Slim Pickings

Sometimes when we’re out with our cameras the world around us doesn’t cooperate, and only offers us slim pickings in terms of subject matter. Such was the case last Saturday. It was a very quiet morning for bird photography at Hendrie Valley. So… I left early and headed off to the Royal Botanical Gardens. Rather than being greeted by a plethora of flower image opportunities… slim pickings awaited me.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4, 1/60, ISO-320, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 250 mm

I had already plugged in my car and made the hike into the indoor floral display area, so I decided to make the best of the situation during the hour or so I had available.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/160, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 290 mm

I’ve visited the Royal Botanical Gardens many times over the years, and I’ve never experienced so few available blossoms to photograph. As I looked around the various planting areas the potential title for this posting became immediately obvious… it was “slim pickings” indeed!

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/60, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 285 mm

In some of the planting areas all of the blossoms were well past their prime. I did my best to find a shooting angle that I could use to make the half dead flowers look at least marginally appealing.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4, 1/60, ISO-250, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 300 mm

In some of the flower beds I was greeted by only a single blossom. Luckily I had brought my stool in with me as some of the shooting angles really needed my old body to be well supported while shooting handheld macro images.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/60, ISO-800, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 275 mm

As photographers, these types of situations where the image opportunities are very limited, serve to test our resolve and challenge our creativity.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/160, ISO-200, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 290 mm

I had already decided that I was going to create all of my handheld flower images that morning using my E-M1X’s in-camera focus stacking technology. This would allow me to keep my aperture in a range between f/2.8 and f/5. I had also decided that I would not crop any of my photographs created during my visit.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/60, ISO-640, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 270 mm

The articulating rear screen on my E-M1X got a real workout during my visit as a good number of the available blossoms were at ground level. In some cases I had my E-M1X almost on the ground and pointing up at individual blossoms.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/160, ISO-320, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 270 mm

As I worked with individual subject plants and blossoms it was important to not only find a good shooting angle… but also to use the available light as best I could.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/60, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 285 mm

I used my typical in-camera focus stacking settings… 10 frames with a focus differential of 3 or 4. As regular readers will know, I usually look for high contrast lighting, with good separation between a subject blossom and the background. Dark backgrounds are always preferred.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/160, ISO-64, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 395 mm

Since my image opportunities were so limited I often couldn’t find the exact shooting parameters that I prefer. So, I needed to really think about how I was going to work with my compositions in post before I captured my images.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/60, ISO-1250, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 275 mm

As it turned out, adapting to the slim pickings situation resulted in the creation of some of my favourite flower images.

As photographers it is important for us to remember that we have more opportunities for personal growth and skills enhancement when shooting in less-than-ideal conditions.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/60, ISO-80, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 300 mm

I’ve never understood why some folks only go out with their camera gear under ideal conditions. From my perspective there’s little challenge and growth opportunity in that approach. We’re all different of course… and we bring our individual perspectives to our craft.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/60, ISO-500, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 285 mm

I love challenging myself, especially when conditions are difficult. That’s when the problem solving aspects of photography jump to the fore… and we have a chance to really test our mettle. The last photograph featured in this article is one of my all-time favourite flower images… and really made my slim pickings visit worthwhile.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/100, ISO-250, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 305 mm

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from out-of-camera jpeg files using my standard approach in post.  Images were resized for web use. I used my typical handheld in-camera focus stacking settings: 10 frames with a focus differential of 3 or 4. I used a single, small auto-focus point. This is the 1,207 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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