The Olympus 45mm F1.8 teamed with the MCON P02 takes an already outstanding lens and makes it significantly better.
A close up look at the venerable Olympus 45mm
Fall is the perfect time to get out your camera and lenses and fall in love all over again.
That love affair may have roots in the wonderful colours of autumn, but it can just as easily extend to some of your finest cameras and lenses. The Olympus 45mm F1.8 is one of those lenses you’ll fall in love with over and over again.
I recently picked up a mint copy of the 45mm silver version for a fraction of its regular price and teamed it up with the magnificent MCON P02 to give me the ultimate walk around lens with impressive close focus capabilities.
This compact Olympus lens – now under the name OEM Systems – was first introduced to micro 4/3rd users in 2011. At that time, it was the fastest prime available on the micro 4/3 system.
Today, it is still easy to carry around, offers some of the sweetest bokeh of any lens, is very sharp and has fine, vivid colours.
It might have earned its reputation as a superb portrait lens, but it more than holds its own as an all-purpose lens, whether you are in your favourite woodlands, on the street or on vacation.
Slip the Olympus MCON P02 macro converter onto the front of the lens and you’ve got an impressive, fast, short telephoto and macro lens.
What better opportunity to run it through its paces than during the annual fall celebration of colour.
There’s lots to like about the Olympus 45mm lens
Sure, it’s a fast lens that creates tack sharp images even in low-light situations, but that’s just the beginning of what makes the lens a must-have. Focus is both fast and very precise. Build quality is very good, and its 116 grams (0.26 lb) makes the lens easy to carry around at all times.
Video shooters will appreciate the near silent autofocus capabilities of the lens, which benefits from its MSC (Movie-Still-Compatible) technology.
Check out the Olympus official site for the best deals of the day.
What’s not to like?
If you want to get picky, there is the rather expensive lens hood sold as an accessory and the fact that the lens’s minimum focus distance stretches out to almost 20 inches (19.69 to be exact) or 0.50 m for those of us using metric. The result is a magnification factor of only 0.11.
There’s not much we can do about the cost of the lens hood except keep our eye open for a good used one.
The lens’s poor close-focusing capabilities is an easy fix. Add the MCON P02 converter to the front of the lens and the 45mm opens up a new world to users. But more on that a little later.
Olympus 45mm F1.8 in the woodlands and in the fields
Lens specs have their place, but until we take the lens out into the field, it’s hard to really appreciate the quality and value of the lens.
So I took the lens out for a morning of early fall color on the roads around my home recently.
I have always prefered a short telephoto approach for most of my fall images. I find the telephoto helps to focus in on the intimate details rather than show the all encompassing view of a wide angle lens.
First impression of the Olympus 45mm
My first impressions of this lens were more than favourable.
Everything that has already been said about the lens proved true in the first few shots. Sharp even wide open, fast and effective focus, silent, great bokeh and lovely colour rendition.
And you don’t have to take my word for it.
Former Olympus ambassador and enthusiast Robin Wong states: “No matter what lenses I use on the street, I always fall back to this beautiful medium-telephoto focal length, and 45mm just fits my compositional vision almost perfectly.”
He goes on to say: “Being able to blur off the background is something I treasure, and the Olympus 45mm F1.8 does this very well, being a medium telephoto range as well as having a wide open aperture of F1.8. The rendering of the bokeh? Simply creamy and beautiful. Just what I needed to make some portrait shots “pop.”
Rob Trek, YouTuber and Olympus enthusiast, recommends photographers purchase the Olympus 45mm F1.8 as their first prime lens because it will give you “the best bang for the buck in terms of value…in terms of your creativity and your photography and the kinds of pictures you take.”
YouTuber Steven Heise says: “There are a lot of lenses that perform well, but then there are a small handful of lenses that come to the party ready to rock the house. This is one of those kinds of lenses.
“This is hands down one of the best budget portrait lenses you can buy for micro 4/3. When you take into consideration the image quality of this lens, the incredible sharpness, the color, the contrast and the quickness and accuracy of the autofocusing system, the answer just becomes abundantly clear.”
Peter Forsgard, a former Olympus ambassador based in Finland, describes the lens as “One of the best quality money ratio you can get on any M Zuiko lens. I think the 45mm is the one. It’s not very expensive, but the image quality is stunning.”
He calls it the “perfect lens for environmental portraits.”
Steve Huff, another Olympus enthusiast, had high praise for the lens in his review shortly after getting the lens in October 2011. He compared the 45mm F1.8 with the Olympus 12mm F/2 after declaring the 12mm the best micro 4/3 lens ever made. “After using this 45 1.8 for a few days I can say that this lens is equally as delicious. Yes, I said delicious! The IQ from this lens on the E-P3 is nothing short of astounding for the micro 4/3 format. Some of the best quality I have seen from any M4/3 camera/lens combo.”
Here are a few impressions of the lens from Olympus users gathered from forums around the internet.
• “The images are tack sharp, the colours warm and flattering, the focus is both quiet and fast, and the “Bokeh” which all the Olympus haters go on about is feathery soft.”
• “Perfect for portraits, it’s also great for giving a different perspective on landscapes and cityscapes…. Sharpness is the outstanding feature of this lens though. You notice it from the first shot you take. It makes you feel like a pro. Contrast and colour are so good that you’ll barely need to adjust your photos in Photoshop or the like…. The bottom line is that this is a near perfect and therefore essential lens for a bargain price.”
I think it’s fair to say that in all my research into the 45mm F1.8, I struggled to find anyone critical of the lens.
Of course there is a reason for all this praise, and it stems from the fact that the lens is among the best in its class.
The short telephoto is ideal for everyday garden and nature photography. It’s probably not long enough to capture most wildlife including birds, small mammals and insects, especially since its minimum focus distance leaves a little to be desired.
But that’s where the Olympus MCON P02 macro converter steps into action.
Close-up photography with the 45mm F1.8
Very few of us really need true macro, meaning 1:1 magnification. What most of us focus on is better described as close-up photography, which is magnification less than 1:1 or lifesize.
By adding the Olympus MCON P02 filter to the Olympus 45mm F1.8 you get an outstanding close-focus performer that benefits from having a lovely creamy background.
The high-quality filter that screws on to the front of the lens is constructed in 1 group with 2 elements and weighs a mere 52g. It comes with quality front and rear lens caps and a step-up ring.
Use it wide open to explore creative selective focus effects like the purple Beautyberries below.
Or, use the lens’s inherent sharpness to create exquisitely finely detailed images like the Northern Sea Oat grasses above.
For more on close-up photography check out my post here.
Why the MCON P02 close-focusing lens instead of a true macro lens?
There are many reasons to go with the P02 over a true macro lens. First, there is the cost savings. You should be able to pick up a P02 for less than $100 and considerably less than that if you are lucky enough to find one on the used market.
In comparison, a true macro lens will set you back 5X the cost of the P02 and add another lens to your camera bag. There is something freeing about using a single sweet little lens that can double as an exquisite macro lens.
To screw the filter to the front of the lens, a ring first needs to be removed from the front of the lens.
When used with the 45mm F1.8, the lens’s closest focusing distance is almost cut in half to approximately 24cm. The image below from the Olympus website shows the difference between the close focus capabilities of the lens with and without the P02.
For more on the MCON P02, check out the official Olympus site.
MCON P02: A versatile addition in the palm of your hand
Don’t think for a minute that the P02 is made only for the 45mm. This little add-on filter is a versatile addition to your camera bag and fits nicely on the 14-42mm kit zoom as well as a number of other Olympus lenses. On the popular ED 14-42 F3.5-5.6 EZ the add-on lens turns the lens into a semi-macro lens with the shortest shooting distance of 18cm and the maximum image magnification of 0.38x (35mm equivalent: 0.76x). It comes with step-up rings to attach it to a 37mm filter diameter lens.
For a complete list, see chart below.
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm F3.5-5.6II
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm F3.5-5.6IIR
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm F1.8
Just add a step-up ring for use on the following lenses
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm F1.8
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm F1.8
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm F2.0
Create a front garden that pleases you rather than your neighbours.
Be bold not boring in your front garden
Front yards don’t have to be boring, but fear of being different often results in front yards conforming to every other yard on the street.
And that almost always leads to a street full of boring front yards. Typically, a sea of grass, small foundation garden beds and maybe a small single tree in the middle of the yard.
It’s much better to be bold, make a statement and create a front landscape that reflects a style that makes YOU happy rather than the neighbours.
In our rather small front yard, we have worked to create a very casual woodland garden in the main area leading with a Japanese-inspired woodland garden in another part of the front yard.
In this “small front garden” all grass has been removed. Instead, there is a total of nine trees, a variety of ground covers including ferns, pachysandra, epimediums, moss, creeping phlox, foamflower and bloodroot, just to name a few. It also has several drifts of black-eyed-susans and ornamental grasses big and small, as well as many more native plants, several massive boulders, a dry river bed, two bird baths and two very prominent yellow Adirondack chairs on a small flagstone patio.
Yes, that’s a lot to pack into a smallish front yard, but it’s an example of what is possible once you remove the grass and open up your vision to a front yard that does not conform to what most homeowners consider acceptable. My immediate neighbour also removed all of their front grass and created an oasis of native, non-native plants, trees and shrubs that, together, create an exceptional habitat for a host of wildlife from mammals to reptiles, from a variety of birds to pollinators too numerous to name here.
Unfortunately, we are the minority on a street of orphaned trees growing in a sea of never ending lawns and boring foundation plantings. And, this is in an area surrounded by conservation lands and massive natural forests.
Time to rethink our front landscapes
I recognize, however, that our front woodland garden landscape design might not be for everyone. Maybe a less aggressive approach that includes some grass and sweeping gardens with a variety of tidy perennials, might suit you better. Maybe a more contemporary garden made up primarily of evergreens is something that would appeal to you more.
To enhance the overall appeal of your front yard, here are five landscaping ideas that will help transform your outdoor space into a more welcoming one.
Create a Welcoming Pathway: A well-designed pathway leading to your front door not only adds visual interest but also guides visitors to your home. Consider using natural stone pavers or colourful tiles to create a unique and inviting pathway.
Incorporate Colourful Flower Beds: Add vibrancy and charm to your front yard by planting colourful flower beds. Choose a variety of flowers that bloom at different times of the year to ensure year-round beauty. Be sure to incorporate native plants to attract local wildlife and promote biodiversity.
Install Outdoor Lighting: Softly illuminate your front yard with strategically placed outdoor lighting. Not only does it enhance the safety and security of your home, but it also adds a warm and inviting ambiance. Use path lights to highlight the pathway and accent lights to showcase architectural features or focal points. Don’t use bright lights that disrupt the lives of animals and insects that depend on darkness to survive.
Add a Water Feature: Incorporating a water feature, such as a small fountain or a pond, can create a soothing and tranquil atmosphere in your front yard. The sound of running water adds a sense of serenity and can mask unwanted noise from the street.
Utilize Vertical Space: Make the most of limited space by utilizing vertical elements. Install trellises or arbors and grow climbing plants. This not only adds visual interest but also creates privacy and shade.
This professional garden design (below) created for a Pacific Northwest garden, (see full story here) is a perfect example of what can be done when a bold approach is taken.
Try designing around a focal point in the garden
Once you embrace your style with courage and commitment, try to settle on a focal point in your garden.
The focus of our front yard are actually the two very yellow Adirondack chairs that, more than anything, make a statement that this is meant to be a casual place – almost our cottage in the city.
I like to think that a woodland garden, by its very nature, is a casual unpretentious landscape that conveys a message that the people who live here care about the environment, wildlife and native plants more than impressing others, including the neighbours.
More on the Environmental Benefits of a Woodland Garden.
It is also a front yard that is not wild and out-of-control and possibly seen as an eyesore on a street of very, very traditional front landscapes.
Our front garden is also in constant change – from the native plants in the main garden, to the annuals that fill our two window boxes.
Birds make nests in the trees, visit the bird baths on a regular basis and devour the fruit of our native serviceberry tree in early summer. Deer visit the garden to sample the plants and even the local foxes often use the area to hunt.
It may not, however, be a front yard that appeals to everyone.
So, let’s take a look at a variety of front landscapes that lie between our grassless woodland garden and a traditional front yard.
More front yard ideas: The tiny front yard
Whether it’s a cottage garden, a contemporary garden or something in between, the important thing is to embrace your style and move forward.
If you are short of space, embrace that vibe.
• Remove the grass
• Use paving or mulch to cover the entire space
• Consider using containers to grow your favourite plants
• Create one centre of interest – a bistro table and two small chairs or a small water fountain for the birds.
• Don’t be afraid to use at least a few large-leaved plants like hosta, elephant ears or a large fern to create visual interest.
• Try to keep the space simple and use natural elements as much as possible.
• The goal is not to make the garden pretty by using too much colour or unnatural materials. Bright white quartz stone rarely looks right in a garden, but pea gravel or river rock can work well. Better yet, large moss-covered boulders can be a perfect statement piece for even a tiny garden.
One of the most common situations I am asked about is what to do with a very small inner-city front garden with an existing mature tree where grass struggles to grow. The key to success here and in most difficult situations is to work with, rather than against, what nature is offering you.
In a tiny garden
My suggestion: Remove all the grass. Bring in some large boulders (not mid-size rocks) and bury them in the landscape. Please don’t let them lay on top of the soil. Boulders need to be dug in so that at least one-third is under the ground. This gives the impression that the boulders are rising out of the ground rather than placed on top of it.
Add some native ground covers, or mulch the area heavily with a pea gravel or bark mulch. Include a simple flagstone pathway, a bird bath – maybe one carved out of one of the boulders – and a small tree or large multi-stemmed shrub (maybe a serviceberry) that is trimmed up like a small multi-stemmed tree. The bird bath could be replaced over time with a bubbling rock or natural looking fountain. The moving water will help attract more birds and other wildlife.
Larger front yard covered in turf grass
A more typical surburban front yard offers more choice and more challenges.
Removing all the grass might not be an option or even a desired result.
The question to ask yourself is whether it is worth your time and effort to care for the grass, including lugging the lawn mower and other instruments of destruction from the back yard to the front yard on a weekly basis. If you plan to remove the grass, it might be best to do it over the course of several years rather than all at once.
By creating ever expanding garden islands in your existing turf, you can slowly migrate away from turf entirely, or just leave strips of grass that are easily mown with a single pass.
My suggestion: Consider a five year plan where most of the grass is slowly replaced by large garden islands. Individual islands can serve different purposes and allow you to experiment with different plants and even styles.
One island could be set up to attract birds with fruiting shrubs and an under-story tree like a Flowering Dogwood. Add some native purple coneflowers and black-eyed-susans to provide late-summer food sources for birds. Supplement these sources with annual sunflowers to add some whimsy and provide more food and habitat for birds. A bird bath and small bird feeder is a nice addition.
Another island might focus on plants that thrive in acidic soil. Once you have amended the soil to acidify it, you can begin to plant hydrangeas, blueberries, and other acid-loving native woodland plants that can be more easily grown together rather than trying to combine them with non-acid loving plants. Mulch the acidified soil with pine needles to enhance the soil and keep the plants healthy.
In another island you may want to turn your attention to edibles. Plant your favourite herbs, one or two tomato plants, your favourite garden vegetables and maybe a favourite fruiting tree like a peach or even an orange or lemon tree if you are in the warmer growing zones.
If you like the cottage/meadow look, a garden island allows you to create that look in a smaller scale rather than trying to manage a massive meadow garden that can easily get out of control. Grow all your favourite plants, but grow them in a manageable-sized garden where you can focus your energy into creating a wild but still-in-control cottage garden. More on meadow gardening here: Create a mini meadow; The making of a large meadow
The above collage (bottom right) shows a large garden island made entirely of evergreens. This is perfect to create winter interest as well as provide year round habitat for wildlife.
In conclusion: A front garden for your enjoyment
In the end, it’s important to first create a front garden that pleases you. If you can, keep in mind that your garden should not look so out of place in the neighbourhood that you are going to draw too much negative attention. That can be difficult if you are in a very traditionally minded neighbourhood. In that case it might be wise to go all out in the backyard, while you take a slightly tamer approach in the front yard.
I have read about so many homeowners trying to do the right thing only to be forced to cut down their gardens because neighbours or home owner’s associations choose to continue living in the 1950s.
If you find yourself in this situation, create a garden that pleases you most but maintains a enough of a traditional garden appearance that it does not attract too much attention.
If you are in a more progressive area, or in one that is far from your neighbours, have some fun. Go bold and create a garden for you, your local wildlife and the natural environment.
You won’t regret it.
The moody green theme has become extremely popular in today’s social media apps. Creating that vision in your own garden images begins by building a Lightroom preset that helps you create the images.
Dark-Green look is perfect for garden photography
Garden photography offers an opportunity to capture beautiful images as well as give your cameras, lenses and accessories a real workout. The problem many photographers have is coming up with new ideas to take their garden photography to another level.
Creating high-key painterly images with your garden photographs (see images below) is certainly one way to add an artistic impression to your photography, but so too is doing the opposite and going dark and moody. (see above image)
In this post, we are going to explore tips on how to create this moody effect with our existing garden images, including revealing the Lightroom settings I use to create these dark green, moody images.
The camera you use to achieve these images can be as simple as your phone’s camera or a favourite point-and-shoot. For tips and reviews on my favourite cameras for garden photography, check out the following posts: Pentax K5, FujiX10, Pentax Q, Canon Powershot Elph, Panasonic Lumix, Olympus E-10 or Olympus PEN series of cameras.
Photography programs, however, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, even free programs like Gimp and Krita become integral to creating these memorable garden images.
Late fall and winter is also the ideal time to cozy up to your computer and experiment with some of your existing images.
I often use these digital post processing programs to create painterly images of my favourite flower and bird images. For more on how I create these images, check out my posts here: Creating Painterly Images from photographs, Digital images of hummingbirds.
Most of these processes involve creating high-key images of birds in winter or flower images. These results can be beautiful in their own right, but a growing trend in photography is creating a dark and moody feel in the images that often revolves around the greens contained in the image. This involves converting your vibrant spring and summer greens into dark, moody greyed-down greens while maintaining the other colours in the image.
I don’t consider myself an expert in post processing images, but I recognize that being able to create memorable images – whether they are fall scenes, portraits or garden images – requires some familiarization with these photography post processing computer programs.
Mastering basic techniques can transform your images from standard photographs into impressive works of art or simply bring out the best in your photography.
Below are just a small sampling of my Moody Green images I created using my Lightroom preset.
Create your own Moody-Green preset in Lightroom
So, how do we transform these images from average to memorable moody green garden photographs?
While similar effects can be created in Photoshop and other photo post processing programs, I simply use an older version of Lightroom to create the effect.
Lightroom presets are usually just a good starting point
Anyone who uses Lightroom presets knows that they are usually nothing more than a very good starting point.
Instead, you’ll likely need to tweak each individual image to get the desired results. Sometimes that involves decreasing the exposure, raising the blacks, playing with the shadow sliders or working with the HSL (hue, saturation and luminence) sliders to perfect the colours in the image.
The main focus of the dark-green moody look is to grey-down or add more black to the greens in the image. This is done by desaturating the greens while leaving most of the other colours intact to some degree.
Many photographers sell their favourite presets
You can purchase a moody-green preset from many photographers who offer them for sale on-line usually on their personal websites. All of these presets would likely give you slightly different, but similar results. By tweaking your finished presets, you can create more presets with slightly different looks that might work better with another type of image.
Once the original preset is tweaked, ensure that you save it under a different name. I have created a number of presets to give me different results from cinematic effects to high-key pastel images.
Rather than try to sell my moody green preset, I offer it here for readers to experiment and create on their own.
Here are my preset settings for Moody Green images
The following are my settings to create moody-green images with Lightroom 4. More up-to-date versions of Lightroom will give you finer control of the sliders, but the end result should be similar.
Feel free to copy these levels to create your own moody-green preset. Remember, most images will still need tweaking to achieve your desired results. Also, be warned that some images will not work at all with this and other presets.
Creating presets in Lightroom
By following the above settings, you should be able to create the moody look that is so popular on social media these days.
Once you have created an image you are satisfied with, simply save the Lightroom preset under Develop/new preset.
By going through your existing images and picking out photographs that you think might work with the Moody- Green theme, you can test it out with the click of your mouse.
Creating a habitat for wildlife can be as simple as a flower border extending down the side of a driveway or across the back of your yard.
How to create a naturalized flower border for wildlife habitat
The combination of dozens and dozens of colourful Goldfinches and monarch butterflies feeding on hundreds of sunflowers and a mix of other native and non-native plantings was simply too much to pass by.
As a gardener and photographer, these are situations begging us to explore further. The massive border stretching along a roadway leading into an old cemetery is obviously not natural. Although parts of it were planted, it had been left to naturalize on its own resulting in the creation of a wonderful wildlife habitat that would not be difficult – except for its sheer size – to duplicate in our own gardens
This is not a typical precious garden border we see in so many urban landscapes.
Creating a naturalized flower border with a combination of native and non-native flowers, with an eye on providing seeds for birds and other wildlife, is the key to creating ideal wildlife habitat.
(All the images on this post are from the flower border wildlife habitat.)
How to create wildlife habitat
These plantings grow together creating a wall of foliage where birds, red squirrels, mice, insects and who knows what else can seek refuge in a natural wildlife habitat.
What it’s not is a single coneflower planted in a sea of mulch, or a grouping of three sunflowers held erect with poles and supports.
There are no individual plants in this naturalized border.
This is habitat – real habitat. Habitat that birds, butterflies and a host of other wildlife flock to for food and cover.
If you ever wanted to create outstanding wildlife habitat, this is the way to do it. Take notes, take pictures and work to create something similar in your own backyard.
The border measures at least the length of a football field, yet it is only maybe 10-12 feet deep running along the side of a chain link fence.
In late summer and fall, it is truly a magnificent entrance to what many would consider a solemn place.
But here, it works as a celebration of life if there ever was one!
Lessons learned from the ultimate wildlife habitat
Besides its obvious wildlife benefits, the naturalized border’s greatest gift is an opportunity to learn from its magnificence.
We can explore it, study it and learn from it with the idea of creating a smaller version that offers the same benefits to our backyard wildlife.
This is actually a form of mini meadow created from what would have been a wasted strip of grass running alongside a roadway leading into a cemetery. (See posts: Making a mini meadow, and the Making of a Meadow.
It’s really a shame that more cemeteries, golf courses and other public areas don’t adopt a similar approach to wasted spaces where grass seems to be the only option in their minds.
The naturalized border provides us with an opportunity to record – even if it’s only in our minds – the vision of a more or less naturalized border incorporating sunflowers, coneflowers, goldenrod, cosmos and a host of other native and non-native flowers.
I love using natural areas as inspiration for our garden. Check out my link for more inspiration on learning from what Mother Nature offers.
Back to our naturalized border and wildlife habitat.
I stumbled upon the magnificent naturalized flower border while out photographing Great Blue Herons and White Egrets at a nearby pond.
After an afternoon with the herons and egrets, (see images below) the flower border literally stopped me in my tracks and forced me to drive over for a closer look.
As I drove up to it, the long, naturalistic border of sunflowers, coneflowers, New England asters, goldenrod and cosmos, – just to name a few – slowly revealed its true magnificence. Birds and more birds feeding voraciously on the sunflowers, coneflowers and other seed heads that filled the border.
If you ever wanted to see nature at work, it was here in great abundance.
Goldfinches to be more exact. Sure, there were a few chickadees, sparrows and even a couple of hummingbirds that joined in on the feast, but for the most part it was primarily goldfinches. I am sure other birds join in on the action over the course of a day but the overwhelming number of goldfinches was hard to ignore.
Monarch butterflies also visited the plants regularly as they prepared for their long journey south for the winter.
It was a spectacular scene and one I knew I had to return to the very next day.
And that I did, accompanied by an arsenal of cameras and long lenses. Truth be told, I actually returned for a second day because the action along the border was too good to ignore.
It was also the perfect opportunity to try out various cameras and lenses for my camera reviews on this site.
Cameras and lenses used to document the wildlife habitat border
While my Pentax K5 and 300mm F4.5 * lens documented most of the action, I have to admit that the Olympus EM-10 equipped with the 40-150mm kits lens resulted in many of my favourite images. Pentax’s X5 Bridge camera with its built-in 26x optical zoom, offering 22-580mm equivalent (35mm) held it’s own with the goldfinches but was by far the most difficult to use. Once I set the the camera to multiple burst mode, my success rate improved.
The overall results during the two-day shoot were well worth the effort.
More images of the naturalized border here.
Photographers: Don’t pass up a perfect opportunity
The first quick visit to the border following the afternoon at the pond photographing egrets and herons, was enough to tell me that I stumbled across something very special with a lot of opportunity.
If you are thinking about creating your own wildlife habitat in your backyard, Prairie Up, An Introduction to Natural Garden Design, is a good starting point. In this book, Benjamin Vogt shares his expertise with prairie plants in a richly photographed guide aimed at gardeners and homeowners. His step-by-step blueprints point readers to plant communities that not only support wildlife and please the eye but forces us to rethink traditional planting and maintenance.
The fact that no other photographers were there capturing the incredible scene told me that maybe no-one else noticed the potential opportunity.
Turns out I wasn’t alone, however. On my visit the next day, it was obvious that this scene did not go unnoticed. A number of other photographers also recognized the potential of the naturalized flower bed and were already at work when I pulled up.
It’s important that we photographers don’t pass up good opportunities to capture great images, especially when they are presented to us so readily.
Whether it is in our own gardens, or at a nearby cemetery, or public flower garden, these opportunities are simply too good to miss.
That may mean visiting the location over and over again looking for a variety of photographs from close-ups to more environmental images.
Also, situations like this is the perfect opportunity to experiment with different lenses and cameras. Try different vantage points. Get down low to use the sky as a background, or move around to get a more pleasing background. Change your depth of field to create soft backgrounds.
Don’t be afraid to even pull out your wide angle lenses (see image above) to document the entire scene.
The wide angle images are perfect for obtaining an overview of the of the border and then use it to plan your wild habitat border in your own yard.
Wild border is perfect place to experiment with your cameras
Try not to simply set the camera lens and shoot away all day with a single setting. By adjusting your f-stop, you can create dramatically different images using a combination of depth of field, different focal lengths and even a variety of cameras.
The flower border that originally caught my eye was hard to miss from the road leading to the pond where I was heading to photograph wading birds. But, it was easy to admire and pass by if you were too focused on getting to your original destination.
It’s always a good idea to take the time to investigate these types of opportunities.
For more images from my two-day shoot, be sure to check out my photo gallery here.
Below are a couple of images from the nearby pond. While they are good enough images of a heron and egret, the location failed to provide the variety that the sunflower border offered.
In my mind, time was better spent at the naturalized border.
While the majority of the photographers in the area were focused on the big birds, I preferred to turn my cameras on the smaller birds among the sunflowers.
Although the birds were skittish to some degree, their frenzied feeding allowed a closer approach than normal allowing me to get good frame-filling images at the long end of the zoom.
Use your car as a blind whenever possible
As the day passed on, all the other photographers left leaving me alone with the birds. This presented me with the opportunity to use my car as a moving photographic blind. By driving slowly along the road, I was able to get even closer to the birds and butterflies that showed little fear of the car.
Best of both worlds: A flower border for wildlife photography
Stumbling upon this beautiful, naturalized flower border and wildlife habitat was, to me, the perfect ending to the summer. While many of the flowers had lost their lustre and it was obvious the border would soon be little more than a graveyard of dying flower stalks, it was also full of life.
In death, the dying flowers gave life to the birds, the bees the butterflies and the many insects, reptiles and mammals that no doubt called the flower border home.
It is only fitting that it all takes place at the front entrance to a magnificent cemetery.
For me, it provided an opportunity to combine my two greatest loves in life – gardening for wildlife and photography.
It also provided an opportunity to learn, experiment and be creative without travelling hundreds or thousands of miles in search of photographic opportunities.
The location of this wildlife habitat was a short drive from my home, and I was able to get a sneak peak at how I can recreate that same wildlife habitat right at home in my own garden.
Next year I hope to get similar images without even leaving my backyard.
Fall is the time we transition from the heat of summer to the warming colours of autumn both in the garden and in the home. Check out the ideas for both the home and the garden.
Fall by far is my favourite time of year. The garden takes on its tapestries of colour, and cool misty mornings make the coffee in hand so much more appreciated.
It’s also a time of transition – from shorts and T-shirts to sweaters; from flowers to grasses and bright berries.
In the home and on the patio there are changes happening too. It’s a good time to put away the bright colours and adopt the earthy, warm colours of fall. It’s also the time to begin thinking about gift giving and get a head start on the holidays.
We’ve put together some helpful suggestions to assist you in the transition and offer some great gift-giving ideas.
Let’s start at the front door. Nothing says welcome to our homes like a fun door mat, especially one that celebrates fall. This Oh My Gourd coconut fiber doormat can welcome visitors at the front or back door. It’s exclusive to Anthropologie, and is a great starting point in the transition from summer to fall.
Anthropologie also features these elegant brass and black house numbers that are a welcome addition to any front entryway. These are only available online but can be picked up at a nearby store to reduce shipping costs. They are sold individually and come with their own mounting hardware.
Staying on the Gourd theme, Anthropologie also offers a number of pumkin themed candles in exquisite containers that will warm up any room – indoor or outdoor – that you place them in.
Fall, with its cooler temperatures, is the time we enjoy being outside enjoying the migrating birds, the butterflies and the evolving warmth and texture that begins taking over the woodland.
A barbecue with family and friends is the perfect weekend activity.
These Lucia Acrylic Goblet Wine Glasses are perfect for the deck, patio or under a pergola as the rain falls all around us. They come in a variety of colours from mint to cobalt, turquoise and a lovely hot pink.
If you are lucky enough to have a sheltered outdoor space, extending the entertaining season well into fall offers numerous possibilities.
A small woodburning firepit or gas fire table can bring us outside through fall and even well into winter.
WoodlandDirect specializes in fire pits, fire bowls, outdoor fireplaces and the like and offer an incredible variety of choices and styles to suit even the most picky of buyers.
The Sedona Copper Fire Bowl, above is a good example of the exquisite detail available from WoodlandDirect.
Less expensive options are also available from less specialized stores. Walmart even carry the popular, contemporary styled Solo Stoves (above) that are small enough to take with you to the cottage or even camping, but still have a place in your backyard.
For a full look at the firepits Walmart offers, including many that are on sale click here.
Of course fall is the time to get into the garden and muck about digging out, transplanting and clearing areas in preparation for next year. Muck boots make a variety of garden boots and shoes to tackle even the dirtiest of jobs with a little style. Check out their full line of women-, men- and kid-approved boots for the garden or everyday use.
Decorating this space is always fun and adding a modern touch seems to work well in these spaces. These Abstract Pillar Compote planters are the perfect size to act as a focal point a gathering place. Use them for plants, but don’t be afraid to use your imagination. A bird bath, even a contemporary bird feeder to welcome the chickadees into your more personal space.
Imagine them full of large pine cones or simply covered in a rich layer of exquisite moss or planted with the simple elegance of a maindenhair fern.
Finally, if you need plants around you all winter, but can’t seem to keep them alive indoors, Macy’s offers an outstanding collection of extremely natural looking plants. These are not your craft store collections that neither look natural, nor stand the test of time.
Macy’s Department Store collection is both extensive and exquisite in their realism. The above Boston fern is just one example of the detail of these plants. Place them on your enclosed patio or porch (recommending for indoor use only) and bring them indoors to enjoy them throughout the winter. No muss, no fuss.
The Boston fern, for example features deep green fern leaves extending outwards and created from the finest materials. The natural looking stone planter is included.
Arbours can provide vertical garden space in gardens both big and small. You don’t have to grow roses, consider planting native vines or annual vines such as Morning Glories.
Consider planting native vines to provide nesting habitat and food for wildlife
A rose arbour has been at least ten years overdue in our backyard.
I’ve never really been a fan of roses, but after a neighbourhood cat started hanging around a birdhouse in our yard, I decided a rose would help provide a safe place for the birds to raise their young. Eventually, however, the birdhouse fell apart and I removed the cedar pole leaving the rose on its own.
Fast forward to this spring when my wife and I decided it was time to add an arbour to give our old white iceberg rose the support it’s been craving for years.
It came in a tidy box. I pulled out the sections of black iron and built it in the comfort of our family room before moving it out into the garden. Four spikes – included in the box – were easily hammered into the ground to provide support and, before I knew it. our black iron arbour was taking up a prominent spot in the woodland garden.
I tied the rose canes to the arbour, being careful to gently bend the rose over the arbour, and voila.
If I knew it was going to be that easy, I would have added an arbour years ago.
I was surprised how the allure and practicality of a rose arbour helped elevate our outdoor space, adding a little romance to our surroundings, as well as provide numerous benefits beyond its aesthetic appeal.
Birds now have a safe place to land, and the thorny rose on the arbour provides an ideal spot for birds to safely build their nests tucked between the canes.
A nearby garden bench provides a quiet spot just to sit, admire the roses and the birds that feel totally safe among the branches and thorns. More on the Garden Bench as art.
Arbour creates focal point and perfect gateway to the garden
A rose arbour also serves as a stunning focal point, adding elegance and charm to any garden or patio.
In our case, it works as a gateway to an area of our garden that was often ignored because it lacked a more formal entrance. In fact, I had even built a small pathway through the area that now leads directly to our rose arbour making it look like it’s been there forever.
Its simple design and graceful arches create a sense of grandeur, instantly transforming an ordinary outdoor area into a more picturesque retreat enticing visitors to stroll along the pathway leading to the arbour.
A quick look on the internet and it’s clear that there are a host of styles to choose from. Of particular note are the arbours that create a small room like the one below.
This birdcage arbour from Costway provides the perfect secluded spot especially if it is covered in vines and/or roses.
Amish-made bird feeder is built to last and perform in your woodland garden
The Amish crafted large gazebo vinyl birdfeeder is the perfect addition to any backyard. Include it as a finishing touch topping feeder for your bird feeding pole, or use it as a stand alone feeder on a separate pole. If you use it as a stand alone feeder, be sure to include a squirrel baffle to keep squirrels and racoons of the feeder. This handmade and handcrafted feeder includes a clear plastic, built-in seed storage container that can hold up to four pounds of bird seed.
This makes it an ideal feeder to fill-and-forget for a week or two while, at the same time, protecting the seed from the elements and providing our feathered friends with a comfortable and sheltered place to feed. The fact that the feeder is made from high quality vinyl, plastic and cedar ensures it is a long-lasting, easy-to-clean and maintain feeder.
An arbour is a perfect addition for a small yard
Whether you have a small yard or a sprawling woodland garden, an arbour can effortlessly elevate the aesthetics of your outdoor space.
There are so many different styles that can be used to fit any garden – from a romantic more formal design, to a rustic arbour design featuring metal branch-like supports that fit in beautifully in any woodland or natural garden.
Now that we’ve explored how a rose arbour can enhance an outdoor space, let’s explore the enchanting world of creating a romantic ambiance with blooming roses. Imagine strolling through your garden, surrounded by vibrant and fragrant roses in full bloom.
The sight and scent of these beautiful flowers can instantly transform any outdoor area into a captivating sanctuary.
Whether you’re planning a romantic dinner under the stars or simply seeking a serene spot to unwind, a rose arbour adorned with blooming roses sets the perfect stage for unforgettable moments with friends and loved ones.
Forget the roses, consider native vines for wildlife
Let’s not limit ourselves to roses, however.
An arbour can simply be a convenient way to add more vertical gardening space to what otherwise might be lacking in many of our garden spaces, especially in a smaller garden or a new one that lacks tall trees.
A perfect addition to a woodland or naturalized garden is this “Tree of Life” arbour that is, in itself, a beautiful work of garden art. Add a native vine growing up and over the arbour and you have the ideal entry into a back woodland garden.
Consider growing native vines on the arbour and even up through the rose to provide both a food source as well as more nesting space for birds.
Virginia creeper or wild grape are great choices, but so too are annual vines like Morning Glory to attract hummingbirds. Clematis and honeysuckle are also favourites because they tend to be less aggressive and their flowers can attract pollinators and hummingbirds. The possibilities are endless.
Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. terniflora) is a great fall performer in our area where it can be a little aggressive, but puts out a mass of beautiful tiny white flowers for the bees and other pollinators at a time when many flowering vines and shrubs have finished blooming.
There is a huge variety of garden arbours available to suit everyone’s needs. Here are just a few examples of garden arbours from Amazon to consider.
The simplicity of the garden arbour with its metal branch-like look, (above) works perfectly in a woodland-style garden.
Arbour is ideal way to create privacy and shade
Now that we’ve explored how an arbour can enhance your outdoor space and create a certain romanticism in the garden, let’s delve into the practical benefits it offers beyond aesthetics.
One of the key advantages of a rose arbour is the shade it can provide especially in a yard that lacks large trees.
As the sun shines down on your garden, the arbour’s structure casts a cool and refreshing shadow, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors even on hot summer days.
Additionally, the dense foliage on the arbour can be used to create a natural privacy screen, shielding you from prying eyes and creating a secluded area in your own backyard.
Moreover, the sturdy framework of an arbour serves as excellent support for climbing plants, such as vines and ivy, giving them the opportunity to flourish and provide not only a dense shade but plenty of privacy.
So, not only does an arbour add charm and allure to a garden, it also offers practical benefits that make it a valuable addition to any outdoor setting.
The Pentax Auto 110 lenses are capable of some impressive results, especially if you use one of the hacks that help sharpen the lenses and create a greater depth of field.
The 110 lenses also fit micro four thirds and fujifilm cameras
No one could blame you if you thought the vintage Pentax Auto 110 lenses were made for the more modern Pentax Q line of cameras.
It’s just that 46 years ago, no-one would have dreamed that a miniature digital camera would even exist let alone continue to be so popular today.
These exquisite, tiny, almost miniature 110 lenses could not be more perfect for the Pentax Q line of cameras unless, of course, they offered full auto focus capabilities. However, even the Pentax “Toy” lenses, – the wide angle, telephoto and fisheye lenses – made especially for the Q series – do not offer auto focus capabilities.
So, the 18mm, 24mm, 50mm and the outstanding 70mm Pentax 110 lenses are almost too good to be true for Pentax Q users. All that is needed is a simple, inexpensive adapter to convert the lens. These adapters to convert the 110 lenses are also available for Fuji FX X-Mount camera X-PRO2 X-E1 X-E2 X-A2 X-M1 X-T3 X-S10 etc.
The build quality of these vintage lenses is also outstanding. Although the first three are made of plastic, it’s not your everyday plastic found in many of today’s inexpensive lenses.
These are extremely solid lenses that feature weighted almost perfectly silky focus.
Can Pentax 110 lenses be used on other camera systems?
Just by adding another simple and inexpensive adapter, these vintage lenses can even be used with Micro 4/3rd cameras like those available from Olympus and Panasonic brands.
In fact, the sensors in the Micro 4\3rd cameras fit the rear element of these lenses almost perfectly, meaning there is no lens vignetting.
When used with these camera systems, the crop factor is only 2X meaning the 18mm becomes the equivalent of a 36mm f2.8 lens, the 24mm becomes a 48mm, the 50mm becomes a 100mm and the 70mm becomes a 140mm.
What are the crop factors of 110 lenses on the Pentax Q cameras?
If you are wondering how these lenses translate in the world of traditional 35mm on the Pentax Q series, consider the 5.35 times crop factor of the original Pentax Q and you are left with the following: 18mm = 96mm, 24mm = 128mm, 50mm = 267mm and finally the 70mm = 374mm. The same lenses on the Q7 or Q-S1 – with a larger sensor and a crop factor of 4.65 – results in the following: 18mm = 83mm, 24mm = 111mm, 50mm = 232mm, and finally 70mm = 325mm. These numbers are rounded off, but you get the idea.
All of these lenses are manual focus, fixed f2.8 lenses that do not transmit any information to or from the camera. Just set your Pentax Q on Program, Aperture or shutter priority and let it choose the proper exposure. The over and under compensation button will correct for any unusual lighting conditions.
In addition, with the proper firmware, the camera’s in-body stabilization will work on these lenses after you program the lens’s focal length into camera.
Pentax 110 70mm is a real gem
The one lens in the group that really stands out to me is the 70mm.
I am drawn to telephoto lenses anyway, so the all-metal 70mm F2.8 Pentax 110 lens that is a made-in-Japan masterpiece is by far my favourite if I need the reach. The 70mm actually translates into almost a 400mm lens (374 mm in 35mm equivalent) on the original Pentax Q.
The slightly swirly bokeh on the lens can be beautiful and the silky smooth focus reminds me of the old Takumars.
All this in a package that could easily slip into your coat pocket and weighs in at a mere 240 grams (Pentax Q is 80 grams, plus the 70mm 160 grams = 240 grams). This lens has 6 elements in 5 groups and even uses the traditional Pentax 49 mm filters – perfect for standard circular polarizers and even high-quality close-up lenses.
Speaking of filters. I was lucky enough to get filters mounted on the entire set I purchased on-line, but if you are looking for your own, here is a list of the filters you will require for these lenses: 18mm takes a 30.5mm filter, 24mm takes a 25.5mm filter, 50mm takes a 37.5mm and the 70mm takes a 49mm filter. Of course with step up rings you can use larger filters such as standard polarizers.
How about image quality?
The build quality, aesthetics and fun factor means little if the image quality falls short.
Some users would argue that the image quality of these lenses does fall far too short to take them serious, but others would say that, with a brilliant little hack, the image quality on these lenses can be very good to excellent.
Simple hack helps sharpen focus
What’s the hack that turns these soft, fixed f2.8 lenses into sharp, high-quality glass?
It involves a $1.00 rubber washer and about one minute of your time. That’s it.
If that’s too much trouble, you can always pick up a box of ring binder reinforcements, use a black sharpie to darken them, and simply stick them on the back of the lens’s plastic surround. That will turn the lenses into about an F8 lens with the accompanying greater depth of field and a significant increase in sharpness.
Although the ring binder reinforcements get a lot of praise on-line, the rubber washer works very well and you could create two or three with different hole sizes to give you more access to different f-stops.
The rubber washer is simply pushed inside the adapter and sits in a concave position from the camera mount and sensor. From the back of the lens, the rubber washer sits comfortably in a convex position. (see images above).
If you want to shoot the lenses wide open, the rubber washer is extremely easy to remove from the adapter and then replaced in just a few seconds.
Using these lenses successfully requires the photographer to slow down.
On the above image and the one below of the bees, I hand held the camera and shot several images to get a sharp one.
However, if you are shooting landscapes, woodlands or your garden flowers, put the camera on a tripod, turn off the anti shake option, use the 2 or 4 times built-in magnifier and focus peaking on the Q to focus precisely on the LCD and use the 2 second delay timer to get the most sharpness out of these lenses.
You will be rewarded for your efforts.
Is lens sharpness over rated?
When it comes to lenses, there are those who consider only pin-sharp lenses as acceptable. Others, however, look for qualities in the lenses that give them a look and feel that works with their style of photography whether the lenses are tack sharp or not.
Let’s face it, most images are only ever seen these days on social media where sharpness is already compromised through the social media platform.
I consider these 110 lenses as somewhere in the middle. They are capable of creating very sharp images but the combination of having to manually focus them on the back of the LCD panel and being more than 40 years of age, makes getting tack sharp images difficult sometimes. This difficulty is only increased if you are shooting the lenses wide open at f2.8.
Even with a tripod, sharp images are not the easiest to obtain, especially since so many of us have been spoiled with autofocus lenses.
But, if you use the rubber washer or ring binder reinforcements these lenses really can shine.
The 110 lenses are fun, they fit the Q cameras aesthetic and are usually inexpensive if you can purchase them as a package.
With a little work you can create more than acceptable results, and with a little creativity, you can create masterpieces.
Capturing and creating memorable images of hummingbirds can be an extremely rewarding experience.
How to create memorable images of hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are the perfect models for backyard photographers.
Not only are they regular visitors to our gardens, their destinations are often very predictable, including the flowers they are most likely to go to and even where they enjoy perching for periods of time.
Despite all of this, their quick movements can make getting good images difficult.
For more on hummingbirds in the garden, check out the following posts:
The following are a combination of photographs and digital paintings created from photographs that I have taken or created over the past few years in our garden.
Trying to capture images of hummingbirds requires patience.
Setting the shutter speed fast enough to stop any movement is an important first step.
A good starting point is a shutter speed of at least 500th of a second, but that will not stop the movement of the wings. You will need a much faster shutter speed to stop the wing movement – something in the range of 1200 or higher. Unfortunately, increasing the shutter speed usually means your ISO needs to be up extremely high. This, of course, can lead to grainy or noisy images.
Using flash is an excellent way not only to help add some pop to the image, but also stop any motion. The flash also adds a highlight in the bird’s eye, which helps to give the bird some life.
Planting flowers – both annual and perennial – that hummingbirds are particularly attracted to provides excellent opportunities to capture these tiny birds.
Although the above image looks like it may have been photographed using a flash, it was actually taken later in the morning in direct sunlight when the plant was in full sunshine but the background was still in shade.
A long telephoto lens was in most of these images including the above image where I used a 300mm F4.5 lens (420mm equivalent). This is an ideal lens to photograph these tiny birds from a respectable distance.
Although photographers strive to capture hummingbirds in their natural environments, including a feeder can result in some interesting images. In the hummingbird image below, I tried to capture both the feeder and the hummingbird swing in the same image.
Capturing hummingbirds with smaller point-and-shoot cameras, such as those made by Canon, Panasonic’s Lumix LX line of cameras, or their ZS line of high-end point and shoot cameras and Fuji can be challenging, but with a little extra effort and patience, it’s possible to get some nice environmental images such as the ones below. With a little patience and practise you can learn to get the most out of your compact camera.
One of my favourite pastimes, especially in winter, is to take some of my favourite photographs and use them to create artistic impressions of the images. Below are just a few of my digital paintings which are created using a number of different computer programs as well as a tablet that allows you to paint with a pencil tool similar to a hand held paintbrush. Click on the link to learn more about turning photographs into digital works of art.
Creating your own hummingbird nectar is easy, but there are steps you can take to make it a healthy alternative to natural nectar sources.
Aim for a combination of natural and commercial hummingbird feeders
Hummingbirds are truly remarkable creatures and providing them with homemade nectar (sugar water) in our feeders is a great way to watch them up close. By making homemade nectar, we can attract hummingbirds to our yards in early spring on their migration routes and then use native flowers to keep them in our backyards all summer, where they will raise their young.
Once we have encouraged them to stay and raise their families, there is a good chance they will return year after year.
Their vibrant colours, tiny size, and incredible flying abilities, have captured the fascination of gardeners and nature enthusiasts all over the world.
Attracting them to our backyards by providing feeding stations is very different from feeding other birds in our backyard.
It’s always best to provide natural nectar by growing many of the native and non-native plants that hummingbirds feed on. Cardinal flowers, columbine, cuphea, fuschia, trumpet vine, bee balm and salvia are just a few of the flowers hummingbirds are attracted to in our gardens. These vibrant blooms will not only provide a natural food source for hummingbirds but also add beauty to your garden.
For more on hummingbirds in the garden, check out the following posts:
In our backyard, I have even created a “hummingbird haven” that is aimed at focusing our hummers on a corner of the yard where there are several feeders – both natural and commercial feeders – as well as a water feature and perches where the birds can rest. For more, go to my recent post on the hummingbird haven.
How to make nectar for hummingbirds
Making nectar to feed hummingbirds is not difficult, but there are steps you can take to ensure it is a healthy choice for these little birds.
First, let’s dive deeper into understanding their favourite food – nectar, and how we can make it at home.
Hummingbird nectar is a simple mixture of sugar and water that closely mimics the natural nectar found in flowers. The key ingredient is white granulated sugar, as it provides the necessary energy for hummingbirds.
Avoid using honey, brown sugar, or artificial sweeteners, because they can be harmful to these tiny birds.
What is the ratio of sugar to water
The ratio for making hummingbird nectar is important to ensure the right balance of sweetness.
The recommended ratio is four parts water to one part sugar.
For example, you can use one cup of sugar with four cups of water. This ratio closely matches the sugar concentration found in many flower nectars and provides the optimal nutrition for hummingbirds.
It’s crucial to dissolve the sugar completely in hot water before cooling the mixture. This helps prevent fermentation and ensures the nectar stays fresh for longer. Remember to always use plain, unchlorinated water, as chlorine can be harmful to hummingbirds. Boiling the water helps to remove any chlorine that might be present in the tap water.
By understanding the ingredients and ratios for hummingbird nectar, you'll be able to create a delicious and nutritious treat that will attract these beautiful birds to your garden.
Now that we know the ingredients and ratios for hummingbird nectar, let’s dive into a step-by-step guide on how to make it at home.
First, gather your supplies: a clean container, white granulated sugar, and plain, unchlorinated water.
Start by boiling four cups of water. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, carefully measure out one cup of sugar. Slowly add the sugar to the boiling water, stirring continuously until it completely dissolves.
This hot mixture helps prevent fermentation and ensures the nectar stays fresh for longer.
Next, allow the nectar to cool completely before pouring it into your hummingbird feeder.
It’s important to never use hot nectar in your feeder, as it can harm the delicate beaks of hummingbirds. Once the nectar has cooled, carefully fill your feeder with the homemade nectar.
Make extra nectar to always have a supply ready
I like to double up on the recipe and store it in the fridge to either top up my feeders or refill them BEFORE the nectar begins to ferment. In addition, it is not uncommon for insects to squeeze into the feeders and quickly contaminate the nectar. By having a ready supply in the refrigerator, keeping the nectar fresh is much easier.
Remember to clean your feeder thoroughly before refilling to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Place the feeder in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight, and enjoy watching the hummingbirds flock to your garden.
By following this simple step-by-step guide, you’ll be able to create a delicious and nutritious treat for these enchanting creatures.
Now that you know how to make homemade hummingbird nectar, let’s explore some tips for attracting and caring for these delightful creatures.
Looking to add a hummingbird feeder to your garden? Here are some of the best feeders available at Amazon.
Hummingbirds have a high metabolism and need to consume large amounts of nectar daily.
Regularly cleaning your feeders prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and ensures the health of the hummingbirds.
It’s also important to place your feeders in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight. This helps to keep the nectar cool and prevents it from spoiling too quickly.
Lastly, consider providing perches or small branches near your feeders. Hummingbirds often rest between feeding flights and having perches nearby allows them to conserve energy.
By implementing these tips, you'll create an inviting environment that will attract and care for hummingbirds, bringing joy and wonder to your backyard.
A little background on hummingbirds
If you are just embarking on feeding hummingbirds, or want more information about these tiny birds, here is some background that might help you on your journey.
Did you know that hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world? They weigh less than a nickel and can beat their wings up to 80 times per second.
These tiny powerhouses can fly in any direction, even upside down, and reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. Their unique ability to hover in mid-air and move with such agility is simply awe-inspiring.
Hummingbirds are also known for their iridescent feathers, which can shimmer and change colour depending on the angle of light. This makes them appear like living jewels, adding to their allure.
Additionally, hummingbirds have an incredibly high metabolism and need to consume large amounts of nectar to fuel their energy. They play a crucial role in pollination, as they transfer pollen from flower to flower while feeding.
So, not only are they beautiful to observe, but they also contribute to the health and diversity of our ecosystems. Now that we have a glimpse into the fascinating world of hummingbirds, let's dive deeper into understanding their favorite food - nectar, and how we can make it at home to attract these delightful creatures.
Panasonic’s Lumix LX7 is the ideal camera for the advanced photographer looking for a premium camera in a tiny package.
First impressions of this tiny Leica-equivalent workhorse
It’s difficult to imagine Panasonic jamming more features into its tiny LX line of enthusiast cameras without it looking more like a full-sized digital SLR. But they have, or should I say, they did way back in 2012 when they released the DMC-LX7 to succeed the highly acclaimed LX5.
The combination of having manual control f-stops at my fingertips (just like the old days) on the extremely fast and superb Leica lens, as well as image dimension control, put this camera at the top of my must-have list. The traditional style aperture ring covers F1.4 to F8, with detents at every third stop. These features built into the lens makes it much easier to set both the aperture and picture dimension without having to dig deep into the camera’s menus. There is a separate switch on the side of the lens that sets the focus from autofocus, manual and autofocus macro.
In addition, the LX7’s mostly metal construction gives the camera the proper heft reminding you that this is a serious camera. A redesigned grip makes the camera comfortable in my hand, leaving the most important controls within easy reach.
Click on the link to see a complete list of Panasonic’s Point and Shoot cameras.
For more information on the LX10, click on the link to go to the Panasonic Lumix site where you can purchase the camera directly from Panasonic on a monthly payment plan.
Add to that the camera’s close-up capabilities and it becomes an ideal camera to take out into the garden to capture flowers and insects. In fact, the DMC-LX7’s macro setting allows the photographer to focus on a subject that is only 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to 24mm wide-angle.
What about that impressive Leica lens?
It’s a 4.7-17.7mm, F1.4 - F2.3 lens, or the equivalent of a 24-90mm in the world of 35mm. Now, imagine what it would cost you to purchase an extremely fast Leica 24-90mm lens, and you’ll realize just how good of a deal this camera is if you are looking to create outstanding images with a pocket-sized camera.
The lens alone is worth the price of admission.
Why should we care that the lens is fast?
A fast lens allows us to do two things: first it helps to get images in low light situations, and second, it allows us to capture images with more pleasing out-of-focus background. A soft background is generally more pleasant, especially when you are taking portraits or focusing on a butterfly or flower in your garden.
Most point-and-shoot style cameras force you to either dig into the menus on the back of the camera to change the f-stop, or use a wheel on the back of the camera. The LX7’s placement of the aperture ring on the lens – where most of us old timers are used to it – makes it both convenient and nostalgic for anyone who used a 35mm film camera in the past.
I can honestly say I have not been disappointed in the least.
Why buy the Panasonic Lumix LX7 over the LX5?
The LX7’s sensor and image processor have both been improved over the LX5, resulting in less noise at high sensitivities.
Other new features on the Lumix LX7 include the aforementioned manual aperture ring, higher resolution LCD display, a built-in neutral density filter, 11 fps continuous shooting, HDR capabilities, and the ability to record movies at 1080/60p (with stereo sound).
Panasonic has also built 70MB of memory into the DMC-LX7. The LX5 offered only 40MB of built-in memory. The 70MB will hold five RAW or sixteen JPEGs at the highest quality setting – perfect for those times you either run out of room on your card or forget to insert it before going out for a day of photography. It will at least allow you to capture those special moments until you can get your card back into the camera.
The extremely fast lens together with the camera’s impressive optical image stabilization (OIS) helps you get images in even the lowest light conditions.
These additional features are added to an already impressive array of features that have made their way into the LX-series over the years, resulting in a very capable camera that can serve the photo enthusiast as well as the professional looking for a second camera to carry in their pockets.
So far, in my small sample-size usage of the DMC-LX6 camera, I have found little to dislike.
Lumix LX7 weaknesses worth considering
It would have been great if Panasonic had made it possible to be able to screw filters on to the front of the lens – especially a polarizing filter. However, there is an ingenious accessory available for the camera that makes it possible to add filters to the front of the camera.
I am also a big fan of having built-in viewfinders on my cameras. LX7 users have to rely on the large LCD screen on the back of the camera, unless they are willing to put out a few hundred dollars to purchase Panasonic’s impressive EVF accessory. The electronic viewfinder snaps into the camera’s hot shoe and offers full integration with the LX7’s electronics. It’s an excellent addition, if not a little pricey and only available on the used market.
Alternatives are available including third-party accessory optical viewfinders such as the TTArtisan viewfinders. (see image above) The TT Artisan optical viewfinder works well on the LX7 as an alternative to the more expensive Electronic Viewfinder offered by Panasonic as an accessory. Click on the link for my earlier post on these inexpensive TT Artisan viewfinders.
Finally, the camera’s feature packed menus can be a little difficult to navigate at first. It would be wise to spend some time in the menu system navigating to your favourite features to be truly comfortable using the camera.
Why should you buy the LX7 now?
The fact that the Panasonic LX7 is now available on the used market for a fraction of its original cost ($499 U.S.), makes these cameras a steal for anyone looking for the highest quality enthusiast camera in a very small, but full-featured package.
Although the LX-series are holding their price better than some 10-year-old-plus digital cameras, it’s important to realize that these were never meant for the inexpensive digi-cam market.
Who should buy the Lumix LX7?
This is an ideal tool for any photo enthusiast looking to have a camera with them at all times – either in the garden, on vacation, or snapping shots of the kids (grandkids) going about their business.
Small enough to slip into a coat or even pants pocket, a small purse or camera bag, the LX7 is totally capable on its own out of the box. Add the external electronic viewfinder, filters etc and these little Leica equivalent cameras leave little to desire.
Maybe you’re thinking that the 90mm equivalent lens just won’t cut it at the long end when you’re trying to get shots of birds or pull in distant scenic shots.
Well, Panasonic solved this problem in the LX7 by including Ai intelligent zoom that doubles the 90mm equivalent to 180mm. Yes, there is some loss of quality at the longer end – which would be expected – but consider the tiny size of the camera and the fact you can get a fast 180mm equivalent Leica lens without having to lug around an oversized camera and lens.
By lowering the image size, you can also use the Extended Optical Zoom feature to get similar results.
Just slip this baby in your pants pocket and you are good to go.
This is not a camera for someone interested in bird or wildlife photography. Yes, you might get lucky with a friendly bird or chipmunk, but generally even a 180mm lens is not long enough for most serious bird photography.
If you are working around the garden, however, deadheading or watering your containers, its a great camera to have at your side. Pull out the LX7 for a quick shot of the butterfly or the perfect spray of cardinal flowers. Who knows maybe a hummingbird working the flowers. Just zoom in with the telephoto to get the shot or go to the 24mm equivalent for a wider shot of the garden in its prime.
Features of the LX7
High sensitivity 1/1.7-inch MOS sensor (10.1 megapixels)
24 – 90 mm (35 mm equivalent) ultra wide-angle f/1.4 - 2.3 Leica DC Vario-Summicron lens (3.8x optical zoom)
POWER O.I.S (optical image stabilizer)
3.0-inch (920,000-dot) TFT LCD
Optional full manual operation
History of the LX-series of cameras
Panasonic’s LX-series cameras have long been a favourite for premium compact cameras for the past decade.
The LX7 is the final version of a long list of LX enthusiast cameras beginning with the LX1, that combined the expertise of Panasonic with the exquisite craftmanship of Leica lenses. The pairing works beautifully.
Known over the years for their larger-than-average sensors, more recently the LX series (beginning with the LX3 and moving through the LX5 to the LX7), have earned their reputations for their fast and superior Leica lenses.
In fact, the LX7 is almost identical to the Leica D-LUX 6 which was made in the same factory by Panasonic for Leica. Check the link for the full scoop on the Leica D-LUX 6.
The LX7 was replaced two years after it was first introduced by the LX100 in 2014.
The LX100 is, in many ways, a significantly different camera to the LX7. Not only does it sport a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF), it features a larger sensor.
The Lumix DMC-LX100 (above) has managed to squeeze in a Four Thirds sensor, whose area is twice as large as a 1" sensor and five times bigger than the 1/1.7" sensor in the LX7.
While the LX100 has the larger sensor in comparison to the LX7, it doesn’t actually use the entire sensor, instead cropping it to allow for multi-aspect shooting (similar to how the LX7 uses its sensor).
The result is that the effective sensor area on the LX100 is really 1.5X larger than 1" and 4.3X the size of 1/1.7".
For more information on the LX100, click on the link to go to the Panasonic Lumix site where you can purchase the camera directly from Panasonic on a monthly payment plan.
What’s so special about the LX-Series of cameras and the LX7?
If you are a lover of small, full-featured cameras than the LX7 will appeal to you.
Add in the beautiful Leica lens and it’s really hard to go wrong. You can shoot this camera in full manual mode (including focus) or flip it to Ai for full automatic exposure. The camera even shoots RAW as well as aperture, shutter and program priority modes. There is also a complete offering of modes that leave little to be desired.
For old-school photographers there is even a step-zoom feature that allows you to jump to five preset positions (24, 28, 35, 70, and 90 mm).
In addition you can take double exposures, time lapse photography and HDR (high dynamic range) images.
You can also choose from sixteen special effects filters, that can be used in both stills and video, and can be fine-tuned to your creative preferences.
The LX7 vs a Smartphone
You may be thinking, “I don’t need a camera my smartphone is all I need.”
Well, think again.
The LX7 is smaller than most smartphones, boasts a fast Leica lens, offers features too long to list as well as excellent video capabilities, and can be purchased for a lot less than your average smart phone.
It’s small enough to take everywhere and there is no doubt you are holding a finely crafted piece of machinery.
You could go out and buy the Leica equivalent for two or three times the price, or just be smart and nab yourself the Lumix LX7 and all the accessories for an even better price.
There is something about that Leica lens.
For a in-depth look at the Panasonic Lumix LX7, go to DPreview’s review here.
The Olympus PEN and PEN-EPL camera systems are examples of digital cameras that combine style with a little retro to create the ideal combination for amateur and advanced amateurs looking for a compact everyday camera.
First impressions of the Olympus PEN E-PL2
Very few camera manufacturers can successfully make retro cool again, while still delivering modern features.
Many of the major brands have tried and failed. Olympus, on the other hand, has never lost the “cool” factor with its PEN series of digital cameras beginning with the PEN E-P1 and running through a series of successful launches to the current E-PL10 model. (See image below)
Not only has Olympus maintained the “cool” factor, it has also introduced a sophistication to their PEN series. There is also something to be said for big performance in a small compact body.
Cool, sophisticated and incredibly capable all wrapped up in an exquisite package that makes you just want to make memorable images.
Looking for more information on Olympus cameras, check out my review on the Olympus E-M10.
But the PEN series actually got its start before many of us were likely even born. Its roots trace back to October, 1959, where it began life as an inexpensive, analog half-frame SLR compact camera that enabled photographers to double the output of a typical role of 35mm film.
It remained in the Olympus 35mm film camera arsenal until the early 1980s.
In 2009, Olympus released the PEN E-P1, a digital mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera, and the digital story of the Olympus PEN series began.
Today, the E-PL10 sports handsome styling in a compact package that uses a 16 megapixel sensor and impressive 3-axis in-body stabilization, along with a host of features including a flip-down touchscreen display, UHD 4K video capture, 6.1 frame per second burst shooting with continuous autofocus, Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth connectivity and 121-point autofocus system. It’s available in three colours – black, mocha and white – and will set you back abour $600 U.S. for the body only.
More recently the Olympus Corporation’s camera division – including the Digital PEN series – was purchased by Japan Industrial Partners, and is currently run under the name OM Digital Solutions.
The PEN’s compact size, sleek design and impressive feature-packed offering makes it a favourite for advanced amateurs looking for an everyday carry camera that performs like a full-sized near-professional camera.
I was lucky enough to score an older, used PEN-E-PL2 model complete with both kit lenses (14-42mm and 40-150mm) and the impressive fisheye converter (Olympus FCON-P01 Fisheye Converter) for a very reasonable price.
The fisheye converter is a high quality lens attachment made in Japan specifically for the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 ll MSC lens. It snaps on via a bayonet mount to the front of the 14-42mm lens and is used best at the 14mm end. There is also a scene mode that should be set to get the most out of the attachment.
Olympus states on its website that the fisheye converter “lens attachment allows you to easily take fisheye-style shots. In addition to capturing unique and intriguing shots of pets with a fisheye effect, you can also shoot photos with emphasised perspective when shooting up close since you can get as close to the subject as 7cm from the lens front.
It weighs in at a hefty 112 grams, includes a built-in metal tulip hood and is constructed with 3 elements in 3 groups. Olympus states it is the equivalent of an 11mm lens (22mm in 35mm equivalent). This falls a little short of the angle of view most stand alone fisheye lenses provide, but the fisheye effect works well with the additional width.
Check out this Olympus post for more on getting the most out of your fisheye photography with Olympus cameras.
Although these PEN series cameras are holding their value better than some older digital cameras, they are still available for a fraction of their original price if you take your time tracking down a solid example on Ebay or other online used-camera retailers.
The Olympus E-PL2 is a 12-megapixel Micro Four Thirds system camera with in-body stabilization released in 2011 to sit above the E-PL1 (released in February 2009) in the product line, but beneath the E-P2. If that’s a little confusing it’s because Olympus actually has two PEN lines – a higher end line and a “light” line that is aimed at more novice photographers rather than the solely enthusiast camera consumers. Both used the same sensor, with the E-PL line dispensing of a back control dial opting instead for a wheel and adding a built-in flash.
The E-PL2 was actually the fourth Olympus PEN camera released over a two-year period back in its day.
More importantly, the E-PL2 sported an improved LCD screen over the E-PL1 that increased to 3 inches and a doubling in resolution to 460K dots. A higher ISO rating, face detection AF mode and some variations in the Art Filter modes, as well as a new at the time collapsible M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 ll MSC lens that takes the fisheye attachment as well as two other converters – a wide angle and macro converter. (MSC is a connotation signalling that lens can be zoomed silently for use in video work.)
It also features the Olympus super control panel on the back LCD screen that puts most of your settings in one convenient place. It’s just part of the customization available with the camera that allows users to set the camera up to their liking.
The E-PL2 went through some minor cosmetic changes to give it a more curvaceous look over its predecessors improving ergonomics and giving it a touch more style.
On the back, a blue tooth accessory below the hot shoe –aptly named the Pen pal – allows you to add a small device to transfer your images from the camera to the smartphone.
In addition, an electronic EVF – the VF-3 – can be purchased separately. It sports a high resolution of 920,000 dots, a 100% field of view, long eye relief of 17.4mm, and 90° tilt mechanism. The EVF enables stable framing for outdoor, low-angle, and telephoto shooting and can be found used on EBay and other used-camera outlets.
For a detailed review of the camera specs, check out the extensive review at DPreview.
I’m not interested in getting into the fine details of the camera. That’s the expertise of the people at DPreview (see link above.)
I’m more interested in how the camera performs in the garden, in everyday use and on vacation. First let’s get it out there that although the PEN “light” series is a simplified version of the PEN series, it doesn’t feel like a “light” version. These cameras have a premium feel and touch to them and are no way considered lightweight and flimsy like many cheap point-and-shoot models.
I’ve been using the camera off and on for the past month or two and am thoroughly impressed. Truth be told, I miss the digital viewfinder of my Olympus E-M10, but that aside, the camera and kit lens packages have performed admirably.
The compact size and light weight makes it an easy choice if you just want to grab a few shots in the garden.
Put the camera on Program mode and shoot it like a typical point-and-shoot camera without much thought. Switch it to IA and the camera picks the most suitable program mode to get the shot. Non-photographers will love the convenience of these modes, but if you are looking for a little more control, the camera offers full shutter, f-stop and manual modes.
The selection of “Art filters” can add a nice creative touch to your images, if used judiciously. To add an even more creative approach, there is the ability to shoot double exposures, HDR photography and time lapse exposures.
Not bad for a stylish little camera that can be tucked into a pocket as easily as a purse.
The E-PL2 is a 12-year-old camera and it shows at times. The LCD panel is fixed on the back of the camera. I would prefer it to at least articulate to allow a low image without having to lay on the ground. Newer PEN cameras offer and articulating screen.
Focus is good, but obviously falls short of today’s more modern cameras. There is certainly some hunting when trying to focus on a smaller subject with a busy background.
It has face detection that is excellent for getting in-focus shots of toddlers on the move. It also has follow focus and continuous autofocus, but I prefer to leave it on single autofocus most of the time.
Focusing with more vintage, manual focus lenses can be difficult, but live mode makes full use of the LCD screen and by using the magnifying glass you can move in closer to nail the focus.
Olympus did not make focus peaking available for manual focus lenses until around the time of the E-P5.
Video is only 720P at 30 frames per second, which is good enough for most users but falls a little short for serious videographers. The camera sports only a single microphone but an accessory can be added to get stereo sound if you need it.
The PEN series of cameras does not come with a viewfinder.
To combat that, I added the The TT Artisan 28mm optical viewfinder which is a nice addition to the Pen E-PL series of cameras. This optical viewfinder has no electronics built into it and therefore transmits no information from the camera.
For more on the TT Artisan viewfinder, check out my earlier post here.
The camera’s selection of art filters is impressive and fun to use. Everything from soft focus, (see clematis image above), to pop colour, B&W and dramatic colour as well as pinhole is available for experimentation both in photo and video mode. The camera also allows for filter stacking –combining filters for even more varied effects –combining pop art and pinhole for example to create a real retro look.
Several scene modes simplify the process still further and the various colour modes – natural, vivid, monochrome, muted – further enhances the creative choices. I prefer natural for most of the garden shots, but vivid offers an almost “velvia” look to the images.
There are buttons that let you customize the menu and set up shooting styles and preferences in advance.
If you are looking to capture images of flowers or insects up close, there is an accessory that clips on the hotshoe and allows the photographer to aim small LED lights at the subject.
The close-up spotlight is an excellent accessory for garden and macro photographers that slides on to the hotshoe of the camera and provides the photographer with two movable LED lights that can be positioned to add a constant light source for flower or inset photography, for example.
Battery life is good considering the sole reliance on the back LCD panel.
The Pentax K5 is a 13-year-old camera that continues to perform against some of its top competitors in the advanced amateur role.
A 13-year love affair with the Pentax K5
The Pentax K5 was released in 2010 as the venerable camera brand’s answer to to the Canon 7D, Nikon D7000 and Olympus E-5. The launch price of $1,600 for the body only certainly showed the enthusiast camera market that Pentax was serious about playing with the big boys when it came to digital cameras.
The new Pentax camera boasted a 16.3 megapixel CMOS sensor with a higher maximum sensitivity (ISO 51200) than any APS-C camera up to that date, continuous shooting at 7.0 frames per second and a 1080p full HS video mode, not to mention an upgraded SAFOX IX + AF system, and a few new digital filters and custom image modes.
For more images taken on Sunday, June 18th, check out my Pentax K garden images.
What does all this mean in 2023? It means, despite its age, the Pentax K5 remains a very competent camera that is more than capable of capturing garden images, documenting travels or creating lovely images of your children, grandchildren pets and wildlife.
In fact, it is my go to camera when I’m looking for the best quality in my, admittedly aging, arsenal of cameras.
Together with the trusty 300mm F4.5* Pentax lens, it is responsible for most of my favourite images in the garden.
I consider the Pentax K5 my workhorse camera.
The Pentax K5 is not a particularly pretty camera to look at or super fun to use. It just gets out of the way and gets the job done, day in and day out.
Not to be overlooked, a convenient backlit window on top of the camera makes setting and checking exposure extremely simple even if glare from the sun makes the back LCD screen impossible to read. The small window provides all the basic information a photographer needs to know to obtain proper exposure including: Shutter speed, ISO, Aperture, Exposure compensation, battery level, and much more.