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Posts from the ‘Photography’ Category

MM35 – Monochrome Madness 35

Here we go again, another week of Monochrome Madness, week 35 now. There does seem to be a bit of a theme happening in this weeks MM, and I bet you can guess it is Halloween.  We don’t do Halloween in Australia, though many of the younger generations are trying to make it happen, not sure how much luck they will have with that.

Don’t forget that this challenge is all about challenging yourself to make monochrome images, they aren’t judged and it really is all about participating.  So if you think you could benefit from doing more monochrome work, then consider joining us. The instructions on how to do it are list at the bottom.



When I was trying to get an image for today I thought I was going to use one of the ones that I had taken of a rainforest that I visited recently, but after doing five of them and not being happy with any of them I saw an image that someone else had done on another blog and I remembered this image.  This image I took over two years ago while on a trip to the Mallee, and I was never totally happy with the way I processed it, so I dug it out and tried to see what I would do if I were to make it Monochrome.  I like the result, and in the end knew this had to be my image today.  I have put the other ones up on my other blog and you can see them here, Trying More Black and White Photography.


Laura Macky has sent in this image this week and if you would like to hear more about it then go to her blog, Laura Macky and her post Forgiveness – Monochrome Madness

Don’t forget all the instructions on how to enter your own images are at the bottom of the post.  If you have entered an image then please remember to check your image in the gallery, scroll down and see if anyone has left you any comments.

Now, if you wish to participate and submit an image here is how you do it:-

  • You must email me the image you want to include and if you have a blog or website, or somewhere else, please include the link. My email address is
  • The image size should be low res, so the largest side should be 1000 pixels or less.
  • Please insert either your name or your blogs name in the file name.
  • Remember I am on Australian time, so with GMT I am +11 hours at the moment, I publish my post on Wednesday morning.
  • If you need more help with sending images, and get confused about time zones, etc, well, there is a great website called The World Clock, if you go to that and look at Melbourne time, if it’s before 6pm on Tuesday evening, then you can still send me images.  If it’s after that time, you can send me an image, but it will be set aside for the following week.
  • Remember to include a link to your blog or website.
  • Please remember to resize your images, it is fairly simply, you just need to go into any editing software and usually under Image you will find, resize, scale, or image size, something like that and you can resize your image there. Change the dimensions to pixels and make the longest side 1000 pixels or smaller, hit return, and for most types of software that should change the other side automatically as well. Just remember to save it with a different name so you know it is the smaller version.  If you have any problems, please contact me, I don’t mind helping out.

Please note you don’t have to be a WordPress blogger to be in this challenge, you can have a link to a Facebook page, a Flickr page, anywhere really, or no link.  We just want to encourage people to do monochrome images, just for the madness of it. Just to let you know also, that as soon as the challenge is published, all emails and images you have sent me are deleted from my computer.  I respect your copyright and would never keep any of the images.


Tuesday’s Bits and Bobs

Every Tuesday I get to this post and I have no idea what I am going to tell you about, what is happening in my world of photography. There are some things so I think I can do a post on it this week.


Maxwell International Australia have sent me two more filters to play with and experiment with for the Cokin Z Pro series bracket and I will be heading down the coast in the next day or so to see I go with themgarden-flowers-macro-083.  It is good using the filters, it gives me a much better understanding of how to use them.  I think I can can see an Up for Discussion post on using graduated ND filters coming too, so for those of you that have no idea how to use them or why you would use them, it will help explain it.

Macro Lens

I still have the macro lens from the same place as above, Maxwell International Australia, and I’m still trying it out.  I was asked yesterday if I would do a post on how I am finding it, so I will prepare a post on it for you next wegarden-flowers-macro-087ek, I might do it on Tuesday.  I have used it so much, it almost feels like part of my kit now.

The photos in this post were taken with the Tamron 90 mm Macro lens and are flowers in my garden.


I’m trying to get people interested in the workshops that I am going to be running up in the Mallee in just over a week.  I have one in Swan Hill on Saturday the 8th of November and one in Hopetoun on Sunday the 9th.  I didn’t realise that harvesting had already started and it seems that many who would like to do the course can’t, because of it.  I guess that means I will have to go back early next year to run them for the people that could’t do them this time.

garden-flowers-macro-086The workshops are really basic ones, they go right through how to use your camera, the different things your camera can do.  Then looking at how to take photos with it.  I call the courses Getting off Auto, I love the name, a great description of what the workshop is about.

For more information Click Here.

The Mallee

Of course this all means that I am returning to the Mallee and will be able to take more photos up there.  Not sure what I am going to take garden-flowers-macro-088at this point, but I am hoping that I will get to the Pink Lakes again, I missed going there last time.

Social Snappers

I don’t know if many of you have been to the Social Snappers website lately, but I have done a logo, sort of. It isn’t what I am good at, but I like it, but think it could be refined, so I will have to work on that.  If you want to check it out, it the header for

Gift Vouchers for Christmas

I’m also busy with Social Snappers trying to get some dates down for first term next year, so I can advertise gift vouchergarden-flowers-macro-084s for Christmas.  I should do the same for my One on One Photography Lessons.  I just think they could be a great gift from someone who knows a person likes photography, but they don’t know what to get them.  I will have to do Sample Vouchers to advertise them.

I think that is about it this week.  I am doing lots, but not a lot of anything in particular.  Today I am putting the Monochrome Madness post together, so if you haven’t got yours in yet, you better hurry. Here are my macro flowers.


Introductions – Mike Powell

With all the talk that has been going on about Macro lenses and how I have a loan of one at the moment, the Tamraon 90mm Macro, I have noticed that I have been gravitating towards other blogs that have macro images.  When I was trying to decide who I would ask about todays Introduction post, Mike Powell’s name came to me. Mike Powell, and his blog, by the same name, have some amazing macro images and I wanted to share them and introduce him to you.


There were some things on his blog I couldn’t show you, but you will see them when you go to over to take a look for yourself.  There is an abundance of insect life over there, and I am in awe of it.  I see insects in my garden, but they never stay still long enough for me to take photos of.  When I am out with the camera, they never seem to be around either.

When Mike explained where he lived, that helped to explain why he can get so many insects.

I have lived in Northern Virginia in the greater Washington D.C. area for just over twenty years in a suburban townhouse community. This area is blessed with an abundance of gardens and parks that let me indulge my passion for nature and wildlife photography, generally without having to travel more than about five miles from my house. We are on the migration pathways for some migratory species and are a migration destination for some others, so there is always lots of interesting animals, birds, and insects to see and to photograph.


As he just said, about the birds, there are birds on his site, some amazing photos of them.  It isn’t all insects, but there is a lot of nature there.  It is something that I never thought I would be interested in, but in the last 12 months my interest has grown a lot.

I asked him why he take photos for how long he had been doing it.

Photography allows me to experience the world in a different way. It has had a transformative effect on the way I look at my surroundings, and not just when I have a camera in my hand. When I was in college, I majored in French language and literature and spent a year studying in Paris. Several of my friends noticed that my personality and even the tonality of my voice changed when I was speaking in French. At that time I was quiet and introverted, but when I switched languages, I somehow felt freer to express my emotions and grew to love 19th century romantic poetry, for example. Over the years, my personality has shifted and I have become more like that original French personna. I sense that a similar process is taking place with photography, as my senses become much more attuned to the natural world and I am experiencing life in a deeper, more self-aware way.

Most people in the Washington D.C. area are incredibly career-oriented and define themselves by what they do for a living. They rarely look at each other when they are in public, with their heads often buried in their electronic devices, and are often obvious to the natural beauty of their surroundings. Three years ago, I decided to step off that treadmill and retired from full-time work, having spent twenty years in the US Army and an additional fourteen years in the federal government. Those jobs had been marked by a sense of stability and security, but I felt a need to experience something more, to rediscover the idealistic side of myself that had been buried for many years.

To celebrate, I spent two weeks in Paris and had a kind of photographic rebirth. Although I already owned a Canon Rebel XT DSLR, I had rarely used it, but somehow I decided to take photos every day that I was in Paris and to post ten of them every day in Facebook account. That experience rekindled my love for photography and I started taking photos regularly, particularly since July 2012, when I started my photography-oriented blog.



While I tend to think of Mike’s blog as mainly nature photographs, there are other images on there, and you will find a mixture, though I do think Mike does concentrate more on the natural world, rather than the man made one.

I asked Mike what his inspiration was.

The single greatest inspiration for my photography is undoubtedly my dear friend and photography mentor, Cindy Dyer. Cindy is an amazingly talented free-lance photographer and graphic designer and is one of my neighbors. Over the past three years she has been a continuous source of instruction, encouragement, and inspiration for me. I was particularly struck by a photographic exhibition that she did in early 2012, entitled Garden Muse, A Botanical Portfolio. I was blown away by the quality and beauty of the photographs and I wanted to be able to shoot images like that.

Cindy took me out shooting with her on numerous occasions and taught me many valuable lessons. More importantly, she sat down with me after many of those sessions and went through my images with me. Most of us are more comfortable sharing our images only after we have selected them and processed them and cropped and adjusted them. Cindy was willing to take the time to look at my raw images, to see how I was composing in the viewfinder, and to make suggestions.

Over time, we have ventured off photographically into somewhat different areas. I started off shooting her preferred subjects, flowers and the occasional insect, but gradually migrated to primarily insects, with the occasional flower. She still shoots primarily botanical subjects and five of her fern images appeared on US postage stamps this year.

Cindy and I talk regularly and shoot together occasionally, but I feel her presence and her influence whenever I am taking photos–she is my photographic muse.

I am also inspired by a wide range of photographers that I have met through my blog and who I consider to be my friends, despite the fact that I have never met most of them. These friends include Lyle, Sue, Allen, Ed, Gary, Phil, and Walter.


This image seemed a little out of place, but you know I love cats, so I couldn’t leave this one out.  I loved the intensity in the eyes, I know that look, I’ve seen it many times on my own cat.

I asked Mike if there was anything special about the way he worked.

I consider myself to be an opportunistic shooter. I spent a lot of time wandering through the back trails and the unmarked areas of my favorite marshland park, Huntley Meadows Park. I never know for sure what I will encounter and try to be alert at all times. I’ve been fortunate to see bald eagles, a river otter, a banded juvenile hawk, a family of beavers sleeping outdoors, a beaver breaking through the ice, and an amazing variety of colorful birds and insects, particularly dragonflies.

I shoot almost exclusively in RAW and currently process my images in Photoshop Elements 11 on a relatively old Macbook, though I am planning to migrate soon to Lightroom. I feature some of my favorite shots on my WordPress blog, which serves as my primary creative outlet. I’ve discovered that I enjoy writing my postings as much as I do taking the photos and try to inject my somewhat personality into those posts.



Recently I was on my way to a place to take photos and as we headed up this road, there were dragonflies everywhere.  The friend I was with was so excited, she wants to shoot dragonflies, but when we got to our destination there wasn’t one to be seen anywhere, she was so disappointed.  I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed myself. I thought perhaps there were very hard to do, but then I see Mike has lots and lots of photos of them, and they are so beautiful, so I want to know how you did it Mike?

The last question is always about gear.

I enjoy being on the trailing edge of technology and use a somewhat outdated computer and camera. I now shoot primarily with a Canon 50D DSLR (and will be moving soon to an original Canon 7D and shot for the first year of my blog with a Canon Rebel XT. During much of the year, I enjoy shooting with my macro lenses, the Canon 100mm and the Tamron 180mm, and when the weather turns colder and I focus more on birds than insects, I tend to shoot with my Canon 70-300mm zoom lens. On certain occasions, I will use my original Canon kit lenses, the 18-55mm and the 55-250mm zoom lenses, and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.

In addition to my camera and lenses, I tend to have a tripod with me most of the time and frequently a collapsible diffuser and reflector. I am not very experienced in using an external flash and tend not to carry one with me. This winter I hope to learn more about using external flashes and plan to add one to my camera bag soon.

Thank you Mike for giving me permission to feature you and your images here on my blog.  I hope everyone will go and check out his blog Mike Powell, he was talking about doing something special for you all today on his blog, so please go and take a look.  I have a gallery with lots more photos that I really liked for you to look at now.

Weekend Wanderings – Collins Street, Melbourne

Last Sunday I had another Social Snappers Excursion and this time we explored the architecture along Collins Street in Melbourne.  Traditionally, or maybe historically, Collins Street was the business district of Melbourne, and to some extent it still is.  As you walk along it, you can see the shopping part, which is the east end and then as you cross over Swanston Street and Elizabeth Street you start to head into the more business end, the end with the big buildings, the ornate buildings, the ones that say money is here.


We started at the Spring Street end, where Parliament House and the Treasury Building is, and one of the first buildings we came across was ANZAC House.  For those that don’t know ANZAC refers to Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and here in Australia we remember what they did in the first world war and the second, mainly the first.  It is a terrible tale of waste of our soliders by the British in many respects, and was a time when countries like Britain didn’t think much of our soldiers and they were often sent where the British wouldn’t go.  I’m happy to say that that attitude did change.  I don’t know the whole story, but that is what I have been lead to believe.


In the first half there are also a few old churches and they have the architecture and smaller associated buildings as you would expect from older churches.  This is the Assembly Hall, and I think it is part of the Scots Church in Collins Street, one of my favourite churches.  I love the gothic style architecture, and I also love that the ties to the past have not been removed.


The corner of Collins Street and Elizabeth Street.  I thought it would be interesting to show you what our streets look like. I imagine not that much different to other parts of the world.


The entrance to the old Stock Exchange Building.  When gold was found in Australia in the mid 19th century Melbourne really benefited from it, since most of the gold was found in Victoria, Melbourne became one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and had to have the buildings to match.  Unfortunately not all the buildings remain, and there are photos of some really amazing buildings that have since been torn down to make room for out massive impersonal, ugly skyscrapers, where the developers are more interested in building the tallest buildings without much concern about how horrible they are.  It is sad to see that craftsmanship, like in this building is gone and we most likely will never see buildings like this being built ever again.  I love the detail.


This is right down the other end, and our journey was almost over.  A new building going up and by looking at it, the most interesting thing about it the reflection of the buildings in it.

It was a great excursion, we walked all along it, we went from sunshine to overcast, from being warm to being cold.  We stopped at the Lindt shop for afternoon tea, and chatted about photography, and some other things. It was a great afternoon, I really enjoyed myself and the other ladies did as well.  I have more photos to show you know, so will put them into a gallery for you.  I hope your weekend is going well.



Weekend Wandering – Abbotsford Convent

On Thursday was another Social Snappers excursion, this time we went to Abbotsford Convent, an old place that was once the home of the nuns that belonged to the Order of the Good Shepherd. It is quite an amazing place.  The nuns sold it in 1975, and today it is more an art precinct, with many artists having studios there.  It is nice to have a place that you can just wander around.


The buildings are much what you would expect a convent to be.  They are large, but they aren’t grand.  Of course they are beautiful, but they don’t have the ornate details that buildings of this size would often have.


“If the walls could talk?” It must have been an incredible place at one time.  It is a very busy place now.


There are some amazing out buildings, and if you are going to go there, then you have to walk around the outbuildings as well.  This one is quite popular and a lot of people have their wedding photos taken in front of this one.


I had been there before, but not for many years.  The last time I was there to take photos I was using a compact camera and the photos I got were not very good.  I am much happier with the images I got this week.  I also don’t remember how the gardens were, which could just mean that I didn’t pay attention.  This time we were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful garden and many flowers blooming in them.


We chased this butterfly around everywhere.  It didn’t stay still for long. We finally got it on a plant and it just stayed for a while. I got out the Tamron 90mm macro lens and had fun taking photos of the flowers in the garden.  I really do enjoy using the macro lens.

I have a gallery of images for you now. We had a great time at Abbotsford Convent, and I could happily go back there another time. I would like to explore the inside more, the public spaces.  I love buildings with lots of history.  I am going to have to go and do some research now.

On a side note, before the gallery, my daughter got her license yesterday.  She said she will still go out with me to take photos, I hope she does.  We need to plan another trip.  What are you planning this weekend?



Up for Discussion – Using Extension Tubes

On this blog I have noticed how many of you seem to enjoy macro photography, me among them.  I don’t have a macro lens and it was frustrating me quite a bit, and then Ben, from APERTURE64, suggested I get some extension tubes.  He told me how I could use them with my 50mm lens.  So I did and they have been fantastic.  I also like, now that I have the loan Tamron 90mm Macro lens, I can also use the tubes on it as well.  I asked Ben if he would write a post on using them for us.  

What is an Extension tube?

Extension tubes are a tube that goes between your camera and lens, at present extension tubes are available for DSLRs with full frame and cropped sensors. An extension is a tube placed between the lens and camera reducing the minimum focus distances of the lens, enabling you to get closer to your subject. As you move closer to the subject the bigger it becomes.

Orb Weaver Macro-3489

There are many companies that make extension tubes, when buying you really get what you pay for. The more you spend the better the build, which means it is less likely to cause problems with your camera and lens (eg lenses getting stuck or even tubes getting stuck to cameras, it can happen).

There are two types of extension tubes, those with electronic connections, and those without. Electronic connections are important as they allow you to change the aperture of your lens as well as use auto focus. Non-connector tubes won’t let the camera talk to the lens, leaving you unable to change the aperture while the lens is connected to the tube as well as not being able to use the auto focus. The non-connector type will be fine with older lenses with manual focus and aperture ring.


One element of extension tubes that seems illogical is that; the smaller the lens (shorter focal length) the closer you can get to a subject. An 18mm lens will let you get closer than a 100mm lens. Although zoom lenses are great, I tend to use prime lenses as they create sharper images and are lighter. If you attach a heavy lens to a long extension tube, if the lens is not supported this could cause damage to the camera.

How to use

Using an extension tube is just the same as a normal lens. I use Polaroid tubes that came in a set of three; 13mm, 21mm and 31mm. These three tubes can be mixed and matched with each other, with all three connected I have a 65mm extension tube. I add my lens to the tube/s and then attach everything to the camera.

Instagram Image.

I have found that although I can use auto focus on my lenses it doesn’t really focus and I always manually focus with my lens. The inability to focus is because the AF system doesn’t have enough light to focus with. I manually focus the lens to infinity and move close to the subject until it is sharp.  I am usually seen swaying in and out as I take macro shots with my extension tubes, as the area of focus is really slight sometimes a matter of a mm.

Depth of field of the lens is extremely narrow compared to the lens by itself. I prefer to use the sharpest aperture so that the details I capture are sharp instead of having a larger area in focus which is not as sharp. Also as you get closer to a subject the less light there is, using the smallest aperture may not be possible.

Instagram Image 2

I favour the use of a tripod although there are times when that isn’t possible. When using a tripod I use the LCD screen, not the view finder to compose and focus my image, as I can magnify the area I am focusing on to make sure that it is sharp.

Into The Mouth Of the Dragon

Some issues and photo hacks

Extension tubes mean longer exposure times because there is less light reaching the sensor. Without a tripod the rule of thumb for the minimum shutter speed for sharp images is, no slower than the focal length of the lens. Attaching all my tubes and my lens equals an exposure faster than 1/100. As I said early it is not possible to use your tripod all the time, I have found this especially true when photographing insects and bugs. The only way increase shutter speed is to raise the ISO or use a larger aperture. In Raising the ISO you are adding more noise to an image resulting in a lower image quality and using larger aperture would result in a smaller depth of field.

Another option is to use flash. When using flash you want to have even defused light, nothing too harsh as this will create contrast in the image. An expensive option is to buy a ring flash which is attached to the end of your lens. A cheaper photo hack is to use a Pringles tube and some tracing paper.

I call it a flash extender; I eat the Pringles (the fun part) and then cut a square hole on the bottom side of the tub, I then tape tracing paper over the hole. I place this on my flash and securing with tape and then photograph. If it gets battered and damaged eat some more Pringles and start again.

Lady Bird Red 2

When it comes to photographing insects the major drawback is the lack of auto focus and the need to move in and out to take the shots, this with the need to get quite close to the insects as well has a habit of to making them more skittish. One option is to carry sugar water and place a drop for the insect to feed on giving you some time to take the shot.

Other uses

Abstract Macro

Extension tubes are not only for Macro photography they can also be used to dramatically decrease the depth of field, great for portraits and standard still life pictures. Also if used creatively can be great for creating abstract pictures with a large aperture.

Tulip Red and Yellow-0903

Extension tubes are a good cheap alternative to a Macro lens but I will admit once you start to get into Macro photography you will crave to move on from them and buy a macro lens. This doesn’t mean that the tubes are then a waste of money as they can be used with a macro lens to get you even closer.

wordless wednesday Macro Landscape


Thank you Ben, great explanation of what they are and how to use them.  I hope you will all thank Ben.  He is going to answer comments, so if you have any questions, please ask.  If you would like to see more of his work please visit his blog, APERTURE64.  I am going to put the images from the post and a couple of others that Ben sent in a gallery for you now.

Quiet Thursday’s – The Night Sky

Last time I was up at the Mallee, you know I took photos around Lake Albacutya, but I also got to go to Jonesy’s camp and do some night photography of the milky way from there.  It was a beautiful clear night and the burnt trees from the bushfires in January made great foreground interest.

I don’t want to talk too much today, I have a Social Snappers event this afternoon, which looks like is going to be great, the weather could be perfect for it.  So today I am going to leave you with the following gallery.


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