Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

White lights and window boxes: A warm holiday welcome

Combining white lights with window boxes creates a warm welcome during the holidays and throughout the year.

Simple Christmas decor is natural choice for front garden

There are no guarantees in life, but if it’s a White Christmas you’re dreaming of, adding the right lights will help bring the magic to your landscape during the holiday season and throughout the year.

Forget those bright LED red and green lights. And those new electric-blue LEDs, just don’t work in naturalized gardens.

If you are looking for tasteful lighting that welcomes guests during the holiday season, warm white lights work like a charm, especially in window boxes and other containers. An added bonus is that the window boxes with white lights look as good in the middle of summer as they do in winter.

In fact, we have solar-powered fairy lights on trellises in the back yard all summer. The inexpensive lights provide a romantic glow to the entrance of our back garden and welcome visitors.

Window boxes decorated with Holiday decor complete with white lights add a warm welcome to the natural garden.

Our Mayne window boxes decorated with Holiday decor complete with white lights add a warm welcome to the natural garden.

We use the warm white lights across the front of our home to add a festive yet classic look.

It starts with our two Mayne Fairfield window boxes decorated with white lights and holiday decor. The window boxes are plastic, self-watering and very well made. We added the decorative brackets as well. These solidly-built, Mayne boxes are available in several sizes in both black and white.

The look continues with our indoor tree (also in white lights) in our large picture window. Finally, the front door includes a lighted wreath flanked by two small, yet simple Christmas trees with white lights. All three are controlled by battery-operated timers making them a convenient option for the entire holiday season.

The only addition is a set of three “presents” decorated with red ribbon and white lights.

The understated decor works well in a naturalized woodland garden.

This look can begin on the exterior of the home and be easily carried into the interior with understated decor.

A Christmas tree adorned with white lights welcome visitors.

Cedar boughs covered in white fairy lights, like this example from McGee and Co., provide a perfect transition from outdoors to the interior. The greenery can be used around a doorway or on a interior or exterior railing.

By removing the obvious holiday decorations, the lights are subtle enough to leave out all winter. Certainly, they can stay out over the winter when a dusting of snow adds a magical quality to the light.

Inside the home, a natural style can be used well past the Holiday season. These contemporary wicker trees, for example, could be decorated with white lights for the holidays, and left natural for the remainder of the year.

These Mayne window boxes add a festive mood and a warm welcome to the front garden.

These Mayne window boxes add a festive mood and a warm welcome to the front garden.

Window boxes provide a classic Holiday look

One of my favourite combinations for Christmas – that lasts right through into spring – is our front Mayne Fairfield 3-ft window boxes filled with winter greens, holiday decorations and, of course, the small warm white lights.

A simple timer automatically turns the lights on and off after a chosen amount of time. The effect creates a classic holiday feeling both on the exterior of the home as well as inside the house looking out.

If window boxes are something you think you might be interested in, check out my earlier post on planting window boxes on a budget

A dusting of snow on the greenery turns the window boxes into magical wintery scenes.

Window boxes are a great addition to your home at any time of the year, but they really seem to come into their own around the holiday season where they can extend your Christmas decorating theme to a whole new level.

Small white lights in the Mayne Fairfield window boxes add a festive, but classic, look to the front garden.

Small white lights in the Mayne Fairfield window boxes add a festive, but classic, look to the front garden.

We use the small twinkle lights in both window boxes, but technology has made the possibilities endless. You could place one or a group of flickering candles in the window boxes that turn on and off automatically. Tuck a grouping of lighted Christmas balls into the window boxes as an elegant thriller almost like a birdsnest.

Front door and landing offers more decorating possibilities

Our white-light theme is extended across the front of our ranch-style home and welcomes visitors with a battery-operated wreath on the front door flanked by two simple Christmas trees that are also on their own timers.

If you really want to add an interesting touch to your front decor, consider turning your porch lights into gas lanterns with these LED lights bulbs that create the illusion of soft, flickering, gas flames.

The effect is simple with an understated elegance.

Red ribbons add a touch of colour to all the greenery and simple decoration.

A window into your woodland

Our full-size Christmas tree, also adorned with white lights, sits in the large picture window over looking the front garden and completing the holiday look.

The simple aesthetics may not be for everyone, but keeping holiday decorating to soft, warm white light helps unify the look and creates a tasteful, yet warm welcome to the woodland garden.

 
 

Light pollution and wildlife

Although most wildlife is tucked away for the winter in underground burrows, we should always remember that too much light can create severe problems for some wildlife. Lighting up your landscape can cause some animals and birds to change their natural movements and their feeding habits. For some, the lights may attract prey making it easier for predators, but at the same time creating an unfavourable situation for prey animals.

Extremely bright lights, such as spotlights and other high intensity lights are simply unnecessary in a natural garden. Try to keep this in mind when designing your outdoor holiday decorating plan.

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

Iphone camera captures Woodland garden in stunning fall colours

The iphone 12 pro max features a 12MP camera and three lenses that give the photographer an opportunity to experiment with a range of techniques. The results are impressive for a smartphone.

Take advantage of ideal conditions to capture your front and back gardens

Can modern cameras on the iphone or other smart phones capture the subtle details of fall colours in the garden?

If a recent morning outing in the garden with nothing but my iphone is any indication of the performance of the three camera lenses on the apple iphone, I think the answer is a resounding yes. The images captured on the apple iphone 12 pro max turned out beautifully on an early morning with a lovely fog hanging in the air and wet leaves either still clinging to the trees or turning the ground into a magnificent carpet of colour.

The colours produced by the apple iphone are subtle and delicate where they cut through the fog and vibrant when the camera was turned on the crimson red of the fallen Japanese Maple leaves. Little to no post processing was needed to get these results.

Quite frankly, I was astonished just how good the images came out with little to no effort on my part. Thanks to the shake resistance capabilities built into the iphone camera, I was able to take all of these images handheld without the need of a tripod. If there is any criticism, it would be that the images are too sharp and take on a digital look, especially if the images are cropped.

Iphone 12 pro max image of woodland garden in fog

This image of the woodland garden in fall was taken with the iphone 12 pro max.

Would a real camera (either a DSLR or high-end compact point and shoot) have captured better images? Maybe – well, probably yes – but I had my new iphone handy and it comes with three lenses – an extreme wide angle, a standard, and a portrait lens – so I was confident I could capture everything I needed with the iphone. Besides, I decided I needed to put the smartphone camera to the test to know that I could trust it if I ever really needed it to capture an important image. From what I had already seen, I was confident it could get the job done.

And boy, was I right.

 
Japanese maple taken with iphone 12 pro max

This Japanese Maple was photographed with the iphone 12 pro max.

 

Maybe it was the outstanding conditions with the early morning fog and wet leaves that helped bring out the beauty in the scenes, but the ease and convenience of using the lenses on the iphone meant I could move quickly to capture the scenes before the light changed.

For more images taken on the apple iphone 12 pro max, go to my Gallery of Images and click on the image at the bottom.

A closeup of Cornus Kousa leaves in their full fall colour

These Cornus Kousa leaves taking on their fall cloakes show the impressive colour and details the iphone 12 pro max is capable of producing.

With a press of the icon on the phone I could easily go from extreme wide angle to normal. And, by tapping into the normal lens’s zoom range, it was simple to move in closer when necessary.

Paperbark Maple changing into fall colours.

This Paperbark Maple is just beginning to show its fall colour in the woodland garden.

Five tips to get the most out of your iphone camera and lenses

  1. Experiment. Don’t be afraid to use all three lenses to get different views of the same or similiar scenes. You can always edit them later and pick your favourites to put up on social media.

  2. Move in close to flowers, insects or colourful leaves to tell a more complete story about your garden at that moment. The iphone’s close focusing capabilities are excellent and the optical shake reduction system will help you get sharphand held images.

  3. Try different angles. Holding the iphone up above your subject and shooting down on it, or getting low and shooting up will give you different perspective of similar scenes. Try to hold the camera straight (not pointing at odd angles) to keep the proper perspective in the images.

  4. In portrait mode there are a number of different lighting effects that you could try to add more drama to your images whether they are an actual portrait or a garden scene.

  5. The iphone is a very smart piece of technology that uses artificial intelligence to create the type of images it thinks will look best. Experiment with the tools, especially the touch screen focusing and exposure adjustments that are available. Focus specifically in an area you want the camera to focus on by touching the screen. A square will appear to tell you that is where the camera is focused. At that time you can also adjust the exposure by moving the small sun icon up for a lighter image and down to darken it.

Fall colours in front garden taken with iphone 12 pro max

The leaves of the Japanese Maple Bloodgood provide an elegant but vibrant groundcover in this Japanese-inspired garden.

iphone 12 pro max camera specifications

I would prefer not get into the fine details of the iphone’s specifications, since there are a number of technical sites that focus on such details. However, some basic information might help readers better understand the camera’s capabilities.

The iphone pro max has three lenses on the back of phone. While looking at the phone, the user sees three settings – 0.5 (representative of a 13mm f/2.4 lens in 35mm lingo), 1X (26mm f/1.6 in 35mm equivalency) and 2.5X (65mm f/2.2 equivalent in 35mm). The iPhone Pro Max features a 5x optical zoom range and a much larger digital zoom up to 12x. Using the digital zoom at its extreme will likely leave you with images that will be unsatisfactory in most instances.

For more on the apple iphone line including comparisons between the various models’ camera features, go to the apple iphone site.

A light fog combines with fall colours in this woodland garden image photographed with an iphone 12 pro max

What’s left of the fern garden with a Cornus Kousa still in leaf. The texture of the spent ferns in the woodland garden actually creates a lovely scene in itself.

Although at the time of writing this post, the iphone 12 pro max is by no means the latest iteration of Apple’s iphone line – that would be the iphone 14 Pro. That iphone comes with the latest Pro camera system sporting a 48MP camera sensor with ultra wide and telephoto lenses, something they call a Photonic Engine for incredible detail and True Depth colour. The iphone14 is a step up from the dual-camera 12MP camera system in the iphone 13, but not that much of a leap from the iphone 12 pro max that I am now using.

Back of iphone 12 pro max

The back of the iphoto 12 pro max includes from the left the 2.5X telephoto lens, the flash (white lens on right), 0.5X lens (directly below flash), 1X lens (lower left) and LIDAR bottom right. The LIDAR is used for Face ID and depth mapping.

Both the iphone 14 and the 12 pro max offer the three camera lens system but the 14 boasts a massive 48MP sensor while the 12 pro max comes in with a 12MP sensor. The 14 has a 6X optical zoom range, while the older iphone 12 model has a 5X optical zoom range. Both have 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display screens.

Japanese Jinsus among the fall leaves and Fish In The Garden

So, unless you are planning to create poster-size images of your photographs, or need to seriously crop your images to get in closer to your subjects, there really is not a huge difference between the latest iphone and my trusty iphone 12 pro max. The larger sensor would also improve noise in the image, especially in the evening when the light is low.

In garden photography, there would be little need to want to upgrade to the newer iphone and camera unless you are using it to photograph birds or small mammals. Images taken from afar with the iphone 14 could take a much more severe crop to get in close to the subject (a bird for instance) than the smaller sensor on the iphone 12 would allow. In that case, however, it’s probably wise to use a dedicated camera and telephoto lens.

A slight mist or fog is the ideal time for garden photography

There is no question that the soft fog and misty conditions created the ideal atmosphere to show off the capabilities of the iphone 12 pro max. In bright sunny conditions, the images would not have anywhere near the impact that the right atmospheric conditions can bring to a scene.

Using these opportunities to get out in the garden can make a huge difference to your photographic success. The annoying backgrounds are either softened or disappear completely in the fog. The colours are muted and the tree trunks take on the look of dark skeletons against the white background of the sky. The lighting is even and even the darkest areas of the garden benefit from the soft light in the scenes.

When the fog rolls in, it can be a magical time.

Even if you are busy or need to get out the door to get to work, try to take a moment to grab a camera, or your cell phone, and capture your garden in its best light. You won’t get many of these special opportunities – especially in fall when the colours are at their peak – so don’t miss the opportunity.

For more on the apple iphone line including comparisons between the various models’ camera features, go to the apple iphone site.

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

Pentax Q review: Why you need one in 2022

Just how small is the Pentax Q? This image of the camera being dwarfed by a chipmunk is a good indication of the size of the camera.

Fun camera for garden and wildlife photography

The Pentax Q might be tiny, but it takes a back seat to no camera in its class.

This full-featured miniature camera, first released in 2011, boasts a very nice interchangeable lens system ranging from a fisheye all the way up to the 35mm equivalent of a 70-200 f2.8 telephoto zoom lens. Even the 70-200 fits in the palm of your hand, but has the telephoto pull to capture wildlife in the garden.

The entire system fits into a tiny package.

If that’s not enough, these cameras come complete with a set of features, filters and shooting modes any full-sized DSLR or mirrorless camera would be proud to boast about. Add surprisingly good ergonomics for a miniature camera that was originally advertised as looking completely at home on the end of a keychain.

Sounds weird right? Maybe, but keep reading to find out how this camera went from a weird distraction in 2011 to the coolest camera in the years that followed.

For more images taken with the Pentax Q, check out my Pentax Q photo gallery.

Image shows how small the Pentax Q is beside this tiny chipmunk.

Image shows how small the Pentax Q is beside this tiny chipmunk.

What more can you ask for with the Pentax Q?

How about a system so small that you can fit two Q camera bodies, at least three lenses ranging from wide angle to a 70-250 f2.8 telephoto, filters and even a Fuji X10 and Lumix point-and shoot camera in a Lowepro camera bag meant to handle a single DSLR camera body and a small wide angle zoom.

Forget the camera bag, a Pentax Q complete with the 70-250mm f2.8 lens equivalent will slip into a coat pocket or a woman’s purse. Heck, throw in the 50mm equivalent fast F1.7 prime and a miniature wide angle or fisheye lens into the purse or coat pocket too – there’s still plenty of room.

And what about the results?

Well, I think the results here speak for them self. I took the above described package out for an afternoon of fall photography and came away with more than a few keepers.

Image taken with the Pentax Q of an old home set among the fall colours.

Image taken with the Pentax Q of an old home set among the fall colours.

Fall colours in a wetlands taken with the Pentax Q.

Fall colours in a wetlands taken with the Pentax Q.

Fall leaves ablaze in vibrant colour.

Fall leaves ablaze in vibrant colour.

Are these fall images of high enough quality that you would want to supersize into posters or murals, or use for professional work with a client? Probably not.

But, for everyday use with the end result of making prints in the 4X6 to 11X14-inch range, or – more likely these days – posting on social media accounts or on web sites – these images can stand up to the scrutiny. They are sharp, contrasty with great colour even at moderately higher ISO settings.

Maybe it’s the fine Pentax lenses or the fact that Pentax took the bold decision to remove the anti-aliasing filter from in front of the sensor that resulted in this sharpness, but whether you are viewing jpegs right out of the camera or Pentax’s RAW images, after a little post-processing, there’s no short changing the results here.

A view from Hamilton Mountain over the city during fall with the Pentax Q.

But let’s not kid ourselves. The sensors on these cameras are tiny.

Tiny sensors but great results

In fact, the original Q’s sensor was a back-illuminated CMOS, 1/2.3” (6.17 x 4.55 mm). The Q7, introduced later in June 2013, uses a larger 1/1.7” type sensor (7.44 x 5.58 mm). Both fell into the point-and-shoot-sized sensor and many critics in those days simply wrote the camera off as nothing but a toy.

Heck, even some of the lenses were called “toy” lenses. Probably not a great marketing decision by Pentax at the time.

The colour extraction filter (set to purple) helps to isolate this salvia flower petal against the grey leaves. The Pentax Q allows you to choose from a host of colours to isolate in your image. You can even choose to isolate two separate colours.

The colour extraction filter (set to purple) helps to isolate this salvia flower petal against the grey leaves. The Pentax Q allows you to choose from a host of colours to isolate in your image. You can even choose to isolate two separate colours.

Pentax Q boasts big features in a tiny package

There isn’t time to get into all the features packed into these tiny cameras. Besides, I’m not really big on all the gimmicks camera manufacturers pack into their cameras to convince buyers they have to buy the camera. But, there is no denying that the features in this camera would be welcome in some of the more expensive DSLRs offered at the time.

It sports a 12.3mp sensor, it’s own dust removal system, ISO settings from 125 - 6400 and a sensor shift shake reduction system to help users get sharp images even in low light. Some of the lenses even have built-in neutral density filters.

How about HDR, a built-in intervalometer, creative “bokeh” blur settings, single and multiple colour extraction filters, and highly adjustable B&W capabilities to name just a few. It shoots RAW, has fully manual settings and for Pentax lovers the green button will bring you back to normal exposure no matter how far off you may have wandered.

Are you thinking these cameras might make for a nice street photography package? I took the Pentax Q with the 01 Prime lens (47mm equivalent) to an emergency animal hospital, while I waited for my dog, Holly, to get her new pacemaker checked by the cardiologist. (Yes you read that right).

This is a great choice for a thumb grip that works well on the Pentax Q. It does not block the dial and your thumb clears the LCD so it does not block your view.

Here is a gallery of results of that one-hour wait at the Emergency Animal Hospital shot in a photojournalistic style with the camera’s B&W mode.

Five reasons to buy a Pentax Q in 2022

  • Even in 2022 it remains among the smallest and most competent mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses.

  • They are now very inexpensive on the used market. If possible, buy an entire package including several lenses to get the best bang for your money.

  • You are already sitting on some great Pentax or other manufacturer’s (Olympus, Canon, Nikon) vintage 35mm lenses and all you would need to use them on the Q is an inexpensive adapter.

  • You love small, exquisitely built cameras and lenses and don’t care about mega sensors.

  • You love the idea of turning your 50mm macro into a 250mm macro or the 100mm f2.8 portrait lens into a 500mm super zoom for about $35.

new England Asters taken with the Pentax Q's blur mode that allows you to control bokeh in the images.

New England Asters taken with the Pentax Q's blur mode that allows you to control bokeh in the images.

Even the pop-up flash is cute, cool and quite useful.

Lot’s of fun, creative and artistic stuff here to keep even the most bored photographers, inspired.

Did I mention the fully customizeable creative wheel thingy in the front of the camera to control favourite creative settings fast and conveniently. Yea, there’s that too.

(I’ll put a link at the bottom of this post from Pentax Forums for anyone who wants to get into the fine details of the camera system.)

This image of native New England asters and grasses shows the detail that the Pentax Q is able to achieve.

This image of native New England asters and grasses shows the detail that the Pentax Q is able to achieve.

How long was the Pentax Q manufactured?

Over the years this miniature camera system, that had a relatively short life span ranging from the original Q’s introduction in 2011 to after the release of the Q-S1 in 2014, gained a cult-like following.

Red Squirrel taken with Pentax Q and 06 telephoto lens shot at f2.8 wide open.

This Red Squirrel was photographed with the Pentax Q and the 06 telephoto lens wide open at F2.8. The lens can deliver soft backgrounds if the subject is far enough away from the background.

Eight Pentax Q lenses deliver top quality results

Pentax introduced a total of 8 miniaturized lenses beginning with the excellent 01 standard Prime with a focal length of 8.5 mm (47mm equivalent for the Q, Q10, and 39mm for the Q7, Q-S1 with the larger sensors.) More lenses followed: 02 standard zoom (27-80 range equivalency, 23-69mm), 03 Fisheye (17.5mm, 16.5mm), 04 Toy wide angle lens ( 35mm, 33mm), 05 Toy lens (100mm, 94mm), 06 Telephoto zoom (83-249mm, 69-207mm), 07 Shield mount lens (63mm, 53mm) and finally the 08 Wide Zoom (21-32mm, 17.5-27mm).

The final lens, the 08 wide angle, was a quality-built lens but extremely expensive. It still remains a highly sought after lens with a big price tag even on the used market, if you can find one.

Blue Jay photographed with the Pentax Q and the 06 telephoto zoom, which is approximately  70-250mm in 35mm equivalence.

Blue Jay photographed with the Pentax Q and the 06 telephoto zoom, which is approximately 70-250mm in 35mm equivalence.

What happened to the Pentax Q cameras and lenses?

Was the Pentax Q system made of simply inferior products meant for the trash heap almost from the day it was announced?

Far from it.

In true Pentax style, these cameras were not only ahead of their time, but engineered to the finest Japanese craftmanship. The result was a hefty price tag (about $700 plus with a basic lens), one that most serious amateur photographers – who they were originally aimed at – just weren’t ready to spend for such a small-sensored camera. That initial cost would rise as you add other lenses to make the system more complete.

In those days, not unlike today, the size of the sensor meant everything. This was before social media took off so photographers were more focused on obtaining the highest resolution images possible.

Fast forward to today when 95 per cent of all digital images never get past Instagram, Facebook and Vero, where the size of the original image plays only a small part in the camera-buying decision.

Our cell phones are just one example of how the size of sensors mean less and less to the end user. Convenience and the coolness factor are far superior to size these days.

The Pentax Q colour extraction filter can pull out colours out of an otherwise B&W image. Here, I pulled out red and purple.

The Pentax Q colour extraction filter can pull out colours out of an otherwise B&W image. Here, I pulled out red and purple.

Where can you buy the Pentax Q?

One quick look on Ebay.com and you’ll find your share of Pentax Q cameras and lenses. Most are from Japan where the Pentax Q has always been a very popular camera. The difference is that on today’s used market, you can pick up the camera and a couple of lenses for a fraction of what you would have paid back when they were available in stores.

In fact, when I purchased my Fujifilm X10 back in 2011, the Pentax Q had just been released. The owner of the camera store urged me to get the Pentax over the Fuji. I loved the little Pentax camera but could not justify the cost of the system. The Pentax Q cost as much as the Fuji but the X10 came complete with the excellent 28-112mm equivalent built-in lens. By the time you added a few of the Pentax Q lenses, you were into a large financial investment and one I was not willing to make at the time.

I suspect, I wasn’t alone.

Today that close to $1,000 investment can be had for maybe $200 for a camera and a couple of lenses. I was able to purchase an Original Pentax Q and standard O2 lens on Kijiji for $60 Cdn. – a real sweet deal. And Ebay is full of great deals – maybe not quite that good but still very reasonable.

But that is just the beginning.

The Pentax Q shown here with the Q to Pantax K adapter and a 50mm f2,8 macro lens which becomes a 250mm macro lens with the 5.6 crop factor of the Q's tiny sensor.

The Pentax Q shown here with the Q to Pantax K adapter and a 50mm f2,8 macro lens which becomes a 250mm macro lens with the 5.6 crop factor of the Q's tiny sensor.

Adapters make the Pentax Q cool in 2022

A lot has changed since Pentax first introduced their miniaturized mirrorless little gem.

If it was great then, new, inexpensive adapters have turned the Pentax Q into one of the coolest little mirrorless cameras on the market.

In 2012 Pentax announced the Adapter Q for K-mount lenses with a 5.6X crop factor. This little device changed everything, but it took time for other manufacturers like Fotodiox and K&F (amazon link to list of adapters) to follow and change the world of Pentax Q owners.

The 50mm f2.8 macro lens on the Pentax Q making it a 250mm with the crop factor.

The 50mm f2.8 macro lens on the Pentax Q making it a 250mm with the crop factor.

The small sensors and the fact it is a mirrorless camera makes adapting vintage – even ancient lenses – to the camera simple and inexpensive.

There are adapters to mount classic Pentax, Olympus, Nikon and Canon 35mm lenses to the Pentax Q. But it doesn’t stop there. There is an inexpensive adapter for Pentax’s venerable classic 110 camera with its interchangeable lenses. These sweet little miniature lenses will fit the Pentax Q now too.

This image shows how much magnification the 50mm macro can achieve on the Pentax Q.

This image shows how much magnification the 50mm macro can achieve on the Pentax Q. And, just look at that lovely background. Not bad for a tiny-sensored camera.

Oh, and did I mention those ancient miniature D-mount lenses from your dad’s or grandfather’s 8mm cinema camera. Yep, they have an adapter too. Cost me $3 for the adapter and I have four d-mount lenses I found attached to old 8mm cameras I had been using as paperweights that I can now attach to the the Q and explore the world around me.

I will be doing separate posts looking at these lenses as well as breakdowns of some of the Q-mount lenses.

And, if you are looking for cinematic quality in your images, what better than a lens from the 1930s-40s to create the mood.

Oh, and did I mention C-mount cinema lenses…

You get the idea.

A $30 adapter and a couple of my classic Pentax K and Ka lenses together with the Pentax Q turns the system into one that we could only dream of a few years ago.

The crop factor is about 5.5X which means normal lenses become telephoto equivalents and telephoto lenses become super telephotos.

Let’s do some quick math.

My older 50mm f2.8 macro becomes a 250mm f2.8 macro lens. My 100mm F4 becomes the equivalent of a 500mm macro. My 40mm pancake becomes a 200mm pancake lens. My 300mm F4.5 A* becomes a 1500mm F4.5 telephoto. My old 75-150mm zoom becomes a 375mm to 750mm zoom.

Just imagine the possibilities.

I remember always wanting the A* 200mm macro lens in its day, but it was the price of a small used car. Today, I can mount a 50mm F2.8 A manual focus macro lens on the Q and get a 250mm macro F2.8 equivalent lens. It’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven.

I’ve included a few example images above of of the Pentax 5omm in action just to get readers thinking about the possibilities. Notice the beautiful soft background the lens was able to achieve even on a point-and-shoot-sized sensor.

Stay tuned for future posts on the Pentax Q where I’ll provide more specific insight and examples of what can be done with these ancient lenses.

If you are into fine details (and after you finished reading this complete post, of course) check out this post at Pentax Forums. It’s all here in fine detail.)

Hummingbird and salvia shot with Pentax Q and 06 telephoto zoom.

Hummingbird and salvia shot with Pentax Q and 06 telephoto zoom.

Is the Pentax Q worth buying in 2022: Pros and Cons

Is the Q worth it in 2022?

Absolutely.

Is it the only camera you should pack in your arsenal?

Probably not.

Is it capable of getting great images for social media like Instagram, Vero, Facebook etc?

Absolutely.

But the Pentax Q is far from perfect. It’s certainly beginning to show its age when it comes to focusing and where it lacks the latest technology. Trying to see the back LCD screen in bright light is near impossible and, although using the classic 35mm-style lenses with at adapter is super fun and cool, don’t be surprised if you struggle nailing the focus.

Yes, the Q has focus peaking and magnification factors to help with focus, but if you struggle to be able to even see the back LCD, you are not going to have an easy time focusing.

There is no built-in LVF (fiewfinder) to help frame the image. Well, I should not say there is no viewfinder. There is an optional viewfinder that works with the 01 Prime lens, but it’s expensive and not really all that great, according to users. It does look cool on the camera, however, giving it a real rangefinder look.

Bee on salvia taken with Pentax Q and vintage 50mm macro

Bee on salvia taken with Pentax Q and vintage 50mm macro.

There are more issues with the camera and lens system that some users may think are worth noting, but with the price of these sweet, miniature cameras coming down as much as they have, it’s too easy to overlook the minor problems and just enjoy the camera and all it has to offer.

For a fraction of the price of a new smartphone, you can walk into a party with your Q and turn some heads.

At the same time, take it out on the street and you can virtually go unnoticed with this tiny camera.

Slip it in your purse or pocket and you’re ready to go anywhere. Even out in the garden for a morning of shooting. Heck, these Pentax Qs even have a macro feature on them for capturing our favourite flowers, bees and butterflies.

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

Karen Hutton: Exploring the world of macro/close-up photography

Karen Hutton’s creative approach to macro photography takes out the technical details that turn many new photographers away from exploring close-up photography. Her approach is perfect for garden photographers looking to create beautiful images.

KelbyOne course takes creative approach to macro photography

It doesn’t take long to see that Karen Hutton’s high-energy personality is contagious.

Her YouTube videos are a dead giveaway of her energetic approach to photography and life. And, it’s this high-energy approach to travel and landscape photography that has made her a popular speaker, educator and voice for photography.

She is a Professional Fujifilm-X Photographer, living in California where she spreads her love for her chosen profession to anyone who will listen.

“I believe in discernment, truth, wisdom, strong artistic choices, love and the power of uplifting others,” she writes on her impressive website. “I believe that art is love made visible.”

Karen also believes in simplicity. When asked by Ferns & Feathers how her course would benefit someone who is inexperienced in the world of macro, she is quick to explain that her goal is to take the complexity out of macro photography. “It’s creative and meditative” she explains adding that

“It approaches macro in a less technical way, and more as: A way of seeing + thinking,” she explains. It’s “a way of telling stories; a way of being and of well-being; a way to understand beyond ourselves. Thus, (the course is) more an exploration that anyone can enjoy.” Karen explains.

The course breaks down the stages of storytelling (like a filmmaker does) in a simple way that any photographer can use to shape their images in a more meaningful way. As a for instance, by finding relationships, then using the light to paint, bathe and wash your characters with it in interesting ways to create an emotional impact, you tell an interesting story with your images.
— Karen Hutton

Readers who don’t have an expensive camera and maybe count on their cell phone or a simple point-and-shoot compact camera are not left out from enjoying the macro experience.

“The course is built for anyone, regardless of the type of camera they have. It’s about a way of sensing, thinking and seeing… which is a different kind of approach and welcomes any kind of gear,” Karen explains, when asked about gardeners who like to take pictures with their smartphones or compact cameras.

Karen emphasizes the importance of telling the story of the hidden beauty of our gardens.

We how the beauty of our gardens by “telling (showing) the great stories found within the garden. Stories about what you love, how the various elements interact with one another – and finding meaning in all of it.”

If you want to experience some of Karen’s macro photography, take 5 minutes to watch her video in collaboration with Fujifilm on the Great American Road Trip. In this video she uses the road trip to explore the details found along the route.

Karen Hutton

It’s not hard to fall in love with her approach and her work. Whether it’s capturing the spirit of the Sierra Nevada mountains of her California home, intimate details of her travels to France and Italy, or capturing beautiful light of St. Thomas on the Hill in the Upper Sava Valley of Slovenia.

“A lifetime of chasing – and creating with – light began when I was 8 or 9,” she writes. “I had a vision about the transformational power of light, which ignited a sense of purpose that leads me to this day.”

Her outstanding images, humour and genuinely positive outlook, are inspirational to those looking to discover their artistic voices in photography.

KelbyOne. Get better at landscape photography.

Macro photography in our gardens can be extremely rewarding. For more on shooting close-up images in our gardens, be sure to check out my comprehensive post on macro/close-up photography. I have also done a separate post here on flower photography.

But how does all this high energy translate into macro photography?

After all, The world of close-up photography demands the maker slow down, study the world in minute detail and find intimate compositions that can be almost invisible to the naked eye.

In one of her many videos, Karen talks about the importance of discovering the natural world and the smaller details that are so easily overlooked.

“There is so much beauty that fills our world.” Karen explains. “And it comes at every shape and scale and texture. I am awestruck by amazing vistas and cityscapes, but as a citizen of the earth, I want to look, I want to appreciate the smallest components as well as the grand design.”

Karen Hutton image from her video on Macro photography.

Karen Hutton’s on-line course turns the focus on creative macro photography.

Review: Karen Hutton’s hour-long macro/close-up photography course

I was fortunate enough to have taken Karen’s one-hour photography course on macro and close-up photography.

After viewing the on-line course on my laptop in the comfort of my home, I can say without a doubt that this course is aimed at people looking to experience the world of close-up photography in a creative rather than a highly technical approach.

It is not aimed at a master of macro photography. That’s not to say there is nothing for the experienced macro photographer to take away from the on-line course, Karen incorporates plenty of excellent tips and approaches to macro and close-up photography for even the most experienced photographers.

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The course is, however, aimed at photographers looking to expand their creative horizons and experiment in a world they may never have explored to any great degree in the past.Technical explanations are kept to a minimum, there are no complex descriptions of using flash, and even discussions around lenses are kept to a minimum.

For those of us who are more gardeners than photographers, I think this course is the perfect introduction to macro and close-up photography.

It will challenge you to look at, and approach, your garden and photography in a new more creative way. Karen’s whole approach is to see macro photography as one part of a larger story that begins with seeing the subject in a wider context before moving in on the more intimate details.

It’s the ideal vision for our woodland/wildlife garden approach. Although the single flower is beautiful in itself, it is really just one part of the larger concept that makes up our woodland gardens. The native trilliums in our gardens, for example, depend on the tree canopy for their survival. The tree canopy, therefore, is part of the the trilliums’ and other spring ephemerals larger story and should be included in our story as we explore the details of our trilliums.

It’s an approach that tells a more creative and complete story, as we move in closer and closer to our subjects.

It’s storytelling in a very intimate way.

She refuses to get hung-up on the true definition of macro and, instead, shows how “close-up” photography can be captured with everything from a point-and-shoot camera, to a telephoto lens or a simple zoom lens with a macro feature. Most of us have at least one of these tools in our camera bag.

Karen begins the course by showing students how they can tell a story by moving from a distant view of their subjects through to the middle, medium and finally the more intimate macro or close-up views.

KelbyOne. Take better photos of your children.

Along the way she uses images to illustrate her story-telling approach to close-up photography.

She touches on the importance of light, explaining the varying emotions that different light can evoke in an image.

She talks about exploring macro at home using everything from kitchen utensils and garden produce to backyard flowers.

Finally, she explores design and movement in close-up images, and wraps it up with the importance of capturing natural patterns in nature.

Macro on-line course is both inspirational as well as informative

In conclusion, Karen’s creative approach to teaching macro photography makes it more accessible to all of us. It inspires us to think about why we are trying to capture an image; why we even want to capture the image, and how we can best illustrate the intimacy of that moment.

Karen’s approach of using macro photography as a means to tell the complete story of our gardens is an approach that inspires us to look deep into what makes our gardens special.

“The course breaks down the stages of storytelling (like a filmmaker does) in a simple way that any photographer can use to shape their images in a more meaningful way. As a for instance, by finding relationships, then using the light to paint, bathe and wash your characters with it in interesting ways to create an emotional impact, you tell an interesting story with your images.”

If you are looking for technical expertise on lenses, lighting and how to obtain 1:1 images of your favourite flower, I suggest you may want to look elsewhere. But if you are looking to be inspired to take your close-up and macro photography to another level, Karen’s course might be the spark that ignites a whole new world of photography.

Karen’s courses are available at KelbyOne, The Ultimate source for Photography Education on the web.

What is the KelbyOne on-line photography program?

Before I explain the KelbyOne on-line photography program, let’s take a look at the founder of the program, Scott Kelby. I was introduced to his work many years ago when I purchased one of his incredibly informative Photoshop books from my local Costco. Since then, he has gone on to write a plethora of books and articles on everything from Lightroom and Photoshop to getting the most out of your iphone camera.

Scott is the brains behind KelbyOne, the extensive on-line photography educational program boasting more than 100 of the world’s best and most entertaining photographers sharing their knowledge and expertise with the photographic community and anyone looking to expand their knowledge about their hobby or their chosen profession. It’s all online and can be accessed from your computer, tablet or even from your phone. There is no need to leave the comfort of your home to gain a wealth of knowledge.

Courses on everything from travel photography, to portraiture, to creative landscapes and Black & White photography are just a few of the more than 900 on-line courses available.

Students can purchase courses individually for as low as $9.95 or by monthly subscriptions for less than $20.00. There is also a yearly membership for those looking for the ultimate learning experience. The courses offer something for everyone whether your are a beginner, hobby photographer, or a seasoned professional.

“Our goal here is to make learning something that you look forward to. This way you, our community of photographers, can move past the hurdles and bring to life the images that are stuck inside of you. We feel like the content has to be fun, cinematic, and inspiring, and taught by the most personable and experienced photographers in the industry,” states the KelbyOne site.

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

Get the most out of your compact camera: Ten tips to better photos

Getting the most out of your compact camera involves getting acquainted with the camera’s features, many of which can be hidden in menus.

Beginners should focus on scene modes for best results

Getting the most out of your compact camera is the first step to creating your best photographic images.

Hidden in the depths of many compact cameras are a host of creative filters, scene modes and special effects that most photographers either never explore in any meaningful way, or don’t even know their little camera offers these capabilities. Beginning photographers will benefit from learning how to take advantage of these filters and scene modes to get the most out of the camera.

Reconsider leaving your camera on automatic and explore the scene modes to maximize your results.

For more on Photographing your garden, be sure to check out my comprehensive post on Flower Photography in your Garden.

In this image, I used a in-camera filter available in most digital cameras that takes a B&W photo of the image but lets the user choose a colour or two colours that are displayed. In this case, the dark purple salvia flower was highlighted.

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The best advice I can give is to:

  • Place your camera manual on the table beside your favourite couch and read it – several times. If it’s a digital manual, download it to your computer and keep your computer nearby. Keep it handy for the first two or three months until you believe you know every part of the camera and its features. (I like to flip through the manual while watching television.)

  • Leave the camera in the same spot beside the couch. Pick it up regularly and go through the menus learning the features and how to quickly access them.

  • Now go out regularly with the intent of using these features, filters and scene modes. Get comfortable with them to the point that you can access them quickly and efficiently even if they are buried deep in the menus.

  • Don’t believe what you read that you have to use manual modes like aperture and shutter priority. There is a time to use these modes, but often the scene modes will serve you better, especially if you understand what is happening to your camera when you use these specialized modes. Many camera manuals will actually provide a brief explanation of what settings are used on the camera in the various modes.

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The macro mode in the Fujifilm X10 was used to capture this image of the forest floor. Photographing images like this is a great way to experiment with using the various features and modes in the camera.

Eleven tips to improved photography with compact cameras

  1. Know your compact camera and how to quickly access menus and features.

  2. Keep the ISO as low as possible. You are dealing with a small sensor that will get noisy (grainy) quickly in high-ISO settings

  3. Use in-camera stabilization to help keep ISO levels low and images sharp.

  4. Treat the camera like a DSLR and put it on a tripod if you are shooting landscapes to get the sharpest images possible with low ISO and a high aperture. Use the self-timer feature to set the shutter without touching the camera.

  5. If you are using a tripod, turn off in-camera stabilization.

  6. If you are using in-camera stabilization, use proven traditional methods to hold the camera steady, including bracing yourself against a wall or tree, pushing the viewfinder up to your eye to help brace the camera or using a monopod, say at a sporting event. No need to turn off the in-camera stabilization if you are using a monopod.

  7. Gently press the shutter button rather than jamming at it to take the picture. Pressing the shutter quickly and with force may cause camera shake and make the photo look out of focus.

  8. Use the burst feature to shoot multiple images of a scene to ensure one of the images is sharp. Use side-by-side comparisons in post processing to pick the sharpest image.

  9. Consider setting the in-camera bracketing feature to ensure you obtain the best exposure. Obtaining perfect exposure is more important on a compact camera than it is on a larger sensored camera, because the smaller files cannot handle as much post processing.

  10. Shoot in RAW whenever possible and if you are comfortable doing post processing in programs like Lightroom or Photoshop. If you don’t like processing RAW images, consider using the Raw plus jpeg setting to ensure you have the opportunity to post process an important image if necessary but still retain the more convenient jpeg image.

  11. Take advantage of the scene modes provided by most compact cameras, but also take the time to learn what the camera is doing in these scene modes so you can make adjustments if necessary.

A Better Way to Learn Photoshop, Lightroom & Photography

Here, a combination of macro mode and B&W mode is used to capture this image of the forest floor. Fujifilm’s X10 enables the photographer to experiment with B&W digital film including the use of B&W filters that darken skies or lighten foliage. Experimenting with these features helps to prepare you for the time when you need them.

What compact camera features should I focus on?

Focus on the camera features you use the most and get totally comfortable using them.

Garden photographers, for example, might want to get acquainted with, macro mode, sports /action mode, portrait mode, and pet mode. These are obvious features that come to mind but night-shooting mode including night portraits are shooting modes that you might want to get familiar with before you are forced to use them.

Macro mode is obviously a feature for garden photographers to get comfortable using. Just set the camera on the macro mode and go out into the garden to experiment getting up close to flowers and insects. Don’t wait until you come across a beautiful butterfly to learn how macro mode works. By experimenting with the macro feature, you will get comfortable, for example, with how close you can get to the subject.

A better way to learn Photoshop, Lightroom, and Photography.

You’ll also learn how far away you can be while using the zoom feature to get in as close as possible. This is particularly useful to get images of butterflies from a distance.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. There is no cost to this exercise accept your time.

Try shooting with and without flash to see how the results change and how your camera handles flash up close.

The macro feature is just one of many camera features to focus on.

If, for example, you are going to watch your childs’ ball game, take the camera and use the opportunity to experiment with the action or sports mode. Set the camera on “action mode” and fire away.

Feel free to use the manual modes to capture game action, but unless you are very comfortable setting the aperture and shutter speeds setting the ISO and turning on burst modes, let the camera’s technology do most of the work for you.

Afterall, camera manufacturers have put a lot of thought into coming up with the best camera settings for the various modes.

One of my favourite cameras for creative modes is the Pentax Q. For my comprehensive post on this tiny camera, check out my post on The Pentax Q, and why you need one in 2022.

What are the best compact and micro 4/3rd cameras for 2022?

If you are wondering what the best compact cameras for 2022 are, here is a short list of some of the top compact cameras Fuji, Sony, Lumix, Canon and Leica.

The Fujifilm X100V, boasts an APS-C sensor and 24.3 megapixels along with its 23mm, fast f2 lens. It’s got a hybrid optical electronic viewfinder and a 3-inch fixed LCD screen. This is for more serious photographers who are looking for fine craftmanship and are happy with using a prime lens rather than a more versatile zoom lens. I’ve included a few links from various locations if you are interested in purchasing the camera.

Fuji X100V (Adorama)

Fuji X100V (B&H)

Fuji X100V (Amazon)

Sony ZV1 boasts 20.1 megapixels in in 1-inch sensor. It sports a fast 24-70mm zoom lens and a 3-inch screen. This enthusiast camera has very fast auto focus and a screen that can be moved to multiple views. This camera lacks a viewfinder but is a very capable camera for video.

Sony ZV-1 (Adorama)

Sony ZV-1 (B&H)

Sony ZV-1 (Amazon)

Not quite a “compact” camera but the Panasonic Lumix G9 is a mirrorless, 20.3 megapixel camera with a 3-inch LCD and interchangeable lenses in the micro 4/3rds category. It is a professional photo and video camera that has class leading dual image stabilization and outstanding video.

The Panasonic DMC-ZS 100K is a compact point and shoot 20megapixel camera with a 10X optical zoom ranging from 25-250mm (35mm equivalent). Like your phone, it has a touch screen on the back and is fully equipped to handle any challenge you may face.

Adding punch of colour to images can be done with in-camera filters. Here, “vivid film” was chosen to add a punch of colour to the photograph of the container pond along side containers of flowers.

How does “sports/action mode” work on a compact camera?

Let’s examine what happens to the camera when you set it on “sports/action mode.”

Most cameras, when set on “action mode” will make a series of alterations to your camera settings to best capture fast-moving subjects.

  • First, the ISO setting on the camera will set the ISO to a high number to give the camera it’s best chance of stopping any action.

  • Second, it will set the shutter speed to a higher level to reduce the blur caused by the action on the field.

  • Third, it will set the aperture to provide as much light as possible so that the shutter can fire at a rate fast enough to stop the action. As a result, the depth of field will be limited.

  • The camera will likely choose continuous-focus mode as well as burst mode or continuous shooting mode.

  • The camera may choose other features to enable your best action photos, such as turning off the flash and turning on anti-shake mode if it is not already in use.

 

This Panasonic Lumix camera’s mode dial shows the various modes available to the photographer including a custom mode (CUST), scene mode (SCN), two my scene modes (MS1-2), a movie mode, intelligent mode, program mode as well as aperture, shutter and full manual mode.

 

All of these actions are turned on in a fraction of a second and the camera is ready for capturing the big game.

Knowing what the camera is doing in sports mode, should also give you ideas of how to use this mode for other subjects.

If I see a fox trotting through the garden, “sports/action mode” is the first mode I go to to capture the scene. With only seconds to capture the fox as it trots through the garden, there is no time to make the changes necessary to capture the scene.

A fast shutter speed was used to help stop the motion of this hummingbird. Using action or sports mode will help you capture images of birds and animals in the garden. Using TV or time value will also help you capture the action if you choose a shutter speed of 500/sec or faster. Finding a compromise between a high shutter speed and setting a high ISO is key to capturing good, usable images.

The action mode is likely the one I would choose to capture kids playing at the park, or the dog having a great time in her pool or the hummingbird working the flowers while I sip my morning coffee.

Why use the custom features over scene modes?

Many high-end compact cameras also have custom modes that enable you to set the camera for your most-used situations such as portrait, B&W images or action photography.

Custom modes are excellent alternatives to using scene modes because they allow you to dial in all the settings you need to create the desired effects. For example, action mode may allow your camera to automatically pick an ISO setting higher than 1600, but you know that the resulting image is not very good. The custom setting would allow you to limit the ISO to say 800 or 1000 ISO.

How does portrait mode make better people photos?

We’ve discussed some of the camera settings in action mode, let’s look at what goes on in portrait mode. There is more to the portrait mode than you might think. Although each camera manufacturer will set their portrait mode differently, the number of changes might surprise you.

Consider the following possibilities:

  • Change the f-stop to wide open to create a pleasing background

  • Take several images at once in and out of focus to help create a lovely soft background

  • Change the colour calibrations to create a warmer, more pleasant skin tone for portraiture. Some camera manufacturers – including Fujifilm cameras – have included the colour parameters of their former portraiture films so that users can experience classic portrait film in digital form.

  • Add a softening filter or effect to create the illusion of softer, blemish-free skin.

  • Lower the ISO for a less grainy or noisy effect.

  • Turn the flash on or off. If the flash is on, add red-eye reduction. (My Fujifilm X10 even has a handy feature where the camera takes the portrait with and without flash. The photographer can then choose the image they like best.

  • I’m sure there are other changes depending on the camera manufacturer, but these changes to the camera settings should give you a good idea how much thought goes into creating the best settings for successful images using the scene modes and why you should consider using them.

 

These two images show how effective using the HDR mode can be. The above image shows the non-HDR image where the lighting between the hi-lights and shadows is extreme. By using the HDR mode, the PentaxQ took two fast images exposing for the hi-lights and shadows and then combining them into one image (see below).

 
 

The final HDR image finds a middle ground between the highlights and shadows. HDR can be used effectively in a number of situations where the lighting extremes call for it.

 

Other modes, such as HDR (see above), combine several photos taken in quick succession to remove the extreme highlights and shadows and give you a properly exposed image. (Useful when shooting a cityscape from inside your condo when you want to balance the indoor light with the outdoor light.

Other modes and what they do:

  • Scenic modes often enhance blue skies and add punch to green foliage.

  • Kid modes enhance skin tones while capturing fast-moving subjects.

  • Pet modes allow you to capture fast-moving subjects.

  • Food modes (popular for instagram) enhance colour to create more appetizing food.

  • Sunset modes enhance warm colours creating more dramatic sunrise and sunset effects.

  • Fireworks mode uses long exposures to capture the fireworks.

There are many more modes that are set up to help photographers get good images in unusual or difficult situations. Once again, experiment with the modes that you expect to use regularly.

When is the best time to use manual modes

So far, we have discussed the benefit of using scene modes rather than the manual modes such as aperture priority mode (AV), or shutter priority mode (TV) or full manual mode (M).

Once you become more comfortable with the camera, using manual modes gives you more control of the camera. The scene modes are very good most of the time, especially in difficult or unusual situations, but there are times when you want full control of the camera settings.

In these situations you can set your aperture and shutter speed and let the ISO change automatically to create the proper exposure. It’s a good idea to restrict the ISO to a specific range (depending on the camera) so that the ISO levels do not go so high that they degrade the image.

By controlling the aperture, you gain control over the depth of field in the image including the perceived sharpness of the subject and/or the softness of the background.

By controlling the shutter, you gain control over the ability to stop movement or create movement in the image. You would want to stop the motion of a flower getting blown in a gentle breeze, but show the movement of a stream cascading over rocks creating the effect of soft, moving water.

Although there are scene modes in many cameras that help you create the effect of flowing water, having complete control allows you to change the look of the water in greater detail.

Final thoughts on maximizing your compact camera

For most beginning photographers, the compact camera is often the first and the best camera to purchase. Becoming familiar with the features and getting comfortable with the camera menus helps to quickly access the features when you need to and takes much of the thinking out of using the camera whether in the garden or on vacation.

By making use of the scene modes and the various filters built-in to these cameras, you can take professional looking images that just might surprise you and your friends.

As you get more comfortable with the camera, learning when to use the scene modes and filters will probably be the most difficult part of getting great photos.

Finally, when you are comfortable with the camera and understand its inner workings, you can move to more manual control and take your pictures to another level.

Over time, getting great images and developing a good eye will become second nature and you will know you have discovered the joy of photography.

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

Pentax F* 300mm f4.5 ED IF: My favourite wildlife lens

Capturing memorable backyard wildlife and birds often depends on getting close. The Pentax F*300mmF4.5 has long been the lens I reach for to achieve my best results when it comes to wildlife photography.

A 300mm lens is the perfect wildlife lens

The Pentax F* 300mm f4.5 ED IF full frame lens is the only lens I reach for when it comes to serious bird or wildlife photography.

My best images time and time again are shot with this 35-year-old lens, with its exquisite glass, outstanding build quality, handsome looks and the most beautiful bokeh I have ever seen. What more can a person hope for?

I’ve shot with this lens for years, but it wasn’t until I began focusing on backyard wildlife that the lens came into its own capturing stunning digital images and proving to me once and for all that there is no reason to upgrade to a more modern lens.

It’s not perfect, but nothing is really.

A cardinal takes a drink from the bird bath. The creamy background is almost as beautiful as the cardinal.

The Pentax 300mm F4.5* lens is neither the fastest at f4.5, nor is it the best auto focusing lens with its ancient screw-drive system, but when it comes to bokeh – that soft milky background we all strive for in our images – I think it’s pretty tough to beat this lens.

Be sure to check out my F* 300mmF4.5 photo gallery to see more images taken with this superb lens.

 

The Pentax F*300mm F4.5 ED IF is an exceptional, compact 300mm lens with beautiful bokeh that gives me 450mm on a cropped sensor.

 

A great lens is one that you can shoot wide open and still get sharp images. This compact, all-metal lens, with a heft that tells you it was built when quality of build was at least as important as image quality, is sharp wide open. Stop it down to F8 and it’s tack sharp with even better contrast and colours that will leave you almost speechless – grasping for descriptive words that do it justice. The cropped sensor on my K5 and ist-D cameras gives me the equivalent of a 450mm lens.

Imagine a Pentax 300mm mounted on the miniature Pentax Q line of cameras. You can do that but you would end up with a 1500mm F4.5 lens.

For my comprehensive post on the Pentax Q cameras and lenses, check out the Pentax Q, why you need one in 2022.

Even in low light, the Pentax 300mm F4.5 is able to capture the moment, and with a cropped sensor it becomes the equivalent of a 450mm.

If this sounds a little too good to be true, then, by all means, don’t take my word for it.

Great Image quality and small size really impressed me. Exceptional build quality. Similar image quality to the 77 limited. Love it! This lens alone would keep me with Pentax for ever.
— Pentax Forum User

Consider these comments from the folks on Pentax Forums:

“I can’t add much to the glowing praise of this lens posted by almost every single reviewer on this forum. The 300mm f4.5 F* is sharp enough wide open, becoming razor sharp by f6.7 to f11. Color rendition is outstanding. Chromatic aberration is extremely well controlled. Autofocus performance is as good as any older screw drive lens …”

This white egret was captured in a nearby wetlands with the F* 300mmf4.5 lens.

And more from the Pentax Forums: “As for the quality of the glass, I feel humble and not up to showing it off to it’s full potential. The sharpness and resolution are to my eye amazing. The 300mm focal length gives plenty of reach and while only f4.5, with the low light abilities of modern cameras, I was able to take many shots in what I thought were very challenging low light conditions.”

“Great Image quality and small size really impressed me. Exceptional build quality. Similar image quality to the 77 limited. Love it! This lens alone would keep me with Pentax for ever.”

“This is the lens everyone should dream on.”


The red squirrel was photographed at the outdoor photo studio/reflection pond with the F* 300F4.5 lens.

In the world of Pentax, this lens has a cult following.

And why not?

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  • Its compact size makes it easy to carry even on long hikes.

  • Its built-in tripod mount features a high mount that rotates to quickly allow for vertical images.

  • Its built-in lens hood can be left non-extended maintaining the lens’s compact size, or extended out to provide excellent coverage. An added bonus is the rubberized front that prevents damage both to the lens and the hood itself.

  • Its handsome looks, complete with the brand name stamped on its antique-white hood, announces that you are shooting with a premium product.

  • Its full-frame design means you are shooting with a 420mm on APS-C sensor cameras like the highly praised K5 (and my ancient *ist-d.

  • The gold emblem on the side of the lens screams classy, high-end lens.

  • The 67mm filter size is a common enough size that you either have in your collection of filters, or can find high-end B&W filters used on ebay or at your local camera store.

  • Manual focus is put into gear by a solid shift of the collar on the barrel of the lens. Shifting into manual focus is just the beginning of the satisfaction of using the lens in manual mode. Focusing is smooth with just enough resistance to make you think you are using a classic SMC manual focus M-series lens.

  • Add a 1.4 converter and not only is it still sharp, but it becomes a fast super telephoto lens in the 580mm range.

The bokeh of this lens takes centre stage in this image of a blue jay in our crabapple tree.

I could go on forever but what really matters is how this thing handles out in the field.

Similar modern 300mm lenses are available for Canon Amazon link ( Adorama link) Shop Canon direct; Sony Amazon Link (Adorama Link)(Keh Camera Used) (B&H Photo link); Nikon Amazon link (Adorama Link) (B&H Photo) and Fuji Amazon Link (Adorama link) and, of course, Pentax Amazon link (Adorama Link) so be sure to check them out.

 
 

How I like to use the F*300mm F4.5

I like to combine the 300mm focal length on a tripod attached to either my Pentax K5 or ist-d converting it into a 420mm F*4.5.

While this is often enough to capture many of the more friendly birds, chipmunks, red squirrels deer and fox that are regular visitors to the yard, adding a Tragopan photographic blind into the mix along with an outdoor, natural photo studio brings out the magic this lens has to offer.

Be sure to check out my full post on the Tragopan photographic blind.

The lens is exceptional but getting subjects in front of it is key to letting it shine.

The Tragopan blind, together with the home-made photo studio, is almost like bringing an endless line of beautiful models in front of your lens with the background of your choosing.

A red squirrel in winter at the outdoor photo studio where I included grass seed heads from native Northern Oat grass.

The blind gets me extremely close to the subjects. The reflection pond/photo studio puts the subjects in the perfect photographic environment, and one I can easily change for seasonal interest.

In the blind, I set the lens, which is on the heavy side at more than 1200 grams, on a tripod.

Add some well-hidden bird seeds behind a stone or lichen-covered tree branch and get ready for action.

The water itself is a great way to bring in birds and small mammals to a specific location. When I’m not inside the blind photographing the action at the photo studio, the reflection pond becomes a bird bath keeping the birds accustomed to the water feature.

Be sure to check out my post on building a DIY outdoor photographic blind.

A chipmunk appears to almost be praying as she looks into the lens. But look at that bokeh in the background.

The setup allows me to maximize the possibilities of the lens. Add an external flash, a polarizing filter; shoot wide open or stop it down to F8 or F16. Heck, I’ve even experimented with the camera’s built-in filters to create interesting effects.

A better way to learn Photoshop, Lightroom, and Photography.

I’ve also used the blind together with the F*300 F4.5 to capture images of our local fox. Although it is not particularly skittish, by using the blind and the 300mm, I’m able to capture the fox in a more intimate and natural environment.

If I’m out it the field or shooting birds in flight, I’ll often put the lens on a monopod to allow a little more flexibility.

Although I like to think of the lens as primarily a wildlife and birding lens, I will also pull it out to photograph flowers if I’m trying to create beautifully soft backgrounds. The lens has the ability to isolate flowers growing in a busy environment.

It also can be used for larger butterflies and other insects. Although its close-focusing abilities are good at 2 meters, with a maximum magnification at 0.17x, the addition of extension tubes can get you in close. The added magnification of the APS-C sensor enhances the ability to capture smaller insects and butterflies.

Skunk up close and personal with the F*300mm 4.5 lens.

Information below is from the Pentax Forums website

  • Image Format: Full-frame / 35mm film

  • Lens Mount: Pentax K

  • Aperture Ring: Yes (A setting)

  • Diaphragm: Automatic, 8 blades

  • Optics: 9 elements, 7 groups, (including 3 ED elements)

  • Mount Variant: KAF
    Max. Aperture: F4.5 – Min. Aperture F32 Focusing
    Auto Focus (screwdrive)

  • Min. Focus: 200 cm Max. – Magnification 0.17x

  • Filter Size: 67 mm

  • Internal Focus: Yes

  • Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.) APS-C: 5.5 ° / 4.6 °
    Full frame: 8.2 ° / 6.9 °

  • Hood: Built-in, slide out
    Weather Sealing: No

  • Other Features: Push-pull AF/MF Focusing Ring,

  • Tripod Mount Diam x Length
    84 x 160 mm (3.3 x 6.3 in.)

  • Weight
    880 g (31 oz.) w/ Tripod Foot: +240g

  • Production Years: 1987 to 1991

  • Engraved Name: smc PENTAX-F* 1:4.5 300mm ED[IF]

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

Review: Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-ZS8 in the garden and on the road

The Lumix DMC-FZ8 travel camera gets the job done whether you are photographing your garden or taking the handsome little camera on vacation.

Sweet little Lumix performs like a master chef for a fast-food price

Is a $10 camera all you need to capture great garden photography while at home or travelling the world? The short answer is yes, absolutely.

For just about the price of a Big Mac extra value meal, I was able to score a Lumix DMC-ZS8 compact travel camera complete with a Leica 24 to 384mm lens in excellent condition. Admittedly, it was a very good purchase, but these “great buys” are out there if you are willing to take the time to search them out.

The Lumix ZS8 is a categorized as a travel camera, meaning it is the perfect single camera to take on vacations because it can technically handle almost anything you can throw at it while still being small enough to fit into your pocket or purse. The ZS8 fits all those requirements and more.

Getting the most out of your compact, point-and-shoot camera is key to successful photography. Take some time to check out my comprehensive post on Getting the Most Out Of Your Point-and-Shoot Camera.

Check out my earlier post on using the travel camera in the garden and my comprehensive post on Garden flower photography. If you want to see more images from the Lumix ZS8, please check out my Lumix ZS8 Gallery of images.

Skipper on Butterfly Bush

This little Lumix packs a solid macro feature along with its long reach at the telephoto end.

So many excellent compact cameras that were put away in drawers following the release of the iphone and other smart phones are sitting collecting dust and deserve to get a second chance at life. If you have one or two in a drawer or sitting on a shelf, why not give them a good workout in the garden where these cameras can really show off their stuff? You might be surprised how capable they are and how fun they can be to use.

 
Lumix DMC-ZS8

The very handsome black and chrome Lumix FZ8 is a design found in several earlier Lumix travel cameras.

 

In my reviews of classic, older digital cameras, I like to use real world images from my garden and on the road to provide readers with the type of images they can expect from the camera if they own one or choose to track one down on the used market. For those of us who enjoy playing with older, digital cameras, I hope these reviews will pique your interest in high-end compact, DSLRs and other mirrorless cameras.

If you want more information on using your compact camera to photograph flowers in your garden, be sure to check out my comprehensive article on Garden Flower Photography.

If you are interested in older digital cameras, check out my reviews of the extremely popular Fujifilm X10, Canon’s PowerShot Elph 500 and the Casio EXILIM Pro EX-P505.

While not easy, capturing fast-moving wildlife is possible with the Lumix ZS8.

When was the Lumix ZS8 released?

Back in 2011, when the Lumix ZS8 travel camera was released with a suggested retail price of just under $300 U.S., it was considered one of the leaders in its class competing with the likes of the Canon Powershot SX230 HS, the Nikon Coolpix S9100, Pentax RZ10, Samsung WB210, Sony Cyber-shot HX9V, including the Lumix flagship Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 which came with GPS and a different sensor and better video, but is essentially the same camera.

A pollen-laden Bumble Bee on a native Obedient plant is a little easier to capture than a frenetic hummingbird.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 has a high resolution 14.1megapixel CCD sensor, with a 16X super zoom (ultra wide-angle 24-384mm (35mm equivalent) Leica lens and 1280 x 720 high definition (HD) video. All this wrapped in a high-build-quality, all-metal camera with a 3-inch TFT, LCD Display with 230K-Dot Resolution.

 
Rear panel on Lumix DMC-ZS8

The rear LCD panel in the Lumix FZ8 and back buttons.

 

What’s all this jibberish mean?

It means the Lumix DMC-ZS8 was very good when it was released in the hey day of high-end compact digital cameras, and, if these results are any indication, this sweet little Lumix is still a very good camera today.

The camera particularly shines when you can slow down and handle subjects carefully whether you are in the garden or out for a road trip. This scene was captured while out for a drive in the nearby farm country.

Is the Lumix DSC-ZS8 still good in 2024

How does the Lumix ZS8 measure up to today’s modern cameras?

Let’s not fool ourselves. Technology is constantly evolving, especially in the world of digital photography. Today’s cameras can be incredibly good. In fact, for many of us, the evolution of digital cameras including compact, high-end point and shoots have evolved well beyond many of our needs and wants.

That’s where these classic digital cameras fit in.

 
Top view of Lumix DMC-ZS8

The top view of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 showing the impressive Leica lens 24-384 (35mm equivalent).

 

Older cameras suffer from smaller sensors, and slower focusing capabilities which might make getting a prized shot more difficult or the quality of the image substandard to today’s cameras if you like to compare images pixel by pixel. Shooting in less than desirable conditions will push the capabilities of these older cameras.

Bump the ISO up to 1600 to get a handheld photograph in the poor light of early morning or late evening and you might be disappointed.

By disappointed, I mean the image may not seem sharp as a result of digital noise – a grainy look that is not necessarily obvious until you move in close to the image on your computer. Today’s larger sensors can better handle low light and produce less grain. The result are images that look sharper.

If that really matters to you, than older cameras like the ZS8 may not be worth using.

For most of us who primarily use our images for social media or make prints no larger than 8X10” or 11X14”, the FZ8 and other compact cameras are more than sufficient to get the job done. Even if you are planning to create your own garden photo book (highly recommended by the way) these cameras, with proper techniques, will give you beautiful results.

Consider using a tripod and setting the ISO to 100 or 200 when lighting is not at its best and chances are you’ll be more than pleased with the results.

In fact, some fans of classic cameras will tell you that the CCD sensor on the Lumix ZS8 will give you better results than you are likely to get on more modern CMOS sensors. I have to admit the files coming out of this camera are very impressive when lower ISO settings are used and/or there is enough light to properly handhold the camera.

The camera does boast an impressive anti-shake feature that can give you up to two stops of light-saving stability.

What does getting two stops of light mean?

It basically means that you can hand hold the camera and still get sharp photos even if the light is low. It’s in reference to the shutter speed. A low shutter speed means getting sharp images in low light is difficult because of camera shake when taking the picture. You gain the ability to take sharp images in low light by anti-shake features built into the camera as well as “fast lenses” that allow more light to hit the sensor.

Okay, so we know that the Lumix ZS8 is capable of taking good photos, but there are so many other factors that play a role in whether you fall in love with a camera or put it back in the drawer.

This camera is not going back in the drawer any time soon.

A grab shot on the road shows the camera’s ability to capture great images with lots of colour in good light.

What are the pros of the Lumix ZS8

Quite frankly this camera is easy to love. From its impressive build quality, including the camera’s feel in your hand and the solid, tactile feel of the control buttons, to the simple yet effective menus that allow users to easily set up the camera to their liking. It all comes together in this sophisticated-looking little camera that has full manual controls.

Add to that:

• Two macro settings will get you in close to flowers, butterflies and other garden creepy crawlers.

• The quick menu button alone will set most of us free from having to search through menus looking for basic commands to get the shots we want. The Quick menu button in the bottom right on the back of the camera allows you to easily set burst mode, autofocus mode, white balance, ISO settings, file size and the camera’s back LCD mode.

• As already mentioned, the camera’s 24 to 384mm F3.4-6.4 Leica lens is reason enough to search out one of these cameras at a great price. It’s not a super fast lens, especially at the long end at F6.4, but, again, using a tripod or a monopod will go a long way toward achieving memorable images.

This city scene in fall was shot with the Lumix ZS8

A city scene in fall shot with the Lumix ZS8.

• The 13-year-old camera uses easy-to-obtain SD cards for memory and has a series of mode scenes (29 to be exact) that makes getting photographs in specific situations, whether portraits, shots of your children, pets, snow scenes and night scenes, or landscapes extremely easy.

• The flash on the camera is also a good performer and puts out plenty of light to use as a fill-in flash or a regular flash if you are working in a close distance.

• In addition to the 29 scene modes, the camera’s top function wheel boast two “my scene modes” that allows you to quickly go to your favourite scene modes whether that’s portrait mode, landscape mode… pet mode…

• The camera has Panasonic’s IA mode (intelligent auto) that looks at the scene and sets the proper scene mode to ensure proper exposure etc. This is excellent for quick shots on the move and beginner photographers who don’t want to get involved in learning the technical details of the camera.

• In addition, the camera has three custom modes that allow you to set camera settings that you can access easily. I have set up a high-quality custom feature where the settings are optimized for the highest quality image for landscape photography, a black and white custom feature, and a high-speed custom feature.

• A solid tripod mount right square in the middle of the camera’s bottom plate ensures a balanced mount.

Lumix DMC-FZ8 is a smart looking camera small enough to fit in your pocket or purse but with enough features to be the only camera you will need on vacation.

Lumix DMC-FZ8 is a smart looking camera that is small enough to fit in your pocket or purse but with enough features to be the only camera you will need on vacation.

… and some cons

• The small sensor (like all compact cameras) makes getting good images difficult in low light situations. Trying to photograph fast-moving hummingbirds was an exercise in frustration between the slow focus and movement caused by using lower ISO settings. You will never match the speed of high-end DSLRs or mirrorless 4/3rds sensors, but it is possible if you are patient.

• The camera does not have a RAW setting so everything is in jpeg format. RAW would have been nice to pull the most out of the camera’s impressive CCD sensor but the jpegs right out of the camera are very nice.

• No hot shoe for external flash.

• The camera feels comfortable enough in my hand, but it’s tiny size may not feel ergonomically correct for everyone. Always use the wrist strap in case you drop the camera.

Is a Lumix camera a brand to search out on the used market?

Although this review is for the 14.1 megapixel, DMC-ZS8, there are a number of Lumix cameras that were released using the same or a similar design. As the camera design evolved, Panasonic added larger sensors with more pixels and features, but generally kept the same impressive design.

I think it’s safe to say that all these Lumix cameras with this design are worth purchasing today. They are high quality cameras that feel substantial in your hand and are fitted with high quality Leica lenses.

Panasonic built compact cameras for Leica, while Leica provided lenses for Panasonic. The result is that the companies put out almost identical cameras and simply rebranded them for their buyers. In some cases, Leica released almost identical cameras to the Lumix brand for considerably more money.

The original buyers of these Lumix cameras saved a considerable amount of money by purchasing the almost identical Panasonic camera over the equivalent Leica model. Over the years, the Leica cameras have maintained their high prices based on the prestigious brand. The Panasonics have not fared as well even though they have held up extremely well. Now, the difference in prices between the Leica version and the Lumix has widened ever farther making now the perfect time to purchase one.

You know the old saying – buy low. It’s hard to imagine these cameras going much lower.

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

Focus on Casio’s EXILIM Pro EX-P505

The Casio EXILIM Pro EX-P505 is a 20-year-old, 5 megapixel camera that continues to perform in the garden and as an everyday camera.

From Springsteen to the garden, this little Casio continues to rock

The Casio EXILIM Pro EX-P505 – now that’s a mouthful – spent most of its life in a drawer in my basement after using it as a pocketable snapshooter for the first year or two. Its greatest achievement was taking it to a Springsteen concert in Buffalo N.Y. where it actually performed admirably in the low lights of the concert venue.

But overall, I wasn’t happy with the early results and really didn’t have a lot of use for the camera in those days when carrying a massive DSLR and complete lens system seemed a whole lot easier than it does today.

But the tiny, odd-shaped Casio EXILIM Pro EX-P505, 5 megapixel camera is looking a whole lot better these days after spending some time with it in the garden. Sure, it’s dated, but it’s also packed with features, has a decent lens, makes the most out of its size and even has a fully tilting viewfinder. And did I say it’s a lot of fun to try to squeeze out some impressive images from its tiny 5 megapixel sensor.

Casio’s Exilim Pro EX P505 with its reticulating screen makes taking pictures from a low angle a whole lot easier.

This review is actually part three of my multi-part feature on using older digital cameras in the garden and on the road. You can check out these links to my reviews of the Fujifilm X10 and Canon’s PowerShot Elph 500.

For tips on maximizing your compact, point-and-shoot cameras, be sure to check out my comprehensive post on Getting The Most Out of Your Compact Camera.

Here are a few more links you might want to check out on Photographing flowers in your garden, Best camera for garden photography and Ten tips for great garden photography.

The Casio EXILIM Pro EX-P505 caught this Lavatera flower in full bloom handling the bright pink colour and texture of the flower nicely.

Okay back to this weird looking Casio camera. The P505 was considered quite a departure for Casio complete with its SLR-like appearance, large lens barrel and five times optical zoom. If I recall, I bought the camera for its movie-making capabilities back in early 2006 when using a camera to make movies seemed revolutionary. The camera was unveiled in March of 2005 and YouTube had just been unleashed on the public in February of 2005.

You could say this camera was cutting edge.

This Casio camera was actually the first Casio digital camera to use the MPEG-4 codec for encoding video and can record full VGA (640x480) video at 30 fps with stereo audio –yes you read that right folks – at 4.2 or 2.2 MBit/sec (approx. 30 / 60 mins on a 1 GB card).

The screen can be neatly stored away on the back of the camera for compact shooting.

Cool, but what about the pictures? Can this thing take decent pictures with its tiny 1/2.5-inch, 5.0 megapixels CCD sensor and 5x optical zoom lens, with a macro mode that allows us garden photographers to get a flower photo as close as 1 cm. away?

Quick answer: “Yup, it sure can.” And, guess what, it’s pretty darn fun to use with its 2-inch TFT colour rotating screen that tilts and makes taking angled shots simple.

The lens is just okay for today’s standards, giving you a 5 X optical zoom with a 35mm equivalent 38 - 190 mm starting at F3.3 at the wide end and going to F3.6 at the telephoto end. For anyone who cares, that’s delivered with 10 elements in 8 groups, including aspherical Focus distance.

The screen is small in today’s standard and the resolution is nothing to write home about. I think it was the relatively poor quality of the screen that made me think the actual files were not going to be good. Don’t make that mistake. It should come as no surprise that the files are much better than what you see on the back of the camera.

All that said, let’s take a look at a couple of those images taken recently in my garden.

The 20-year-old Casio EXILIM Pro EX-P505 captured the reds of the Cardinal flower against the greens of the foliage.

Tapestry of native flowers in garden

The Casio caught the tapestry of colours in the native flowers from the reds of Monarda to the yellows of the Rudbeckias.

Black-Eyed-Susans in front garden

The front garden captured nicely here by the Casio showing the drift of Black-eyed-susans and fine texture of the grasses.

Not bad for a compact camera now pushing almost 20 years old. My battery is still going strong and the camera takes a regular SD card.

One look at the photos above show that the camera can still perform. Colours are good, not great, but totally acceptable for quick hits to social media and the odd print at maybe 11X14 inches. Post processing with Lightroom, Photoshop and a host of denoising programs such as ????????, can make a significant difference when it comes to using these older cameras.

Although the Casio is approaching old age (I notice a few of the pixels have died), it still boasts a host of modes that make getting good shots of difficult scenes just that much easier for photographers who prefer to let the camera do the work. That said, this Casio includes complete manual settings from shutter and aperture priorities to fully manual.

Casio EXILIM Pro EX-P505’s macro feature captured this water hyacinth in the pond.

But let’s take a look at some of the modes this camera offers. Casio calls the modes “BESTSHOT” and incorporates 22 different predefined scenarios plus the capacity for user defined scenarios. There is a flower mode, pet mode, portrait modes, sand, snow, night scenery, fireworks, greenery and fall colour modes just to name a few.

The menus may seem confusing at first, but it didn’t take long to feel comfortable with the camera’s menu system. An EX button on the side of the lens means calling up a quick menu is quick and easy allowing various manual settings to be accessed and set from a single screen. Key functions include ISO, focus modes, exposure compensation… There is also a separate macro button on the lens that puts the camera in macro mode – perfect for flower photography or capturing a butterfly feeding on a flower.

The EX-P505 was, at the time of release, the third camera in the award winning EXILIM PRO range. It incorporated CASIO’s unique ‘EXILIM Engine’, a compact image processing module, that delivered high quality images and high-speed operation, all within extremely compact dimensions.

Looking down on the Casio EXILIM Pro EX-P505 shows the camera’s controls including the pop up flash, and the macro and EX buttons on the side of the lens.

Why did Casio stop making digital cameras?

Since 1995 Casio stopped making digital cameras. Their website explains that they “decided that, after 23 years of developing the visual communication tools which have been highly supported and loved by our users, we will be halting production of our existing compact digital cameras.

The company went on to say: “In the future, Casio will be pursuing product development in entirely new genres, and will leverage the video and image technologies and various unique technologies that we have cultivated over many years. At some later time, we would like to present products that have the potential to become new favorites and the capability to surprise and move our customers.”

Photobook Worldwide Sdn Bhd (US & CA)

Casio points out some of the products it developed that “created a new culture of communication, such as the EX-S1, an ultrathin camera…; the EX-F1, which incorporated a unique, high-speed technology that could capture subjects invisible to the naked eye; and the TR series, which allowed users to enjoy taking beautiful selfies in a variety of free photography styles.”

My Casio EXILIM Pro EX-P505 was not one of their ground breaking releases, but for me anyhow, it continues to make images and movies. I have even used it to create images for this website and although it is not my first choice, it will continue to see service.

KelbyOne: Family Photography: Pro Tips for Getting Great Sibling Shots by Tracy Sweeney

A quick look on Ebay and Kijiji shows that the Casio line of cameras continues to bring a smile to the faces of photographers willing to cash in on a brand that is being forgotten in the world of photography. If you are looking for a quality compact camera to have fun in the garden buying a high-end Casio compact camera just might be the ticket. Ebay.com has several pages of Casio cameras available running from under $25 to more than $400 and Kijiji has a great selection at good prices as well.

Grab one and put it to use. You might be surprised how much more fun it is than using your smart phone.

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

How to capture great sunflower photos: Including ten top tips

Sunflowers are excellent plants to put in your garden. Not only are they visited by pollinators such as bees and butterflies, they eventually provide food for backyard birds. More importantly, they look great while in bloom and make excellent photography subjects in all their phases.

A Lumix DSC-LS50 compact travel camera was used to move in close and capture the vibrant colours of the small sunflower from a low angle that shows off the details of the plant’s fine hairs.

Flower photography with the Lumix DSC-ZS50 /TZ70 compact camera

Everyone need to plant flowers, especially sunflowers in their gardens for the butterflies, bees and birds. But don’t stop there. Sunflowers’ magnificent blooms will bring a smile to your face and brighten any corner of the garden where you choose to grow them. More importantly, however, are the images these flowers offer to creative garden photographers who are willing to spend a little time exploring details and creating memorable images of these great plants.

All flowers, but especially Sunflowers have long been a favourite of photographers, but capturing memorable images can be a challenge.

For more on photographing flowers in your garden, check out my comprehensive post on Flower Photography.

Whether it’s a single bloom in your garden, a small grove of sunflowers in a corner of the yard or a massive field stretching as far as the eye can see, doing these cheery colourful flowers justice involves different approaches, techniques and a creative eye.

Sunflowers and red barn

This grouping of sunflowers were photographed growing in a small field. The red barn adds a nice touch of colour to the image.

Give your lenses a workout shooting sunflowers

Sunflowers offer the opportunity to give all your lenses a workout, from wide angles to capture an expansive field of flowers, to short telephotos capturing a selective group of flowers. Longer telephotos will bring the flowers in close if you are shooting from a distance, but also compress the field, stacking the flowers so they appear almost on top of themselves. And finally, that macro or close focusing lens will get you in close to capture the interesting colours and details sometimes overlooked by the sheer beauty of the flowers.

Be sure to check out my post on how to grow your own sunflowers in your garden.

This field of sunflowers was taken with a telephoto lens that helped to compress the image.

KelbyOne

What’s the best time to photograph Sunflowers?

If you have not planted your own sunflowers, (and you really should) late summer is the best time to look for patches of these growing in private gardens.

Remember that trespassing on private property to get the ultimate selfy is never a good idea. Use your longer lenses to photograph from the road, or ask the landowner if it would be possible to get some images of the flowers while they are in bloom. Possibly, offering to share some of your images with the landowner would open the door to allow you a closer approach.

Depending on where you love and how early the sunflower seeds were sown, expect to start seeing them bloom as early as July, and reaching their peak in mid- to late-August, and ending in September, when you can explore the photographic possibilities of capturing the dying foliage.

Once the flower bloom is out in full, you can expect up to about 20 days of bloom from a single large specimen. For the smaller multiple flower varities, the bloom time can be much shorter, so take advantage of them once they begin. One of the benefits of the multi-flowered varieties, is that you will have new flowers coming into bloom at the same time as you have flowers in decline. It’s a great time to attack the plant from multiple angles, filters and creative approaches.

Sunflowers offer endless potential for great photographs

Here are ten tips to inspire you to get out with your camera and capture images of these magnificent blooms

 

This image taken with a Lumix DSC-ZS50 uses backlighting that makes the flower petals and leaves translucent, and adds drama to the photo.

 

1) Look for the right light: Just because the subject is exciting and colourful, does not mean you should ignore the basic principals of good photography. Look for dramatic lighting to take your images to another level. Backlighting at sunset or sunrise offers photographers an opportunity to capture the petals with a translucent glow and a beautiful rim light. Don’t forget to also use backlighting to catch the fine hairs that cover the plant.

Sidelighting can also be used to bring out texture in the individual flower heads or even an entire field of sunflowers. A little underexposure will enhance the effect and a polarizing filter will help to make the colours pop by removing any glare on the plants.

 

Using filters on the Lumix DSC ZS50 adds a little creativity and fun to the photo shoot.

 

2) Get in close: Don’t be afraid to move in close with your macro or close focusing zoom lens. These flowers are so large that there is no need to move in that close to capture the finer details of the flower petals. Most compact cameras or close-focusing lenses are able to capture interesting images up close. Try including portions of the flower’s inner circle of seeds with several petals for a very graphic effect.

3) Get down low: By shooting up at the plant with a wide angle lens, you will emphasize the sheer size of the plant and make the viewer think the plant is even bigger than it actually is. The view from below is also the one most people (especially children) get when they look at the larger plants. Wait for a clear blue sky and darken it even more by using the polarizing filter for best results. If you have a Cokin Yellow/blue polarizer in your arsenal, this is the time to pull out and get it on your camera. The Blue/Yellow polarizer is an interesting effect filter that works like any polarizer accepts it enhances, depending how it is positioned, the blues and yellows in your image.

 

A reverse processing filter on the Lumix gives this image some interesting colours, especially in the sky.

 

4) Look for a blue sky background: A solid blue background isn’t usually an ideal backdrop for most images but it works well for sunflowers, especially when a polarizer makes the yellow flowers pop out against the deep blue sky. Of course, if you are not including the sky in the image, a good overcast sky will give you a soft, even lighting that will work for more intimate images of the flowers, either in small groupings or in close-up mode.

 

Again, the Lumix filters were used to create this dramatic B&W image.

 

5) Shoot in B&W: Sunflowers shot in black and white have a timelessness to them that can result in excellent art images that you will want to frame and hang in your home. Most cameras whether they are DSLRs, mirrorless or compact point-and-shoots include black and white settings. Some, like the Fujifilm X10 (Link to my separate article on this popular camera) and other Fujifilm cameras include red, green and yellow filters to enhance tones in B&W images. Use the red filter for dramatic skies and the green filter to lighten the sunflower plant but not the flower itself.

6) Look for interesting angles: Get down low, shoot up. Get high and look down. Shoot the flower from the back, the side, in silhouette. This is your chance to “milk” every angle out of the plant. It’s important to take advantage of the opportunity when you have it.

 

Moving in close with the Lumix DSC LS50 showing its macro capibilities.

 

7) Watch for birds, bees or butterflies: Sunflowers are not just flowers with a pretty face. These things attract everything from butterflies to birds and you would be wise to spend some time being ready for garden wildlife to pay a visit to the flower in search of pollen or the prized sunflower seeds. If you know one of your prized sunflowers are coming into seed, pull up a chair, grab a coffee or glass of wine, set up your camera on a tripod and wait it out. You may not be waiting too long before you have a visitor and a memorable image.

8) Photograph them as they emerge: Don’t just wait until the flower has a emerged to begin photography. Consider capturing the flower in all it’s stages to create a little photo essay.

Don’t forget to photograph the flower in all phases of its life.

9) Beautiful in death: Don’t pack up the camera when the flower fades, a dead or dying sunflower can be simply beautiful especially in B&W. Besides the symbolic value of capturing these flowers as they fade away, there is something touching about an image of a sunflwer in severe decline. Maybe it’s a reminder that the end of summer is upon us and the cooler temperatures of Fall are about to begin. Late fall can be especially great for capturing sunflowers. Get up early on a cold morning to capture a coating of frost on the dead flower head, maybe you’ll be lucky to capture a little hoarfrost on one of your flowers.

10) Fun with filters: There is something about a magnificent sunflower that just lends itself a multiple approaches. I’m not a huge fan of the built-in filers available on today’s cameras. Some are just silly, others are overused, but sometimes the situation calls for a full-fledged filter attack on the subject. The flower is not going anywhere, milk it for everything its worth.

 

The filters in the Lumix offer a huge range of possibilities. This was shot using the “impressive art” filter which creates a dramatic low key image.

 

Lumix DMC-ZS50 filters exposed

I recently did just that with a multi-flowered sunflower planted in a container in our front yard. My camera of choice was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 (ZS70 in Europe). See my earlier post on the Lumix travel camera in the garden.

This full featured 12-megapixel compact travel camera complete with a 30X Leica super zoom lens (24-720 mm on a full-frame 35 mm camera) is packed with built-in filters.

The number of “creative exposure modes” on this camera seem endless: Panorama Shot, Scene (Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Handheld Night Shot, Food, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Glass Through, HDR, Starry Sky, High Speed Video, 3D Photo), Creative Control (Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Star Filter, One Point Color (15 filters).

Above are just a few images of the sunflowers, taken with the filters built into the Lumix DMC-ZS50.

Most compact camera, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras sold over the past 10-15 years including the Canon Powershot elph series of camera’s and Fujifilm series including the X10, offer a host of interesting and creative modes or filters that enable the photographer to experiment with to create memorable images.

Of course, these modes have their place and are probably best left to specific situations where they are appropriate. I consider sunflowers the perfect opportunity to give them a try. These flowers have an air of fun about them, so why not take advantage of it and get creative.

A better way to learn Photoshop, Lightroom, and Photography.

Filters are a convenient way to add a little creativity to your images, but don’t forget to consider your sunflower photography as potential images to create beautiful painterly images using post processing software. Check out the link for a closer look at how I have used Photoshop and Painter to turn many of my photographs into painterly works of art.

Collecting a series of great sunflower images might even create a perfect opportunity to put them all together in your own photography book. Their are many companies the now make that process simple and inexpensive, and the results can be incredible. Rather than printing the images into 4X6 pictures and stuffing them into plastic sleeves, having them printed and put into book form allows you to leave them out as coffee table books or give them to friends as Christmas gifts. Check out my earlier post on creating your own photographic book.

In Conclusion

What may have begun as a gardening project to grow a few sunflowers could very well become an exciting photographic project to document everything from the emergence of the seedlings in early spring, to the rapid growth throughout early summer, and finally leading to the incredible blooms of these magnificent flowers. Then there are the visitors, birds, bees and butterflies that love the flowers and the seeds they offer.

The photographic possibilities are endless and the images themselves can become more than just a collection of digital files to share with friends on your social media accounts.

This may be the year to create a lasting memory of your summer in love with sunflowers with your own photographic book, or a print on your wall that you turned into a painterly masterpiece.

All it takes is a couple of seeds to get going and your imagination.

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

Can Canon’s PowerShot Elph 500 hold its own in the garden with flower photography

Eleven years after its introduction the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS continues to shine when it comes to garden photography.

Garden Elph is great for flower photography a decade after introduction

It was 2011 and Canon released its PowerShot Elph 500 HS complete with a modern touch screen to help combat the popularity of the emerging smartphones equipped with some pretty decent built-in cameras. About two years earlier, Apple had unleashed its iphone and it was gaining popularity in the world of point-and-shoot cameras. Something had to be done.

It was also the year of uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, a devastating tsunami in Japan and the death of Osama bin Laden. On a lighter note, The King’s Speech and Toy Story Three were big hits, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

It was also the year we bought our daughter a Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS. For the next couple of years, that camera would travel the world with her throughout Europe, the United States and Canada taking thousands and thousands of pictures of her synchronized skating adventures, concerts, vacations and who knows what else.

Be sure to go to the end of this article for links on Canon’s refurbished items as well as cameras that competed with the PowerShot 500 back in its day. Also, at the end of the article are new cameras you might want to consider purchasing if a used camera is not what you want or you cannot locate a good used camera.

KelbyOne: Family Photography: Pro Tips for Getting Great Sibling Shots by Tracy Sweeney

It served her well during those first few years but eventually the iphone more or less made it obsolete. The camera wasn’t actually obsolete at all, but it was no longer cool for young people to carry a point-and-shoot camera around when a phone made sharing on social media so much easier.

Be sure to check out my comprehensive post on Getting the Most out of Your Compact Camera.

If you want to see more garden images taken with the Canon Powershot, please check out my Canon Elph 500 Gallery of images.

For more on photographing flowers, check out my post on Flower Photography in your Garden.

The impressive back screen of the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS showing its menu.

The Canon Elph with its simple yet elegant front face.

Looking down from above on the Canon Elph’s top plate.

So it was tucked away in a drawer and almost forgotten.

Camera is ideal for flower photography

Fast forward 11 years and this little point-and-shoot that cost my wife and I more than $400 from Costco way back then, is a high performing part of my garden camera arsenal and a stellar performer when it comes to flower photography.

The tiny Canon Powershot Elph 500 HS is more than capable of capturing exquisite images in the garden. It’s extremely wide 24mm equivalent lens is fast and sharp. Eperimenting with the filters including the vivid colours used here can make the images really pop, especially considering the camera is approaching 12 years of age.

Learn Photography from the World's Best Instructors.

Who said an 11-year-old, high quality point and shoot digital camera is no longer usable?

In fact, this little blue-grey and silver beauty with its 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor and 4.4x optical zoom lens (equivalent of 24-105mm lens) is becoming the perfect companion for me on my morning strolls around the garden. The fact it takes a regular SD card and shoots HD movies means it continues to challenge even the most modern point and shoot cameras.

The Canon Elph’s 24-105mm lens has the pulling power to capture detailed garden vignettes in vivid colour.

Some Key Features in the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS

  • 12.1MP CMOS Sensor

  • 4.4x Optical Zoom 24-105mm Lens (35mm Equiv)

  • Optical Image Stabilizer

  • Good Low Light/High ISO capability for its age

  • Full 1080p HD Video complete with stereo sound

  • Hi-speed burst shooting that can take up to 8.2fps

  • Slow Motion Movie Mode – at 240fps

  • Effects Include Toy Camera, Monochrome, vivid, portrait and foliage settings

  • Smart AUTO Has 32 Scene Modes

  • Movie Digest Mode that automatically records a short video clip every time you shoot a still image. The camera will then combine the clips into a single video. Perfect for a day of shooting in the garden with your children or grand children.

The lens allows a close approach to fine garden details like this moss growing between stepping stones in the Japanese inspired garden.

Is this little Elph worth buying today?

A quick search on Ebay and used camera outlets puts this little gem of a camera at between $50.00 for a well used model to almost $300 for a new-in-the-box-model. Expect to pay about $100 for a good used one. You may be able to get one much cheaper if you keep your eye on Kijiji and other more local on-line marketplaces.

Capturing more intimate scenes in the garden is easy in the auto mode where you let the camera recognize the scene and provide the best settings to capture it.

That’s a lot of camera for under $100. Its performance in low light makes it great for everything from travel photography to, of course garden photography. Its multiple frame bursts and best-image-capture settings make the camera ideal for parents and grandparents to grab shots of children, pets and vacation images. Set it on auto and it’s good to go but if you want more control it’s there for the taking.

What features does the Canon Elph 500 boast?

The fast f2.0, 24mm lens is more than enough to take in long garden vistas, in early morning light, while the 105mm has enough pull to capture more intimate garden vignettes, and with a little effort some garden wildlife.

It all comes in a package so compact that it slips into my pocket so easily that I forget I have it with me at times.

But what about the pictures?

The Canon PowerShot Elph has the ability to capture garden images in fine detail.

These images should speak for themselves.

The Canon spits out sharp images, with punchy colours and features enough built-in filters to keep the creative juices going year round.

I particularly like the “vivid” setting which gives the images the look of Fuji’s Velvia film on steroids. Add to that, an impressive “foliage” setting that enhances greens and fall foliage colours, a B&W setting, Cyanotype setting (blue cast), sepia setting, colour accent and poster settings just to name a few.

It would be easy to think this camera is nothing more than a simple point and shoot with very little extras to offer.

Afterall, there are no knobs and wheels on the camera’s exterior, and very few buttons outside of the on switch and image review button. The smartphone may have made the camera obsolete in some ways, but it wasn’t because it lacked the latest touch screen technology. Hidden inside the large LCD screen on the back of the camera is a wealth of settings buried in the settings menu.

A foliage setting on the camera is perfect for capturing the subtle colours of green in the garden as well as the pop of fall colours in the woodland.

Once you get into the menus, this camera is loaded with all the settings; Program, AV aperture value, TV time value, a portrait setting, pets and children setting, a total of 32 scene settings… . It even has a smart setting where the camera automatically selects the best shooting settings for optimal quality based on subjects and environmental factors to provide point-and-shoot simplicity.

It also features optical image stabilization, hi-speed burst shooting at up to 8 frames per second and full 1080p HD video with stereo sound.

KelbyOne

What’s not to like about the camera?

I like lots of exterior buttons and dials to control the primary functions of a camera. This camera has none of these.

In fact, there are only a total of three buttons on the exterior of the camera: one to turn the carmera on and off; the shutter button to take the picture and an auto switch that allows the user to put the camera in complete automatic mode. If you are happy letting the camera make most of the decisions, put the camera on auto and snap away.

The camera’s functions – and there are a lot of them packed into the camera – are all accessed through menus from the large screen on the back of the camera. If you are comfortable sorting through digital menus to find the settings you need, than this camera is for you. It only took me about a half hour of playing with the camera to get a good feel for where the various modes and features were hiding, but when I needed to find burst mode quickly, I struggled to find it buried in the menus.

Who should own the Canon Powershot 500 Elph?

Anyone looking for a high quality, pocketable point-and-shoot camera and are not put off by sorting through digital menus rather than using old-school dials, will enjoy this camera. If you are looking for a camera that pushes you to be more creative then you will love the camera’s extensive filter capabilities from Black & White images to vivid, toy camera effects, portrait and even a foliage feature that brings out the best in greens and fall colours.

What more could you ask for?

The vivid feature in the camera results in nice punchy colours reminiscent Fuji’s Velvia slide film.

Can’t find a good used Elph, here are some new and used alternatives

If you like what is possible with a good point-and-shoot camera, but can’t find a good used version of the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS, here are a few recommendations you might want to consider.

Around the same time as the Elph 500 was released, Canon released the Powershot S100. Almost instantly, the camera took on a cult following and was considered by many to be the pro photographer’s backup Point-and-shoot camera.

This was also released in 2011 and sported a 12.1 megapixel sensor, a slightly longer 5x telephoto lens ranging from 24mm up to 120mm, a better performing sensor similar to the one used in its EOS SLRs including an on-chip noise cancellation system, and microlenses that improve its light-gathering characteristics. At the time, Canon said the improved sensor results in reduced noise and increased dynamic range; improving the the maximum available ISO to 6400.

The camera is elegant wrapped in its black case and it relies much more on a host of buttons and wheels for photographers who like the old-school approach to photography. A lot of these cameras were sold so finding one used should not be that difficult. Expect to pay a premium for this fine photographic tool.

If you are looking for a good deal on a Canon camera, consider checking out the company’s refurbished models on their website.

Here is a complete review of the Canon S100, from dpreview.

Other cameras on the high end include the Fujifilm X10, (link to my earlier review) released around the same time and also sporting a 12 megapixel sensor.

In addition, here are links to earlier Photography articles you may be interested in reading

Macro Photography in the garden

Ten tips for great garden photography

Best camera and lens for Garden Photography

Tips to photograph wildlife in your garden

New compact point-and-shoot cameras to consider

Fujifilm X100V (Amazon link) (Henry’s link) that looks much like the X10 and handles like a Leica rangefinder.

Olympus Tough TG-6 (Adorama Link)for those who want to take their camera underwater for some real cool shots. Known for its excellent macro capabilities. Amazon Link.

Sony Cyber-shot (Adorama link) DSC-RX100 Vll for those who like the Sony brand Amazon link.

Ricoh GR lllx (Adorama link)for those who like to shoot with a prime lens. Amazon link

Canon Powershot G7 X Mark lll (Adorama link) (Henry’s link)for those looking for a high-end point and shoot that both fits in your pocket but carries a large 1-inch sensor, a fast zoom lens and 4K video at a price under $1000. Amazon link

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

Macro photography: How to get up close for flower and insect photos

Garden macro photography can open up a whole new world and getting good images have never been easier. Here are some tips on capturing more intimate scenes, from flower closeups to butterflies and other insects that call your garden home.

This image of Aphids on a milkweed plant is a fascinating study in nature. If you look close you can see ants “farming” the aphids while two lady bugs wait in the wings to devour the aphids. These are the fascinating images that macro photography offers photographers.

You don’t need expensive equipment to get great garden and flower close-up shots

Getting up close and personal to flowers and insects in the garden can be an eye opening experience.

Even on the worst of days, when the flowers look spent, the trees are tired and the unbearable heat saps the energy out of any hopes of capturing a beautiful image, there is always macro or closeup photography.

Somewhere out there in the garden – probably very close by – is an insect, a butterfly, a tiny flower, maybe a mushroom just begging to be photographed. And, depending on your expectations, capturing these images is not really difficult. Close-up images are available with almost every camera including more inexpensive compact, point-and-shoot cameras. If you have never used the closeup/macro mode, I encourage you to give it a try.

Closeup photography will open an entire new world to you that maybe you never knew even existed in your garden. The impressive colours in a beetle, the incredible detail of the wings on the butterfly, the daily life-and-death-struggle that largely goes unnoticed in the garden – all open up to us as we move in close.

For more on photographing flowers in your garden, check out my comprehensive post on flower photography in your garden.

For more on garden photography, be sure to check out my Ten tips for Great Garden Photography.

If you are looking to purchase a new or used camera, Check out my article on The Best Camera and Lens for garden photography.

And, if you are wondering how a point-and-shoot digital camera that’s more than 10 years old can perform in the garden, be sure to check out my post on the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS.

If most of your garden images are pictorial approaches showing wide vistas of flower beds probably taken with a wide angle lens, or, even more intimate vignettes of groupings of flowers and maybe a birdbath, you owe it to yourself to experiment with macro or closeup photography.

Macro/closeup photography enables you to tell a whole new story in your garden. If you think there are no more images to be taken in the garden, think again.

This native Bumble Bee on salvia was photographed with a manual focus 105mm macro lens on a 20-year-old DSLR camera with a flash equipped with a small, inexpensive flash mini softbox.

The image of aphids and ladybugs on the milkweed is a perfect example of the everyday struggle in our gardens that is easy to overlook. I was on my hands and knees trying to find a monarch caterpillar to photograph when I saw the scene playing out under the leaves of the milkweed. The scene would have gone completely unnoticed if I was not looking for close-up images down low in the garden.

KelbyOne

What equipment is needed to shoot garden macro photography

Don’t get confused by the terms macro or closeup photography. Macro technically means getting so close that you photograph your subject at lifesize or 1:1. Closeup photography is simply getting in close enough to your subject to create an image that satisfies you. For example, neither a monarch butterfly, nor a large dahlia, need to be shot at life size for an effective closeup image.

For true macro, a specialized lens or accessories are needed. Most of today’s compact cameras come equipped with a closeup setting that allows you to photograph flowers, butterflies and insects up close.

A macro lens shot wide open probably at f2.8 creates this lovely soft background in this flower photography image. This effect would be difficult to achieve with a compact lens set on close focus.

In the image of the ladybugs and aphids, it certainly helped that I had my macro setup with me that included a DSLR, a manual focus 105mm manual focus macro lens and a flash equipped with a mini-softbox attached to soften the light. Although I consider this setup my more “serious” macro setup, the DSLR is 20 years old, the lens is at least 22 years old and even the flash is an older model. I shoot it all on manual – manual exposure, manual focus. Nothing fancy here.

This is an example of the images that are possible with a high-end point-and-shoot on macro mode. This Bee balm was photographed using the FujiX10 compact camera with a 28mm-110mm (in 35mm terms). Notice the soft background that is made possible by the speed of this outstanding lens.

Garden photographers may not want to invest in a more “serious” macro setup like this. No problem. Chances are you already have a perfectly useable closeup or macro lens on your compact point-and-shoot, travel, or bridge camera. Even your smartphone has the capability of getting up close to most subjects you will want to photograph.

Check out this link for my ten-year-review of the Fujifilm X10 that I used to take the Bee balm image above.

The important factor is getting comfortable with using these features on your camera and learning to work with light to capture interesting images. Macro photography is no different than any other types of photography in that light is the key component to capturing interesting images. Harsh, mid-day light may not be the best time to photograph.

This Iris was again shot with a 100mm macro lens to give an extreme closeup. The size of the flower means it could have been photographed with many close focusing compact cameras possibly equipped with a closeup filter accessory.

Digital has changed the world of macro photography

If you are like me and struggled to obtain usable macro images during the film years, you might be surprised how digital has completely changed the approach to macro or closeup photography.

In my film years, I would not have thought of shooting closeup or macro images without the use of a tripod. The combination of wind blowing the subject around and film sporting ISO settings of 25 (Kodachrome), 50 (Velvia), made getting good macro images a real challenge.

Impossible without a tripod.

A monarch feeds on a thistle in late summer. Capturing these images takes time and patience but are beautiful natural snapshots in time.

Today’s modern cameras allow you to pump up the ISO to astronomical levels and still get excellent results without lugging around a tripod.

In fact, if you are shooting with a Fuji camera, you can shoot the digital equivalent of Fuji Velvia at pretty much any ISO you like. Even “Kodachrome”, which Fuji calls classic chrome, can be photographed at pretty much any ISO you like. That’s a far cry from using the ridiculously low ISO settings of ISO 50-64 for the original slide films.

ISO levels of between 1600-3200 would be unthinkable during the Kodachrome and Fujichrome years. Today, these ISO levels can be starting points for many of today’s modern cameras, especially if you use software like On1 NoNoise to reduce the noise in your images.

I like to stay below ISO 1000, but shoot as low as 200 ISO if given the opportunity and when I use flash.

What does all this mean to the garden photographer?

It means you can grab your compact camera, set it on closeup mode and get excellent hand-held images of a butterfly, or a closeup of your favourite flower in full bloom.

With a little more planning, you can set up a tripod beside your favourite flower, move in close and wait for a butterfly or insect to come land on it.

In this macro image you can see the extremely limited depth of field resulting from using the lens wide open (f2.8) with only the eyes being in focus. Today’s modern cameras offer “focus-stacking” which allows the maker to take several images focusing in different areas of the subject and then blending them together to make the entire subject tack sharp.

Modern technology has even made firing the camera from a distance with a wireless remote a whole lot easier. Heck, with some cameras, (a Lumix for example) you can even trigger it with an app on your cell phone while you’re sipping on a glass of wine or your morning coffee 10 feet away from the camera.

Times have certainly changed for today’s photographers wanting to add macro or closeup photography to their arsenal. All we gardeners need to do is take advantage of what today’s modern cameras and lenses offer us.

What accessories are good for garden macro photography?

As noted above, excellent macro images can be taken on anything from a good compact point-and-shoot camera with its built-in lens, to a modern high-end DSLR or mirrorless camera equipped with an expensive macro lens that enables extremely fine detail and close approach.

The quality of the image and your success rate will generally increase in direct proportion to the amount of money you invest in the equipment, but don’t let that stop you from getting the most out of the equipment you already have in your bag.

There are, however, accessories you can add to improve your results significantly no matter what equipment you are using.

• A good off-camera flash, for example, goes a long way to opening up possibilities in the macro world. I’ve added an attachment from Fotodiox that goes over the flash to create a mini soft box. This combination has certainly improved my macro images.

• Small LED lights, like this one from B&H Photo are another example of how technology has changed the world of macro photography. These small, battery powered lights that fit in the palm of your hand, provides a continuous light source that is easily manipulated around the subject even as you are looking through the camera.

• Similar to the LED lights mentioned above, is the Godox RING48 Macro Ring LED Light that fits around most lenses a provides perfect, but controllable light.

• Collapsible reflectors, like these from B&H photo, are available in gold, silver and white, and allow you to reflect light into dark areas of the image.

• Closeup lenses, like this kit made by Lensbaby at B&H Photo that thread on to the front of your lens are an easy way to turn any lens into a close focusing lens. I like to use one of these on the Fujifilm X10 which, although the camera already has an excellent close-focusing capability, only gets better with the Nikon close-up filter.

• Extension tubes can only be used on cameras with interchangeable lenses. Extension tubes like these at Adorama photography have no glass elements inside of them, are inexpensive and do not degrade image quality. Their prime duty is to allow any lens to focus more closely. That makes them a useful addition whether you are using a 50mm or a longer telephoto lens. Using them with a telephoto lens is exceptionally helpful to allow you to get images of small subjects from a distance.

Up close image of a native Bloodroot.

An up close macro image of this native bloodroot provides details that easily go unnoticed by the naked eye.

Just get out in the garden and give macro a try

There was a time when macro was a specialized area of photography. It involved expensive lenses and approaches that required meticulous attention to detail and exposure. That’s no longer the case. Getting great shots of your garden up close has never been easier with today’s modern cameras and accessories.

Take a few mornings to wander through the garden and catch the light skipping across your favourite flowers. Move in on the insect waiting for the sun to raise the temperature enough for it to begin its day.

Focus on what you want to capture up close in your garden and consider adding accessories that make it possible to capture those images. Close-up photography can open up a new world for you and hep you become much more intimate with your garden and the critters who call it home.

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Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

McGee & Co. brings indoor style to the garden

McGee & Co. take home and garden decor to new heights in their impressive on-line marketplace. A little elegance, a touch of rustic and some fine house decor add up to year-round inspiration.

Gift, design and accessory ideas for the home and garden

If the name Shea McGee is unfamiliar to you, it may be time to become familiar with this outstanding young designer. Her decor style is comfortable, cosy and yet has a nice touch of modern that easily transitions into today’s most beautiful home decor style whether its indoors or in the garden.

Use this link to see McGee & Co’s new Fall Decor Collection.

I first discovered her on the company’s YouTube channel, but it wasn’t long before her decorating show was picked up by Netflix. Good news for Netflix subscribers and Shea lovers, the second season of shows were just picked up by Netflix.

Her Southwest roots brings a style to her work that makes the transition from inside the home to the outdoor garden totally seemless.

Shea McGee brings timeless decor design to the home and garden. Now Ferns & Feathers readers can enjoy discounts from Shea’s impressive on-line market.

So, it’s no surprise that McGee and Co. markets an outdoor line of garden decor elements ranging from beautiful garden pots and other accessories, to outdoor rugs and furniture, to incredible exterior lights that bring an elegance to the garden. Her indoor accessories are just beautiful, but we’ll focus on the garden for now. Maybe when it gets colder, and we are all nestled in for the winter, we’ll take a closer look at the indoor decor that works so well indoors or outdoors.

When I had the chance to become an affiliate of her outstanding decor elements, I jumped at the opportunity. I look forward to passing on savings to readers whenever sales or special offerings are available.

With quality and craftsmanship, we bring beauty into everyday spaces. Our collections of furnishings and decor inspire you to live well.
— McGee & Co
 

With the approach of summer days, we are embracing warmer weather and celebrating with spaces that give us rejuvenated energy.

 

The McGee & Co website greeting says it all: “With quality and craftsmanship, we bring beauty into everyday spaces. Our collections of furnishings and decor inspire you to live well.”

In my mind, living well begins in the garden and McGee & Co. has that covered.

Let me introduce you to a few of my favourites. Unfortunately, at this time, McGee & Co. does not ship any large goods ourside the United States. They did inform me that they will ship smaller items such as pillows (now at 25 per cent off) outside the U.S.

We’ll start with some small items and go from there.

These simple, yet elegant garden tags are both beautiful and useful, and isn’t that the essence of what we need more of in our gardens?

These brass garden tags add a sophistication to any container planter while helping forgetful gardeners remember what was planted. They make perfect gifts for gardening friends, but order two sets to make sure you have a set for yourself. This year, for example, I planted a number of natives from Ontario Native Plants and I can’t remember what I planted where. When the flowers come out, I’ll know what’s what, but in the meantime the tags would help and look good in the process.

The striped, handmade Clay Planter is just an example of the many containers available (see below image for more). These containers are a good example of the simple rustic style that is so prominent in Shea McGee’s decor style.

Again, simple elegance takes centre stage in these Striped Clay Planters finished with a coloured glaze to create this rustic look that is perfect, in its inperfection. McGee & Co. say the material is not entirely waterproof and recommend adding a saucer or using an insert to prevent damage. I can see the pieces taking on a mossy look over time if they were simply filled with soil and allowed to age gracefully.

If you are in love with rustic pots be warned. McGee & Co.’s selection of charming, rustic pots are hard to ignore. Imagine a collection like these gracing your patio or front entrance? Spend a few moments on their site exploring various combinations that the on-line store offers.

These Wood-handled-secateurs are another example of combining beauty in an item that looks as good in your hand as it does on the patio table. If you are like me, having these handy for a quick Chelsey chop is important when you just can’t let it go until tomorrow. The secateurs are just an example of the outdoor accessories available on the website store.

The Hamlet Hanging Chair just might be the perfect spot for a morning coffee or evening glass of wine. It’s an example of bringing the indoors outdoors. McGee & Co. describe it as “an intricately woven rattan design, that is crafted from a semi-sanded frame and natural Kubu Core. Providing extra seating from kids rooms to outdoor covered spaces, this unique and eclectic chair envelops you with its rounded form and comfortably soft cushion.

Finally, no backyard is complete without a comfortable spot to settle into with a glass of wine, the birds and a cool breeze rustling through the leaves. McGee & Co. offers a line of outdoor furniture that brings style and elegance into the garden, sun room or patio. Whether you are in the market for outdoor furniture or just looking to add a piece or two, these designs are certainly an inspiration.

McGee&Co

Regular updates, discounts for Ferns & Feathers readers

Come back regularly for updates on discounts on garden accessories and other beautiful household items Shea offers in her on-line store.

More savings are possible if you are a member of the popular Rakuten cash-back program. For those who are unaware of the world-wide program, you can check it out on the Link above.

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Garden photography Vic MacBournie Garden photography Vic MacBournie

Fujifilm X10: Ten years on, can it still compete with modern compact cameras?

The Fujifilm X10 is a 10-year-old high-end compact camera that still has everything a garden photographer needs to capture beautiful garden images.

Camera review 10 years of use in the street and in the garden: Sample pictures

Back in 2012, I decided to simplify my photographic life and purchase a Fujifilm X10 high-end compact camera.

To this day it continues to be an important part of my photographic arsenal and a camera that is often beside me in the early morning when I’m out in the garden. Fuji’s X10 is really the ultimate street photography camera, portrait and travel camera, but many of the same qualities that make it a great shooter for street photography and portraiture also make it ideal for garden photography.

There is something inherently satisfying about the feel of it in my hand; the smoothness of its mechanical zoom ring and the click of the shutter when I find a subject that piques my interest. But what most Fujifilm fanatics will tell you is that the camera’s multiple film simulations provide the ultimate in creative possibilities. More on Fuji’s brilliant film simulations later in this article.

The small rubber thumb grip and the perfect weight in your hand reminds you that this is no cheap compact camera.

And it wasn’t cheap. In fact, despite its age, it continues to hold much of it’s value on the used market. There is a reason for that and it has to do with the build quality of the camera and the fact it has developed somewhat of a cult following in the world of Fuji lovers.

An afternoon with this chipmunk and fun setup in the garden resulted in this adorable image. The colours and sharpness of the images is a tribute to Fuji’s fine 28-112mm lens and the 12 megapixel, '2/3" type' CMOS sensor.

Be sure to check out my comprehensive article on Getting the Most out of Your Compact Camera.

For more images from the Fujifilm X10 please check out my Fujifilm X10 gallery.

 

The 10-year-old Fujifilm X10 is an excellent camera for street photography and just as good for capturing the activity in the garden.

 
My goal is to show gardeners what they can expect if they purchase a used, decade-old Fujifilm X10 or even a similar high-end compact camera from that era.
— Vic MacBournie

Who is the market for the Fuji X10?

I think the Fuji marketing team had me in mind when they designed the camera. Back in 2011, Fuji marketers set out to design a camera meant to bridge those of us looking for a digital compact camera that retained the feel and features we enjoyed in our traditional film cameras.

As the highly respected dPreview website wrote back in July of 2012 when the camera was introduced: “Its retro design aesthetic bears the DNA of the company’s X100 and X-Pro1 models with a magnesium alloy body, sleek rangefinder-inspired design and a wealth of external dials and buttons.”

And, if you are wondering how a point-and-shoot digital camera that’s more than 10 years old can perform in the garden, be sure to check out my post on the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS.

In fact, one of the features that drew me to this camera in the first place was the quality of the dials. All steel, all with an extremely satisfying click with each turn. The under/over exposure wheel is exquisite. To be honest, the entire camera reminded me of one of my all-time favourite cameras – the renowned Pentax 35mm LX film camera of which I owned many over the years.

Is it possible to capture garden wildlife images with the 28-112mm lens and the FujifilmX10. This sample image helps to answer the question. It was shot from a Tragopan photo blind on my homemade reflection pond. Wildlife images are possible even with a compact camera and a little planning.

Can the Fujifilm X10 be used to capture wildlife images?

Fujifilm’s 28-112mm lens is really not long enough to capture wildlife images, but with a little thought and a little more work, it’s possible to make solid garden wildlife images as the sample image of the chipmunk above illustrates.

You either need to befriend the animals or birds so that they allow a close approach, or use a blind to get in closer than usual.

The good thing about garden photography is that most of the animals in the garden recognize you as a friends rather than a threat and some will allow a close approach. Some effort on your part to befriend backyard wildlife will go a long way. In the above image of the chipmunk, I used a Tragopan photographic blind to help get in very close.

In fact, I was maybe 3 feet from my homemade reflection pond. Add a few peanuts to the scene and there’s a good chance you’ll get opportunities to catch wildlife.

Still, the Fujifilm X10 does not make catching active wildlife easy. Shutter lag and slow auto focus means that the animal is often gone by the time the photo is taken, but it can be done and done well with some practise.

My first move will always be to grab the DSLR and my 300mm F4.5 lens, but I like the challenge of turning a terrific street shooter and garden photography camera into a wildlife camera/lens.

 

This series of images shows the intelligent digital zoom in action. The above image is taken with the 112mm optical zoom. The image immediately below shows the above image cropped in Lightroom to approximately 233mm image. The final image shows the intelligent zoom at 233mm. All the images are straight out of the camera.

 
 

Cropped to 233mm in Lightroom.

 
 

Intelligent zoom image at 233mm.

 

How to turn on the intelligent digital zoom feature

One feature that makes it easier to capture backyard wildlife is the intelligent zoom feature which increases the range of the lens from 112mm to a whopping 233mm. Granted, it’s digital not optical, but whatever “intelligence” Fuji has used to more than double the lens length certainly works.

Turning on the digital zoom feature can be a little tricky. First off, it only works in jpeg mode and single frame mode. The feature is easily assigned to the tiny function button on top of the camera beside the shutter button.

You can assign Intelligent Digital Zoom to the Fn button by holding the button for 2 seconds, and then selecting the feature.

Once it is assigned, you turn it on by pressing and holding the Fn button again briefly for about a half a second. You will know it is turned on when a sliding zoom scale with a magnifying glass icon appears in the upper left of the LCD screen.

Fall scene taken with the Fuji X10

This fall scene was captured on the Fuji X10.

More Great Garden Photography posts

 

Where was the Fuji X10 made?

It should come as no surprise that the Fujifilm X10 was made in Japan. And, in case you might not have noticed, Fuji proudly stamps “Made in Japan” right in the middle of the back panel where it is impossible to miss.

After my initial purchase, I immediately ordered a lens hood that came with a filter thread that allows me to use 52mm filters, including the all important circular polarizer that removes glare from leaves and other reflections including those in water. In addition to the polarizing filter, I have used a Nikon close-up filter that allows me to use the 112mm focal length in a macro capacity, and a series of Cokin filters that bring even more of an old-school feel to the camera. (For more on Cokin filters, go to the end of this post.)

Vivid Fuji colours taken with the Fuji X10 of a fall scene

The vivid Fuji colours taken with the Fuji X10 of a wetlands in fall.

All this is great, but can Fujifilm’s X10, with its 12 MP, 2/3-inch type sensor, still compete with today’s modern cameras when it comes to the quality of the photographs and, in particular, when it comes to garden photography? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. However, there are several areas where the camera is showing its age and may not be the ideal choice for every photographer.

In this post, I’ll review the camera ten years after purchasing it brand new. Over the course of one week, I am going to put the camera through its paces in the garden and elsewhere to decide whether it can still hold its own against the competition. Unlike many camera reviews, this is not aimed at photo geeks or pixel peepers. I am including real-life sample images that help provide realistic expectations. My goal is to show gardeners what they can expect if they purchase a used, decade-old Fujifilm X10 or even a similar high-end compact camera from that era. It’ll be a hands on review with lots of example images and still enough geeky camera details to leave you with a solid understanding of the camera and why it’s still being used by thousands of people in the field.

If you ever wondered how sharp the Fujifilm’s X10 lens is capable of being, this critically sharp sample image of a very mobile chipmunk should help answer that question.

KelbyOne

Ten years photographing with the X10

After ten years of using the camera – it’s been with me on vacations to Boston, New Orleans, Nova Scotia and two cruises – I have developed an understanding of the camera’s strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve never really explored the full menu of features the camera offers.

It’s just too easy to put the camera on Auto, Program or even Fuji’s unique EXR technology setting and let it do all the work. I’ll admit, setting the camera on auto is what I do most on vacation and I’m not against using these settings in the garden for quick shots. The results are always excellent so why dig deep into the menus on the camera’s 2.8-inch, 460,000 dot LCD screen?

This camera has too much to offer not to dig deep into the menus and maximize the opportunities the camera offers. Too often on auto the camera is set to wide-open aperature, which can give a pleasing background on this outstanding image-stabilized, 28-112mm F2 to 2.8 (35mm equivalent) built-in lens. But, the shallow depth of field can be too easily mistaken for a soft lens if too many of the images are set wide open.

By moving the main control knob to Aperture priority, we can begin to see the real potential of the lens and realize truly sharp images. (see the image of the chipmunk with the peanut in its mouth to appreciate the sharpness of the lens.)

“Okay great,” you say. “What about the images?”

Expect warm vibrant images. Beautifully toned B&W photography, gorgeous soft portrait’s and, most importantly, vibrant flower, garden and nature images. How the heck does Fuji do it?

Fuji X10’s digital film simulations are brilliant

For photographers who still remember the film and transparancy days, Fuji has developed in-camera settings that are digital simulations of their former films – Provia for everyday use, the softness of Astia for portraits and the vibrant colour so many of us nature photographers remember of Velvia for nature. For lovers of B&W photography, Fuji not only gave us a B&W setting, they also gave us Yellow, Green and Red built-in filters to provide dramatic skies, softer skin tones and more contrasty foliage.

All this to say that using these historical films is just too much fun not to go into the menu and dial them in.

Sample images from the Fuji X10

Below is a series of sample images taken in the garden and around my home.

There are also two macro features that let you get absurdly close to let’s say flowers or insects on flowers, multiple drive modes to capture fleeting subjects, “best picture” mode that takes a series of images and helps the photographer pick the best one. There’s a handy feature that takes an image with flash and without flash so that you can compare which is best. In addition, dig into the menu to find the feature that takes a series of images (very quickly) in and out of focus to create a blurred background (bokeh) in an image that never had one.

To get a little more specific, the CMOS sensor means the camera can shoot up to 7 frames-per-second at full resolution, and 10fps at 6MP. The sensor also enables 1080p 30-frames/sec movie shooting. There’s also a panorama mode to capture the entire sweep of your garden.

Can the Fuji X10 shoot RAW?

Add to the list the fact the camera shoots RAW and can process it in camera, and you are left with, even in today’s exacting standards, a camera that is capable of delivering seriously great results in the woodland, on vacation and especially on the street if that is what you enjoy shooting when you’re not photographing your garden.

All this seems just too good in a 10-11-year-old camera.

This sample image of a Monarda flower shows the intense colour that can be achieved by the Fujifilm X10 on the Velvia setting.

Fuji X10 28-112mm lens is all a garden photographer needs

A garden photographer really needs a camera/lens to excel in three different areas: wide angle with the ability to capture large vistas, medium telephoto with the ability to move in close to a group or a single flower, shrub, butterfly or even a small mammal or bird, and Macro to move in close or very close to a flower, butterfly or insect in the garden.

The Fujifilm X10 excels in all these categories. The image above of the scarlet Monarda is an example of the camera’s macro features combined with the Velvia film setting to maintain the flower’s vivid colour.

With the macro setting, and a Nikon closeup filter, I was able to capture the chipmunk and roses.

The 28mm (35mm equivalent) at the wide-angle end of the Fuji lens is more than enough to capture wide vistas of a garden bed or interesting section of the garden. It’s also wide enough to accentuate a foreground element, such as a bird bath or colourful grouping of flowers, in the foreground while still including a wide expanse of the garden.

Is the FujiX10 good for portraits?

The moderate telephoto is great for moving in closer to a grouping of flowers, but it really takes its place at the head of the table when it comes to garden portraiture.

Let’s face it, our gardens are the ideal place to capture family members – children, grandchildren and pets – in a natural setting, and a fast 112mm lens is the perfect tool to capture garden portraits.

Fuji obviously recognized this and added additional features to the camera to make portraiture a focus of the camera, the most important being the built-in feature that enables a soft background in images. The camera takes a series of photos and then merges them together to reveal a sharp main image with a lovely soft background. This is important for nice portrait effects, but more difficult to achieve with smaller sensor cameras like the Fuji X10 and other compact or point-and-shoot cameras. The built-in software, handles this issue beautifully in-camera.

The ability to easily dial in the portrait film Astia, which creates beautifully soft skin tones, and excellent bokeh makes the camera a real asset to portrait photographers.

Would I like to go beyond the 112mm magnification? Absolutely. As a wildlife photographer, I am always looking to get more telephoto capacity to get in closer but that’s just me. If you are more of a traditional garden photographer, extreme telephotos are not likely a critical need. In addition, a longer lens would have forced Fuji to make an entirely different camera losing much that has made the Fujifilm X10 the prized camera it has become.

So, is this enough to crown the X10 a gardener’s camera extraordinaire? I think so. But there is more.

More features in the Fujifilm X10

  • A tiny, built-in flash that actually kicks out enough flash to fill in harsh, mid-day shadows or light up a patch of the garden when the sun is setting.

  • A hotshoe that allows the photographer to use a mounted or external flash.

  • A shutter button that can be fired with an old-fashioned cable release.

  • A panoramic feature for the ultimate in wide angle views of your garden.

  • A real and useable optical viewfinder for those who hate using the screen on the back of the camera.

  • The ability to shoot 7 frames-per-second at full resolution, and 10fps at 6MP.

  • The ability to use 1080p movie shooting.

  • A solid tripod socket on the camera to assist in getting a sharp image on the camera.

Fujifilm’s X10 in the garden, in the woodlands on the street and at the party

Is the 10-year-old Fuji X10 the perfect camera on the market for garden photography?

Of course not.

Its sensor is small in comparison to many of today’s compact high-end cameras. Its lens, though exceptionally good, lacks the telephoto pull to being able to easily capture small wildlife and fast-moving birds and butterflies in the garden. Its focus is on the slow side and its ability to take a full range of filters can be a little challenging.

But will you wake up in the morning grab a coffee and head out into the garden with the camera in hand ready to capture everything your garden has to offer?

You bet you will.

Not only will you have it with you, you’ll be fondling the dials and zoom ring like you would the interior of a fine Italian sportscar. And the results will both satisfy you and inspire your photographic aspirations to the point where the pocketable camera will be the only one you take when you go on vacations, out for a day of street photography, on day outings or parties and special occasions.

It’s a camera for gardeners looking to capture their creative vision; for street photographers looking to discreetly capture the spirit of their favourite inner-city; and it’s a camera for parents/grandparents looking to capture the beauty of children and other family members in exquisite portraits.

In other words, the Fujifilm X10 is a camera that will inspire you to be the best you can be, and it’ll do it in style.

New compact point-and-shoot cameras to consider

Fujifilm X100V (Amazon link) (Henry’s link) that looks much like the X10 and handles like a Leica rangefinder.

Olympus Tough TG-6 (Adorama Link)for those who want to take their camera underwater for some real cool shots. Known for its excellent macro capabilities. Amazon Link.

Sony Cyber-shot (Adorama link) DSC-RX100 Vll for those who like the Sony brand Amazon link.

Ricoh GR lllx (Adorama link)for those who like to shoot with a prime lens. Amazon link

Canon Powershot G7 X Mark lll (Adorama link) (Henry’s link)for those looking for a high-end point and shoot that both fits in your pocket but carries a large 1-inch sensor, a fast zoom lens and 4K video at a price under $1000. Amazon link

Cameras that compete with the Fujifilm X10 with 12 megapixel sensors

(Below are B&H Camera links to cameras that are no longer available)

Olympus XZ-2 iHS

Nikon P7700

Nikon P7800

Fujifilm X30

Samsung EX2F

Canon G16

 

Fujifilm X10 fitted with the Cokin system filter holder.

 

Cokin filters help bring back the fun factor in photography

In a number of the images in the mini slideshow above, you may have noticed images with a strong yellow/blue cast. These images are the result of using a Cokin Yellow/blue polarizer on the camera. The filter is one of many in the Cokin line of filters that can be effective even in this age of digital manipulation.

Polarizing filters can be critical to getting saturated colours in almost any image, but especially garden images when the sun is reflecting off of leaves. They are also extremely effective when trying to take the glare off of water.

Graduated filters, soft focus filters and other fun filters, if used effectively and sparingly in your photography can add a little fun and an old-school/retro look to your images. Also, although many of the filter effects can now be done digitally with Lightroom or Photoshop, it can take a certain expertise in these programs to make the result look natural. Creating the effects in-camera can be more effective at times and add a fun factor back to your photography.

The Cokin system allows photographers to purchase one filter that can be used on multiple cameras with different filter sizes by simply purchasing an inexpensive step-up ring for your lens. For those cameras that have no ability to add filters, the Cokin system allows the photographer to simply hold the square filter up to the lens to create the effects.

I continue to use Cokin filters in my photography as well as traditional screw-on polarizing filters, and urge readers to consider adding a set to your photographic arsenal.

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Ten tips for great garden and flower photography

Here are ten tips to help you improve your garden photography. A good camera and lens is a great start but more important is great vision and attention to technique to ensure good results.

This female Ruby-throated hummingbird was caught feeding on the Monarda. An off-camera flash helped to freeze motion and create a lovely highlight in the bird’s eye.

Grab a coffee a camera and get some great garden and flower photos

Capturing memorable garden and flower photographs involves a combination of great light, creative vision and attention to technique.

It might be hard to believe – given the push for better and more expensive cameras – but these three factors are more important than the type of camera or lens you use.

Having a good camera can certainly take your flower photography images up a level and, at times, help you capture photographs that might otherwise be almost impossible to obtain with lower quality equipment or cameras and lenses that are less capable. But don’t let the quality or the price tag of your camera stop you from jumping in with both feet into garden and flower photography. In fact, your smartphone might be all you need to begin exploring the joy of garden and flower photography.

Be sure to check out my comprehensive post on Garden Flower Photography for more information.

It’s better to have a camera you understand and know how to get the most out of, than carry around an expensive camera that you set on auto and hope for the best.

Is the Fujifilm X10 possibly the best camera for garden photography? Check out my review of the high-end compact camera after owning it for 10 years and find out if it may be the perfect choice for the Best Garden photography camera.

A hummingbird sips nectar from salvia. This image is the result of sitting out in the early morning and watching the hummingbird visit the flowers in a nearby container. A little flash added sparkle to the image.

Getting the best camera you can afford either new or used will help set you on the right path. If you are thinking about upgrading from your smart phone, be sure to check out my comprehensive look at the Best Cameras and Lenses for Garden Photography.

If photographing birds and wildlife is your goal but you lack the expensive lenses to get you in close, there are options that you can take advantage of to help you capture these images. I have found a backyard photo blind from Tragopan Photo blinds to be incredibly helpful to get in close to birds, foxes and other wildlife. If you are interested in pursuing backyard wildlife photography, be sure to check out my article on Photography blinds.

KelbyOne

It’s easy to put your garden in the best light

One of the greatest benefits to photographing your own garden is that you can return regularly to ensure you capture the subject in the best light, whether that’s in the early morning, in spring when the greens look their best, or in the dying days of summer when late-season grasses steal the show. When I say best light, I don’t mean strong mid-day sun.

Look for soft overcast light or situations when there is a lot of cloud cover to soften the shadows in your pictures.

Having your subject outside your back door certainly has its benefits. The fact the garden is right outside your door allows you to wait for days with good lighting to take your images. During or right after a rain is usually an excellent time to photograph your garden. Light foggy days in early morning also lends itself to potentially great images.

Moving in close with a true macro lens will allow you to create interesting images that are not easily seen by most gardeners.

Understanding great light for photography will also prepare you to capture beautiful images on vacation or on special occassions.

Be sure to check out my article on some of the best public Woodland gardens in the United States, and the best Woodland/public gardens in Canada to plan your vacation around.

 

Here are ten tips to help you capture memorable images of your garden or a public garden.

  1. Get up early with your coffee and a camera

  2. Take a walk with your favourite camera

  3. Move in to get up close and personal with your subjects

  4. Get down and dirty in the garden

  5. Put something cool or colourful in the foreground

  6. Telephotos aren’t just for wildlife

  7. Who said everything has to be sharp?

  8. Filters are great fun in the garden

  9. Be a rebel: just go ahead and break the rules

  10. Don’t be afraid. Show some courage and creativity

Morning light filters through the trees onto our fern glen. Underexposing the scene helped to bring out the rays of sun in the image.

Tip #1: Capture the early-morning light

Get up early. That’s the first and most important tip I have. If you do anything, make sure your first cup of coffee in the morning is outdoors and your camera is at your side. The earlier the better. At times, you’ll be blessed with morning dew, other times maybe a little fog or sunbeams streaming through the trees.

There is nothing like sitting on the patio or deck with your coffee watching how the early-morning light kisses the tops of trees before it bathes the garden in a beautiful, soft, warm light. You never know what subjects might present themselves. Many times I’ve been out and a young fox comes into the garden, or a doe and her fawn. Maybe a bird lands in a nearby tree within range of your camera and provides the perfect opportunity to capture a memorable moment.

Early morning dew on this skipper is the result of getting up early and capturing this tiny butterfly before the sun has burned of the dew and warmed the butterfly enough to allow it to fly off.

Early morning dew on this skipper is the result of getting up early and capturing this tiny butterfly before the sun has burned off the dew and warmed the butterfly enough to allow it to fly off.

You need to be out there, sitting quietly with your camera at ready and watching for these special moments. And if the weekends are the only time you can swing it, make a date with yourself, your camera and a good coffee this weekend and every weekend possible in the spring through to the fall.

There is no question that having a small, high quality compact camera to carry around the garden is a real benefit. A compact Travel camera or a Bridge camera might be the perfect option for the morning walk about.

Not many people want to carry a large, heavy DSLR around the garden in the morning.

Capturing a memorable moment in the garden is great, but simply being out in the garden in beautiful light studying how it moves across your landscape is a valuable learning opportunity. Knowing that at a certain time in the morning, light skips across the Monarda lighting it up against a dark background is an opportunity to set up a tripod and capture the moment a hummingbird or butterfly visits.

Tip #2: Take a walk in the garden

While you are up early enjoying your first cup of coffee, go for a walk in the garden. Notice what flowers are about to bloom. Notice how, when you are at the far end of the garden, the rising sun lights up the drift of rudbeckia in a way that is unnoticeable from the deck.

Take that picture now remembering to expose for the brightly lit flowers and not the entire scene. You are probably going to need to underexpose the scene to capture that ray of sunshine on the flowers, rather than setting the camera on automatic and accepting the resulting image. (Or you can walk up to the flowers and take an exposure reading directly), lock that in and step back to capture the scene.

Most mornings, I take my camera and walk around the garden looking for unusual lighting situations and noticing what flowers are preparing to bloom. Maybe there’s a butterfly sitting quietly warming its wings in the morning light, a toad taking shelter under a leaf or a flower about to bloom. Maybe it’s just the way the light hits the fountain grass.

If you are not a morning person, or it’s impossible to get out in the morning with your camera, take the time, instead, to walk the garden most evenings. The warm evening light has many of the same qualities as morning light and can show the garden in different but equally beautiful ways.

Walking around the garden with camera in hand, whether it’s morning or evening, is both an opportunity to capture images as well as get in touch with the finer details of your gardens.

A longer lens helps to create a soft background in this image, which helps to make the chipmunk stand out more.

Tip #3: Make sure your camera has a macro or close-up lens

Being able to capture close-up images of flowers, butterflies and insects is an important part of making interesting images of your garden. Mastering macro photography involves specialized, expensive equipment, but getting good close-up images is not that difficult with today’s modern digital cameras and lenses.

Most compact and Bridge cameras have macro or close-focus capabilities built into them. These may not allow you to get a 1:1 magnification ratio, but we are not doing scientific work here. If they allow you to move in close, it’s probably all we need.

For true macro capabilities you will need specialized macro lenses likely in the 50mm to 100mm range. There are 200mm macro lenses that allow you to get much closer to subjects while being able to keep a good working distance between you and the subject. These lenses demand the photographer use a tripod and or flash systems to get the best results.

If flower photography is your goal, close focus capabilities in most compact cameras are more than enough to get the job done.

If you are hand holding your camera to do close-up images, it’s a good idea to boost your ISO up to increase your shutter speed and help you get sharper images.

Following a butterfly around your garden trying to get it to rest on a flower can be challenging, but if you find one in the morning before the sun warms it, you will be blessed with the opportunity to capture the image without it quickly flying off. If you are lucky, you may be able to capture it covered in morning dew.

In the film days when ISO topped out at between 64-100, taking macro shots involved almost always using a tripod. Today’s digital cameras’ ISO can be boosted to astronomical numbers allowing you to hand-hold many of the images. Try setting your ISO at 6400 and check out the results. If the images are not to your liking, bring it back to lower numbers until the noise (grain) is acceptable.

Experiment with your close-focus capabilities to get comfortable with it so when the Giant Eastern Swallowtail visits your garden and spends some time on your butterfly weed you’ll be ready for it.

Getting down close to ground level helps create a more pleasing image of these anemones. Shooting them from a higher angle would have resulted in a background that included either soil or mulch.

Tip #4: Get down low

It’s rarely a good idea to stand over a plant and shoot down at it. That also holds true for animals, birds and most insects. It’s usually best to shoot your subjects at eye level. For flowers, that usually means getting down on your knees to capture images and eliminate the garden soil or mulch from the image.

By getting down low on a drift of flowers, you can use the other flowers to give you a pleasing background, or shoot through the foreground flowers to create a dreamy look using the out-of-focus foreground and background flowers to isolate a single in-focus flower.

If getting down low is getting difficult, having a screen that tilts up and allows you to look down at the screen can be a valuable feature when you are considering purchasing a camera. Many of today’s cameras offer screens that can be tilted.

The foreground flowers create a centre of interest and help to create a more three dimensional feeling.

Tip #5: Include a strong foreground element

Photographing large expanses of your garden may seem like a good idea, but unless you include a strong foreground object chances are you’ll be unhappy with the results. A wide angle setting on your campact camera, or a wide angle lens on your camera really benefits from having a strong foreground object such as a drift of flowers, garden art or another element that helps to draw your eye into the garden. Having a dominant foreground element helps to give depth to the image and provides a strong centre of interest for the viewer.

Focus on the foreground element and use a large depth of field (higher aperture like F8- F11 or even F16) to ensure the entire image is in focus.

Tip #6: Use your telephoto to simplify the image

A telephoto lens is not just for capturing wildlife and they are not designed for photographers who can’t be bothered to get up to walk over to their subjects. (Although they can be helpful in this regard for us lazy photographers.)

The telephoto lens has many redeeming factors, not the least being a great tool to simplify an otherwise busy garden scene. By moving in close, it’s easier to isolate one flower or a group of flowers to simplify the image. Of course, they are useful for capturing wildlife in the garden as well. A 200mm lens, for example, would enable you to photograph a butterfly while still giving it enough space to not feel threatened.

A telephoto lens allows you to move in close on small subjects and create a very soft background.

Tip #7: Use the telephoto to soften the background

It’s much easier to soften a background to isolate a subject if you are using a longer telephoto lens. Fast lenses (ones that open to F2.8 for example) can create beautifully soft backgrounds.

Lenses that do not usually open up enough to soften the image to your liking, can still be used to create a soft background. Try finding an angle to your subject where the background is farther away. That longer distance will help create the softer, out-of-focus background even for lenses that normally do not create that effect.

Image of the RBG public garden

Public gardens can be a great place to practise your garden photography.

Tip #8: Experiment with your tools and camera settings

Photographing in your garden is the perfect opportunity to experiment. All those built-in filters in your camera are there for a reason and many of them can be used to great effect in garden photography. For example, consider shooting your garden entirely in B&W. (Check out my full story on B&W garden photography). Most cameras these days have a black and white setting. Look for strong graphic elements in the garden like backlighting or strong side light.

Experiment with the vibrant colour filter setting to punch up the colour on your flowers. My Fujifilm camera, for example, has a setting for shooting Velvia-style images. If you are not familiar with Velvia, it was a highly praised slide film that eventually edged out Kodachrome as the favourite film used by nature photographers looking for more saturated colours. Kodachrome was ISO 64, while Fuji’s Velvia came in at ISO 50. Fuji cameras are now able to offer a Velvia-like image at much higher ISO ratings. A feature that film photographers couldn’t even dream about back in the day.

Other cameras offer similar highly saturated colour filters, some better than others.

While many of the built-in filters look unnatural in garden photography, the soft focus filter can create beautiful results. Most often used for portraits, a soft focus filter can add a dreamy almost romantic look to your garden photography.

Another filter worth experimenting with is a high-key filter that enhances images with light-coloured flowers in white, pink or soft blues and violets.

Don’t be afraid to have fun in the garden, wither by using filters or using selective focus to create dreamy images like the one above.

Tip #9: Follow the rules and then break them

There are a lot of long-standing design rules in photography to help you create pleasing pictures. The first, and probably the most important is the rule of thirds. In fact, most cameras have a built in grid to help photographers with their compositions and take advantage of the rule of thirds. A setting in the camera’s menu gives photographers the choice of setting up a grid system that is digitally overlaid on your camera’s screen. Where the lines intersect on the screen represents strong points to place a centre of interest in your image.

I almost always set up my cameras to include a grid system which also helps me keep the horizons straight.

Take some time to learn basic rules of composition and then, when you understand them, feel free to break them. By breaking the rules, you create tension or intrique in your photographs that, when done successfully, can result in a dynamic image.

One helpful rule is ensuring that any movement in your image has more space in front of it than behind it.

The rule: A bird flying left to right needs more space in front of it to fly into than is behind it. Ideally, you would want the bird at one of the intersecting lines in your rule of thirds grid pattern on the left side of the frame. That would give you a pleasing, natural image which would score well at your local camera club.

Try putting that bird in the intersection of lines on the right side of the frame and your image becomes potentially more dynamic. A bird flying out of the frame rather than into the frame of view is often seen as an error by the photographer. If, however, it is balanced by say a beam of light filling the left side of the frame or maybe a colourful drift of plants, than the image could be a show stopper despite breaking the rule.

The key to success is knowing the rules of composition and knowing when to break them.

Know the rules of composition and then feel free to break them. In this image the bird appears to be looking out of the image, but the tree branches leaning in from the left help to balance the image and makes breaking the rules of composition work.

Tip #10: Don’t be afraid to fail

It’s garden photography folks, there is no pressure here.

Shoot often, shoot regularly, experiment and have fun. Many of us have cameras that sit in a desk drawer only to get pulled out during holidays or special events. Your garden gives you the opportunity to get out daily or weekly to use your camera and experiment with it. It should be fun creating images.

Bring your kids or pets out to the garden and photograph them in it. Set up a bird feeder or bird bath near where you normally sit and experiment with your camera(s).

Finally, when you have built up a large collection of garden images, consider putting them together in your own personal Garden photography book. (Link to my story on creating a personalized garden book). Putting the book together is a wonderfully creative exercise that results in a keepsake, a memory of your garden and the wildlife that visit it.

Tips for Sharing your images on social media

Sharing your garden images on social media is one of the benefits of modern digital cameras. Here are some suggested sizes for posting your images on some of the popular social media sites.

If none of this makes any sense to you, just upload the pictures and don’t worry about it.

  • Facebook: For your Facebook feed, try 1080 X1350 pixels. For Facebook stories, try 1080 X 1920

  • Instagram: photos were once optimized as square 1080 x 1080, but have evolved to become more vertical to better fit smartphone screens. The ideal Instagram portrait aspect ratio is now 4:5, and the best photo size is 1080px by 1350px. For Instagram stories try 1080 X 1920 for best results.

  • Tumblr: 500 x 250

  • Twitter: For best profile image try 400 X400 pixels. For header photos, try 1500 X500 pixels and for in-stream photos go with 1600 X 1900 pixels.

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What’s the best camera and lens for Garden photography?

What’s the best camera and lens for garden photography? The real question you need to ask is: what type of garden photography do I enjoy. A high-end point and shoot camera with a moderate wide angle and telephoto lens that has macro capability is a great choice.

Focus on what you want from your garden photography

The best camera for garden photography is one that is easy to carry around and gives you a range of focal lengths that cover everything from macro for closeups of flowers and insects, to wide angle for vistas of the garden, to moderate telephoto capabilities that enables you to focus in on garden details.

Admittedly, these focal lengths will not satisfy everyone’s needs – especially those looking to capture wildlife images – but it will cover all your basic needs to capture your garden or a public garden. Cameras that meet these requirements include both simple and inexpensive compact cameras, as well as more costly high-end point-and-shoots and small mirrorless cameras . Most will have a lens that generally covers (in 35mm equivalent) 28mm-110mm.

Many of these perfectly usable compact digital cameras and higher-end mirrorless cameras can be purchased used for a fraction of their original price. Ebay, Kijiji and used departments of local and on-line camera stores such as B&H Photo &Video are excellent places to track down fine examples of these used cameras as well as the latest in new cameras and lenses. If you are lucky, you may even stumble across a solid camera at your local thrift store where you can pick one up for less than $10-$20.

And, if you are wondering how a point-and-shoot digital camera that’s more than 10 years old can perform in the garden, be sure to check out my post on the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS.

But, when shopping for a new camera, the most important question is not what is the best camera or lens, it’s what is the end use of your garden photography? Let that question guide you in purchasing your garden photography camera.

A high-end point-and-shoot camera may be all you need for the majority of your garden photography.

Determining your needs in a garden camera

If posting images or videos on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Tiktok) is your end goal, then there might not be a need for an expensive, professional style camera. Instead, a good used compact point-and-shoot from one of the main camera companies (Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Fuji, Sony…) might satisfy your needs at a very low price.

If you are a content creator, hope to print your images for display, or use the images to create a personal garden book (link to my personal garden book article), you might want to upgrade to a high-end point and shoot, a flexible Bridge camera or even a DSLR camera. Check out my article on using DSLRs with interchangeable lenses and Bridge cameras for garden wildlife.

If you are serious about capturing beautiful images of birds or need very high quality images for photo competitions, a top quality DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera with micro four third sensors suited up with high quality lenses is your best choice. Olympus and Lumix are among the leaders in this area.

Finally, if you love the experience of using a precision instrument that maybe has a retro look, just feels right in your hand and inspires you to create beautiful images whether they are in your garden, in the back alleys, on vacation or just on a weekend outing, then you need to explore the world of high-end, niche cameras.

Most cameras will offer good quality macro or close-focusing capabilities. This image was shot using a Lumix travel camera.

Niche cameras, and I would consider my Fuji X10 and Pentax Q among them, including several Leica cameras, some high-end Sony cameras, Canon and Nikon, lend themselves to more creative approaches to garden photography.

Check out my article on photographing the garden in BW using the Fuji X10 and other cameras as well as software that converts colour images to BW.

A few of my favourite cameras representing three of the basic styles to consider if you are thinking about purchasing a new camera, whether it’s for capturing garden photography, travel, wildlife or scenic images. On the left is the Fujifilm X10, an older high end point-and-shoot camera. In the middle, a DSLR with 300mm F4.5 lens that is ideal for wildlife including birds. On the right, is a Bridge camera that straddles the point-and-shoot model and the DSLR. The Bridge camera includes a fixed lens that covers wide angle to extreme telephoto at a reasonable price.

KelbyOne

First step: Deciding what you need from your garden photography

For many gardeners, a good choice that meets these requirements might be nothing more than a smartphone. You may want to check out my article on Tips for using your smartphone to take garden images.

Others, looking to take garden photography to the next level, will focus on high-end point and shoot cameras that are both small enough to carry in your pocket, while at the same time, offering a fully feature-packed camera with a high-end lens covering all the necessary focal lengths including macro capabilities. These camera’s are sometimes referred to as “Travel cameras.

Others will look to “Bridge cameras” that feature super telephoto lenses to add the ability to capture high quality bird photos from their favourite garden seat.

Still others will look to expensive, professional DSLRs or the larger mirrorless cameras complete with interchangeable lenses ranging from extreme wide angle to super telephoto with an array of macro lenses.

If you have not already guessed, choosing the best camera for garden photography depends in a large part on the photographer and what you want from both the camera and your garden photography.

Anyone who thinks they can tell you what camera to buy is likely just trying to sell you something. Although I can make suggestions, only you can decide what camera is best for your needs at this time. Your requirements may change over time as your interests also change.

Photographing garden birds may not be important to you today, but bird photography might be something you want to explore in the future. It may not be the best time for you to invest in an expensive camera and lens that can capture beautiful bird images. Some of these cameras and long, fast telephoto lenses can cost as much a a good used car. A compromise might be a good Bridge camera that has a built-in long lens at a fraction of the cost. Don’t expect to get similar results as a camera and lens costing ten or twenty times the price, but they can be a good camera to introduce you to the art of bird photography.

Later, if you decide to take the next step in bird photography, you can upgrade to a camera (mirrorless or DSLR) that takes interchangeable lenses.

 

When it comes to getting up close to birds and other wildlife, most photographers will choose to use a modern DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. This image was shot with a Pentax K5 DSLR equipped with a 300F4.5 lens that becomes a 420mm with the cropping factor. This image was severely cropped to create the portrait, which you cannot do with smaller sensor-equipped sensors.

 

The ultimate all-round Camera Shootout

I am not a fan of recommending particular cameras to readers, but I can share what other UTubers consider to be their favourite cameras. Mattias Burling, for example, has an informative channel that focuses on many high-end point and shoot and mirrorless cameras that are perfect for garden photography. The following are some of his favourite cameras and why they are his favourites.

In his video the Ultimate all-around 2021 Camera Shootout, Mattias reviews four of his favourite cameras that include: The Ricoh GR3 he calls the ultimate “street King”, Fujifilm X-E4, Pentax Q7 a small but powerful miniature camera, and the Fuji X100v that he describes as a technical gizmo. Not all these cameras are available new, but can be found on the used market for good prices.

Ricoh GR3 is a simple, elegant camera.

He rates them on a number of factors starting with price. The two Fuji cameras are the most expensive, followed by the Ricoh leaving the Pentax Q7 the winner not only for the price of the camera but all the many mini-interchangeable lenses that can be purchased for a very reasonable price.

When it comes to size and weight, The Pentax easily takes top spot again followed by the Ricoh GR3 and the two Fuji cameras.

When it comes to grip and button layout, the Ricoh takes first followed by the two Fuji cameras and the Pentax.

Fujifilm’s X100v is an elegant retro-look camera.

Next up was the speed of the cameras with the Ricoh GR3 taking points for fast focus but both Fuji cameras taking top marks with the X100v taking first and the X-E4 taking second with the 10-year-old Pentax taking up the rear.

Both Fuji cameras take top spots in the viewing displays, with the Ricoh in third and the older Pentax last.

Both Fujis also scored points for their viewfinders, not available on the Ricoh or Pentax.

When it came to image quality, Mattias compared tones, dynamic range, sharpness and colours his favourites were in order the Ricoh, Pentax, Fuji XE-4 and finally the X100v.

The miniaturized Pentax Q7 is packed with big-camera features including a line of miniature high quality lenses.

Finally, he looked at lenses where the Pentax Q came in first with its complete line of interchangeable lenses in miniature form. Fuji’s XE-4 finished second, followed by the 18mm Ricoh lens with macro, and lastly the Fuji X100v.

When it came to build quality, the Fuji X100v took top honours, followed by the XE-4 and the Pentax Q with Ricoh finishing last.

The Pentax took top honours for its looks and the joy factor in usability which Mattias says is “at the end of the day” the most important feature.

For more on the Pentax Q line of cameras and lenses, check out my comprehensive post here.

Another favourite is the Fujifilm X-E4 with a flipping forward screen.

Okay, so which camera came out on top? It should come as no surprise that they all scored 19 points making it a four way tie.

No surprise that a group of top cameras all came out with the same score in the end. All have their strong and weak points. What you have to decide, are what features mean the most to you and find those hidden gems that satisfy your most important needs and wants.

The camera’s above represent a small number of camera’s available. You will notice that Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Panasonic Lumix and Sony cameras are among those not listed here. All these manufacturers have outstanding cameras that fall into this category and should be included in the list of options if you are in the market.

My cameras include several Pentax cameras including the K5 DSLR, a KX Bridge camera and the original Pentax Q. I also enjoy shooting with the Fujifilm X10 and an older Panasonic Lumix travel camera. All have a place in my camera bag although I usually only have one or two with me at any given time depending on what I expect to shoot that day.

Deciding what you need, what you can afford and the type of photography you want to explore is the first step in discovering the joy of garden photography.

Pros and Cons of different camera styles

If all cameras were created equal, purchasing one would be simple. It’s not. There are so many pros and cons to cameras that it would be impossible to list here, but we can discuss the pros and cons of the different camera styles.

Simple point and shoot cameras

A very simple, inexpensive point and shoot camera is capable of documenting your garden, but you may quickly become disappointed with the results and limitations of the camera.

Pros

  • These cameras are quite inexpensive and perfect for someone starting out and not in need of high-quality images

  • Simple point and shoots are often available at ridiculously low prices on Kijiji or at discount stores.

  • They can be great starter cameras to introduce children to the joy of garden photography.

  • With careful technique, the cameras are capable of good images entirely usable for social media and small 4x6” prints.

Cons

  • A fixed focal length lens can be a limiting factor that makes moving in close to your subject difficult.

  • The shutter lag (time between pressing the shutter and taking the picture) can get frustrating if you are trying to capture moving subjects such as insects, butterflies, birds or mammals.

  • The size and quality of the sensor is likely too small and of lower quality to give you satisfactory results over time.

  • The look and feel of the camera in your hand may not inspire you to do your best work.

High-end point a shoot cameras for enthusiasts

Pros

  • The best choice for gardeners wanting high-quality images in a small, carry-around-everywhere package.

  • Great for the garden, but also for vacations, daily outings and images of your children or grandchildren.

  • Most feature high-quality lenses with the ability to get close enough to capture insects and butterflies.

  • Many feature zoom lenses from wide angle to telephoto that allow you to capture garden vistas as well as acceptable images of birds and mammals.

  • Most feature built-in effect filters and some provide the ability to accept filters such as a polarizing filter (important to reduce glare from leaves and water.)

  • Many will accept additional accessories such as external flashes, add-on lens hoods, custom cases and remote releases.

  • The best cameras will inspire you to get out in the garden and explore the camera’s capabilities.

Cons

  • The best of these cameras can get quite expensive and may be more than most are willing to spend.

  • Despite their high-price tag, the cameras can still suffer from shutter lag.

  • Many of these cameras have short telephoto lenses ranging from 28-105mm, which falls short when trying to capture birds from a distance.

Bridge Cameras

Pros

  • Compact size for full-featured camera

  • Extreme telephoto for small subjects like birds

  • Good macro capabilities

  • Adjustable LED screens for taking pictures at ground level

Cons

  • Shutter lag makes capturing moving subjects difficult

  • Smaller sensor limits size, quality of images.

  • Electronic viewfinder may not be suitable for some photographers.

  • Extreme telephoto is slow and focus can be a little unpredictable.

  • Although the cameras are equipped with long telephoto lenses, it is difficult to get a soft background compared to fast telephotos on DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

DSLRs and mirrorless cameras

Although digital single lens reflex cameras are still available, they are quickly being replaced by cameras without mirrors. If you are a die-hard DSLR shooter, more and more are available on the used market at good prices.

Pros

  • Allows for a complete line of lenses from extreme wide angle to extreme telephoto as well as specialized macro lenses.

  • An array of accessories that enable you to tackle difficult situations from macro lighting, to remote capture of birds and mammals.

  • Many are workhorse cameras that are weather resistant.

  • Larger sensors create outstanding image results, low in noise (grain), and able to shoot in much lower light conditions.

  • The images are easily cropped without losing too much quality. (see fox portrait below).

  • Able to shoot extremely fast to capture 20 plus frames per second.

Cons

  • These cameras and lenses can be quite large and heavy to carry for long periods of time. Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter but still large in comparison to most of the cameras discussed above

  • Cameras and lenses can get very expensive making some of the specialized lenses almost unattainable for average photographers.

  • Provides the most flexibility of all cameras.

In conclusion

Like I said earlier, I don’t like to give readers advice on what cameras to purchase. New, more updated cameras are coming out monthly and advances in digital photography – although slowing to some degree – continue to push the boundaries. I can’t say what cameras to purchase but I can recommend that you make every effort to purchase the best camera you can afford on the used market.

I like to purchase from Ebay and Kijiji but don’t hesitate to purchase cameras and lenses from local camera stores or on-line stores like BH Camera or Keh Cameras. Photography is very much a “must have the latest device” hobby, so it’s an opportunity to purchase excellent used cameras and lenses off photographers looking for the latest and greatest.

With a little searching, you can get outstanding bargains on high-quality used cameras.

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Tips to photograph wildlife in your woodland garden

Creating the right environment to be successful in the garden involves a lot of hard work. But, in the end, it pays off. It’s not luck that you saw an oriole, a fox or hummingbird in your garden. It’s the result of that hard work you put in earlier to create the right conditions.

Bridge camera can be best choice for garden photography

This fox image is an example of how the right environment created an opportunity to capture an image that presented itself.

It began with a decision to work on getting a good image of a hummingbird feeding at a native Cardinal flower, but ended hours later with a memorable image of a fox.

Let me explain.

The cardinal flower was at its prime and I knew that, if I wanted to use it to get an image of a hummingbird feeding, I needed to act swiftly. So I set the camera on a tripod, filled up my coffee and waited.

(If you are interested in exploring garden photography at a higher level, be sure to check out my comprehensive post on the Best camera and lens for Garden Photography.)

If you are looking for a new camera or lens, check out B&H Cameras & Video for a complete line of cameras and lenses.

And, if you are wondering how a point-and-shoot digital camera that’s more than 10 years old can perform in the garden, be sure to check out my post on the Canon PowerShot Elph 500 HS.

The hummers came to the feeders surrounding the Cardinal flowers but only stopped at the flowers three times for a brief moment.

About three hours into the shoot, I noticed a fox standing by our shed looking my way. It was by no means stressed by my presence. In fact, it seemed perfectly happy to share the yard with me provided we stayed at a comfortable distance.

How often have you been in the yard and a great photographic opportunity presented itself to you? Too often, we are not prepared. Chances are, all we have is our smart phone by our side and the resulting image is nothing but a poor replica of a memorable moment.

One of our neighbourhood foxes dropped in for its daily visit. It helped that I was armed with my camera on a monopod and my favourite lens.

One of our neighbourhood foxes dropped in for its daily visit. It helped that I was armed with my camera on a monopod and my favourite lens.

But on this day I was in luck. The camera was already set up with my favourite 300mm F4.5 lens on a monopod.

I couldn’t ask for a better situation. Even our dog Holly had yet to notice the fox that trotted over to our three large water bowls and helped herself to a long drink.

A few quick bursts of photos from the 35mm DSLR camera and off she went. Like a ghost. There one moment … the next, gone. It was over as quickly as it began.

The lesson learned was simple: Be prepared.

Today, even if I just go out to enjoy my morning coffee, I always have a camera by my side ready for action. Sometimes it’s a simple “Travel camera” (read my travel camera review here) with a wide angle to short telephoto lens that is great for basic garden shots but will not likely get you close enough to most wildlife.

Most likely, it is my versatile “Bridge camera” that allows me to shoot everything from long telephoto images of wildlife, including birds and butterflies, to sweeping wide-angle garden vistas, to macro shots of flowers and insects.

On this day, I happened to have my 300mm lens on the camera and ready to go, which made capturing the fox image possible.

A young fox poses in the garden when I reached for the Pentax "Bridge" camera, the impressive X5.

This young fox decided to pose for me for a minute giving me time to focus the Pentax X5 “Bridge” camera to capture the image. I needed to use the full zoom power of the X5 (500mm) to capture the image.

More recently, however, I have a “bridge camera” with me. I have used the camera for more than a year now and have come to appreciate its versatility, with its ability to go from extreme telephoto to wide angle and even a very usable macro mode.

Bridge cameras, which are offered by all the major camera manufacturers, can be the perfect camera choice for garden photographers looking for a single extremely versatile camera that is at home photographing garden vistas as it is birds and other wildlife. Add to that versatility the ability to get in close to flowers for macro photography and it’s hard to believe that everyone is not lining up to purchase one. These cameras can be described as mid-priced cameras situated between a simple point-and-shoot and a more serious 35mm SLR with a complete line of lenses. Bridge cameras look like a typical digital single lens reflex (DSLR), but without the interchangeable lenses.

The bridge camera offers a built-in lens sporting a wide angle to long telephoto lens. The combination creates an easy-to-carry-around versatile camera that can deliver very good results with a little practise.

But they are not by any means perfect.

My bridge camera uses an electronic viewfinder in addition to the back LCD screen to view the image. The electronic viewfinder takes getting used to and falls far short of a optical viewfinder found in traditional DSLRs. To add to the difficulty of using the Bridge camera is a significant “shutter lag” meaning an excessive amount of time between when you press the button to take the image and the time it is actually taken. This shutter lag can mean the difference between getting the shot and missing it entirely.

Learn Photography from the World's Best Instructors.

In addition, because most of these cameras are so dependent on electronic viewfinders and the electronic zooming of the lens, some of these cameras tend to exhaust your batteries quickly, especially if you use the large back LCD screen as your primary viewer or to check your images regularly. My camera uses regular AAA batteries, which can be convenient when you are travelling, but compared to rechargeable batteries, can also be expensive to use. The other issue I have with the Pentax (which is no longer available) is the fact I cannot easily add filters to the front of the lens. This may not be a problem for most photographs, unless of course, you need to use a polarizing filter to remove glare from leaves or a pond.

Like most Bridge cameras, the Pentax X-5 bridge camera that I am using came with a very long 26X telephoto lens (the equivalent zoom for traditional 35mm cameras of about 22-580mm.) Most bridge cameras come equipped with a lens that provides the photographer with both a solid wide angle lens as well as a super-long telephoto lens.

 
 
Two chickadees feeding at Q&A feeder

This image taken with the Bridge Camera is an example of the type of images that are possible just sitting in the backyard waiting for the right opportunity.

 

Bridge cameras like my Pentax X-5 also come equipped with an impressive macro feature making it the perfect camera to carry with me into the garden for casual macro shots. For more serious macro photography, I will mount a 50mm or 100mm dedicated macro lens on a 35mm SLR camera.

Being prepared, having the right tools at hand and, of course, some luck on your side can mean the difference between getting the shot and missing it.

Even seeing wildlife, let alone getting good photos of them, depends on a lot of factors going your way.

Luck certainly plays a role in any shot, but I like to think that it plays a smaller role than most people think.

 

A macro image of a clematis taken by the Pentax Bridge camera the X5, on macro mode. This shows the versatility of the camera and its lens that is able to go from long telephoto (see above image of the Fox) to extreme macro without changing the lens.

 

Being out in the yard for more than four hours patiently waiting for the hummingbirds to cooperate creates the opportunity to be successful. Still, I was unsuccessful getting that shot of the hummingbird. Instead, I had to “settle” for the fox shot.

I like to think you create your own luck.

Setting out large water bowls meant to provide local wildlife with a fresh water source helped create that opportunity for the photograph.

Creating a natural garden, providing a source of natural food and moving water in the form of bubbling rocks and fountains, not using pesticides, having woodpiles … these all provide the right environment to getting the photograph, or the opportunity to observe the wildlife that call our property home.

PopPhoto website lists their favourite Bridge Cameras in this informative article starting with the best overall camera going to the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV, the Canon PowerShot SX70 HS as the best Wildlife camera and the Panasonic Lumix FZ80 as the best budget camera.

It doesn’t have to be a fox. It could have been a bird, a butterfly a reptile, or even a photograph of a beautiful tree or grouping of flowers.

The day before this shot was taken, I was trying to capture some photographs of birds enjoying my new solar-powered fountain, when a little chipmunk decided to hang out with me for a while. So I got “lucky” and was able to get some great shots of the chipmunk too.

Getting lucky is really about creating the right environment to get photographic opportunities and then taking advantage of these opportunities.

It’s the same in your everyday life. Put yourself in the best environment to succeed and chances are you will.

Getting up early, spending time in our gardens, getting up close and intimate with flowers. These all create the opportunities to be successful.

I’ll be out again soon working on getting the shot of the hummingbird at the cardinal flower. Maybe I’ll get “lucky” and the hummer will cooperate this time.

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you) I try to only endorse products I have either used, have complete confidence in, or have experience with the manufacturer. Thank you for your support. This blog would not be possible without your continued support.

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Rockin’ the landscape: How to use boulders, rocks and pea gravel in the garden

Rocks, whether they are massive boulders, smaller rocks, river rock or pea gravel, all have their place in a natural woodland garden. Placing them properly can be tricky. Here are some tips to help gardeners feel confident using them as a landscape feature.

Look to nature to create a natural rockscape

There is nothing like a moss-covered rock placed perfectly in a garden to create a natural focal point.

But take that same moss-covered rock and place it improperly in the garden and it quickly creates an unnatural look that suggests the gardener or landscaper was decorating with stone rather than using it to create a natural feeling in the garden.

Decorating with stone is the single biggest mistake gardeners and landscapers make when using boulders, rocks and stone in the landscape. If your goal is to create a natural-looking garden, try not to get caught in the decorating mode.

An example from my garden on how not to place a rock. Notice that it is sitting on top of the mulch (Chipmunks have appeared to even have burrowed under it). In addition, the rock is standing on its end in an attempt to maximize its size. Much better to let it lie on its side while using it to hold back a little soil. (I have some digging to do.)

Always take your cues from nature. In fact, it never hurts to find some rock moss to grow on the rocks to help with the natural look.

There are many reasons to use rock and stone in the garden: for utility purposes such as a retaining wall to hold back soil; to create garden design elements such as a dry river bed or a natural stone pathway; or as a focal point such as large moss-covered boulders rising out of the ground.

All of the above projects can be made to look natural to some degree or more decorative if the wrong choices are made such as using a type of stone or rock that is not indigenous to the area. Bright white quartz rarely has a place in a natural landscape.

Using boulders, rocks and pea gravel in a natural landscape creates wonderful opportunities to capture stunning moments in the garden.

A walk through most neighbourhoods reveal the “decorating” mistakes. There are those who place small rocks meticulously around the edge of a border; or those who place river rock in a half circle to replicate a dry river bed; or, the worst sin of all, placing boulders on top of the soil rather than digging them into the landscape. To make matters worse, these boulders sitting atop of the landscape are often placed on sloped ground making it look like our beautiful boulder is about to roll down the hill.

So what’s the secret to placing stones properly?

Jeff Cox, in his book Landscape with Nature provides this solid explanation: “The job of the natural gardener is to place elements in the garden as nature does. The site of every object in the garden should answer the question “why is that there?” We may choose to place a boulder where it might have ended up had it rolled sown a hill to our garden. Or where it may have emerged from a glacial till as the surrounding soil was washed away by 10,000 seasons.”

He asks readers if they can “feel the presence of large boulders somewhere down under the earth? Can you feel them slowly rising toward the surface or rather the surface slowly descending toward them? Look at your site. Where would one of these boulders emerge? Get a feel for it. Then bury the bottom 2/3 of the boulder to make it look like its coming out of rather than going into the ground,” says Cox.

“Take any three objects such as three different rocks and arrange them anyway that seems balanced,” he adds. '“An evenly spaced straight line seems very static and unsubtle. A much more satisfying arrangement is for the two smallest rocks to be relatively close together and the third larger rock at sOme distance, their masses balancing on an unseen focal point somewhere between them.”

“In a natural garden try to use plants as nature might. The goal is not to border our beds with bright colours but to pay homage to natural beauty with artistic interpretations of it,” Cox concludes.

Here is an example of using different-sized river rocks and pea gravel along a dry-stream-look path that looks to nature to give the garden vignette a natural feel. In nature, a black mondo grass seed may have gotten caught up in the rocks and began growing. The natural vignette helps create interest to slow the visitor along the pathway. I used black mondo grass so that the plant blended in to the more or less black and white scene. A brightly coloured flower would have spoiled the lovely monochrome garden vignette.

The simple answer: try to place the stones as they would appear in nature.

Not sure how they would appear in nature?

Take an afternoon to visit a natural stream and study how Mother Nature places the rocks and stones with the larger ones anchoring the stream, smaller ones closer to the edge of the stream and pea gravel and or sand filling in the edges suggesting areas where the water has a gentler flow. Notice how, in nature, not all the river rock is the same size. There are boulders, large rocks and smaller rocks. Often there will be several sizes of river rock as well as pea gravel and sand.

(Looking for inspiration, check out my post on using local woodlands as inspiration for your garden.)

To create a realistic dry river bed, you don’t need to include all the sizes, but using only one size of river rock for the entire stream bed, is unlikely to look natural. When you are ordering from the rockery, include at least two sizes of river rock, some larger boulders and pea gravel.

The result will have a more natural look and allow you to transition down from the larger rocks to the smaller ones right down to the pea gravel on the edges of the stream filling in any holes between the larger rocks.

Placing larger boulders in the landscape

When it comes to placing large boulders, plan to do some digging.

In nature, boulders sit in the landscape, not on top of it. Even if a piece of a large boulder has broken off another boulder, it will in time be absorbed into the landscape through a combination of sinking into the soil through regular freezing and thawing, and soil building up around the boulder as leaves and forest detritus gets blown around the base of the boulder.

You may have thought you purchased a large boulder for your garden, but if I said you may have to bury a quarter to a half of the boulder underground for it to look right, it doesn’t take long to realize that boulder you purchased is not going to make as big a statement in the landscape as you might have thought. Most boulders need to be buried deep in the ground to look natural in the landscape. Boulders should look like they are rising out of the landscape.

Depending on the boulder, you may get away with sinking it just a couple of inches into the ground. Just make sure that the boulder looks like it was always part of the landscape.

If you are placing boulders, it’s best to think odd numbers. Not unlike planting flowers in groups of 1-3-5, using the same way of thinking also works for placing rocks.

In our Japanese-inspired garden, I was lucky enough to scoop up a number of massive boulders from a neighbour's backyard project.

The trick was how to use them effectively. By using three of them in one grouping and a single one on the other side of the Japanese-inspired garden, I was able to keep the groupings to odd numbers. The boulder sitting by itself on the one side is teamed with large grasses and a weeping Japanese Maple providing visual balance between the two groups of boulders.

Staying with the Japanese-inspired garden and placement of the large boulders. In true Japanese style, a single boulder may be all that is in the garden surrounded by sand or fine pea gravel that is meticulously raked to give the appearance of waves surrounding the boulder.

In our design, I chose to use the boulders as if they represented mountains. Around the outside of the boulders I placed river rock in two sizes and then used pea gravel to fill in any holes and tie into the pea gravel throughout the garden and around the square-cut flagstone that take visitors through the garden into the backyard.

Using rocks along a pathway between houses

Our Japanese-inspired garden runs across the front of our home with a pathway leading through it to another pathway that leads into the backyard. By continuing the use of stone from the Japanese garden along the pathway leading to the back yard, the two spaces work together to create a natural flow.

Green Giant cedars separate our property from our neighbours creating privacy and a beautiful green backdrop that opens up at the end of the pathway into a view of our neighbour’s lovely yard and our woodland garden. (The three pictures above show how we installed the river rocks between the path and the Giant Green cedars using a combination of three sizes of river rocks and finishing with pea gravel. The pictures also show how much the cedars have grown in just four years.

On both sides of this pathway we have used stone as a mulch to tie in the back and front gardens. The same dry-river pathway is picked up across the back of the home helping to tie the entire garden from front to back.

Along the side pathway, several layers of black landscaping cloth were laid down to keep weeds at bay. This was followed up by using large river rocks (hand picked at the rockery) to form small rockfalls along the pathway just to add interest rather than having all the same