Guest Contributor – TomD – 11FEB2024 – Photo Talk

Tom | Flickr


I’ve done a LOT of studio type macro. If you want the easy way to do macro shots its with a lighting setup. I’ll attach a shot of my light box setup below. BTW: Important that the lights be 5000 kelvin color temp (daylight).

how to 1.jpg
how to 1.jpg

Light box (above). That’s my old Sony A850 on the tripod. I build the light holding framework around the box with PVC tubing. I’ll also post a shot of what I was mostly doing.

A Mexican coin shot using the light box. One reason straight on lighting alone won’t work is that it won’t create the shadowing that defines the shot.

Don Quijote.jpg
Don Quijote.jpg


Speaking of cameras, I’m about to acquire another body. It’s been about 6, maybe more, years since I gave my ASPC Sony a6300 to my wife and went entirely to full frame, full sized cameras. When it comes to photographic quality, you can’t beat them, but they lack in one really important respect: full frame, full sized cameras are too big and too expensive to carry constantly. I kept the A6300 with a Zeiss 16-70 f4 with me almost all the time. It’s small enough to fit in a pocket or console and be available. It wasn’t exactly cheap but but if it was lost, stolen or broken, it wouldn’t be like the $5K-$6K hit for one of my full frame bodies + a Sony GM series lens. And, frankly, you would would have to look very hard to tell the difference between most shots from my 6000 series cameras and the full frame cameras.

A significant portion of my favorite shots have been serendipitous.

The wife is attached to the 6300 so I’m about to get a newer A6600 for less that a thousand and I already have the big investment, the lens selection in hand.

Recharging the Batteries

I’m gonna talk about fun stuff today.  I need a break from Biden and his mush-brain.

I was watching a YouTube video by one of the guys who provides me with pep talks on photography and he said when you’re feeling uninspired the best thing to do is grab your camera and look for inspiration.  Well, Camera Girl has been haranguing me for the last couple of days about the return of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard to the swamp.  Now this is an annual event.  The same pair of mallards (I think) return every late winter to the local water and graze on the slime and ooze and raise up a passel of youngins.  Some of my favorite shots of the mallards involve heavy snowfall.

At the same time, they are very annoying because they tend to retreat from me and my camera whenever I try to capture them.  But this year the battle is stacked more in my favor.  I’ve got the Sony 200-600 lens and with its extra reach I can still get reasonably close up shots from what the mallards feel is a safe distance.

So, I went out this morning with my A7IV, the long lens and my monopod and picked my way between thorn bushes and mud holes until I was at a respectable one hundred feet from the ducks and banged out maybe a hundred exposures.  I used single shot autofocus and a comfortable ISO 1000 to get the short exposure time I needed with the long lens.

The ducks are kind of funny in that the male and female look totally different from each other.

And they have slightly different behaviors also.  The male is more confident while the female seems more cautious.  His head seems to be mostly underwater while hers is above.

He ranges around more while she is mostly still.  And interestingly, I’ve adopted the idea that they work for me and require my approval in order to feel legitimate.  Well today they got the official thumbs up from the king.  I provided them with the royal nod and now they can get on with perpetuating their species without fear of their charter being pulled.  I told them that I am following their careers with great interest and expect to review their progress sometime in the early spring when the latest cohort is swimming and quacking around the puddle.  After all Dunwich must be populated or duckulated or whatever duck increase is called.

I was looking for inspiration today and sure enough, it was fun.  And that got me motivated to download all the files on my camera and at least look at the mallard shots I just took.  And that is the evolution of a good day.  A little research, a little field work and a little work in the office and I have a few nice shots of the neighbors and a nice little illustrated post for the site.

All right.  Now I can stand to hear about what mush-brain has done today.  Hopefully something harmless like taking credit for the invention of shoelaces or something.

The Decisive Moment

Writing about Biden yesterday left a black cloud over my soul.  I must purge it with something less depressing.  So, I did some looking around for things that would cheer me up.  And I found this guy Alex at a YouTube channel called the “The Photographic Eye.”  He’s a Brit and says he’s been a professional photographer for about 30 years.  Which is fine and all that but what I found was a video he had called “Train Your Mind To See Photos Everywhere”.

So, the video is a talk on how to approach everyday items and circumstances to look for the interesting photographs hidden there.  And the images he provides as examples are mostly very mundane things; inside a city bus, a table with a partially unfinished jigsaw puzzle, details inside a restaurant or a construction site.

And the images are indeed mundane and some of them had no appeal for me as photographic subjects and yet others made me stop and look and think, “Yes, that would be an interesting shot.”


As a second exercise he discussed the classic idea of “the decisive moment.”  Even a lazy individual such as myself has read enough about photography to have heard about the French street photography pioneer Henri Cartier-Bresson and his idea of identifying an optimal or even a unique moment when a photograph reveals some dramatic aspect frozen in time. But here Alex advises us to take this same idea and translate it into a mundane environment.  Maybe a train station or a street corner.  But by studying the dynamic nature of the people in that environment you may find the moment when this situation provides an optimal chance for an interesting image.  Here he says that the skill is to tune into the rhythm of the location and stop ignoring the details that we usually tune out when on a street or in a supermarket.

And his third exercise he recommended that a photographer keep a book or even capture some ideas with his phone, where he writes down ideas for future photographs.  Maybe it is a place you saw as you were driving or maybe it’s a thing you saw on tv or in a book.  His point was that ideas often occur when you haven’t got a camera or you haven’t got the time but if you can build up a list of ideas you can plan an expedition or even an indoor shoot around your neighborhood or even in your house.  But as long as you jot it down you have the chance of following up on this good idea, instead of forgetting it again.

And so, these exercises are away to develop your sense of what makes an interesting picture and at the same time to make photography an everyday activity and make it an active rather than passive activity and finally to make it fun.

And in that final aspect, his advice worked.  I grabbed my camera with my macro lens and started stalking around my living room looking for juxtapositions with nick-nacks, books and random household articles.  And before I knew it, I was having a lot of fun.  Now I haven’t reviewed any of these shots in my post processing software so I have no idea whether I’ll still think they were worthwhile once I have a chance to look at them critically.  But I can say that my excitement about taking some shots was higher than it’s been since the leaves fell off the trees this fall.

So, to hell with Joe Biden and all of his rot.  If we let him destroy this country then we probably deserve it.  But I sure as hell won’t spend every waking hour thinking about it.  Life’s too short.  I’d rather spend it looking for the decisive moment.  Or maybe just getting a really nice butterfly shot.