Telephoto Flowers

Dahlia - Andy Sears

Dahlia – ISO320 – 1/250sec f5.6 – 200mm

While most of the time I use my Sigma 105mm macro lens for garden photography, one of my lesser used telephoto lenses is the Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6 Non-VR Bought second-hand this lens rarely sees the light of day, but on the occasions I have used it, I have been pleased with the results.

Using this lens at the 200mm end actually makes flower photography that much easier, giving me more room to manoeuvre. The depth of field is more forgiving than the macro lens allowing me to capture the full bloom while still separating it from the background. It is also lightweight and gives me the benefit of other focal lengths if needed.

The lens itself does have one major drawback on the autofocus front. It is slow, very slow. Although slow to focus, it does seem to do a good job (given time).

The different viewpoint offered by the telephoto lens is completely different from that of the macro lens. While detail matters I find myself looking at the framing much more closely with the better depth of field using the background flora proved beneficial to the end result.

The Nikon 55-200mm non-vr lens is available second-hand for under £70 and proves to be a real bargain, and offers more flexibility in not just flower photography but in general usage as well.

Pick up the Nikon 55-200mm from MPB



Dahlia Raindrops - Andy Sears

Dahlia Raindrops ISO500 – 1/200sec – f6.3 – 200mm


Rudbeckia - Andy Sears

Rudbeckia – ISO320 1/400sec f5.6 200mm


Cosmos - Andy Sears

Rudbeckia ISO 320 – 1/250sec – f8


















Trying Out Helicon Focus


Focus Stacking with Helicon Focus

I have had a few half hearted attempts at focus stocking using Adobe Photoshop, the results pretty poor. I decided to try out Helicon Softs – Helicon Focus. I purchased the Helicon Focus Lite version for approximately £22.00.

I took some test images and did not use any focusing rail,  instead  I adjusted the focus at small increments, giving me 10 images to play with.
Helicon Focus Screen Shot
After launching the software, it was a simple case of opening up the images, (Helicon Focus lets you open raw files direct). I set view to vertical split view so I could see what was happening during the process. Opting for Method A, I pressed Render and set Helicon doing its stuff.

Purple Lilly - Visart - Helicon Focus Stack

A couple of minutes later and I had my first stacked image, I was not hoping for much but was pleasantly surprised at the quality and depth of the resulting image. The result was not perfect, but considering this was a quick out of the box try out of the software, the image was acceptable, actually more than acceptable.

I had also taken a couple of images, where the focusing on each was not great, but stacking just two images in Helicon actually improved the image, and rescued the focus of the image.

You can export the stack into a 3D model.  The Helicon 3D viewer in the lite version has some text over the image, but still gives a good idea of what can be achieved.

You can try out Helicon Focus for free, with a 30 day trial available form the HeliconSoft website.

The software interface is basic, and east to use without having to know too much about what the software is doing. I look forward to experimenting more with this software and putting in some time and effort with some better imagery, and maybe also trying out the Helicon Remote to give me a live view on a laptop to help with somoe of those focusing issues.

Try high speed photography on a budget.


strawb-sugar-setupYou can try out high speed photography without sophisticated / expensive flashguns and lens.

A little bit of trial and error, will not only get you some results, will also get you using more of your camera settings. It is also a great way to get some photography in during the dark winter months.

The strawberry and sugar setup as you can see it basic. On camera flash, 18 – 55mm kit lens and a few bits and bobs. The hardest part was securing the strawberry in place.

Focusing was done view live view on the cameras screen, getting as much of the strawberry in focus that I could.

DSC_0503The simple black card background worked ok, although the on-camera flash did cause some light to fall on it, which was removed in photoshop using the levels.

The result on the right while not stunning provided an acceptable image for a first attempt at high speed photography.


DSC_0129A similar setup was used for some water drop photography, the attempts to catch the right drop proved a bit hit and miss, but decent results were obtained in the end. I purchased a cheap £25 flash from Amazon, not TTL but does allow me to set the flash power right down low to get a faster flash, supposedly 20,000th sec, but who’s counting. The addition of another Amazon bargain, a £10, radio flash trigger, allowed the flash to be moved off camera.

Using off-camera flash, allowed better control of lighting, allowing me to bounce the flash of the white card background as in the water drop picture here.

Another gadget I have picked up recently is the Triggertrap remote trigger device, again a low cost gizmo coming in at around £30, connecting this to my iPhone gives me all sorts of trigger options to play with, motion, sound and more.