1 Dragonfly, 2 Lenses, 4 Camera Positions

I’ve been wanting to write about photography but had no outlet until I reworked this old blog last week. Selfishly, I’ve found that when I teach, I learn and discover far more than my students.

Taking out the kitchen trash, I saw a Dragonfly on the dried stalk of an Iris blossom.  It flew when I got close but quickly returned.  With such a willing model, I couldn’t pass up an impromptu portrait session.

001 Dragon Fly 4498

These first two images were made with my workhorse 17-70mm lens that will focus at 12″.  It’s relatively wide angle of view means these are cropped down to about 30% of the recorded image.  Okay for a 5×7 or 8×10 but if I wanted to make a large print, it would be a limiting factor

002 Dragon Fly 4519

The last two images were made with an old consumer grade 70-210mm lens that has a minimum focus distance of about 3 feet.  It fills the frame at 180mm focal length.The slight crop makes a large print much easier to make.  The lens was stopped down to f8 so at 3ft and 180MM, my Depth of Field was only 1/4″.  No problem isolating the subject from background.

003 Dragon Fly 4546

004 Dragon Fly 4525

You could do this with just about any consumer grade 50-200 zoom. Put the camera in Aperture or Manual Mode and stop down the lens to f8 while shooting near the maximum zoom of the lens.  Its easy to calculate ahead of time with this Depth of Field Calculator  or a DoF Calculator app on a SmartPhone.

Folks new to photography tend to not allow themselves to see or explore the possibilities of a composition. These images are different primarily because I moved the camera, especially aware of the background.  That let me change the “key” (low, medium, high) and therefore the mood of each image,  like a human portrait session.

The ambient light stayed the same, the model stayed the same but the photographer moved, exploring all the possibilities of the scene.

Some backgrounds didn’t work, like half sun and half shade or a light tree trunk dividing the frame. I moved until I had something that worked.  Being aware of backgrounds is essential for good composition.

All exposures were manual, the only way I know how to shoot.  I forgot to check settings when I changed lenses  so my first exposure afterwards was 1 stop underexposed and my shutter speed was too slow.  The underexposure was easily recoverable at ISO100 when shooting RAW, in my case DNGs.

In camera stabilization saved me from my shutter speed ( 1/125th sec ) being too slow for my focal length.  Figure at least 1/200sec or the reciprocal of the focal length ( 180mm) as these were handheld.  I believe that’s a good rule of thumb even with in-lens or in-body stabilization.  If you’re on a tripod, its a different story and future post.

I could’ve simply started with the longer lens but I wanted to see what I could do with the other.  One of the key benefits of digital is being able to quickly try things and get immediate feedback.  Its important to know what doesn’t work and why. And sometimes you get surprised. When in doubt, try it.

And don’t forget to take out the trash.