zondag 16 augustus 2020

It's just a trick

The last two weeks I enjoyed getting up before dawn and driving to my favourite fen. There used to be many dragonflies and spider webs, but since we had a few dry summers this has changed. It feels less alive. The advantage for me is that due to the draught this fen has partly dried up and the moss and plants are now accessible. The ground is soft (great for the knees) and a bit wet but smells wonderful (if you like that kind of thing). And I can be weird without people watching. 

My camera is the Canon EOS 5D Mark III (full frame) and my favourite lens at the moment is the Lensbaby Velvet 56. I use it at F1.6, 2.0 or 2.8 at maximum. For the pictures below I set the focal length to 7 inches/ 20 centimeters (ISO 100 with shutter speeds still above 1/100s). I want lots of detail in may pictures and the bokeh of the wet (very fine) grass between my lens and the focal plane adds to the picture (the rings). 

From a distance, if you would walk by this spot, there is nothing that really appeals, but once you are on the ground and look through the lens a whole new world unfolds. I made a video this morning. It was quite cloudy. 


The first morning I went, conditions were perfect. It was still before our 8-day-heatwave, the night had been clear and the sun was just up. The light was soft and the field was full of sparkling dewdrops. While the light was getting stronger, the bokeh became more pronounced.

During the heatwave I didn't think it would be worth it to get up at five. The nights were so warm, I did not expect any dew, but I was wrong! Stepping onto the wet moss was very refreshing. I will remember this next year. I have been comparing apertures and did not see a clear difference  between F1.6 and F2.0 but at F2.8 the glow is less pronounced, there is more sharpness and the pictures have pleasing velvety quality.

The 'red' flowers in these pictures are rushes. I noticed for the first time that there are differents species next to each other. Now I have to figure out which! The bigger one could be a rare species (probably not). The true colours are a bit more brown. I changed the hue of the orange to make it more red.

The grass blades have different colours. They are hyped up a bit (white balance/ hue) but I did not colour them separately ;) It may be that the red blades are from the rushes. So much to see on a few square centimeters! It's a world in its own. 

This mornings harvest. It was very misty, I love that, but the clouds wouldn't budge. The light was too flat. The quality of the light makes all the difference. I know this now, but it took me quite some time to realise that. On days like this I used to get cranky, thinking it was me.

I do have one rule though: never go home without at least one good picture. If things are not going to plan: change the plan. 

I always shoot in RAW and edit in photoshop. I play with the white balance, hue and saturation of the colours and adjust contrast to my taste. I do not have a fixed workflow or use presets. I try not to crop but occasionally clone out something.  It is better to look for interfering elements (straws in the background are terrible straight lines catching a lot of light) and remove them before taking the picture. However, with wet grass this is like playing mikado, when you touch something else the drops fall off and the effect is gone! The cloning is an option. 

If you click on the first picture they appear bigger and you can scroll through them. Enjoy!

zondag 30 juni 2019

Editing with Procreate

Procreate is a drawing app for iPad or iPhone that allows you to make professional drawings. You can also import images and it works great for editing pictures. You can work in layers, blend, draw with a range of brushes, smudge and erase. You can change contrast or the colors of your pictures and make selections.

What I personally like a lot is that it is very easy to draw on the pictures and add details. I use it on my iPad pro with an Apple Pencil. You can use your finger if you want but with the pencil more pressure means a thicker line. For a program with so many options it is surprisingly cheap (around 10 euros). Below are a number of pictures I edited with Procreate. I let my imagination do the work.

This was my first attempt after playing around with the program to get the hang of it. I usually start with the smudging tool (Calligraphy/Brush pen). And I always use the Luminance Brushes (Lightpen and Bokeh Lights). The picture was made with the Pentacon 50 mm 1.8. This lens already gives a painterly effect. The combination of creative lenses and Procreate work well.

The picture was made in March when there were only buds on this branch.
(Lens: Pentacon 50 mm 1.8).

A bit more editing and I warped the flower and the bokeh to get the desired shape.
(Lens: Lensbaby Sweet 35 with macro converters).

Then I figured out how to create lights in my image. For this effect I used the Luminance Lightpen Brush (yellow) and the Spraypaints Splatter Brush.
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 optic with macro converters)

This came out rather well. The picture is of moss with water drops. The drops were smudged to make them look like flames. With the Luminance Glimmer Brush I added sparkles to the fire. The bokeh was added.
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 with macro converters)

I make loads of pictures and don't throw away much (nothing...), so I have loads of images that could use a little imagination. Crane flies are not very pretty, but I have discovered that with extra wings and other details, they look like fairyland creatures.

Procreate makes a video of every step in the process. You can export these videos. It also shows all the things that were tried but erased.
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 with macro converters)

A heavily (heavenly?) edited wood anemone.
(Lens: Lensbaby Sweet 50 with macro converters)

Kind of inspired by my allergy to tree pollen.
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 with macro converters)

I love adding light to the images. With the Luminance Brushes this works very well on a darker image.
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 with macro converters)

When I took this picture of a very ordinary bug, I immediately knew it would be fun to edit.
(Lens: Helios 44 with extension tube)

The large sporophytes of moss always spark my imagination. Often I see a group of people lost in the woods or at a party (lost too ;)). But this looked like a little lamp.
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 with macro converters)

And finally a grasshopper, pretending to be superman.

As a child I loved to draw but it is so much easier if there is something to work with, like an image. I draw on the image, but you can also put an empty layer on top of it and trace the lines. Drawing on an iPad with the pencil is very satisfying. Of all the apps I have used so far, this one definitely stands out!

And I almost forgot the latest addition to the series of magic mushrooms!

zaterdag 29 juni 2019


On a morning with lots of dew, spiderwebs are beautiful to behold. I may not like spiders very much, but I sure like their webs. On the heathland I visit, most webs are made by tiny spiders. Wheel webs are my favorites.
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 with macro converters)

They are hanging in the tall reeds, sometimes completely horizontal.
(Lens: Lensbaby Burnside 35)

This morning, 30 June 2019, I went to the same field where I found these last year. There was a bit of fog and the sun was rising (fast). I was hoping to find many of these but there were relatively few spider webs. I never payed much attention to this, but I think it is still early for these spiders. The best time is September. I hope I am not wrong!
(Lens: Pentacon 50 mm 1.8 MC)

This picture is probably already visible on this blog. These webs may look big, but they are quite small. As you may notice it was formed in the grass.
(Lens: Lensbaby Edge 80)

I always work with natural light and I don't like to carry around lots of stuff. So I shoot out of hand and I don't use the white umbrella I once bought to shield the light. Although I think I could make beautiful pictures if I did... For me it just is too much hassle.
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 optic with macro converters (similar to extension tubes) and a white umbrella)

Last year I discovered how to use the Lensbaby Velvet 56. I already had it for a year. I think for every lens you need to find for which subject it is suited and what kind of light works best. I really got hooked last year. I love the soft look.
(Lens: Lensbaby Velvet 56)

Another big hanging web. They are so versatile and all the tiny drops reflect the light so beautifully
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 optic with macro converters).

I always work with a shallow depth of field, which means that I have the aperture open or almost open. Since I always shoot against the light, the shape of the aperture is often visible and I prefer it to be round. I thought I would be able to see which lens I used by looking at the image. But most lenses I use have similar traits. Probably because I like them ;)

Had to check but this was made with the Pentacon 50 mm 1.8 MC. It is a vintage lens and quite magical. If you are used to manual lenses this is one of the best. Not expensive and lots of fun!
(Lens: Pentacon 50 mm 1.8 MC)

This is another one made with this vintage lens. The web is glowing.
(Lens: Pentacon 50 mm 1.8 MC)

This is an oldy and a different kind of web. The spiders use moss, or mushrooms as a tent pole and weave there webs from there. If you are lucky you find a perfectly formed specimen! Usually they are more messy and not symmetric.
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 with macro converters)

And last but not least this web on a leaf. I take macro pictures for 10 years now and in the beginning I kept seeing things that I never noticed before. Even the details on a dandelion are beautiful when you never properly looked at it. But now when I find something new it is like a little present. These webs made on a leaf, and so perfectly, I had never seen before. And I haven't seen them since. I also don't know which spider made them.
(Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 optic with macro converter)

There are more pictures I want to share and I'm planning to write more often, but we'll see. I do post regularly on my instagram account.

zaterdag 25 augustus 2018

Bulbous rush

This year was the first that I really noticed this small plant: bulbous rush (Juncus bulbosus / knolrus). Because I love to play with drops I went close to the borders of the ever decreasing fens. Everything sparkled with dewdrops and the rushes are great subjects for tiny landscapes. The flowers are more brown than red, but I increased the hue on orange and red et voila!

Most of these pictures were made with the Lensbaby Velvet 56. When the light was still very soft I used F2.0 to create a soft glow and also the bokeh rings. The rings are out of focus drops close to the lens (before focus). I love to play with that.
It was dry and hot for a few weeks, as if it would never rain again. But once it started it rained almost every day and between the bulbous rush this very fine grass appeared. The yellow stuff is moss (Sphagnum). It holds the water and forms thick soft layers. Nice if you are on your knees!

I made many pictures of these plants, not only because I like them but also because sitting there in the morning, with the sun slowly climbing behind the trees, everything sparkling, was such a joy!
The Velvet 56 is perfect for macro. If you don't want the glow you just close the aperture a bit more.

I like all the little details in these pictures.
Leaves from the reeds had fallen on the ground and were also covered with dewdrops. It looks like a bridge to me.
You may notice that this picture looks a bit different. It was made with a different lens: the Pentacon 50 mm, 1.8. It is a vintage lens that I instantly loved. Although I have to say that I checked if this was made with the Pentacon, because it also has many features of the Velvet if you see them next to each other.

Wide open it gives a bit of a swirl and it is very soft, although this also depends on the light of course!
The sun came up around 6:30 and I was usually in the field around 7:00. Where I go the sun rises behind the trees and even though there is a lot of light, at first it is filtered and soft. Once it reaches the top of the trees everything is blazing in sunlight. The last picture was made under these conditions and you can immediately see the effect. Although with a very soft lens this can even be pleasing. This lens stole my heart!