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Looking for improvement This is the e-group critique board. If you post a picture here it will be assumed that you are looking for comprehensive technical feedback - both good and bad, but always respectful. Only post pictures here if you can deal with potentially negative constructive criticism. Anyone is qualified to comment and post feedback, and everyone is encouraged to do so. NB: "Looking for Improvement" is the place to post any pictures you would like advice on improving, no matter how bad you might think they are.

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Old 30th March 2018
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Please advise

African Paradise Flycatcher
African Paradise Flycatcher by philip Gate Keeper, on Flickr

This photo could have been better, with greater detail. The shot was taken with a 75-300 mm mark 2, looking through dense bushes, late afternoon, one hour before the light went completely. I tried auto focus, auto everything, but it would not lock onto the bird. As you know the birds move fast from branch to branch and by the time I tried manual, it was too late.

Thank you for your advice, negative comments or positive are welcomed.

I am just going out shortly into the forest to try again.
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Old 31st March 2018
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Re: Please advise

It would seem to be down to lack of light, as is often the case.

I know when trying to photo small birds in the UK, they move so fast you can barely see them, never mind catch focus. To help the lens, I try and pre-focus it to the approximate range of the subject. The auto focus should be adequate, depends on what is close to the subject. I sometimes use manual focus when there are lots of twigs and leaves.

I see you are using the Em1. Is it up to date with firmware? The mk2 now has a small focus spot, which is useful for focusing in amongst twigs and leaves. Are you using the single focus spot?

All I can really advise it to take plenty of photos, and hopefully the little bird will give you a clear shot eventually...........

Good luck.

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Old 31st March 2018
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Re: Please advise

Pre-Focus with "Focus Peaking" on a branch that you have seen them land on and hope they go to it. Birds often have a pattern of movement around the places they visit.
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Old 1st April 2018
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Re: Please advise

Quote:
Originally Posted by MJ224 View Post
It would seem to be down to lack of light, as is often the case.

I know when trying to photo small birds in the UK, they move so fast you can barely see them, never mind catch focus. To help the lens, I try and pre-focus it to the approximate range of the subject. The auto focus should be adequate, depends on what is close to the subject. I sometimes use manual focus when there are lots of twigs and leaves.

I see you are using the Em1. Is it up to date with firmware? The mk2 now has a small focus spot, which is useful for focusing in amongst twigs and leaves. Are you using the single focus spot?

All I can really advise it to take plenty of photos, and hopefully the little bird will give you a clear shot eventually...........

Good luck.

Mark j
Hi Mark

Thank you, I will check for the latest update and focus spot. Since posting, I have been hunting for the little bird twice a day going into the forest/botanical garden. It is exercise I badly need as the search involves walking into a steep valley of dense undergrowth and then back up again.
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Re: Please advise

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Originally Posted by Graham_of_Rainham View Post
Pre-Focus with "Focus Peaking" on a branch that you have seen them land on and hope they go to it. Birds often have a pattern of movement around the places they visit.
Thank you Graham and good morning to you. I will try again with the technique you suggest and I will keep a lookout for the favourite haunts they like to frequent.
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Old 14th May 2018
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Re: Please advise

Don't use the "auto-focus everything".

Focus on something that is at the very same range like a branch and then shoot the bird with the focus locked on at that range.
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Re: Please advise

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Don't use the "auto-focus everything".

Focus on something that is at the very same range like a branch and then shoot the bird with the focus locked on at that range.
Thank you for contributing. I updated the camera to 4.4 and am using manual focus for most of the photos. I have not yet tried BIF. What focus settings would you suggest?

I took this photo yesterday of an Ibis visiting the pool in the garden. Aperture priority with manual and focus peaking. Exposure was auto, as was the ISO. It was taken in the middle of the day in bright sunlight.

Ibis visiting the pool for a drink by philip Gate Keeper, on Flickr
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Old 14th May 2018
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Re: Please advise

I took this yesterday with focus peaking on in bright sunlight and high temperatures. Edited in Lightroom 4 to lower the exposure. One side of the butterfly can be seen and the other side is in shadow. I am thinking I lost out the details because of the shadow on the butterfly and perhaps if I changed the position, less shadow would have been seen? Thank you for looking and making suggestions.

f/7.1 1.1000 ISO 200 275mm

butterfly and flower, Nairobi by philip Gate Keeper, on Flickr
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Last edited by Gate Keeper; 14th May 2018 at 11:27 AM. Reason: Clarify about shadow
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Re: Please advise

Color is good, but to improve what you mention try not to make photos at noon with direct sunligth, it produces very harsh contrast. Early morning, afternoon or a bit cloudy days are better.

To improve a bit focus, you have to move to a pro line, like 300f4 then you can notice the difference.
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Old 15th May 2018
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Re: Please advise

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Originally Posted by c12402 View Post
Color is good, but to improve what you mention try not to make photos at noon with direct sunligth, it produces very harsh contrast. Early morning, afternoon or a bit cloudy days are better.

To improve a bit focus, you have to move to a pro line, like 300f4 then you can notice the difference.
Thanks for contributing and for your critique. From next month, the grey season starts with long days of cloud and lower temperatures. I was out walking with the camera. We had a break from torrential rains and floods, an opportunity came up for a photo, so it was something I decided not to miss, even though the lighting conditions were not ideal. Has that ever happened to you? I think it happens to most, itís called a Ďgrab shotí

I wonít be moving to the pro line lens you suggest. The 300 f4 is a beautiful lens with excellent clarity, but If I was to get a long lens, I would go for a 100-400 Panasonic. I realise, not everyone will agree with my choice, but it is, what it is.

Have a great day
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Re: Please advise

I am happy being corrected, as that is how we learn. Please keep them coming
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Re: Please advise

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gate Keeper View Post
I took this yesterday with focus peaking on in bright sunlight and high temperatures. Edited in Lightroom 4 to lower the exposure. One side of the butterfly can be seen and the other side is in shadow. I am thinking I lost out the details because of the shadow on the butterfly and perhaps if I changed the position, less shadow would have been seen? Thank you for looking and making suggestions.

f/7.1 1.1000 ISO 200 275mm

butterfly and flower, Nairobi by philip Gate Keeper, on Flickr
Hi Phil

A striking butterfly (I believe a Dark Blue Pansy - Junonia oenone) with all of the characteristics of a surprise spot and quick shot. Which I would have shot too.

My technique may help, a little. But in the heat of the day with a butterfly nectaring on one solitary flower you don't have long.

Firstly, take the grab shot and breathe. You have that now everything is a bonus. All of the subsequent shots are about fixing what you see as issues or things you'd prefer to get nicer.

I regularly shoot with an old friend who misses out the grab shot and often ends up getting nothing. He is 20 years older than me and is too steeped in film thinking. So take lots and keep one or two.

Usually stage two will be getting your eye-line right (this is fine here) try to get on a level with them and not shoot down unless it is for composition and try to get as much of the wings in one plane as you can (but don't kneel too soon!). Then move about trying to avoid stray grasses, leaves and also to get a nice soft background (once again all good here). With every move you make fire off more grab shots - you never know when your butterfly will have depleted the nectar or noticed your smell, shadow or movements.

Once you have the right composition try to inch closer, firstly with feet and then with just you arm. Mirrorless helps here because you can use live view on the screen and not keep your eye to the viewfinder. Not sure of the closest focus point for that lens but I aim to avoid cropping so try to fill the frame. Focus peaking may help with the final in position shots. Use SAF with MF and some focus support (enlargement or peaking or both) for the last touch of sharpness where it counts (usually the eyes and antennae)

If you work at this you can be taking this in and resetting in seconds. Time is of the essence. In this situation I would want to have about 10 grab shots and a couple of really good ones that I'd expect to be able to get a keeper from.

The harsh light is an issue both for the picture and also because the butterfly will be hot and quick to move. But I shoot at noon too. It is possible but not as good as reflected light. You could use some HSS flash (easier on other systems) to give infill flash to light up the shadow areas while keeping the high speeds you will be getting in sunlight. I did get it working on my em5 mk2 once but it was a faf. You could carry a reflector (never tried it but can see the problems ) In the UK you have less real bright light problems and clouds are a blessing. But I am off to Croatia soon and will have the very same issues of heat, light and shadows. I coped OK in Hungary last year (https://www.flickr.com/photos/131956...57683333769750)

So your Dark Blue Pansy is a beauty and also one of the top ten commonest butterflies in your region - so should be a regular. You may know this site/person but if not it may help.
http://www.ngkenya.com/inverts/lepidoptera.html

Keep shooting and send me a pm if I can help more. I've spent years and years on butterfly pictures and still have lots to learn. I envy you opportunities like this.
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Re: Please advise

Thank you very much Peter, I just read your letter out to my wife and we both said how helpful it is. There is a lot of information in what you wrote and it is something I will revisit. I looked at the sites you suggested and I have added a following to your Flickr page. I do not know Mike Pagens but I might get to know him. Thank you for the links.

Yesterday, I walked into the meadow and forgot to tuck in my socks around my ankles/jeans. I paid the price! A safari ant crawled up inside and took a bite. I had to take off my trousers rather hastily. A lesson learned. They are not very nice and one has to be careful how to remove them. They have pincers, are large and parts of themselves can be left inside your skin. I am careful about kneeling down. But all of your advice about the approach and set up is very interesting and helpful.

Thank you so much for taking the time and thinking on how best to advise me.
I had a look at the f/4 300 lens last night and will have a rethink about it. Do you have a favourite lens for butterflies?
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Re: Please advise

Sounds though a picture of you jumping around trying to debag would be good. Does your wife have a camera????????

Also you might have missed the opportunity to photo the Safari ant...We would love to see one..

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Re: Please advise

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Originally Posted by Gate Keeper View Post
Thank you very much Peter, I just read your letter out to my wife and we both said how helpful it is.

Thank you so much for taking the time and thinking on how best to advise me.
I had a look at the f/4 300 lens last night and will have a rethink about it. Do you have a favourite lens for butterflies?
Phil many thanks for those kind words and say thank you to your wife from me too.

I would not suggest the 300mm just as a butterfly lens, as lovely as it is it only deals with some of the needs. But if you had one then it would be a good start!

Over many years and with many different combinations tried I can give my thoughts and advice on what does and doesn't work. My current view is to take two cameras as changing lenses is not going to be a long term solution. And they don't need to be top of the range bodies.

1. You need an approach camera to take telephoto close ups. As I already said take shots before you lose the butterfly and take a number of shots as you get closer. It means you don't have nothing, but most will not be kept. This is your main lens. It needs to have a good close working distance say 24 inches and a reasonable magnification. The two things together mean you have few choices. And if we stick to the 4/3 system I have settled for two years now on the 40-150 pro with teleconverter. It isn't quite enough magnification so I usually need to crop unless I get in close to minimum focus distance. because it is a bright and sharp lens cropping is not a big issue. But on my em5 mk2 this lens grabs the background and I feel it needs phase focus but have not been able to try it. So I shoot on SAF plus MF and use focus aids of magnification and focus peaking and swear a lot when it refuse to focus on a flower preferring the tree behind. Not sure if Phase focus cures this.

So this is the approach shot to a Silver-Washed fritillary using the em5 mk2 and the 40-150 pro with teleconverter at full 210mm.



But with that combination you can get shots that say the 12-40 or other medium range zoom cannot. When the butterfly is impossible to get close too. This is a big crop of a butterfly (Purple Emperor) at the top of a tree. Something you need to look for! it was 30 feet up.



Of interest would be the 40-150 standard lens which is really good for the price. It just would benefit from a teleconverter, which they don't make...

I also use a G80 and the LUMIX G VARIO 14-140/F3.5-5.6 which is so much better for handling, pinpoint focus is magic and the dual stabilisation is fab. Olympus needs pinpoint focus. But the lens is not quite as good as the pro lens! It does not get the overall magnification of the pro lens combo but is 1/3 of the price and it is pretty good.

So this is from the G80 and the LUMIX G VARIO 14-140/F3.5-5.6 combo. It is 3 images stacked but they were good on their own, just wanted to get all wings sharp.

Love amongst the Ringlets

2. Your second camera will have the best macro lens you can get or the Olympus 25mm 1.8 or similar very close very sharp excellent focus lens. I tend to use the 60mm macro but have had most macro lenses and still have a few. Once you get close then you can use it and get the top shots. It will usually give you sharpness and also issues with depth of focus....

as a recent example



I could talk at length about the alternatives and my Canon stuff but autofocus is amazing. This is the 70D with the 100-400 zoom. It helped me to grab this Brimstone mating flight.



and the quality of the macro lens is pretty good on autofocus too. This was one of dozens I took of Britains most gorgeous butterfly.



I look forward to you reading this to your good lady wife.
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