Sunday, 8 March 2015

Back to nature

Free time for photography has been limited for the last couple of weeks. A couple of walks to the Post Office and a brief trip into town have been about it. No time to dawdle and explore things has resulted in the expected not much. There was one picture from the village which has something about it that I can't put my finger on.

I think it says something about suburbia, and the way the tree has been pruned (actually to avoid the branches fouling the power-lines out of frame above it) could be a metaphor for control of the environment. I guess it depends how much you want to see in a picture.

With little time to get my self into anything I went back to photographing wildlife. The arrival of (at the latest count) 83 frogs in my small wildlife pond, and the clouds parting gave me a chance to lie on the wet grass and see if I could make any pictures of froginess. I even shot some video footage!

I tried a few lens options on my crop sensor 'fishing' DSLR. I used this in favour of full frame because it has a flip out screen that makes shooting low to the water easier on the neck. There's a bit of lag between pressing the shutter release and the picture being taken though, which you don't get so much of when using a compact or mirrorless camera. In fact, when I did use my compact camera (which also has a flippy screen) it was much easier to hold the camera low.

Most of the better pictures were made with the compact. Aside from the manoeuvrability of the camera it has a useful close-up facility that used at the lens's widest setting allows small frogs to be large in the frame while showing a lot of the surroundings. Sort of environmental wildlife photographs. Not the usual approach for 'macro photographers' who like to take pictures of small creatures filling the frame. Putting a subject in context like this gives more of a feel of its character.

There's a parallel with street photography there. Hardcore  street photographers often extol the virtues of wide angle lenses and getting in close as a badge of honour. Yet they still concentrate on making their subject (victim?) large in the frame. The benefit of a wide lens is that it gives a wide view. Photographing people in town this can convey the feeling of being in an urban environment, photographing wildlife in the country it's the sense of being in the great outdoors. But both require the surroundings to be in the picture, even if not in sharp focus.

Of course, wider lenses do get more in focus that shorter ones, but not so much if you have a subject close to the camera. It's surprising how you can throw a background out of focus even with a 24mm lens. Controlling depth of focus is something that is often overlooked in favour of the two extremes of maximum depth of field used by landscape photographers and super shallow DOF used by hipsters.

Back at the pond even the built in flash of the compact did a pretty good job with close-ups. This camera is a versatile little tool when used with thought and care. It's not perfect. I'd like it to have a touch screen to make moving the focus point around quick and easy. Then it might be perfect for this kind of stuff.

What this sort of picture does better than the standard close-up frog portraits, I think, is show the character of the little amphibians. Being down at their level with them surrounded by water and vegetation takes you more into their world. A waterproof camera might do that even better.

It's a pity that the frogs will soon disperse for another year. They are engaging and willing subjects that I can't resist posting more pictures of.

The odd one out - fisheye lens on DSLR

No doubt my next post will consist of more 'serious', but dull, pictures like I usually take!

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