Edinburgh’s Butterly & Insect World: Outcome
After visiting Edinburgh’s Butterfly and Insect World I thought it was a very eventful day as I managed to capture many great macro images which gives me a variety to choose from to put towards my final 20 images. Travelling to the destination by car it cost near £5 in petrol and was fairly straight forward to get to as it was located one of the Dobbie’s garden centres in Edinburgh. Upon arrival I had asked permission at the reception to use flash and thankfully I was given permission. There were plenty of butterflies fluttering around as well as caterpillars and ants which gave me ample opportunity to capture a variety of images. I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to photograph some of the creatures they get out for people to handle placing them on something that makes them look in their natural environment. As the place was indoors I was hesitant of taking any landscape shots and with the type of insects, butterflies etc they aren’t native to Scotland.
As mentioned previously my target would be to capture nature relative to Scottish tourism to show what Scotland has to offer and feel a macro shot of one of the butterflies is sufficient enough to show for that. I do plan however to capture the habitat of nature in Scotland relative to other nature which is native to Scotland such as deer and Red Squirrels. As I was able to use flash, lighting was not an issue and many of the butterflies kept relatively still allowing me to capture several images to get the best results. As I was using the camera free hand sometimes it was tricky keeping the camera still and using my feet and distance of my camera from the subject to capture the right focus.
Some images I captured were over exposed, to correct this I used settings on my flashgun to reduce the power of the flash to capture the correct exposure I desired. Despite the heat within the place I found I was fortunate enough there was no condensation on the camera lens which benefited me. I had also discovered a trail of leaf cutter ants working away and decided to get down low to the ground to capture some fantastic macro shots eye level with them which gave the feel of being among them. I’m very much influenced from programmes I have seen by the likes of Sir David Attenborough and feel by showing the world through their eyes gives intimacy with the subject you’re photographing.
Photographing insects and butterflies is challenging if moving and discovered using macro I was incapable of capturing that movement. For the leaf cutter ants I used a technique I learned from a magazine on sports photography such as racing by focusing the camera on one spot and waiting for the subject to enter the frame in focus, this worked fantastically well for capturing the trail of ants; I analysed where most of them were moving to and from, locked the camera in focus in position of spots I knew I could capture them in focus which worked to good effect. The only slight self-critical point I have from that shoot looking back I feel I could potentially have gotten closer macro shots of the leaf cutter ants which I think would have been interesting, although challenging.
The equipment I used for the shoot, I used my Canon 5D Mark iii camera body with my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro USM lens; also with a 31mm, 21mm and 13mm Vivitar extension tubes attached. On top of the camera my Canon 600 EX-RT flashgun with a Lastolite small softbox.
The following example shows the process I went through for shooting the insects and butterflies. I began by capturing an image first and then adjusting flash power on the flashgun accordingly to get a desired exposure, also for each shot I captured my target was to capture the eyes in focus which required moving the lens distance from the subject as well as focus to capture my favoured macro shots.
For each one of my best images from the second shoot I made slight adjustments to the RAW files such as; highlights, shadows and even increasing sharpness if applicable.
After making the slight adjustments to the RAW files of my best images it was easier for me to pick out the best photograph for my final 20.
How I came to the decision of my favourite and best photograph was not just the composition of the photograph and focus but the action state. Whilst I liked the other photographs I captured of the butterflies, the leaf cutter ants were perfect for capturing action shots of the ants carrying out their team work. Capturing the ants was more difficult as I had to get down low to the ground to capture them and due to their active state moving around I decided to lock focus on specific areas they were passing and capture them as they moved into my focal range. I wanted to capture an image of the ants carrying something as it tells more of a story to the photograph.
Here is a sample of images I captured:
Although I liked some of the other images of the leaf cutter ants, I felt in terms of composition and focus the best image had the edge, had I captured better focus of some of the others they could have turned out spectacular. It was quite difficult also to get closer as I didn’t want to crush any of the other ants in their path.
Here are sample images of the post processing work and of my final image:
Using Camera Raw to make slight adjustments to sharpness, shadows and highlights.
Using the sharpening tool to enhance sharpness to the slightly out of focus head of the ant.
Using curves from the image > adjustments menu, adjusting the white slider to appropriate position and adding second point to adjust contrast to give the image more shadows and highlights.
To enhance the atmosphere of the image I implemented a 3/4 gradient photo filter from the adjustments layers.
Here is a sample of the final image:
The following is a contact sheet showing examples of images of images that were mistakes I made when shooting. Followed is another contact sheet showing my best images from the shoot.
The top 3 images you can see examples of over exposure from too much flash power; incorrect flash sync speed which shows the shutter cutting off 3 quarters of the image and an underexposed shot due to taking the image too quick in succession and the flash did not fire. The bottom 3 images are examples of 3 great images ruined from capturing wrong part in focus, example being the eyes were out of focus and wasn’t pleased with the composition of the third image from the bottom.
Here is a contact sheet of a number of the best images I captured for my second shoot:
I was very pleased with the lighting and colour of a number of the images of the butterflies I captured with the green backdrop and was pleased with the focus capturing the eyes as I wanted with a variety of different composition shots. Image _20A5062 is one of my favourite shots for the colourful backdrop, composition capturing a different perspective, however as explained previously I felt my favourite shots were of the leaf cutter ants as it feels as if you’re part of them and it tells a story with the action of the leaf cutter ant. As mentioned before I would liked to have captured closer shots for variety but pleased with what I had captured.