In my photographic journey during the past year, I discovered that the most difficult thing in nature photography is to photograph a flying insect. Everyone loves macro shots from the small world, but they go “wow” when they see a well-done photograph of a flying butterfly, dragonfly, bee, or any other insect.

The difficulties of photographing flying insects

There are several reasons why taking a photo of a flying insect is a hard thing to do (a challenge bigger than street photography!):Flying insect

1) The small size of the insect will make it difficult for your lens to focus on it. More than enough times, the focus will fall on the flower, for example, – a bigger and steadier subject.

2) You need to get close to the insect in order to take a proper photo with blurred background (narrow DOF) and capture the details of your subject. You don’t want the insect to be a small dot on a large area of green grass, right? The problem is: when you get closer, the insect gets scarred away. I’ve literary spent hours chasing butterflies.

3) The insect is flying! So, it is a moving subject. Moreover, their flight patterns are erratic. Since you are very close to your subject, the movement will cause the focus point to change quickly, and, since you are in macro mode, your DOF is very narrow. This means you will loose the focus quickly.

Despite these obstacles and problems that you will encounter, clear crisp photos of lying insects can be obtained. What you need to do is applying at least one of the following suggestions.

The solutions for photographing flying insectsFlying insect

1) Don’t run after the insects. Let them come to you. This means, you should just settle down next to the most beautiful flower from the field. If you can find one that is still full of pollen, then there are good chances bees and other insects won’t delay long before they come. But, if you saw, let’s say, a rare butterfly, you need to go after it. Take silent steps that won’t disturb the ground more than the wind does, and, try to anticipate where it will fly next. In the same way, observing the pattern of a dragonfly’s movements is a difficult thing to do, that requires a lot of patience, but it can increase your odds considerably.

2) Use a macro lens with a teleconverter. This will ensure you can keep a safe distance in order not to scare the insect away, and still provide the necessary zoom in order to obtain a decent DOF.

3) You can forget about using a macro lens, and use a close-focusing telephoto lens instead (up to 400 mm). This is harder to do due to the difficulty of focusing on the right subject, which brings us to solution number 3.

4) Use manual focus instead of automatic. This looks like an easy statement, but, since we are talking about a moving subject, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Basically, I found myself asking: where am I focusing when the insect isn’t yet in my frame? I have the insect coming into the frame, but I only have time to trigger the camera when that happens. Experience taught me that I have to anticipate where the insect will be when I will click the button, and, that this area is usually a little behind, or in front of the flower. Therefore, I focus on the flower and then move a little, keeping in mind where the focus area is, and I only push the button when I suspect the insect entered that area.Flying insect

5) If you feel that you can’t anticipate the position of the incoming insect (let’s say you don’t have a waiting flower to relate to), then a fast autofocussing camera is a must. Let’s see Scott Fairbairn’s explanation on this: “Select the center point, continuous or servo AF, and use “focus” point expansion, but only to the points immediately surrounding the middle point. If you use too many points then you run the risk that the camera will focus on the background instead of your subject. To minimize this, I try to position myself so that I have as clean and uncluttered background as possible. I also prefocus at a distance that gives a subject that takes up about 1/4 the frame. Any larger , and it becomes very difficult to find in the viewfinder.” – source

6) You need a high frame rate of at least 6 frames per second. There is no guarantee that your first shot, or maybe third, will be the lucky one. Our mind is not like a computer that can calculate the speed of the insect and other variables in order to decide with precision when to shoot. Moreover, if you are are unprepared, and miss the moment, your insect will be gone – set off for another destination, another flower. As a result, it’s best to set your camera in continuous shooting mode and capture as many consequent shots as you can from the moment when the insect entered your viewfinder.

7) You also need a fast a shutter speed to get away with given the lighting conditions and avoid motion blur of your subject (suggestion: don’t go below 1/1000 sec). In some cases, you won’t be able to avoid the motion blur of the wings, but, you at least need the body of the insect to be crisp clear. Depth of field is very narrow at these magnifications, so you need to avoid a wide aperture (suggestion: f8 ).

In conclusion: there are a lot of factors to be considered in the complicated equation of flying insects photography. Even the most experienced photographer might miss setting up some of these factors, especially if he sees a rare specimen and goes under time pressure. Learning to quickly preparing at least several of these factors will increase your chances. And, don’t forget, it’s also a matter of instinct. Follow it!

 

Time-lapse photography is a technique whereby the frequency at which the frame rate is much lower than that used to view the sequence. When put together to play a movie at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster and thus lapsing. That would be the definition of time lapse photography, and, classic examples of scenes that fit well with this technique are: sunrise, sunset, flower blooming and plants growing, moving clouds, driving cars seen from a far distance, people walking, or even the evolution of a construction project.

This technique appears to be a bridge between photography and movie making, more movie making oriented since you will, traditionally, blend more frames together.

You might believe that this technique is hard to perform, but, in fact, it’s one of the simplest photography techniques there is. You don’t need to have super complicated camera settings and adjustments. All you have to bare in mind is keeping the exact same spot for the camera while taking the photos. Basically, what you need is: a tripod, a camera, and a lot of patience.

The frame rate of time-lapse movie photography can be varied to virtually any degree, from a rate approaching a normal frame rate (between 24 and 30 frames per second) to only one frame a day, a week, or more, depending on subject. This makes your choices very broad.

Now comes the big question: what if you don’t want to make a short movie out of those frames you took? What if you could show the entire change between the frames in one single photograph? Sound impossible, but, photographer Dan Marker-Moore managed to do this, and the result is simply amazingly eye-catching.

Instead of blending the photographs into a movie by putting them one after the other, he cropped slices of each picture and placed them one next to the other. In short, he created a series of collages in which a single image is made up of slices of photos taken in a time lapse.

The vertical slices of photos are arranged diagonally or horizontally, such that the slice on the left was taken just a few moments before the one on the right. The resulting image captures the array of colors when the sun rises over a city, or as dusk approaches the skyline in beautiful hues of blue, orange, and red.

The difficulty in this creative time lapse photography technique, is to blend the slices so well, that the image of the city will appear natural, as in one single frame. Think of panoramic photography. It’s the same concept: you blend several images to create a naturally flowing landscape.

In a recent interview, aerial photographer Dan Marker-Moore, said that for his images, the capturing process for each frame can vary from a few minutes to several hours. In order to layer each photo individually into one composite, he uses either After Effects or Photoshop. According to him, “important aspects of a winning timeslice include good variation of color in the sky and strong subject.”

Now, let’s see some of his best “Time Slices”.

Dan_Marker-Moore_Time_Slices_01 Dan_Marker-Moore_Time_Slices_03 Dan_Marker-Moore_Time_Slices_04 Dan_Marker-Moore_Time_Slices_05 Dan_Marker-Moore_Time_Slices_06 db2d980eab4f38468710fa1a3c6dcb6d

You can watch more on his website, and purchase prints here.

Whether it is a cup of coffee or a cup of tea, people drink it all the time. And every time they drink it, there is a story coming with it. Some people like to drink it alone, to taste it while thinking about their own little world with their big problems. Other people like to gather and socialize in the morning at work, holding a hot cup of coffee and a cigarette.
Either way, this old habit of drinking tea or coffee is always full of emotions, always meaning-full. This is probably the reason why the good old cup of beverage has been photographed over and over again.
Pictures representing the morning coffee or tea have gone viral. Because EVERYONE is drinking a cup. It might be bitter, with sugar, with or without milk, but it’s a daily habit.
Why not make a photographic story out of a daily habit that millions of people have in common?
In this article, I will start by showing you examples in order to trigger some ideas in your head, and then, I will talk about the actual process of taking a photo of a coffee cup.

Choose your theme and set your coffee cup scene

What makes the difference between the many photographs out there, is the mood that theses inspire.
The “good morning” wishes almost always have a glamour or vintage mood obtained in the process of photo editing. Here are some examples:

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Another highly photographed scene involving a coffee, is the art of shaping the foam on top of the coffee. The possibilities here are endless. Oh, and by the way, if you are interested in finding out more about the coffee foam art, check out the latest, most incredible coffee foam art by Kazuki Yamamoto.

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Classic associations of coffee and other things are:

  • Coffee + a person drinking it. Don’t forget: every picture tells a story. I choose to show you different kind of scenes, with people of all ages, alone or in a group.

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Here’s my personal shot:

drinking coffee

  • Coffee + a book or notebook or newspaper
  • Coffee + coffee beans and cinnamon
  • Coffee + breakfast
  • Coffee + the shape of the heart
  • Coffee + splash
  • Coffee + hands
  • Coffee + window
  • Coffee + bed

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However, if you don’t want to follow this trend because you find it cliche, than go for something original and “out of the box”. Here are a few ideas that made me smile:

Reflection in coffee coffee-cup-food-900x1600 coffee-stain-art4 NxGdFgj6juo  tumblr_mr8b70aPPJ1sx1obto1_500-1315 Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHtumblr_lrjtlq10nn1r363pgo1_500Picture-9

If you are wondering what to do with your cup of coffee, how can you monetize a picture of it, let me tell you that I have seen a lot of book covers that use an image of a coffee cup. It’s universal. Or, your local coffee shop might need some promotional materials and your pictures might come in handy.

Now, let’s see how to replicate the technical details of the above examples.

How to photograph a coffee cup

The first thing you notice, is that these images don’t have a lot of colors. Most of them have a clear brownish tint, while others were converted to sepia tone completely. In order to obtain the best quality image, you will need to create an environment that is mainly formed by warm colors.

Another thing you need to put on the priority list, is the contrast of your picture. Most good-looking pictures of coffee cups have a white colored cup. Why? Because the coffee itself is dark-colored. So, in the end, most of the above pictures have this contrast pattern: dark background – white cup – dark coffee. An advantage of the dark background is the fact that it allows you to capture the steam raising from the hot coffee. You can accent the steam a little with a powered down fill flash and a diffuser.
Ah, and… one more thing: make sure the coffee cup looks clean, without unaesthetic stains.

Next in line, is the aperture. Again, most of the shots have a narrow depth of field because the focus is on the cup, and the background must be only a splash of color. If you have other artistic elements in the picture, such as a cinnamon roll, or a book, or eye glasses, then you have to make sure these are also captured in the focused area. (However, don’t overload the scene with too many elements. You need to keep the attention on the cup and avoid distractions.) In this case, it’s best to have the scene set far away from the wall, in order to obtained a blurred background.
When you photograph a person drinking from a cup, then you can enlarge your depth of field, and follow the usual rules that apply to portrait photography.

For a more in-deep tutorial on how to shoot a cup of coffee in the studio, watch the below video. Here you will find out about the proper lighting in coffee photography.