Tag Archive for: Equipment

Phone photography: it’s not all about fancy gear

One of the most frequent comments I receive is “I wish I could take photographs like yours but I only use my phone”. This week I thought I’d share a few photos that I’ve taken on my iPhone in the last couple of years, to prove that you don’t always need a fancy camera to achieve reasonable results.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my camera – my husband has joked before that I should perhaps be married to it rather than him! That said, I don’t always have it to hand when I should and sometimes I prefer not to take it out. I go with the grand notion of actually experiencing wildlife rather than focusing on the photograph I want to achieve. However, if I find something wonderful I can’t help but want to document it. There are other occasions too, particularly when I’m doing ecology surveys and have my arms full of clipboards and kit, that taking a camera is simply too awkward.

The first few photos are from just such an occasion, starting with a wonderful and memorable day doing reptile translocations in East London. Having collected lots of lovely Common Lizards, I took them to a suitable release site a short way away. They had cooled down during the journey though so, when I came to release them, they just wanted to hang out on my hand where it was warmer!


phone photograph of lizards


Next up, one from a reptile survey; I lifted a mat to find a beautiful pair of mating slow worms. These gorgeous legless lizards have to be one of my favourite creatures – I absolutely love them. My dear Mum by contrast has a fear of snakes and while she knows they aren’t really snakes, she still can’t bring herself to get too close. In her own words, she says that if she did my job her toes would be curled up inside her wellies!




On a similar survey elsewhere, a Ruddy Darter basked on one of the mats trying to soak up some warmth from the sun. I ought to point out here that I don’t use any gadgets or gizmos with my phone and all these images are as I took them, no crop, no filter, no processing.




Under another mat on a translocation site, I came across a lovely little Wood Mouse. It was particularly fond of its dry spot under the mat and I met it twice daily for a couple of months as I did my rounds looking for lizards. Needless to say it got quite used to me and allowed for some wonderful encounters and photographic opportunities. This is my favourite image of several that I took.




Of course, I also photograph flowers and other things I find when I’m out and about. I have done so on surveys too but this next image of a Dog Rose is from a walk I took near home. To my mind there is no reason that you can’t capture almost as much detail in macro photos on a phone as with a camera, it’s a case of a little patience and making sure that you focus properly. This image is proof of that as every crinkle in the petals and each stamen in the centre is clear.




Sometimes I have my camera with me as well but want to share what I’ve found instantly. This was the case with these wonderful lichen covered branches in a tiny patch of temperate rain forest on the east coast of Scotland. Comparing the resulting images on the computer, with the exception of resolution, there is very little difference between the two.




If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you’ll remember one from a couple of weeks ago about fungi. No surprises then that I photograph them with my phone occasionally too. This image was one I almost literally stumbled across while getting out of the car having parked on the side of the road near a small garden centre. I couldn’t ignore the perfect condition of the toadstools in their leafy blanket.




Of course, I don’t stick to wildlife subjects with my phone as much as with my camera. I like to capture moments with friends, family, pets, and my garden too. I particularly like this shot of some crocuses that popped up on the edge of the drive last year. The clump was so thick that I was able to almost fill the frame completely with flowers and for me, as one of the first flowers to bloom each year, the image symbolises spring in all its glory which always brings a smile to my face.




The last thing that I wanted to touch on was landscape shots. Generally speaking I tend to snap the odd image when on holiday to show the area I’m in, and then I sometimes send a postcard home using a handy app called Touchnote. This next image is a perfect example. I took lots of similar shots on my camera but Mont Aiguille, in the Vercors massif in France, is just an astounding piece of geology, and coupled with a field of poppies it was too good not to take a quick photo.




Similarly, while out on an evening walk this summer I snapped this shot of a church spire reflected in the river. It perfectly captures the balmy conditions and lovely location. I didn’t have my camera on that occasion but did return later in the week to get some shots there.




Lastly, my most common subject for phone photography has to be sunsets – if you follow me on Twitter you may well have noticed! Like most people, I’m a sucker for a colourful sky and while I do see rather a lot of sunrises too, I’m usually a little more awake to photograph in the evenings! I’m lucky that here in Cambridgeshire we have fewer hills and big skies giving rise to some fantastic sunsets. This last image is one of a great many that I’ve shared from the end of my garden.




Next week I have another wonderful guest blog lined up, this time from friend and colleague, Ashley Grove. Watch this space as he will be sharing some of his favourite autumnal photographs and tips about how he achieved them. His work is truly stunning so I know it will be a good one!








Demystifying Macro kit

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is what kit I use for my macro images, so this week I thought I’d explain and share a few tips along the way.



The main piece of equipment that will impact your macro photography is what lens you use. I have a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM which is fantastic and has a close focus distance of 30cm  making it particularly good for flowers and smaller, less active invertebrates.

Of course there are a great number of lenses available on the market which are brilliant for macro subjects. If your budget won’t stretch as far as a new lens though, there are other options too.

Extension tubes are the simplest in my view. These are basically hollow tubes which fit between your lens and camera body, that move the lens further from the sensor to enable closer focusing and therefore greater magnification. You can get a range of sizes and they usually come in a set which you can either use individually or stacked as necessary.

I’ve also tried a close-up filter which works in a similar way to you or I wearing glasses by altering the focusing distance of a normal lens. Some are available with a thread to fit directly to your existing lens, but I use a Cokin filter system which enables me to use my filters across all my lenses by attaching them to the lens with an adapter.

Many people will argue that a tripod is essential for macro photography. While there are instances in which I will use mine, I prefer hand-holding for my images. I find that it gives me greater flexibility and this is particularly true if you’re chasing around after a butterfly for example! I tend to use a tripod for lower light situations where I can’t get away with a higher shutter speed.

Many will also state that a flash is essential and it’s true that I do use my Speedlite 430EXII the most for macro work but even so I don’t use it that often. When I do, I make sure that I have a diffuser for it though, as I don’t like harsh lighting on natural subjects if I can help it.  What I don’t have is a fancy ring-flash or any elaborate lighting rigs – they simply aren’t necessary for what I’m trying to achieve.

The same can be said for sunlight too; on a bright day many macro subjects can lose colour and clarity in your images if under direct sunlight. To counteract this, I use a pop-up white diffuser or translucent reflector which softens the light and allows for a more vibrant shot.

I also use a reflector to help direct more light onto my subject, particularly flowers. I have a double sided gold/silver pop-up reflector which fits in a pocket so even if I’m just out for a walk with my camera and don’t want to take the full kit, I have a tool to give my images a little extra oomph! The images below show the effect of the reflector on a houseplant. The left-hand shot is without any reflector, the centre image shows the silver side of the reflector and the right-hand panel shows the effect of the gold side.




Finally, I’ll share with you a trick that I learnt from a lady in her eighties who also loves macro photography: carry a couple of clothes pegs! This is a slightly more unusual one but it really can pay off. Think of moments when you want to hold a piece of grass or other foliage out of the way to get a clear view of your subject; when you want to move a flower into a slightly different position to create a cleaner background; to enable you to get a better view of an invertebrate on the other side of it or to take advantage of the light. Clothes pegs offer an opportunity to do this without damaging the plant in question. They can also be used to hold a reflector in position and leave your hands free to take the photo. I tend to stick to bright colours so I don’t lose them and have one which is a soft grip peg for delicate subjects.

That’s the lot, I don’t use any other equipment but I’m pretty happy with the results I achieve. Here’s a recent macro image to remind you of the sort of photograph I end up with. If you have any further questions about this post or any of my other gear feel free to get in touch!