use (and that I use myself). The first it to set your lens to the magnification level that you want to use (it’s marked on most macro lenses and changes as you adjust the focus ring) and then move back and forth until you can get the subject is sharp focus. The problem that I’ve had with the back and forth method, other than people looking at me like I’m a mental patient, is that sometimes it’s difficult to lock my body in place once I get to moving.

Another way to focus is to just compose the image and then focus with the focus ring on the lens -and that’s the way I do it for most of my images. It’s easier for me to compose the shot, lock my body in place, and then use the focus ring to put the point of sharp focus where I want it. Turing the ring "up" (clockwise) brings the focus point toward me and turning it "down" (counter clockwise) moves the point of sharp focus away. After a while I don’t even have to think about it, my hand just knows which way to turn the ring.

Lately I’ve been using a mix of focusing techniques. Sometimes I’ll dial in the magnification and move my body to focus the shot, or I’ll use the focus ring to like a course focus adjustment and then move my body for the fine focus.

I’m not going to talk about auto focus because I’ve never owned a camera that could put the point of sharp focus where I want it...

Go Forth and Photograph Small Things

I hope you’ve gained something form this primer -but now it’s time to stop reading and go out and practice shooting!

Efania Featured Photographer April 07 - Dalantech

"I'm just a geek with a camera who bought a macro lens and got hooked ;)", says Dalantech.

Bee at twice life size series 1-2

Photography has a different definition for everybody, and Dalantech's definition is very different from the most of us. Armed with his Canon Xti 400D, 100mm macro lens, 1.4x teleconverter, extension tubes, flash units and chest pods, he takes macro photography to a different level. The sharpness, perfection in lighting, focus, his patience is what defines his art.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Efania Featured Shot #1

Question Two, originally uploaded by bushn.

I'm pleased to present to you the first post of Efania's blog, featuring one of our newest member Bushn's picture "Question Two". There are several reasons I chose this. The most obvious is the quality and the creativity of the image, and the less obvious reason is that I believe it represents very well what Efania is at this moment. Our group is still at our infancy stage, and our future is an unknown. But we do see a streak of bright light shining upon the picture projecting signs of a beautiful image. Congrats Bushn!