Vic MacBournie Vic MacBournie

Wolverine Scanner review: Revisiting your old images

Today’s film revival has caused many of photographers to look into different ways to scan their old slides or negatives. The Wolverine system and other all-in-one scanners are worth investigating.

Simple scanner converts slides and negatives to digital

If you’re like me and have boxes or binders full of old slides and negatives collecting dust in the basement, you might be thinking of the best way to turn them into digital images.

A quick look on Amazon, Ebay or one of the many on-line photography sites turns up a host of options from flat-bed scanners that include slide and negative attachments, to small, stand-alone scanners that store the scanned images directly on to an SD card, eliminating the need for hooking into a computer to scan the images.

This image, originally shot on slide film, shows how well the Wolverine F2D can capture former analogue images whether they are slides or negatives.

There are more expensive scanners that look promising and there are even devices that allow you to duplicate your analogue images into digital with your existing digital camera and macro lens.

There is also the option of sending your favourite slides or negatives away to be done professionally. These companies will either email the scans to you or put them on a CD or DVD which can then be pulled into your computer or smartphone.

This image of ladyslipper orchids scanned reasonably well despite the higher-than-normal contrast.

The choices can be overwhelming and, depending on what you decide, can get quite expensive. The results too, are not always what you were expecting.

Years ago, I used a dedicated Canon slide and negative scanner to convert my slides to digital and the results were excellent. Unfortunately computer upgrades made the scanner obsolete unless I purchase an older computer with a SCSI outlet. The options today may be more numerous but not necessarily as good.

The key to success and ultimately satisfaction is deciding how you intend to use the finished scan.

If you simply want to convert the images for sharing with friends and family or on social media, you might be surprised about how little “quality” is required to get an acceptable image.

A few years ago I purchased an older, inexpensive Wolverine F2D (film to digital) all-in-one scanner to convert some of my favourite slides into digital images to share both on this website as well as social media.

This image shows some of the weaknesses of the scanner and it’s inability to capture the details in the reds and yellows of this scene.

Newer, more expensive Wolverine scanners such as the Titan 8 in 1, 20 megapixel high resolution film to digital converter, promise much better results with a wide array of film sizes from 35mm, to 127mm, and even 110mm. I have not tested these but if the results are as promised they appear to solve many of the weaknesses I experienced with the much lower resolution older unit.

The revival of analogue film cameras and lomography make these Wolverine scanners much more interesting and useful for today’s modern film shooters. Older models like the one below are available on Ebay and other on-line retailers for very reasonable prices.

The older Wolverine F2D digital scanner proved to be useful to convert older slides and negatives, even if the quality was not always ideal.

The Wolverine system of “scanners” boasts simplicity of use and on that note I give them top marks. All you need to do is drop in an SD card, pop four slides into the holder, push them in to the scanner, watch for the flashing orange light in the small colour window on the front of the unit where the image is shown, and press the red button twice. Voila. The digitized image is sent directly to the SD card in seconds, which can later be transferred to your computer. The same process, more or less, is carried out for scanning negatives. The whole scanning process takes seconds rather than minutes. In addition, no software is necessary to convert the negatives or slides into jpegs, making the whole system convenient and simple for those who just want to convert their old images to digital as simply as possible.

Providing the slide/negative is clean and you are not particular about the quality of the image, your work may be done. However, if you are looking for a clean, high-quality image that is a proper representation of the original image, your work may be just beginning.

I notice that on some of the on-line reviews, some users say the images that come out of the scanners are unuseable. My experience shows that this is not necessarily true and, that with a little work, most of the images are acceptable, some are very good and a few are pretty much unusable.

However, to say a good working knowledge of Lightroom or Photoshop is necessary to achieve these results, would be an understatement. Much post-processing work is often necessary to obtain acceptable results. In addition, I find E6-processed slides such as Fujichrome or Extachrome scan much better than Kodachrome. In fact, Kodachrome slides are often unusable no matter how much work is done on them.

Using the provided tool to clean the scanning bed is critical to reduce the amount of post processing necessary to clean the images.

The following are just a few images scanned on the Wolverine F2D and post processed in Lightroom.

Goldenrod field in selective focus

This field of Goldenrod in selective focus is an example of a slide that was scanned successfully with the Wolverine.

This image of Goldenrod in selective focus is the type of image that converted easily from analogue to digital with minimal post processing. Its lack of extremes makes it a good candidate for scanning. Images with high dynamic range become extremely difficult to capture and the result is either burned out whites or blocked up blacks that can make the image unuseable even for most social media posts.

A major problem you’ll face with these inexpensive all-in-one scanners is that the final file size is small. On my scanner, I’m barely getting a jpeg file size over 1 megabyte. That just isn’t enough to work with. If there is any real serious post processing required, the image is just going to fall apart and make it unuseable.

However, if the original scan is good, it’s likely that you can get a very useable image.

The rusted car door below is a good example of how high-quality scans are possible with this unit. Colours are excellent and very true to the original with only minimal post processing.

An all-time favourite image of a rusted automobile in a classic car graveyard scanned beautifully with the Wolverine showing that impressive colours are possible with the Wolverine scanner.

Printing these images beyond 4x6 would be interesting and likely not result in satisfactory images for most people looking for a high-quality print. But I really don’t think these scanners were meant for anything more than sharing on social media or with friends and family.

The speed and simplicity of scanning hundreds of slides or negatives in short order is very enticing, but if at least a third of them are really not usable for most of us, then I think you have to take a hard look at whether you should purchase one. Newer models offer more options and a larger finished image size so they may provide much better results on more difficult images.

Let’s look at a few more successful images.

This wild geranium with ferns required more post processing than I wanted but the results are satisfactory.

A visit to Pt. Pelee resulted in this image of a warbler which the Wolverine captured nicely.

The Wolverine F2D captured these vivid colours beautifully along with the frost.

This fawn in the forest is an example of the scanner falling a little short.

Although this image may look acceptable, the scanner struggled to capture the pinks of the cherry tree and the much darker trunk of the tree. A considerable amount of post processing helped save the image, but still falls short compared to the original slide.

This is a good example of how the Wolverine scanner captured the image but struggled to deal with the extreme white feathers around the Great Horned owl’s head. For many of us, this may not be a problem, but for those looking to get the most out of their old slides and negatives, this scanned image falls short.

Should you purchase an all-in-one scanner?

I want to say everyone should purchase one of these scanners to convert their old slides and negatives into usable images for social media or sharing with families. However, there are many negatives which stop me from recommending these scanners to everyone. If you are looking for the ultimate scan quality, these are probably not for you. If post processing is not your thing, these may not be for you.

Dust is a big problem, and the amount of post processing in Lightroom or some other program to get usable results with some images makes me want to think that it may be too much for some.

These frosted ferns were captured nicely on the older Wolverine F2D all-in-one scanner.

If you are looking for consistent high-quality results, one of the flat-bed scanners by Epson might be a better but more tedious choice. If you have no experience in post processing or hate spending time on the computer, you either have to accept the results or opt for a flat-bed scanner with built-in software that removes dust.

However, if you enjoy post processing and cleaning up your favourite images then one of these scanners might just do the trick. The fact that you don’t have to attach it to your computer means you can sit down and watch your favourite Netflix shows while you scan hundreds of older images to an SD card.

That convenience and ease of use might be enough to convince you to invest a small amount into rescuing your old images.

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Pentax Q and Mount Shield Lens: A lomographers’ dream?

Combining the diminutive Pentax Q and the 07 Shield Mount Lens makes for an interesting lomography camera and lens combination.

This spring image shows many of the unique characteristics of the Pentax Q 07 Shield Lens that takes on the personality of both a Lensbaby and a lomography camera. Although the plastic lens renders the image mostly soft and out-of-focus, it is capable of obtaining extreme sharpness in central parts of the image.

Lens combines lomography and lensbaby effects

Is it possible that the Pentax Q is the ultimate lomography camera?

Purists would scoff at the idea that a digital camera – even one as quirky as the miniaturized Pentax Q – could ever be considered a leader in the world of lomography. But team it with the quirky 07 Mount Shield Lens or any number of vintage lenses, and lomographers might just be forced to take a little closer look.

After all, lomography is all about using cheap plastic film cameras with low resolution plastic lenses together with even lower resolution and bizarre film stocks. It’s inspired by analog techniques of vintage lenses and embraces lens distortions, light leaks, and other quirks as part of the creative process. Lomography encourages playful and spontaneous shooting and values the aesthetic qualities of the photographs that result from these techniques.

All this in the pursuance of creating artistic images with equipment that makes the finished result extremely difficult to predict.

That doesn’t sound much like the traditional Q line of cameras and lenses.

This image taken with the Pentax Mount Shield Lens and some post processing has a lomography look to it that I think works nicely.

If you are looking for a Pentax Q, the Mount Shield Lens or any other piece of hard-to-find photographic gear, be sure to check out KEH Photographic for an outstanding selection of used equipment at great prices.

The Pentax Q was first released back in June 2011 as a highly refined, extremely well-built miniaturized digital camera in an impressive magnesium body that could be paired with its own line of high-quality lenses. It is capable of capturing incredibly sharp images in RAW or jpeg. In fact, Pentax was so concerned about obtaining the highest quality resolution that it was one of the first camera makers to remove the anti-aliasing filter from the sensor to improve sharpness.

Doesn’t sound much like the cheap plastic Diana cameras from Hong Kong’s Great Wall Plastic Co. and Russia’s Holga cameras that led the charge and resurgence into lomography.

But stay with me and we’ll try to explain the link between the Pentax Q and lomography

In the meantime, if anyone doubts the re-emergence of shooting film and the use of very low-fi film cameras, just check out this lomography.com website. It’ll change your mind in a hurry. It may also introduce you to a new style of photography.

So, how does all this relate to the Pentax Q?

Pentax Q with 07 Shield Mount Lens attached.

Pentax Q with 07 Mount Shield Lens attached. It’s not hard to see how tiny the combination is and how easy it would be to simply slip into your pocket and take anywhere and everywhere.

Pentax releases Mount Shield Lens

Back in 2013, just about the time lomography was experiencing another resurgence, Pentax released the 07 Mount Shield Lens for the Q series of cameras. This low-fi, pinhole-style body cap lens was an interesting departure from the line of high-quality lenses released for the Q and set the stage for Pentax Q users to begin turning their trusted miniature mirrorless cameras into digital lomography gems.

The Pentax 07 Mount Shield Lens captured these children playing in a fish pond. The overall softness of the image especially toward the edges of the scene helps to give the image a dreamy look.

One look at the Pentax Q Facebook group I belong to and it’s not hard to see that Q users, whether they know it or not, are using the camera to capture lomography-style images with vintage lenses, including the little plastic Mount Shield Lens.

Pentax’s Mount Shield lens (or 07 as Pentax labels it) is certainly a low-cost, low-fi plastic lens that has been described as either the “worst lens ever made or the best body cap lens ever made.” It has a fixed focal length that comes in at 11.5mm (63.5mm equivalent on the original Q slightly wider on newer Q versions). The aperture is fixed at f/9. There’s no need or way to adjust aperture, and the focus is fixed around 0.5m (20 inches), so no need to focus. Since the lens has a relatively small f/9 aperture, Pentax says this allows objects as close as 0.3m (almost 12 inches) to about 2m (more than 6 feet) to be in focus. (Your experience may differ depending on your lens.)

The shield lens may have been one of the first, but the world of mirrorless cameras opened up a long list of vintage lenses that work on the Pentax Q – many of them with dubious quality – but all of them with a quirkyness that perfectly fits the lomography style.

Okay, so what in the world is this “lomography” style all about? Although in its purist form, lomography involves using cheap plastic 120mm film cameras and lenses, there are many iterations that now include using proper – even modern – film cameras with specialized lenses that give odd or pleasingly soft bokeh among other characteristics. In fact, many of these highly specialized, beautifully made lenses are quite expensive( see the art lenses website). Other lomo shooters prefer to use traditional lenses with specialized lomography films which can be purchased at the lomography.com website.

Pentax Mount Shield lens on Q

Pentax Mount Shield lens can create some lovely flower images with a Lensbaby look.

We only need to look at the ten golden rules of lomography to begin seeing a connection with the Pentax Q.

  1. Always carry your camera with you so as not to miss chances of capturing spontaneous images.

  2. Shoot in whatever light is available to get more unpredictable and “artsy” images.

  3. Make photography (lomography) a part of your every day life.

  4. Try to capture spontaneous moments like that we see in street photography. Shoot from the hip and have fun.

  5. Don’t be afraid to get up close to your subject.

  6. Try not to overthink your shots – just shoot and check out the results later.

  7. Always be ready to capture moments in time rather than technically perfect images.

  8. Experiment and embrace the unknown without expectation

  9. Take time to assess results at a later time.

  10. Most importantly have fun and break the rules.

So how does the Q-series line up with these golden rules of lomography and make the Pentax Q a digital lomography camera extraordinaire.

The Pentax Q has always been thought of as a fun camera; one that is so small you can take it anywhere and everywhere with you, and one that encourages a creative approach with its myriad of built-in filters including a separate setting for bizarre blur effects. You can play with the colour settings or go bold contrast black and white at the twist of a button. It’s small sensor means noise is likely if the camera is pushed to extremes and, when paired with the Shield lens or vintage lenses, lomography-style photographs are at your fingertips.

Image shows the baby Buddah's hands sharp while the rest of the image softens toward the edges.

This image shot with the Mount Shield lens on the Bold Monochrome setting of the Pentax Q shows the focus on the hands of the baby Buddha while the rest of the image goes soft toward the edges of the frame.

Like many of today’s specialized lomography film stocks, there are built-in filters to create mono-colour images.

But, most importantly, it’s the ability to mount exquisite 50-year-old cinematic lenses on the camera to capture that highly-sought after vintage look. How about mounting the miniature Pentax 110 lenses released back in 1978 on the Q to capture images with a vintage look.

For more on using Pentax 110 lenses on the Pentax Q check out my extensive post here.

With a few adapters, the list is almost endless.

And, what makes the Q system even more exciting, is that you are not having to pay for the added expense of buying and developing modern lomography film.

Speaking of lenses, if you want to see some exquisite lenses created for lomography, check out these at the Art Lens website.

In this image, one of the many filters was used to create a lomography film effect with the Shield lens.

Shooting with the Shield lens

Everything that makes the Mount Shield lens a lomographers’ dream, also makes it appear difficult to use. Most of us are looking for sharp, technically correct images from edge to edge. That’s not what you are going to get with the shield lens.

Expect the unexpected. Odd, out-of-focus areas on your images, possible fringing, sharp central focus with softness spreading out to the edges… just to name a few. If you are using it for landscapes, chances are the entire image will be soft. Put something close to the lens in the focus zone and let the landscape drift out of focus for cool effects.

If you are taking photos in the garden, move in close to capture interesting effects similar to the style of images you may get with a Lensbaby.

Hello, World!

Combined with the many filters available in the camera and the separate blur control setting opens up a new world to photographers looking to experiment with their images.

And, after all, isn’t that what lomography is all about? Pop the shield mount on a Pentax Q and you’ve got a miniaturized camera that you can take anywhere and everywhere. There is no way to focus the lens, so shoot from the hip in whatever light you have. Experiment with filters – bold monochrome is a favourite. Try the extract colour filter which creates a B&W image that pulls out a single colour out of the image. The possibilities are endless.

Pentax Q and Mount Shield lens showing a sun star

This silhouette of a tree was photographed with the Pentax Q and Mount Shield Lens on the Bold monochrome setting.

Experience the joys of lomography

I know that a Pentax Q teamed with the Shield Lens or vintage lenses will never replace the joy purists have of shooting lomography film with a cheap plastic camera and lens. But the experience of shooting with an unpredictable lens in the pursuance of creative images is one that most photographers will surely enjoy and, more importantly, benefit from photographically as they push their creativity to new levels.

The fact that you can easily carry the combo around with you in a coat pocket makes it the ideal combination for photographers looking to capture their everyday surroundings.

Is it a lomographers’ dream camera? Probably not. But can it introduce digital shooters to a new creative process where pixel peeping is unheard of, mega sensors are of no importance and quirky is cool again.

Absolutely.


The Lomography Society International was founded in 1992 to promote the use and appreciation of analog photography. Today, the brand offers a wide range of cameras, films, and accessories and a community of enthusiasts who share their work and experiences online.

 

 

Author Profile: Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of the award-winning website Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and enjoys sharing his garden photography with readers.

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Flower photography: How to stay sharp when winter hits

Flower photography does not have to end with the first snowfall. Winter is the perfect time to practise staying sharp when it comes to your closeup and macro photography. Setting up a mini indoor studio can not only reward you with great images, it also lets you experiment with your various lenses and camera settings.

Indoor orchid photographed be window light with the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens on the OM-E10.

A close-up image of an orchid photographed by window light with an Olympus EM10 with the MCON-P01 close-up attachment on the 45mm f1.8 Olympus lens.

Five tips to photograph indoor flowers by window light

Flower and garden photography is not quite like riding a bike. Hopping back into taking memorable images is more complicated than simply jumping back on a bike and pedalling.

The complexities of today’s modern cameras makes regular usage to maintain familiarity almost a necessity.

If you are a photographer who rarely picks up your camera for five to six months of the year waiting for spring, hopefully this post will inspire you to use your camera regularly through the down months.

Not only will you continue to develop your photographic skills, don’t be surprised if you find yourself making some truly outstanding images.

Exploring winter photography in our gardens, natural woodlands or even in sunny vacation spots is a great way to maintain that familiarity with our cameras, but these approaches often overlook closeup or macro photography. Closeup photography is difficult enough in the best of conditions, trying to photograph a subject outdoors in winter’s freezing temperatures can be more than challenging.

That’s why indoor flower photography is the perfect pastime for those who are looking to stay sharp for gardening season.

 

Image shows the simple mini studio setup beside a large east facing window.

 

A pink pillow was used to create a lovely, pastel-coloured background. In addition, a white vignette was added in Lightroom further softening the image taken with the Olympus 45mm f1.8 with the MCON P01 macro converter.

And, there’s no better opportunity to keep our photography skills sharp than to photograph your indoor plants in full bloom.

Orchids in bloom offer one possibility for experimentation, but so too does a bouquet of flowers purchased from your local flower shop. Even better is to combine your orchid images with the bouquet of flowers.

In these images, I used flowers from a bouquet of carnations to provide a soft foreground element to the images.

If you are looking for a macro lens or any other piece of hard-to-find photographic gear, be sure to check out KEH Photographic for an outstanding selection of used equipment at great prices.



Benefits of photographing indoors

Unlike photographing flowers in the garden, there is no wind to contend with and the flower positioning can be easily manipulated to capture the best natural window light. Setting up reflectors is easy enough as well as a flash if window light is difficult to come by.

Using foreground flowers from a bouquet of carnations adds a complementary color to the image taken with my Pentax K5 and a vintage Kiron 105 manual focus macro lens wide open at f2.5. The ability to open up the lens to F2.5 creates the selective focus effect in the image.

Again the Kiron 105 macro lens allows for an extreme close-up image with a lovely soft foreground from an out-of-focus bouquet of flowers. The fuchsia flowers pick up on the colour of the inside of the orchid.

The possibilities with indoor flower photography are endless. Challenge yourself to embrace new creative approaches, whether that means experimenting with some of the “art filters” in your camera or exploring the effects of changing your f-stops or playing with high-key effects.

For more on flower and garden photography, please check out my other posts:

Closeup and macro photography with Hutton

Flower photography in the garden

Ten tips for better garden photography

Orchid closeup taken with Lumix LX7 in macro mode

This image was taken with the point and shoot Lumix LX7 in macro mode. The results are excellent for a compact point and shoot camera and shows what can be done with these high-end enthusiast cameras.

Five tips to photograph flowers indoors by window light

  1. Bring your subject (flowers) as close to a window as possible, but preferably one that is getting indirect light on it. If you’re lucky enough to have a snow covering outside, your images can benefit from a lovely soft white light reflecting off the snow and and lighting your subject. Place a white reflector opposite the window to reflect some of the outdoor light back on the dark side of the subject to crate a more even light.

  2. Watch your backgrounds. If you have a busy background, simplify it by adding your own either be using a commercial background or, even better, common household items that complement your subject. In the image above, I used a soft pink cushion to create a simple, delicate background for the orchids. A towel, colored sheet or colored paper can all be used to add a background. Most importantly, have fun and experiment with different backgrounds.

  3. Experiment with different f-stops to create more or less depth of field in your images. Attaining a perfectly sharp image with a smaller f-stop (f11-f16) might be the original goal of the photograph, but once you have attained that sharp image, open up your lens and experiment a little. By placing other out-of-focus flowers in front of the lens and using wide-open apertures (F2.8) you can experiment with selective-focus effects.

  4. This is the perfect opportunity to experiment with the various “art filters” that come with today’s modern cameras. These filters may not be used often for serious photography, but shooting indoor flowers lends itself to being creative. The soft focus filter is a good place to start for flower photography, but check out other filters such as a high-key filter that you may not normally consider. In addition, most digital cameras have a double exposure setting where you can shoot an overall image of the flower juxtaposed with a closeup of the same flower. Feel free to experiment more with in-camera double exposures.

  5. This is also an opportunity to give your lenses and cameras a real workout. You may have a lovely little point-and-shoot camera that excels in macro mode. My Lumix LX7, for example, has a reputation for shooting excellent macro images from mere centimetres from the subject. This extreme closeup capabilities can be tricky to use out in the field, but under controlled conditions, moving in this close is much simpler. Many of today’ point and shoot cameras have excellent built-in closeup capabilities worth trying.

Final thoughts on indoor flower photography

It’s important to get out with your camera and photograph the simplicity of the winter garden, including our avian visitors. Snow simplifies our gardens and offers some outstanding minimalist opportunities. Try photographing your ornamental grasses protruding through the snow cover, black eyed Susan seed heads covered in snow or garden scenes after a fresh snowfall.

But, let’s face it, photographing in the heart of winter can be difficult.

That’s when we take our hobby indoors and push our creativity to its extreme limits. Exploring the art of indoor flower photography forces us to push our creative juices to new levels, while at the same time sharpening our photograph skills so that when spring begins to bloom we are ready to capture it in all its glory.


 
 

Author Profile: Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of the award-winning website Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and enjoys sharing his garden photography with readers.

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Front and backyard landscaping with rocks, gravel and mulch

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, rockin’ landscape

This large boulder creates a beautiful backdrop for fall’s stunning colour. It sits in our Japanese-inspired garden along with several other large boulders, pea gravel and large river rock.

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.

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.”
— Jeff Cox, garden writer

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.

Placing stones to look natural in the landscape

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?

Learning from nature’s rock placement

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 size river rocks. Once the larger rocks were in place, we began adding wheelbarrows full of river rock followed by shovel fulls of pea gravel to fill in any holes between rocks and add more texture to the vignette. Closer to the trees’ roots, we laid down a thick layer of natural shredded cedar bark.

The result is a completely maintenance free landscape that looks natural and makes walking down the path a lovely experience.

 
 

Author Profile: Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and shares his photography with readers.

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Falling in love with the Olympus 45mm F1.8 and MCON P02

The Olympus 45mm F1.8 teamed with the MCON P02 takes an already outstanding lens and makes it significantly better.

The Olympus 45mm F1.8 captures the fine detail and vivid colours of this front garden in fall with its exquisite grasses and vibrant hydrangeas.

How to maximize the Olympus 45mm F1.8 for macro with the P02

Fall is the perfect time to get out your camera and lenses and fall in love all over again, especially when it comes to macro or closeup photography. Combine the Olympus 45mm F1.8 with the Olympus P02 and it’s a love affair made in heaven.

That love affair may have roots in the wonderful colours of autumn, but it can just as easily extend to some of your finest cameras and lenses. The Olympus 45mm F1.8 is one of those lenses you’ll fall in love with over and over again.

I recently picked up a mint copy of the 45mm silver version for a fraction of its regular price and teamed it up with the magnificent MCON P02 to give me the ultimate walk around lens with impressive close focus capabilities.

This compact Olympus lens – now under the name OEM Systems – was first introduced to micro 4/3rd users in 2011. At that time, it was the fastest prime available on the micro 4/3 system.

Today, it is still easy to carry around, offers some of the sweetest bokeh of any lens, is very sharp and has fine, vivid colours.

It might have earned its reputation as a superb portrait lens, but it more than holds its own as an all-purpose lens, whether you are in your favourite woodlands, on the street or on vacation.

Maple Leaf up close with the MCON P02 close up lens on the Olympus 45mm F1.8.

The close up capabilities of the Olympus 45mm F1.8, when paired with the MCON P02 as seen here, is very impressive.

Slip the Olympus MCON P02 macro converter onto the front of the lens and you’ve got an impressive, fast, short telephoto and macro lens.

The Olympus MCON P02 closeup lens also works nicely with the Olympus 14-42 kit zoom lens that was used here to capture these orchids.

What better opportunity to run it through its paces than during the annual fall celebration of colour.

The Olympus 45mm F1.8 captures this lovely fall scene with its vivid colours.

There’s lots to like about the Olympus 45mm lens

Sure, it’s a fast lens that creates tack sharp images even in low-light situations, but that’s just the beginning of what makes the lens a must-have. Focus is both fast and very precise. Build quality is very good, and its 116 grams (0.26 lb) makes the lens easy to carry around at all times.

Video shooters will appreciate the near silent autofocus capabilities of the lens, which benefits from its MSC (Movie-Still-Compatible) technology.

Check out the Olympus official site for the best deals of the day.

What’s not to like?

If you want to get picky, there is the rather expensive lens hood sold as an accessory and the fact that the lens’s minimum focus distance stretches out to almost 20 inches (19.69 to be exact) or 0.50 m for those of us using metric. The result is a magnification factor of only 0.11.

There’s not much we can do about the cost of the lens hood except keep our eye open for a good used one.

The lens’s poor close-focusing capabilities is an easy fix. Add the MCON P02 converter to the front of the lens and the 45mm opens up a new world to users. But more on that a little later.

Fenceline shot wide open

This fence line image was shot with the Olympus 45mm wide open at F1.8. Sharpness is excellent with a nice soft out-of-focus background.

Olympus 45mm F1.8 in the woodlands and in the fields

Lens specs have their place, but until we take the lens out into the field, it’s hard to really appreciate the quality and value of the lens.

So I took the lens out for a morning of early fall color on the roads around my home recently.

I have always prefered a short telephoto approach for most of my fall images. I find the telephoto helps to focus in on the intimate details rather than show the all encompassing view of a wide angle lens.

Early fall in the open farm lands with the Olympus 45mm F1.8.

This early fall image of the open farm lands near our home was taken with the highly praised Olympus 45mm F1.8.

First impression of the Olympus 45mm

My first impressions of this lens were more than favourable.

Everything that has already been said about the lens proved true in the first few shots. Sharp even wide open, fast and effective focus, silent, great bokeh and lovely colour rendition.

And you don’t have to take my word for it.

Former Olympus ambassador and enthusiast Robin Wong states: “No matter what lenses I use on the street, I always fall back to this beautiful medium-telephoto focal length, and 45mm just fits my compositional vision almost perfectly.”

Fall in the woodland garden offers several opportunities to capture natural images like these Pagoda Dogwood berries waiting for the birds to finish them off. The medium telephoto lens helps capture the pleasing scene in a natural setting.

He goes on to say: “Being able to blur off the background is something I treasure, and the Olympus 45mm F1.8 does this very well, being a medium telephoto range as well as having a wide open aperture of F1.8. The rendering of the bokeh? Simply creamy and beautiful. Just what I needed to make some portrait shots “pop.”

Rob Trek, YouTuber and Olympus enthusiast, recommends photographers purchase the Olympus 45mm F1.8 as their first prime lens because it will give you “the best bang for the buck in terms of value…in terms of your creativity and your photography and the kinds of pictures you take.”

YouTuber Steven Heise says: “There are a lot of lenses that perform well, but then there are a small handful of lenses that come to the party ready to rock the house. This is one of those kinds of lenses.

“This is hands down one of the best budget portrait lenses you can buy for micro 4/3. When you take into consideration the image quality of this lens, the incredible sharpness, the color, the contrast and the quickness and accuracy of the autofocusing system, the answer just becomes abundantly clear.”

Holly portrait taken with Olympus 45mm F1.8 close to wide open.

My sweet dog Holly taken with the Olympus 45mm F1.8 close to wide open.

Peter Forsgard, a former Olympus ambassador based in Finland, describes the lens as “One of the best quality money ratio you can get on any M Zuiko lens. I think the 45mm is the one. It’s not very expensive, but the image quality is stunning.”

He calls it the “perfect lens for environmental portraits.”

Steve Huff, another Olympus enthusiast, had high praise for the lens in his review shortly after getting the lens in October 2011. He compared the 45mm F1.8 with the Olympus 12mm F/2 after declaring the 12mm the best micro 4/3 lens ever made. “After using this 45 1.8 for a few days I can say that this lens is equally as delicious. Yes, I said delicious! The IQ from this lens on the E-P3 is nothing short of astounding for the micro 4/3 format. Some of the best quality I have seen from any M4/3 camera/lens combo.”

Here are a few impressions of the lens from Olympus users gathered from forums around the internet.

• “The images are tack sharp, the colours warm and flattering, the focus is both quiet and fast, and the “Bokeh” which all the Olympus haters go on about is feathery soft.”

• “Perfect for portraits, it’s also great for giving a different perspective on landscapes and cityscapes…. Sharpness is the outstanding feature of this lens though. You notice it from the first shot you take. It makes you feel like a pro. Contrast and colour are so good that you’ll barely need to adjust your photos in Photoshop or the like…. The bottom line is that this is a near perfect and therefore essential lens for a bargain price.”

Birch clump with Northern Sea Oats.

I think it’s fair to say that in all my research into the 45mm F1.8, I struggled to find anyone critical of the lens.

Of course there is a reason for all this praise, and it stems from the fact that the lens is among the best in its class.

The short telephoto is ideal for everyday garden and nature photography. It’s probably not long enough to capture most wildlife including birds, small mammals and insects, especially since its minimum focus distance leaves a little to be desired.

But that’s where the Olympus MCON P02 macro converter steps into action.

Sea Oat grasses taken with the Olympus 45mm F1.8

One weakness of the Olympus 45mm F1.8 lens is its close focus capabilities. Add the Olympus MCON P02 and that problem is easily solved making it the perfect walk around lens. Oh, and just take a look at that creamy bokeh.

 

Olympus camera equipped with the P02 macro filter.

 

Close-up photography with the 45mm F1.8

Very few of us really need true macro, meaning 1:1 magnification. What most of us focus on is better described as close-up photography, which is magnification less than 1:1 or lifesize.

 

The MCON P02 screws on to the front of your lens to reduce the minimum focus distance of the lens.

 

By adding the Olympus MCON P02 filter to the Olympus 45mm F1.8 you get an outstanding close-focus performer that benefits from having a lovely creamy background.

The high-quality filter that screws on to the front of the lens is constructed in 1 group with 2 elements and weighs a mere 52g. It comes with quality front and rear lens caps and a step-up ring.

Use it wide open to explore creative selective focus effects like the purple Beautyberries below.

Or, use the lens’s inherent sharpness to create exquisitely finely detailed images like the Northern Sea Oat grasses above.

For more on close-up photography check out my post here.

The lens offers endless opportunities to be creative, including the ability to shoot selective focus images using the macro converter with a large aperature of f1.8.

Why the MCON P02 close-focusing lens instead of a true macro lens?

There are many reasons to go with the P02 over a true macro lens. First, there is the cost savings. You should be able to pick up a P02 for less than $100 and considerably less than that if you are lucky enough to find one on the used market.

Olympus camera with 45mm F1.8 and P02 converter on front of lens.

In comparison, a true macro lens will set you back 5X the cost of the P02 and add another lens to your camera bag. There is something freeing about using a single sweet little lens that can double as an exquisite macro lens.

To screw the filter to the front of the lens, a ring first needs to be removed from the front of the lens.

When used with the 45mm F1.8, the lens’s closest focusing distance is almost cut in half to approximately 24cm. The image below from the Olympus website shows the difference between the close focus capabilities of the lens with and without the P02.

For more on the MCON P02, check out the official Olympus site.

Oympus image showing the magnification of the P02 on the 45mm F1.8 lens.

This image from Olympus shows the close focus capabilities of the 45mm lens with the MCON P02.

MCON P02: A versatile addition in the palm of your hand

Don’t think for a minute that the P02 is made only for the 45mm. This little add-on filter is a versatile addition to your camera bag and fits nicely on the 14-42mm kit zoom as well as a number of other Olympus lenses. On the popular ED 14-42 F3.5-5.6 EZ the add-on lens turns the lens into a semi-macro lens with the shortest shooting distance of 18cm and the maximum image magnification of 0.38x (35mm equivalent: 0.76x). It comes with step-up rings to attach it to a 37mm filter diameter lens.

For a complete list, see chart below.

  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ

  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm F3.5-5.6II

  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm F3.5-5.6IIR

  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm F1.8
    Just add a step-up ring for use on the following lenses

  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm F1.8

  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm F1.8

  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm F2.0

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Front yard ideas: Embrace your garden style

Create a front garden that pleases you rather than your neighbours.

The Japanese-inspired garden in late fall blends seemlessly with the front woodland garden where the two adirondack chairs add a punch of colour and centre of focus in all four seasons.

Be bold not boring in your front garden

Front yards don’t have to be boring, but fear of being different often results in front yards conforming to every other yard on the street.

And that almost always leads to a street full of boring front yards. Typically, a sea of grass, small foundation garden beds and maybe a small single tree in the middle of the yard.

It’s much better to be bold, make a statement and create a front landscape that reflects a style that makes YOU happy rather than the neighbours.

In our rather small front yard, we have worked to create a very casual woodland garden in the main area leading with a Japanese-inspired woodland garden in another part of the front yard.

Adding interesting garden elements such as the Adirondack chairs, bird bath and ceramic “Fish in the Garden” creates points of interest that do not over power the garden plants.

In this “small front garden” all grass has been removed. Instead, there is a total of nine trees, a variety of ground covers including ferns, pachysandra, epimediums, moss, creeping phlox, foamflower and bloodroot, just to name a few. It also has several drifts of black-eyed-susans and ornamental grasses big and small, as well as many more native plants, several massive boulders, a dry river bed, two bird baths and two very prominent yellow Adirondack chairs on a small flagstone patio.

Yes, that’s a lot to pack into a smallish front yard, but it’s an example of what is possible once you remove the grass and open up your vision to a front yard that does not conform to what most homeowners consider acceptable. My immediate neighbour also removed all of their front grass and created an oasis of native, non-native plants, trees and shrubs that, together, create an exceptional habitat for a host of wildlife from mammals to reptiles, from a variety of birds to pollinators too numerous to name here.

Unfortunately, we are the minority on a street of orphaned trees growing in a sea of never ending lawns and boring foundation plantings. And, this is in an area surrounded by conservation lands and massive natural forests.

Time to rethink our front landscapes

I recognize, however, that our front woodland garden landscape design might not be for everyone. Maybe a less aggressive approach that includes some grass and sweeping gardens with a variety of tidy perennials, might suit you better. Maybe a more contemporary garden made up primarily of evergreens is something that would appeal to you more.

To enhance the overall appeal of your front yard, here are five landscaping ideas that will help transform your outdoor space into a more welcoming one.

  1. Create a Welcoming Pathway: A well-designed pathway leading to your front door not only adds visual interest but also guides visitors to your home. Consider using natural stone pavers or colourful tiles to create a unique and inviting pathway.

  2. Incorporate Colourful Flower Beds: Add vibrancy and charm to your front yard by planting colourful flower beds. Choose a variety of flowers that bloom at different times of the year to ensure year-round beauty. Be sure to incorporate native plants to attract local wildlife and promote biodiversity.

  3. Install Outdoor Lighting: Softly illuminate your front yard with strategically placed outdoor lighting. Not only does it enhance the safety and security of your home, but it also adds a warm and inviting ambiance. Use path lights to highlight the pathway and accent lights to showcase architectural features or focal points. Don’t use bright lights that disrupt the lives of animals and insects that depend on darkness to survive.

  4. Add a Water Feature: Incorporating a water feature, such as a small fountain or a pond, can create a soothing and tranquil atmosphere in your front yard. The sound of running water adds a sense of serenity and can mask unwanted noise from the street.

  5. Utilize Vertical Space: Make the most of limited space by utilizing vertical elements. Install trellises or arbors and grow climbing plants. This not only adds visual interest but also creates privacy and shade.

This professional garden design (below) created for a Pacific Northwest garden, (see full story here) is a perfect example of what can be done when a bold approach is taken.

A landscape design or a middle-size front garden shows intensive planting including several trees, shrubs and plantings. Notice the lack of grass in the plan.

Try designing around a focal point in the garden

Once you embrace your style with courage and commitment, try to settle on a focal point in your garden.

The focus of our front yard are actually the two very yellow Adirondack chairs that, more than anything, make a statement that this is meant to be a casual place – almost our cottage in the city.

I like to think that a woodland garden, by its very nature, is a casual unpretentious landscape that conveys a message that the people who live here care about the environment, wildlife and native plants more than impressing others, including the neighbours.

More on the Environmental Benefits of a Woodland Garden.

A dry river bed and creeping phlox combine for a colourful spring display.

A Natural Approach

Allowing the creeping phlox to flow over the large boulders creates a natural feel in the front garden rather than a traditional over-manicured front garden.

It is also a front yard that is not wild and out-of-control and possibly seen as an eyesore on a street of very, very traditional front landscapes.

Our front garden is also in constant change – from the native plants in the main garden, to the annuals that fill our two window boxes.

Birds make nests in the trees, visit the bird baths on a regular basis and devour the fruit of our native serviceberry tree in early summer. Deer visit the garden to sample the plants and even the local foxes often use the area to hunt.

Our front garden in late fall showing the Japanese-inspired garden with large boulders on the left, together with the middle canopy Japanese maples, grasses black-eyed-susans and cottage-style adirondack chairs.

It may not, however, be a front yard that appeals to everyone.

So, let’s take a look at a variety of front landscapes that lie between our grassless woodland garden and a traditional front yard.

A few different examples of tiny garden design styles.

More front yard ideas: The tiny front yard

Whether it’s a cottage garden, a contemporary garden or something in between, the important thing is to embrace your style and move forward.

If you are short of space, embrace that vibe.

• Remove the grass

• Use paving or mulch to cover the entire space

• Consider using containers to grow your favourite plants

• Create one centre of interest – a bistro table and two small chairs or a small water fountain for the birds.

• Don’t be afraid to use at least a few large-leaved plants like hosta, elephant ears or a large fern to create visual interest.

• Try to keep the space simple and use natural elements as much as possible.

• The goal is not to make the garden pretty by using too much colour or unnatural materials. Bright white quartz stone rarely looks right in a garden, but pea gravel or river rock can work well. Better yet, large moss-covered boulders can be a perfect statement piece for even a tiny garden.

One of the most common situations I am asked about is what to do with a very small inner-city front garden with an existing mature tree where grass struggles to grow. The key to success here and in most difficult situations is to work with, rather than against, what nature is offering you.

In a tiny garden

My suggestion: Remove all the grass. Bring in some large boulders (not mid-size rocks) and bury them in the landscape. Please don’t let them lay on top of the soil. Boulders need to be dug in so that at least one-third is under the ground. This gives the impression that the boulders are rising out of the ground rather than placed on top of it.

Add some native ground covers, or mulch the area heavily with a pea gravel or bark mulch. Include a simple flagstone pathway, a bird bath – maybe one carved out of one of the boulders – and a small tree or large multi-stemmed shrub (maybe a serviceberry) that is trimmed up like a small multi-stemmed tree. The bird bath could be replaced over time with a bubbling rock or natural looking fountain. The moving water will help attract more birds and other wildlife.

A selection of larger garden designs using islands to create interest and variety.

Larger front yard covered in turf grass

A more typical surburban front yard offers more choice and more challenges.

Removing all the grass might not be an option or even a desired result.

The question to ask yourself is whether it is worth your time and effort to care for the grass, including lugging the lawn mower and other instruments of destruction from the back yard to the front yard on a weekly basis. If you plan to remove the grass, it might be best to do it over the course of several years rather than all at once.

By creating ever expanding garden islands in your existing turf, you can slowly migrate away from turf entirely, or just leave strips of grass that are easily mown with a single pass.

My suggestion: Consider a five year plan where most of the grass is slowly replaced by large garden islands. Individual islands can serve different purposes and allow you to experiment with different plants and even styles.

One island could be set up to attract birds with fruiting shrubs and an under-story tree like a Flowering Dogwood. Add some native purple coneflowers and black-eyed-susans to provide late-summer food sources for birds. Supplement these sources with annual sunflowers to add some whimsy and provide more food and habitat for birds. A bird bath and small bird feeder is a nice addition.

Another island might focus on plants that thrive in acidic soil. Once you have amended the soil to acidify it, you can begin to plant hydrangeas, blueberries, and other acid-loving native woodland plants that can be more easily grown together rather than trying to combine them with non-acid loving plants. Mulch the acidified soil with pine needles to enhance the soil and keep the plants healthy.

In another island you may want to turn your attention to edibles. Plant your favourite herbs, one or two tomato plants, your favourite garden vegetables and maybe a favourite fruiting tree like a peach or even an orange or lemon tree if you are in the warmer growing zones.

If you like the cottage/meadow look, a garden island allows you to create that look in a smaller scale rather than trying to manage a massive meadow garden that can easily get out of control. Grow all your favourite plants, but grow them in a manageable-sized garden where you can focus your energy into creating a wild but still-in-control cottage garden. More on meadow gardening here: Create a mini meadow; The making of a large meadow

The above collage (bottom right) shows a large garden island made entirely of evergreens. This is perfect to create winter interest as well as provide year round habitat for wildlife.

In conclusion: A front garden for your enjoyment

In the end, it’s important to first create a front garden that pleases you. If you can, keep in mind that your garden should not look so out of place in the neighbourhood that you are going to draw too much negative attention. That can be difficult if you are in a very traditionally minded neighbourhood. In that case it might be wise to go all out in the backyard, while you take a slightly tamer approach in the front yard.

I have read about so many homeowners trying to do the right thing only to be forced to cut down their gardens because neighbours or home owner’s associations choose to continue living in the 1950s.

If you find yourself in this situation, create a garden that pleases you most but maintains a enough of a traditional garden appearance that it does not attract too much attention.

If you are in a more progressive area, or in one that is far from your neighbours, have some fun. Go bold and create a garden for you, your local wildlife and the natural environment.

You won’t regret it.

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How to get the Moody Green look in your images

The moody green theme has become extremely popular in today’s social media apps. Creating that vision in your own garden images begins by building a Lightroom preset that helps you create the images.

Monarch butterfly on sunflower

This dark, moody image of a monarch on sunflower is a good example of how, with proper post processing, an average image can be transformed into something more memorable that you would be happy to call your own.

 
Butterfly on sunflower

Original image

The original image shows the typical greens and colours in the monarch.

 

Dark-Green look is perfect for garden photography

Garden photography offers an opportunity to capture beautiful images as well as give your cameras, lenses and accessories a real workout. The problem many photographers have is coming up with new ideas to take their garden photography to another level.

Creating high-key painterly images with your garden photographs (see images below) is certainly one way to add an artistic impression to your photography, but so too is doing the opposite and going dark and moody. (see above image)

In this post, we are going to explore tips on how to create this moody effect with our existing garden images, including revealing the Lightroom settings I use to create these dark green, moody images.

The camera you use to achieve these images can be as simple as your phone’s camera or a favourite point-and-shoot. For tips and reviews on my favourite cameras for garden photography, check out the following posts: Pentax K5, FujiX10, Pentax Q, Canon Powershot Elph, Panasonic Lumix, Olympus E-10 or Olympus PEN series of cameras.

Photography programs, however, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, even free programs like Gimp and Krita become integral to creating these memorable garden images.

Late fall and winter is also the ideal time to cozy up to your computer and experiment with some of your existing images.

I often use these digital post processing programs to create painterly images of my favourite flower and bird images. For more on how I create these images, check out my posts here: Creating Painterly Images from photographs, Digital images of hummingbirds.



This high-key painterly image is an example of how you can turn your favourite photographs into beautiful painterly images using programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop.

This painterly image is an example of what you can achieve using post processing on one of your favourite photographs.

Lantern with flowers

This painterly image of a typical backyard scene is an example of how you can transform you backyard photography into works of art.

Most of these processes involve creating high-key images of birds in winter or flower images. These results can be beautiful in their own right, but a growing trend in photography is creating a dark and moody feel in the images that often revolves around the greens contained in the image. This involves converting your vibrant spring and summer greens into dark, moody greyed-down greens while maintaining the other colours in the image.

I don’t consider myself an expert in post processing images, but I recognize that being able to create memorable images – whether they are fall scenes, portraits or garden images – requires some familiarization with these photography post processing computer programs.

Mastering basic techniques can transform your images from standard photographs into impressive works of art or simply bring out the best in your photography.

Below are just a small sampling of my Moody Green images I created using my Lightroom preset.

Goldfinch on sunflower

This image shows a goldfinch on sunflower that is post processed using my moody green preset in Lightroom.

This image of Black-eyed Susans and Blue Lobelia was taken with a vintage Auto 110 lens on the Pentax Q and then transformed with my Lightroom preset that darkens the bright greens but allows the other colours to appear more saturated.

Obedient plant with bird bath pre-processed with in moody green preset.

Notice how the moody-green preset transforms the greens in the image while leaving the magenta colours in the obedient plants.

Create your own Moody-Green preset in Lightroom

So, how do we transform these images from average to memorable moody green garden photographs?

While similar effects can be created in Photoshop and other photo post processing programs, I simply use an older version of Lightroom to create the effect.

Lightroom presets are usually just a good starting point

Anyone who uses Lightroom presets knows that they are usually nothing more than a very good starting point.

Instead, you’ll likely need to tweak each individual image to get the desired results. Sometimes that involves decreasing the exposure, raising the blacks, playing with the shadow sliders or working with the HSL (hue, saturation and luminence) sliders to perfect the colours in the image.

The main focus of the dark-green moody look is to grey-down or add more black to the greens in the image. This is done by desaturating the greens while leaving most of the other colours intact to some degree.

Many photographers sell their favourite presets

You can purchase a moody-green preset from many photographers who offer them for sale on-line usually on their personal websites. All of these presets would likely give you slightly different, but similar results. By tweaking your finished presets, you can create more presets with slightly different looks that might work better with another type of image.

Once the original preset is tweaked, ensure that you save it under a different name. I have created a number of presets to give me different results from cinematic effects to high-key pastel images.

Rather than try to sell my moody green preset, I offer it here for readers to experiment and create on their own.

Here are my preset settings for Moody Green images

The following are my settings to create moody-green images with Lightroom 4. More up-to-date versions of Lightroom will give you finer control of the sliders, but the end result should be similar.

Feel free to copy these levels to create your own moody-green preset. Remember, most images will still need tweaking to achieve your desired results. Also, be warned that some images will not work at all with this and other presets.

Lightroom moody green preset

Getting started with creating your own Moody-Green preset starts here. Notice the right side panel that the highlights are turned down, shadows are way up…

Creating presets in Lightroom

By following the above settings, you should be able to create the moody look that is so popular on social media these days.

Once you have created an image you are satisfied with, simply save the Lightroom preset under Develop/new preset.

By going through your existing images and picking out photographs that you think might work with the Moody- Green theme, you can test it out with the click of your mouse.

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Fields of gold: How to create ideal wildlife habitat

Creating a habitat for wildlife can be as simple as a flower border extending down the side of a driveway or across the back of your yard.

Goldfinch on sunflower

This image shows a goldfinch feasting on a sunflower in a long naturalized border of sunflowers, asters, coneflowers, goldenrod and other native and non-native flowers.

How to create a naturalized flower border for wildlife habitat

The combination of dozens and dozens of colourful Goldfinches and monarch butterflies feeding on hundreds of sunflowers and a mix of other native and non-native plantings was simply too much to pass by.

As a gardener and photographer, these are situations begging us to explore further. The massive border stretching along a roadway leading into an old cemetery is obviously not natural. Although parts of it were planted, it had been left to naturalize on its own resulting in the creation of a wonderful wildlife habitat that would not be difficult – except for its sheer size – to duplicate in our own gardens

This is not a typical precious garden border we see in so many urban landscapes.

Creating a naturalized flower border with a combination of native and non-native flowers, with an eye on providing seeds for birds and other wildlife, is the key to creating ideal wildlife habitat.

(All the images on this post are from the flower border wildlife habitat.)

A goldfinch perched on a sunflower among other wildflowers and a colourful cosmos.

How to create wildlife habitat

These plantings grow together creating a wall of foliage where birds, red squirrels, mice, insects and who knows what else can seek refuge in a natural wildlife habitat.

What it’s not is a single coneflower planted in a sea of mulch, or a grouping of three sunflowers held erect with poles and supports.

There are no individual plants in this naturalized border.

This is habitat – real habitat. Habitat that birds, butterflies and a host of other wildlife flock to for food and cover.

A small portion of the naturalized border that could be duplicated in our gardens on a small scale.

If you ever wanted to create outstanding wildlife habitat, this is the way to do it. Take notes, take pictures and work to create something similar in your own backyard.

The border measures at least the length of a football field, yet it is only maybe 10-12 feet deep running along the side of a chain link fence.

In late summer and fall, it is truly a magnificent entrance to what many would consider a solemn place.

But here, it works as a celebration of life if there ever was one!

Goldfinch eating sunflower seeds in naturalized border

Goldfinch on sunflower at naturalized wildflower border.

Lessons learned from the ultimate wildlife habitat

Besides its obvious wildlife benefits, the naturalized border’s greatest gift is an opportunity to learn from its magnificence.

We can explore it, study it and learn from it with the idea of creating a smaller version that offers the same benefits to our backyard wildlife.

This is actually a form of mini meadow created from what would have been a wasted strip of grass running alongside a roadway leading into a cemetery. (See posts: Making a mini meadow, and the Making of a Meadow.

It’s really a shame that more cemeteries, golf courses and other public areas don’t adopt a similar approach to wasted spaces where grass seems to be the only option in their minds.

A goldfinch tucked in among the sunflowers growing in a naturalized garden.

The naturalized border provides us with an opportunity to record – even if it’s only in our minds – the vision of a more or less naturalized border incorporating sunflowers, coneflowers, goldenrod, cosmos and a host of other native and non-native flowers.

I love using natural areas as inspiration for our garden. Check out my link for more inspiration on learning from what Mother Nature offers.

Back to our naturalized border and wildlife habitat.

I stumbled upon the magnificent naturalized flower border while out photographing Great Blue Herons and White Egrets at a nearby pond.

Goldfinch and sunflowers

It’s not always necessary to move in extremely close to your subject. Don’t be afraid to step back and create a more environmental image showing the bird’s surroundings, especially when they are this beautiful.

After an afternoon with the herons and egrets, (see images below) the flower border literally stopped me in my tracks and forced me to drive over for a closer look.

Young red squirrel eating from sunflower.

Goldfinches were not the only ones feasting on the abundance of sunflowers.

As I drove up to it, the long, naturalistic border of sunflowers, coneflowers, New England asters, goldenrod and cosmos, – just to name a few – slowly revealed its true magnificence. Birds and more birds feeding voraciously on the sunflowers, coneflowers and other seed heads that filled the border.

If you ever wanted to see nature at work, it was here in great abundance.

Goldfinches to be more exact. Sure, there were a few chickadees, sparrows and even a couple of hummingbirds that joined in on the feast, but for the most part it was primarily goldfinches. I am sure other birds join in on the action over the course of a day but the overwhelming number of goldfinches was hard to ignore.

Monarch butterflies also visited the plants regularly as they prepared for their long journey south for the winter.

Monarch butterfly on sunflower

It was a spectacular scene and one I knew I had to return to the very next day.

And that I did, accompanied by an arsenal of cameras and long lenses. Truth be told, I actually returned for a second day because the action along the border was too good to ignore.

It was also the perfect opportunity to try out various cameras and lenses for my camera reviews on this site.

Cameras and lenses used to document the wildlife habitat border

While my Pentax K5 and 300mm F4.5 * lens documented most of the action, I have to admit that the Olympus EM-10 equipped with the 40-150mm kits lens resulted in many of my favourite images. Pentax’s X5 Bridge camera with its built-in 26x optical zoom, offering 22-580mm equivalent (35mm) held it’s own with the goldfinches but was by far the most difficult to use. Once I set the the camera to multiple burst mode, my success rate improved.

The overall results during the two-day shoot were well worth the effort.

More images of the naturalized border here.

A monarch lands on a chocolate coloured sunflower with its complementary colours.

Photographers: Don’t pass up a perfect opportunity

The first quick visit to the border following the afternoon at the pond photographing egrets and herons, was enough to tell me that I stumbled across something very special with a lot of opportunity.


If you are thinking about creating your own wildlife habitat in your backyard, Prairie Up, An Introduction to Natural Garden Design, is a good starting point. In this book, Benjamin Vogt shares his expertise with prairie plants in a richly photographed guide aimed at gardeners and homeowners. His step-by-step blueprints point readers to plant communities that not only support wildlife and please the eye but forces us to rethink traditional planting and maintenance.


The fact that no other photographers were there capturing the incredible scene told me that maybe no-one else noticed the potential opportunity.

Turns out I wasn’t alone, however. On my visit the next day, it was obvious that this scene did not go unnoticed. A number of other photographers also recognized the potential of the naturalized flower bed and were already at work when I pulled up.

Although most of the images show a soft green background, I was able to position the camera in such a way to create a blue sky background in this image.

It’s important that we photographers don’t pass up good opportunities to capture great images, especially when they are presented to us so readily.

Whether it is in our own gardens, or at a nearby cemetery, or public flower garden, these opportunities are simply too good to miss.

That may mean visiting the location over and over again looking for a variety of photographs from close-ups to more environmental images.

Also, situations like this is the perfect opportunity to experiment with different lenses and cameras. Try different vantage points. Get down low to use the sky as a background, or move around to get a more pleasing background. Change your depth of field to create soft backgrounds.

A wide angle view of a naturalized border designed to create wildlife habitat at its finest. Notice that the plants grow together rather than as individual plants.

Don’t be afraid to even pull out your wide angle lenses (see image above) to document the entire scene.

The wide angle images are perfect for obtaining an overview of the of the border and then use it to plan your wild habitat border in your own yard.

Goldfinch on sunflower

In this image, the soft out of focus flowers creates a pleasing background that highlights the Goldfinch.

Wild border is perfect place to experiment with your cameras

Try not to simply set the camera lens and shoot away all day with a single setting. By adjusting your f-stop, you can create dramatically different images using a combination of depth of field, different focal lengths and even a variety of cameras.

The flower border that originally caught my eye was hard to miss from the road leading to the pond where I was heading to photograph wading birds. But, it was easy to admire and pass by if you were too focused on getting to your original destination.

It’s always a good idea to take the time to investigate these types of opportunities.

For more images from my two-day shoot, be sure to check out my photo gallery here.

Below are a couple of images from the nearby pond. While they are good enough images of a heron and egret, the location failed to provide the variety that the sunflower border offered.

In my mind, time was better spent at the naturalized border.

 

Great blue Heron at the nearby pond. Photographed with Pentax 300 f4.5 and 1.4 converter.

 
 

White egret at the pond. Photographed with Pentax 300 f4.5 and 1.4 converter.

 

While the majority of the photographers in the area were focused on the big birds, I preferred to turn my cameras on the smaller birds among the sunflowers.

Two goldfinches work the sunflowers in the natural border.

Two goldfinches work the sunflowers in the naturalized border.

Although the birds were skittish to some degree, their frenzied feeding allowed a closer approach than normal allowing me to get good frame-filling images at the long end of the zoom.

Use your car as a blind whenever possible

As the day passed on, all the other photographers left leaving me alone with the birds. This presented me with the opportunity to use my car as a moving photographic blind. By driving slowly along the road, I was able to get even closer to the birds and butterflies that showed little fear of the car.

sunflowers and goldenrod in naturalized border

Sunflowers and goldenrod grows together in the natural border helping to create the ideal wildlife habitat.

Best of both worlds: A flower border for wildlife photography

Stumbling upon this beautiful, naturalized flower border and wildlife habitat was, to me, the perfect ending to the summer. While many of the flowers had lost their lustre and it was obvious the border would soon be little more than a graveyard of dying flower stalks, it was also full of life.

The naturalized flower border

This image show a small part of the naturalized flower border. It’s not hard to see how much of a great wildlife habitat it makes for all types of wildlife.

In death, the dying flowers gave life to the birds, the bees the butterflies and the many insects, reptiles and mammals that no doubt called the flower border home.

It is only fitting that it all takes place at the front entrance to a magnificent cemetery.

For me, it provided an opportunity to combine my two greatest loves in life – gardening for wildlife and photography.

It also provided an opportunity to learn, experiment and be creative without travelling hundreds or thousands of miles in search of photographic opportunities.

The location of this wildlife habitat was a short drive from my home, and I was able to get a sneak peak at how I can recreate that same wildlife habitat right at home in my own garden.

Next year I hope to get similar images without even leaving my backyard.

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Embracing fall: Ideas for gardeners both indoors and out

Fall is the time we transition from the heat of summer to the warming colours of autumn both in the garden and in the home. Check out the ideas for both the home and the garden.

Embracing the warmth of fall colours begins in the garden but there’s no reason we can’t celebrate the season indoors too.

Fall by far is my favourite time of year. The garden takes on its tapestries of colour, and cool misty mornings make the coffee in hand so much more appreciated.

It’s also a time of transition – from shorts and T-shirts to sweaters; from flowers to grasses and bright berries.

In the home and on the patio there are changes happening too. It’s a good time to put away the bright colours and adopt the earthy, warm colours of fall. It’s also the time to begin thinking about gift giving and get a head start on the holidays.

We’ve put together some helpful suggestions to assist you in the transition and offer some great gift-giving ideas.

 

This fun door mat from Anthropologie is a fun and very seasonal way to welcome visitors to your home.

 

Let’s start at the front door. Nothing says welcome to our homes like a fun door mat, especially one that celebrates fall. This Oh My Gourd coconut fiber doormat can welcome visitors at the front or back door. It’s exclusive to Anthropologie, and is a great starting point in the transition from summer to fall.

 

These lovely brass numbers will add a touch of class to your front entry. Also from Anthropologie.

 

Anthropologie also features these elegant brass and black house numbers that are a welcome addition to any front entryway. These are only available online but can be picked up at a nearby store to reduce shipping costs. They are sold individually and come with their own mounting hardware.

There is nothing more synonymous with fall than the captivating smell of pumpkin spice and these candles bring it indoors or out. Check out a wide selection from Anthropologie.

Staying on the Gourd theme, Anthropologie also offers a number of pumkin themed candles in exquisite containers that will warm up any room – indoor or outdoor – that you place them in.

Fall, with its cooler temperatures, is the time we enjoy being outside enjoying the migrating birds, the butterflies and the evolving warmth and texture that begins taking over the woodland.

A barbecue with family and friends is the perfect weekend activity.

Fall is the time to get out and do some entertaining in the backyard. These colourful acrylic glasses are the perfect companion.

These Lucia Acrylic Goblet Wine Glasses are perfect for the deck, patio or under a pergola as the rain falls all around us. They come in a variety of colours from mint to cobalt, turquoise and a lovely hot pink.

If you are lucky enough to have a sheltered outdoor space, extending the entertaining season well into fall offers numerous possibilities.

A small woodburning firepit or gas fire table can bring us outside through fall and even well into winter.

 

The Sedona fire bowl from Woodland Direct adds warmth and a touch of class to your outdoor space.

 

WoodlandDirect specializes in fire pits, fire bowls, outdoor fireplaces and the like and offer an incredible variety of choices and styles to suit even the most picky of buyers.

The Sedona Copper Fire Bowl, above is a good example of the exquisite detail available from WoodlandDirect.

 

The popular Solo Stoves are available at Walmart.

 

Less expensive options are also available from less specialized stores. Walmart even carry the popular, contemporary styled Solo Stoves (above) that are small enough to take with you to the cottage or even camping, but still have a place in your backyard.

For a full look at the firepits Walmart offers, including many that are on sale click here.

Of course fall is the time to get into the garden and muck about digging out, transplanting and clearing areas in preparation for next year. Muck boots make a variety of garden boots and shoes to tackle even the dirtiest of jobs with a little style. Check out their full line of women-, men- and kid-approved boots for the garden or everyday use.

For those lucky enough to have a covered garden area, fall is the perfect time to transition from summer colours into the warm tones associated with autumn. This scene from Anthropologie focuses on just that with an assortment of warm colours and textures. One of the highlights is the Abstract Pillar Compote planters featured on the table and below.

 
 

Decorating this space is always fun and adding a modern touch seems to work well in these spaces. These Abstract Pillar Compote planters are the perfect size to act as a focal point a gathering place. Use them for plants, but don’t be afraid to use your imagination. A bird bath, even a contemporary bird feeder to welcome the chickadees into your more personal space.

Imagine them full of large pine cones or simply covered in a rich layer of exquisite moss or planted with the simple elegance of a maindenhair fern.

 

The Boston fern is from Macy’s outstanding collection of natural looking plants.

 

Finally, if you need plants around you all winter, but can’t seem to keep them alive indoors, Macy’s offers an outstanding collection of extremely natural looking plants. These are not your craft store collections that neither look natural, nor stand the test of time.

Macy’s Department Store collection is both extensive and exquisite in their realism. The above Boston fern is just one example of the detail of these plants. Place them on your enclosed patio or porch (recommending for indoor use only) and bring them indoors to enjoy them throughout the winter. No muss, no fuss.

The Boston fern, for example features deep green fern leaves extending outwards and created from the finest materials. The natural looking stone planter is included.

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Arbour creates vertical planting space, privacy and shade

Arbours can provide vertical garden space in gardens both big and small. You don’t have to grow roses, consider planting native vines or annual vines such as Morning Glories.

Consider planting native vines to provide nesting habitat and food for wildlife

A rose arbour has been at least ten years overdue in our backyard.

I’ve never really been a fan of roses, but after a neighbourhood cat started hanging around a birdhouse in our yard, I decided a rose would help provide a safe place for the birds to raise their young. Eventually, however, the birdhouse fell apart and I removed the cedar pole leaving the rose on its own.

Fast forward to this spring when my wife and I decided it was time to add an arbour to give our old white iceberg rose the support it’s been craving for years.

These arbours are examples of the different ones available with some ideas on how you can use them in your garden decor.

It came in a tidy box. I pulled out the sections of black iron and built it in the comfort of our family room before moving it out into the garden. Four spikes – included in the box – were easily hammered into the ground to provide support and, before I knew it. our black iron arbour was taking up a prominent spot in the woodland garden.

I tied the rose canes to the arbour, being careful to gently bend the rose over the arbour, and voila.

If I knew it was going to be that easy, I would have added an arbour years ago.

 
Backyard arbour in woodland garden

Our backyard arbour provides support for our mature climbing white rose and creates a gateway into an area of the woodland garden. A garden bench nearby affords the perfect spot to relax and can be seen as a destination through the arbour and along the walkway.

 

I was surprised how the allure and practicality of a rose arbour helped elevate our outdoor space, adding a little romance to our surroundings, as well as provide numerous benefits beyond its aesthetic appeal.

Birds now have a safe place to land, and the thorny rose on the arbour provides an ideal spot for birds to safely build their nests tucked between the canes.

A nearby garden bench provides a quiet spot just to sit, admire the roses and the birds that feel totally safe among the branches and thorns. More on the Garden Bench as art.

Arbour creates focal point and perfect gateway to the garden

A rose arbour also serves as a stunning focal point, adding elegance and charm to any garden or patio.

In our case, it works as a gateway to an area of our garden that was often ignored because it lacked a more formal entrance. In fact, I had even built a small pathway through the area that now leads directly to our rose arbour making it look like it’s been there forever.

Its simple design and graceful arches create a sense of grandeur, instantly transforming an ordinary outdoor area into a more picturesque retreat enticing visitors to stroll along the pathway leading to the arbour.

A quick look on the internet and it’s clear that there are a host of styles to choose from. Of particular note are the arbours that create a small room like the one below.

 
Bird cage arbour is ideal for privacy

This Bird Cage arbour from Costway is the perfect way to create a small private retreat. Grow some roses or vines up and over the arches and it becomes the perfect place to relax with your morning coffee or an evening glass of wine with friends.

 

This birdcage arbour from Costway provides the perfect secluded spot especially if it is covered in vines and/or roses.

 

Amish-made bird feeder is built to last and perform in your woodland garden

The Amish crafted large gazebo vinyl birdfeeder is the perfect addition to any backyard. Include it as a finishing touch topping feeder for your bird feeding pole, or use it as a stand alone feeder on a separate pole. If you use it as a stand alone feeder, be sure to include a squirrel baffle to keep squirrels and racoons of the feeder. This handmade and handcrafted feeder includes a clear plastic, built-in seed storage container that can hold up to four pounds of bird seed.

This makes it an ideal feeder to fill-and-forget for a week or two while, at the same time, protecting the seed from the elements and providing our feathered friends with a comfortable and sheltered place to feed. The fact that the feeder is made from high quality vinyl, plastic and cedar ensures it is a long-lasting, easy-to-clean and maintain feeder.

 

An arbour is a perfect addition for a small yard

Whether you have a small yard or a sprawling woodland garden, an arbour can effortlessly elevate the aesthetics of your outdoor space.

There are so many different styles that can be used to fit any garden – from a romantic more formal design, to a rustic arbour design featuring metal branch-like supports that fit in beautifully in any woodland or natural garden.

Now that we’ve explored how a rose arbour can enhance an outdoor space, let’s explore the enchanting world of creating a romantic ambiance with blooming roses. Imagine strolling through your garden, surrounded by vibrant and fragrant roses in full bloom.

The sight and scent of these beautiful flowers can instantly transform any outdoor area into a captivating sanctuary.

Whether you’re planning a romantic dinner under the stars or simply seeking a serene spot to unwind, a rose arbour adorned with blooming roses sets the perfect stage for unforgettable moments with friends and loved ones.

Forget the roses, consider native vines for wildlife

Let’s not limit ourselves to roses, however.

An arbour can simply be a convenient way to add more vertical gardening space to what otherwise might be lacking in many of our garden spaces, especially in a smaller garden or a new one that lacks tall trees.

 

This Tree of Life Arbour is the perfect addition to a backyard woodland garden with it’s intricate details adding an artistic touch to the backyard landscape decor.

 

A perfect addition to a woodland or naturalized garden is this “Tree of Life” arbour that is, in itself, a beautiful work of garden art. Add a native vine growing up and over the arbour and you have the ideal entry into a back woodland garden.

Consider growing native vines on the arbour and even up through the rose to provide both a food source as well as more nesting space for birds.

Virginia creeper or wild grape are great choices, but so too are annual vines like Morning Glory to attract hummingbirds. Clematis and honeysuckle are also favourites because they tend to be less aggressive and their flowers can attract pollinators and hummingbirds. The possibilities are endless.

Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. terniflora) is a great fall performer in our area where it can be a little aggressive, but puts out a mass of beautiful tiny white flowers for the bees and other pollinators at a time when many flowering vines and shrubs have finished blooming.

There is a huge variety of garden arbours available to suit everyone’s needs. Here are just a few examples of garden arbours from Amazon to consider.

 

This twig-style garden arbour is ideal as garden decor in a woodland garden. For more check out this link.

 

The simplicity of the garden arbour with its metal branch-like look, (above) works perfectly in a woodland-style garden.

Arbour is ideal way to create privacy and shade

Now that we’ve explored how an arbour can enhance your outdoor space and create a certain romanticism in the garden, let’s delve into the practical benefits it offers beyond aesthetics.

One of the key advantages of a rose arbour is the shade it can provide especially in a yard that lacks large trees.

As the sun shines down on your garden, the arbour’s structure casts a cool and refreshing shadow, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors even on hot summer days.

Additionally, the dense foliage on the arbour can be used to create a natural privacy screen, shielding you from prying eyes and creating a secluded area in your own backyard.

Moreover, the sturdy framework of an arbour serves as excellent support for climbing plants, such as vines and ivy, giving them the opportunity to flourish and provide not only a dense shade but plenty of privacy.

So, not only does an arbour add charm and allure to a garden, it also offers practical benefits that make it a valuable addition to any outdoor setting.

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Focus on vintage Pentax 110 lenses on the Pentax Q

The Pentax Auto 110 lenses are capable of some impressive results, especially if you use one of the hacks that help sharpen the lenses and create a greater depth of field.

The 110 lenses also fit micro four thirds and fujifilm cameras

No one could blame you if you thought the vintage Pentax Auto 110 lenses were made for the more modern Pentax Q line of cameras.

It’s just that 46 years ago, no-one would have dreamed that a miniature digital camera would even exist let alone continue to be so popular today.

 
Pentax 18mm 110 vintage lens garden image

This garden image, taken with the vintage 18mm lens from the former Pentax Auto 110 system, shows the capabilities of these vintage lenses especially if complementary post processing is used to bring out the best in these old lenses. In this image, I created a moody feeling that I think works well with the image.

 

These exquisite, tiny, almost miniature 110 lenses could not be more perfect for the Pentax Q line of cameras unless, of course, they offered full auto focus capabilities. However, even the Pentax “Toy” lenses, – the wide angle, telephoto and fisheye lenses – made especially for the Q series – do not offer auto focus capabilities.

So, the 18mm, 24mm, 50mm and the outstanding 70mm Pentax 110 lenses are almost too good to be true for Pentax Q users. All that is needed is a simple, inexpensive adapter to convert the lens. These adapters to convert the 110 lenses are also available for Fuji FX X-Mount camera X-PRO2 X-E1 X-E2 X-A2 X-M1 X-T3 X-S10 etc.

Grasses and dogwood

Grasses and dogwood with 18mm lens.

The build quality of these vintage lenses is also outstanding. Although the first three are made of plastic, it’s not your everyday plastic found in many of today’s inexpensive lenses.

These are extremely solid lenses that feature weighted almost perfectly silky focus.

• Be sure to check out my full post on using the 07 Pentax Mount Shield Lens on the Pentax Q.

The Pentax Auto 110 from 46 years ago beside the more modern Pentax Q. Notice how the 110 film size is similar to the Pentax Q sensor.

Can Pentax 110 lenses be used on other camera systems?

Just by adding another simple and inexpensive adapter, these vintage lenses can even be used with Micro 4/3rd cameras like those available from Olympus and Panasonic brands.

In fact, the sensors in the Micro 4\3rd cameras fit the rear element of these lenses almost perfectly, meaning there is no lens vignetting.

When used with these camera systems, the crop factor is only 2X meaning the 18mm becomes the equivalent of a 36mm f2.8 lens, the 24mm becomes a 48mm, the 50mm becomes a 100mm and the 70mm becomes a 140mm.

Pentax Q with 110 lenses and standard #1 Q lens.

The image shows the four Auto 110 lenses and the #01 standard Q lens for comparison. The 50mm 110 lens is on the camera along with the adapter.

What are the crop factors of 110 lenses on the Pentax Q cameras?

If you are wondering how these lenses translate in the world of traditional 35mm on the Pentax Q series, consider the 5.35 times crop factor of the original Pentax Q and you are left with the following: 18mm = 96mm, 24mm = 128mm, 50mm = 267mm and finally the 70mm = 374mm. The same lenses on the Q7 or Q-S1 – with a larger sensor and a crop factor of 4.65 – results in the following: 18mm = 83mm, 24mm = 111mm, 50mm = 232mm, and finally 70mm = 325mm. These numbers are rounded off, but you get the idea.



All of these lenses are manual focus, fixed f2.8 lenses that do not transmit any information to or from the camera. Just set your Pentax Q on Program, Aperture or shutter priority and let it choose the proper exposure. The over and under compensation button will correct for any unusual lighting conditions.

In addition, with the proper firmware, the camera’s in-body stabilization will work on these lenses after you program the lens’s focal length into camera.

70mm vintage lens from Pentax 110 system

This image shows the resolving power of these lenses.

Pentax 110 70mm is a real gem

The one lens in the group that really stands out to me is the 70mm.

I am drawn to telephoto lenses anyway, so the all-metal 70mm F2.8 Pentax 110 lens that is a made-in-Japan masterpiece is by far my favourite if I need the reach. The 70mm actually translates into almost a 400mm lens (374 mm in 35mm equivalent) on the original Pentax Q.

 

Pentax’s exquisite, all-metal 70mm f2.8 lens from the former 110 Auto system mounted on the original Pentax Q.

 

The slightly swirly bokeh on the lens can be beautiful and the silky smooth focus reminds me of the old Takumars.

All this in a package that could easily slip into your coat pocket and weighs in at a mere 240 grams (Pentax Q is 80 grams, plus the 70mm 160 grams = 240 grams). This lens has 6 elements in 5 groups and even uses the traditional Pentax 49 mm filters – perfect for standard circular polarizers and even high-quality close-up lenses.

This Blue Jay was taken with the 70mm lens at f2.8. The bird is sharp enough but the background bokeh with the lens wide open is very pleasing.

Speaking of filters. I was lucky enough to get filters mounted on the entire set I purchased on-line, but if you are looking for your own, here is a list of the filters you will require for these lenses: 18mm takes a 30.5mm filter, 24mm takes a 25.5mm filter, 50mm takes a 37.5mm and the 70mm takes a 49mm filter. Of course with step up rings you can use larger filters such as standard polarizers.

How about image quality?

The build quality, aesthetics and fun factor means little if the image quality falls short.

Some users would argue that the image quality of these lenses does fall far too short to take them serious, but others would say that, with a brilliant little hack, the image quality on these lenses can be very good to excellent.

This image of Joe Pye Weed in a natural woodland was photographed with the 24mm with the rubber washer used to create the effect of an approximately F8 lens.

Simple hack helps sharpen focus

What’s the hack that turns these soft, fixed f2.8 lenses into sharp, high-quality glass?

It involves a $1.00 rubber washer and about one minute of your time. That’s it.

If that’s too much trouble, you can always pick up a box of ring binder reinforcements, use a black sharpie to darken them, and simply stick them on the back of the lens’s plastic surround. That will turn the lenses into about an F8 lens with the accompanying greater depth of field and a significant increase in sharpness.

 
 
 

These images show the rubber washer inside the Q’s adapter: first image is from the back of the adapter closest to the sensor. Second image shows the rubber washer just behind where the lens connects to the adapter.

 

Although the ring binder reinforcements get a lot of praise on-line, the rubber washer works very well and you could create two or three with different hole sizes to give you more access to different f-stops.

 

Ring binder reinforcement on the back of one of the 110 lenses.

 

The rubber washer is simply pushed inside the adapter and sits in a concave position from the camera mount and sensor. From the back of the lens, the rubber washer sits comfortably in a convex position. (see images above).

If you want to shoot the lenses wide open, the rubber washer is extremely easy to remove from the adapter and then replaced in just a few seconds.

e bee with pollen taken with Pentax 110 Auto 18mm lens with rubber washer hack

Anyone who thinks these lenses are not capable of achieving sharp focus might be surprised with this shot from the 18mm Auto 110 lens that clearly shows the pollen on and around the Bumble bee.

Using these lenses successfully requires the photographer to slow down.

On the above image and the one below of the bees, I hand held the camera and shot several images to get a sharp one.

However, if you are shooting landscapes, woodlands or your garden flowers, put the camera on a tripod, turn off the anti shake option, use the 2 or 4 times built-in magnifier and focus peaking on the Q to focus precisely on the LCD and use the 2 second delay timer to get the most sharpness out of these lenses.

You will be rewarded for your efforts.

Bee on Blue Lobelia taken with Pentax 18mm 110 Auto lens.

Bumble bee on Blue Lobelia hand held and taken with 18mm lens with rubber washer hack.

Is lens sharpness over rated?

When it comes to lenses, there are those who consider only pin-sharp lenses as acceptable. Others, however, look for qualities in the lenses that give them a look and feel that works with their style of photography whether the lenses are tack sharp or not.

Let’s face it, most images are only ever seen these days on social media where sharpness is already compromised through the social media platform.

I consider these 110 lenses as somewhere in the middle. They are capable of creating very sharp images but the combination of having to manually focus them on the back of the LCD panel and being more than 40 years of age, makes getting tack sharp images difficult sometimes. This difficulty is only increased if you are shooting the lenses wide open at f2.8.

Image of dogwood shot with 18mm lens.

Even with a tripod, sharp images are not the easiest to obtain, especially since so many of us have been spoiled with autofocus lenses.

But, if you use the rubber washer or ring binder reinforcements these lenses really can shine.

The 110 lenses are fun, they fit the Q cameras aesthetic and are usually inexpensive if you can purchase them as a package.

With a little work you can create more than acceptable results, and with a little creativity, you can create masterpieces.

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Hummingbird images and digital creations

Capturing and creating memorable images of hummingbirds can be an extremely rewarding experience.

How to create memorable images of hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are the perfect models for backyard photographers.

Not only are they regular visitors to our gardens, their destinations are often very predictable, including the flowers they are most likely to go to and even where they enjoy perching for periods of time.

Despite all of this, their quick movements can make getting good images difficult.

For more on hummingbirds in the garden, check out the following posts:

How to help Hummingbirds during migration

Five tips to attract hummingbirds

Create a hummingbird hangout in your yard

Where do hummingbirds go in winter

The following are a combination of photographs and digital paintings created from photographs that I have taken or created over the past few years in our garden.

Hummingbird at Cuphea

This image of beautiful hummingbird working cuphea flowers shows how capturing the birds in soft light can result in a lovely image. The colourful flowers and soft background help to make the hummingbird standout in the image.

Trying to capture images of hummingbirds requires patience.

Setting the shutter speed fast enough to stop any movement is an important first step.

A good starting point is a shutter speed of at least 500th of a second, but that will not stop the movement of the wings. You will need a much faster shutter speed to stop the wing movement – something in the range of 1200 or higher. Unfortunately, increasing the shutter speed usually means your ISO needs to be up extremely high. This, of course, can lead to grainy or noisy images.

Digital image of hummingbird with poem

Digital image of hummingbird with D.H. Lawrence poem.

Using flash is an excellent way not only to help add some pop to the image, but also stop any motion. The flash also adds a highlight in the bird’s eye, which helps to give the bird some life.

Hummingbird at Cardinal flowers

A hummingbird is photographed from up close at a Cardinal Flower. Notice the iredescent feathers on the bird’s upper body.

Hummer at bee balm

This is one of the few images where I used a flash to capture the hummingbird. Using a flash helps add pop to the image by lighting the bird and flowers up nicely while creating a darker background. By balancing the flash with the background light, I was able to still keep colour in the background rather than having a completely black background.

Planting flowers – both annual and perennial – that hummingbirds are particularly attracted to provides excellent opportunities to capture these tiny birds.

Cuphea is an excellent annual plant to add to your garden. Use it in the landscape, in a container or even a hanging basket to attract hummingbirds.

Although the above image looks like it may have been photographed using a flash, it was actually taken later in the morning in direct sunlight when the plant was in full sunshine but the background was still in shade.

Hummingbird at cardinal flower.

This was one of my first images of a hummingbird in flight.

A long telephoto lens was in most of these images including the above image where I used a 300mm F4.5 lens (420mm equivalent). This is an ideal lens to photograph these tiny birds from a respectable distance.

Hummingbird with tranluscent wings

This image is interesting because it shows the translucent wings of the hummingbird in flight.

Although photographers strive to capture hummingbirds in their natural environments, including a feeder can result in some interesting images. In the hummingbird image below, I tried to capture both the feeder and the hummingbird swing in the same image.

Hummingbird at feeder with perch

Capturing both the feeder and the hummingbird perch in the same image tells a story about our backyard hummingbird haven where I have tried to create a corner in the yard specifically to attract and photograph these spunky little birds.

Hummingbird at feeder.

Capturing a hummingbird at a feeder may not be the best image, but it’s good way to begin capturing images of these tiny birds. Hummingbirds also don’t mind a close approach if they get to know and trust you, so these type of images are possible using a simple point and shoot camera with a longer lens.

Capturing hummingbirds with smaller point-and-shoot cameras, such as those made by Canon, Panasonic’s Lumix LX line of cameras, or their ZS line of high-end point and shoot cameras and Fuji can be challenging, but with a little extra effort and patience, it’s possible to get some nice environmental images such as the ones below. With a little patience and practise you can learn to get the most out of your compact camera.

Hummingbird on perch

This hummingbird posed on this perch for a period of time allowing me to capture it with a simple point-and-shoot camera.

Hummingbird and salvia

Hummingbirds will often show aggressive territorial displays especially later in the season.

Hummingbird at pruple Proven Winners salvia
Male Hummingbird at salvia

This image shows a male hummingbird at an annual salvia plant.

Hummingbird at salvia

Hummingbird working the salvia. The 300mm f4.5 lens provides a beautifully soft background to the image.

Hummingbird shows off its tail feathers while on its perch.

Catching a hummingbird in an unusual pose adds a little more interest to the image.

This image shows how hummingbirds and orioles both often share nectar at feeders.

A hummingbird eyes a cardinal flower on approach.

Hummingbirds can’t resist salvia and will almost always spend time working the flowers when they visit the garden.

One of my favourite pastimes, especially in winter, is to take some of my favourite photographs and use them to create artistic impressions of the images. Below are just a few of my digital paintings which are created using a number of different computer programs as well as a tablet that allows you to paint with a pencil tool similar to a hand held paintbrush. Click on the link to learn more about turning photographs into digital works of art.

A digital painting of a Hummingbird created using a number of software programs as well as a drawing tablet. This is the same image as the one at the top of the post that included the Hummingbird poem by D.H. Lawrence.

In this digital painting, I combined a poem “The Hummingbird” by D.H. Lawrence with the digital image from an earlier photograph to create a memorable piece of art.

Another digital painting of a hummingbird from one of my original photographs.

Creating digital paintings from original photographs can be an extremely rewarding experience, especially over the winter months, when snow makes photographing birds more difficult.

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How to make nectar (sugar water) for hummingbirds

Creating your own hummingbird nectar is easy, but there are steps you can take to make it a healthy alternative to natural nectar sources.

A natural food source such as this bee balm is always the most ideal nectar for hummingbirds but a combination of natural and commercial feeders is the ideal way to attract the tiny birds to our gardens.

Aim for a combination of natural and commercial hummingbird feeders

Hummingbirds are truly remarkable creatures and providing them with homemade nectar (sugar water) in our feeders is a great way to watch them up close. By making homemade nectar, we can attract hummingbirds to our yards in early spring on their migration routes and then use native flowers to keep them in our backyards all summer, where they will raise their young.

Once we have encouraged them to stay and raise their families, there is a good chance they will return year after year.

Their vibrant colours, tiny size, and incredible flying abilities, have captured the fascination of gardeners and nature enthusiasts all over the world.

Attracting them to our backyards by providing feeding stations is very different from feeding other birds in our backyard.

My digital painting of a hummingbird at a cardinal flower

One of my many digital paintings of a hummingbird eating at a Cardinal flower. Go here for more images including digital paintings.

Check out this post for more hummingbird images and digital creations.

It’s always best to provide natural nectar by growing many of the native and non-native plants that hummingbirds feed on. Cardinal flowers, columbine, cuphea, fuschia, trumpet vine, bee balm and salvia are just a few of the flowers hummingbirds are attracted to in our gardens. These vibrant blooms will not only provide a natural food source for hummingbirds but also add beauty to your garden.

For more on attracting hummingbirds to your garden, check out my earlier posts: Cardinal flower, Best plants to attract hummingbirds, How to photograph hummingbirds.

For more on hummingbirds in the garden, check out the following posts:

How to help Hummingbirds during migration

Five tips to attract hummingbirds

Create a hummingbird hangout in your yard

Where do hummingbirds go in winter

A commercial feeder provides a never ending source of nectar for the hummingbirds. Be sure to use a 4:1 ration of water to sugar. Cuphea is seen below the feeder to provide natural nectar choices for the birds.

In our backyard, I have even created a “hummingbird haven” that is aimed at focusing our hummers on a corner of the yard where there are several feeders – both natural and commercial feeders – as well as a water feature and perches where the birds can rest. For more, go to my recent post on the hummingbird haven.

How to make nectar for hummingbirds

Making nectar to feed hummingbirds is not difficult, but there are steps you can take to ensure it is a healthy choice for these little birds.

Tips on making your own Hummingbird nectar

Checklist on how to prepare your own Hummingbird nectar.

First, let’s dive deeper into understanding their favourite food – nectar, and how we can make it at home.

Hummingbird nectar is a simple mixture of sugar and water that closely mimics the natural nectar found in flowers. The key ingredient is white granulated sugar, as it provides the necessary energy for hummingbirds.

Avoid using honey, brown sugar, or artificial sweeteners, because they can be harmful to these tiny birds.

This image shows a hummingbird working a small feeder placed beside a convenient perch to give the birds an opportunity to rest.

What is the ratio of sugar to water

The ratio for making hummingbird nectar is important to ensure the right balance of sweetness.

The recommended ratio is four parts water to one part sugar.

For example, you can use one cup of sugar with four cups of water. This ratio closely matches the sugar concentration found in many flower nectars and provides the optimal nutrition for hummingbirds.

It’s crucial to dissolve the sugar completely in hot water before cooling the mixture. This helps prevent fermentation and ensures the nectar stays fresh for longer. Remember to always use plain, unchlorinated water, as chlorine can be harmful to hummingbirds. Boiling the water helps to remove any chlorine that might be present in the tap water.

By understanding the ingredients and ratios for hummingbird nectar, you'll be able to create a delicious and nutritious treat that will attract these beautiful birds to your garden.

Now that we know the ingredients and ratios for hummingbird nectar, let’s dive into a step-by-step guide on how to make it at home.

First, gather your supplies: a clean container, white granulated sugar, and plain, unchlorinated water.

Start by boiling four cups of water. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, carefully measure out one cup of sugar. Slowly add the sugar to the boiling water, stirring continuously until it completely dissolves.

This hot mixture helps prevent fermentation and ensures the nectar stays fresh for longer.

Next, allow the nectar to cool completely before pouring it into your hummingbird feeder.

It’s important to never use hot nectar in your feeder, as it can harm the delicate beaks of hummingbirds. Once the nectar has cooled, carefully fill your feeder with the homemade nectar.

Our hummingbird corner has been set up to encourage hummingbirds into a corner of the yard where we can better watch and photograph them.

Make extra nectar to always have a supply ready

I like to double up on the recipe and store it in the fridge to either top up my feeders or refill them BEFORE the nectar begins to ferment. In addition, it is not uncommon for insects to squeeze into the feeders and quickly contaminate the nectar. By having a ready supply in the refrigerator, keeping the nectar fresh is much easier.

Remember to clean your feeder thoroughly before refilling to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Place the feeder in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight, and enjoy watching the hummingbirds flock to your garden.

By following this simple step-by-step guide, you’ll be able to create a delicious and nutritious treat for these enchanting creatures.

Now that you know how to make homemade hummingbird nectar, let’s explore some tips for attracting and caring for these delightful creatures.

Looking to add a hummingbird feeder to your garden? Here are some of the best feeders available at Amazon.

Hummingbirds have a high metabolism and need to consume large amounts of nectar daily.

Regularly cleaning your feeders prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and ensures the health of the hummingbirds.

It’s also important to place your feeders in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight. This helps to keep the nectar cool and prevents it from spoiling too quickly.

Lastly, consider providing perches or small branches near your feeders. Hummingbirds often rest between feeding flights and having perches nearby allows them to conserve energy.

By implementing these tips, you'll create an inviting environment that will attract and care for hummingbirds, bringing joy and wonder to your backyard.

A digital painting of a hummingbird at a cardinal flower.

A little background on hummingbirds

If you are just embarking on feeding hummingbirds, or want more information about these tiny birds, here is some background that might help you on your journey.

Did you know that hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world? They weigh less than a nickel and can beat their wings up to 80 times per second.

These tiny powerhouses can fly in any direction, even upside down, and reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. Their unique ability to hover in mid-air and move with such agility is simply awe-inspiring.

Hummingbirds are also known for their iridescent feathers, which can shimmer and change colour depending on the angle of light. This makes them appear like living jewels, adding to their allure.

Additionally, hummingbirds have an incredibly high metabolism and need to consume large amounts of nectar to fuel their energy. They play a crucial role in pollination, as they transfer pollen from flower to flower while feeding.

So, not only are they beautiful to observe, but they also contribute to the health and diversity of our ecosystems. Now that we have a glimpse into the fascinating world of hummingbirds, let's dive deeper into understanding their favorite food - nectar, and how we can make it at home to attract these delightful creatures.

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Lumix LX7: Perfection in a tiny, full-featured package

Panasonic’s Lumix LX7 is the ideal camera for the advanced photographer looking for a premium camera in a tiny package.

The Panasonic Lumix LX7 captured the fine details of this scene at a local restaurant. The incredible small size of the LX7 made it easy to slip into my pocket enabling me to take it along without it getting in the way.

First impressions of this tiny Leica-equivalent workhorse

It’s difficult to imagine Panasonic jamming more features into its tiny LX line of enthusiast cameras without it looking more like a full-sized digital SLR. But they have, or should I say, they did way back in 2012 when they released the DMC-LX7 to succeed the highly acclaimed LX5.

The combination of having manual control f-stops at my fingertips (just like the old days) on the extremely fast and superb Leica lens, as well as image dimension control, put this camera at the top of my must-have list. The traditional style aperture ring covers F1.4 to F8, with detents at every third stop. These features built into the lens makes it much easier to set both the aperture and picture dimension without having to dig deep into the camera’s menus. There is a separate switch on the side of the lens that sets the focus from autofocus, manual and autofocus macro.

In addition, the LX7’s mostly metal construction gives the camera the proper heft reminding you that this is a serious camera. A redesigned grip makes the camera comfortable in my hand, leaving the most important controls within easy reach.

Click on the link to see a complete list of Panasonic’s Point and Shoot cameras.

For more information on the LX10, click on the link to go to the Panasonic Lumix site where you can purchase the camera directly from Panasonic on a monthly payment plan.

Add to that the camera’s close-up capabilities and it becomes an ideal camera to take out into the garden to capture flowers and insects. In fact, the DMC-LX7’s macro setting allows the photographer to focus on a subject that is only 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to 24mm wide-angle.

That’s impressive.

 

The Panasonic Lumix LX7, shown here with a high quality TT Artisan optical viewfinder, is a nice combination for street photography, capturing quick snapshots of kids in action as well as garden images (see below.)

 
 

The Leica lens showing both the aperture control and the image dimension control rings.

 

What about that impressive Leica lens?

It’s a 4.7-17.7mm, F1.4 - F2.3 lens, or the equivalent of a 24-90mm in the world of 35mm. Now, imagine what it would cost you to purchase an extremely fast Leica 24-90mm lens, and you’ll realize just how good of a deal this camera is if you are looking to create outstanding images with a pocket-sized camera.

The lens alone is worth the price of admission.

 

The rear view of the Panasonic Lumix LX7.

 

Why should we care that the lens is fast?

A fast lens allows us to do two things: first it helps to get images in low light situations, and second, it allows us to capture images with more pleasing out-of-focus background. A soft background is generally more pleasant, especially when you are taking portraits or focusing on a butterfly or flower in your garden.

Most point-and-shoot style cameras force you to either dig into the menus on the back of the camera to change the f-stop, or use a wheel on the back of the camera. The LX7’s placement of the aperture ring on the lens – where most of us old timers are used to it – makes it both convenient and nostalgic for anyone who used a 35mm film camera in the past.

I can honestly say I have not been disappointed in the least.

Single red filter mode on Panasonic LX7

One of the many filter modes available on the Panasonic LX7 that creates a B&W image extracting only the objects in red. Other colours can be chosen to extract in the image. A nice feature that is good to get familiar with to create some interesting images.

Why buy the Panasonic Lumix LX7 over the LX5?

The LX7’s sensor and image processor have both been improved over the LX5, resulting in less noise at high sensitivities.

Other new features on the Lumix LX7 include the aforementioned manual aperture ring, higher resolution LCD display, a built-in neutral density filter, 11 fps continuous shooting, HDR capabilities, and the ability to record movies at 1080/60p (with stereo sound).

Panasonic has also built 70MB of memory into the DMC-LX7. The LX5 offered only 40MB of built-in memory. The 70MB will hold five RAW or sixteen JPEGs at the highest quality setting – perfect for those times you either run out of room on your card or forget to insert it before going out for a day of photography. It will at least allow you to capture those special moments until you can get your card back into the camera.

The image shows a garden vignette taken with the Panasonic Lumix LX7 featuring the impressive Leica 24-90mm (35mm equivalent) lens.

The extremely fast lens together with the camera’s impressive optical image stabilization (OIS) helps you get images in even the lowest light conditions.

These additional features are added to an already impressive array of features that have made their way into the LX-series over the years, resulting in a very capable camera that can serve the photo enthusiast as well as the professional looking for a second camera to carry in their pockets.

So far, in my small sample-size usage of the DMC-LX6 camera, I have found little to dislike.

Lumix LX7 weaknesses worth considering

It would have been great if Panasonic had made it possible to be able to screw filters on to the front of the lens – especially a polarizing filter. However, there is an ingenious accessory available for the camera that makes it possible to add filters to the front of the camera.

I am also a big fan of having built-in viewfinders on my cameras. LX7 users have to rely on the large LCD screen on the back of the camera, unless they are willing to put out a few hundred dollars to purchase Panasonic’s impressive EV