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Posts Tagged ‘low light’

_EBT4769I spent a couple of nights up at Nanga Brook near Dwellingup (about an hour and a half south of Perth).  Tall trees, cool night air and solitude right on the banks of the Murray River.

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Nanga Brook runs throught the old township and in the late afternoon the chorus of birds and light playing off the water makes it a wonderfully peaceful place.

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Nothing is more frustrating than trying to photograph wildlife in the early morning or late afternoon and finding there’s just not enough light to get a sharp shot. Unless whatever you’re photographing is happy to sit and pose the result is usually blurred to some extent.

Much as I love my 150-500mm lens its maximum f6.3 aperture makes it pretty slow (meaning it doesn’t let a lot of light in and a slower shutter speed has to be used).

Pumping up the ISO is always an option but noise then starts to become an issue.

The other option is using a flash. The trouble you run into here is that flashes tend to scatter light over a wide area (even in telephoto mode) and have a fairly limited range. This is where the flash extender comes into play.

better-beamerA flash extender is exactly what it claims to be, a device that extends the range of your flash. There are numerous different types available and probably the best known of these is the ‘Better Beamer’. If you live in the US they’re reasonably cheap at around US$40 but I couldn’t find anywhere here to get one and to have one sent over was going to cost US$120 or more so I decided to do some research and make my own.

fresnel_lens_groovesTurns out to make a flash extender all you need is a housing to fit on your flash and a ‘Fresnel’ lens. Now I had no idea what a Fresnel lens was but a quick Google search enlightened me that this exotic sounding device is actually the thin magnifying plastic you can get at most stationary stores.

_EBT2158I decided to knock up a rough version first to see if it worked before I got too excited. Using a piece of lens out of an old ruler I had in a drawer, a couple of bits of cardboard and some sticky tape I had one ready to test drive in about 5 minutes. I estimated the distance to put the Fresnel lens in front of the flash by using it to focus on an object and then measuring the distance between the object and the lens.

This first attempt taught me not to have the lens at the correct focus distance in front of the flash because it does two things. Firstly it will cast a shadow of the concentric rings of the lens._EBT2124

Secondly, it focused the flash beam way too much. Now you might think that a good thing, but remember that you have to try and line up the, now very narrow, flash beam with your distant subject and your camera lens. Might be OK if your subjects not moving and you have the luxury of having a few shots to adjust it and get it right.

_EBT2143So I experimented with progressively shortening the length of the housing extender back until I got the result I was happy with. (I’m sure there are more scientific methods of achieving this)._EBT2144

Once I was happy with the prototype I bought an A4 sheet of Fresnel lens on eBay for $3 and used some old photo matting (strong but easy to cut) to make the housing. Glued it all together and then wrapped it in some cloth tape to add more strength.

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The end result was a complete success.  The photos illustrate the effect of the extender

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no flash

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on camera flash (SB700) in telephoto mode

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with Flash Extender

 

 

 

 

This shot was taken at dawn using the extender, the cockatoo was 25m (82ft) up in the tree, not bad for a $3 extender.

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A final few photos from our cycling adventure through Holland and a mixed bag at that.  A life size version of Noah’s Ark (that actually floats and tours around the country), wild horses, practice bombs from WWII and more ‘out there’ buildings.   I hope we get the opportunity to get back there again someday and explore more of this amazing country.

 

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 I love the way photography can inspire you to do great things. I took this shot one evening while out strolling by myself. When I reviewed it on the camera’s LCD I thought how nice it would be, to be sitting quietly in some far away land, under the trees by a quayside on a warm summer evening with a nice wine watching the evening unfold.

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Then I thought ooh, ooh, hang on a minute that’s me, I’m there. So I legged it down the quay and did just that 🙂

 

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Not a great shot but I thought it was a good example of the benefits of fill flash. It was taken at the Cube House in Rotterdam late in the afternoon.

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I took this shot but it had very little detail in the shadows. I could have increased the exposure but that would have blown out the sky so I popped the on-camera flash

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A lot more detail where the shadows had been and still have colour and detail in the sky

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After I added some saturation in photoshop.

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During the day the plant looks just plain dusty and dirty, but at photographed at night it can take on a bit of a fairy tale look. (and to all the puritan’s out there, yes I’m a bad person, I added the Milky Way in the post processing)

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