One of my favorite places to hang out is Lakes Park in Ft. Myers, Florida. I have posted on this location before and it never disappoints. If you have never been, it’s quite the place. They have two lakes on the property (hence the name) there is an extensive botanical garden, community garden, paved walkways, massive board walk and nature trail. There’s even a little train ride that you can take around the property. The price for admission is a whopping $1 per hour up to $5 a day. I pay the five bucks and enjoy myself, and the best part is that their parking meters take plastic since I rarely carry cash. It’s the small things that do it for me at this point in life!
A good friend of mine called me up and said it was time to go shooting. She’s new to some of the venues in Florida so I like to take folks down here when I get a chance. Granted, it’s summer, hot and humid. But, I get cabin fever if I stay inside too long. We decided to head out early to help beat some of the sweltering heat. Since I have been to this location before, I had the opportunity to know the layout and what there is to shoot. The night before I like to pack my camera bag and make sure everything is there so when I get on location, I don’t have a fit that my battery is still in the charger at the house! She wanted to work with macro for the day. It worked out as we both have the same lens, Nikon 105mm macro lens. I LOVE this lens, it’s sharp and goes down to f/2.8 if I want to use it in low light. However, for most macro subjects, depending on how close I am to the subject, I’m usually up around f/32 to get enough depth of field. If you’re trying to get into macro there are other ways such as using a reversing ring on a prime lens, extension tubes and bellows, but I have found this to be the best fit for me.
Traditionally, I would carry my brute tripod and set up a shot and use a cable release. However, I had full sun on my side and I also brought my flash. This would help keep my shutter speed up even at smaller apertures with lower ISOs. I had no idea what we were going to run into and that is part of what keeps one as a photographer sharp, take one lens and leave the kitchen sink at home. Shoot with that one piece of equipment and see what can be produced from it.
We arrived on the property, got the parking paid and decided to head to the botanical gardens first. They seem to have plants that bloom at different times of the year so there is always something to see. We came upon a wooden fence that had some ivy growing on it. But that’s not what caught my eye. There were these little dragonflies like I had never seen before. As some of you know who are regular readers, I have a thing for dragonflies. We worked next to each other and came up with settings and gave it our best shot. These dragonflies were about the size of a half dollar. I’m not sure if they are just young or if they are a different kind. Anyway, once they realized that we were not there to eat them, they kept coming back to the same spot which is one of my secrets so I don’t kill myself chasing these things!
After contemplating on some settings, the camera and I can to an exposure of ISO 800, f/32 at 1/250. Since this is a flash shot, I’m limited to my shutter speed of 1/250. In this case, I set my exposure backwards from what I normally do. When I used flash in a case like this, I set the shutter speed first (1/250) then I know I want a small aperture and I’m going to be really close to these little guys (f/32) and last I set my ISO to make the pin in the light meter to come to the center, in this case ISO 800. Why use flash when there is so much light? I find it fills in any shadows and also gives a nice highlight in the subjects eyes.
This little fellow had a different pattern on his wings. The hardest part of shooting these little critters is getting down to their level. I keep saying that I’m going to go to Home Depot and get a get of knee pads, but forget until I do this next time! On my elbows and knees hunched down and the sweat pouring down my face to the point I wasn’t sure they were in the viewfinder! Apparently it all worked out.
After we helped each other back to an upright position, I noticed the leaves on this fern. I thought it was kind of interesting. I took a few photos, this is where some folks look at me at are like “Really? It’s a fern.” One of the things that has helped me out as a photographer since I shoot a lot of black and white is to SEE in black and white. I find with black and white that the texture really pops out and that is what I was after with this photo.
As we walked down the path though the gardens, we passed another wooden structure that has passion flowers blooming on it. This was an ambient light shot, no flash. There were some Zebra Long Wing butterflies hanging around but they weren’t cooperating.
On another bush was a White Peacock that was patient enough for me to get his portrait. His wings were down, but I wanted to get more of his face anyway. I thanked him for his time and went along.
I tried looking this one up in my identification book and he was no where to be found. This fellow was in the “lakes” part of the park. There are reeds along the lakes and they were loaded with dragonflies. The only problem is that they are about six feet deep. All I had was my fixed 105mm so no zoom. The feet are the zoom, I found a spot where it was sturdy to hold part of my weight since it was in the lake! Sometimes you have to do things that look a little unnatural to get the shot. I crouched down as I wanted the blue sky and clouds as a background. If I had shot this straight on, it would have had the dark trees behind him and he would have gotten lost in the photo. This way, it’s all about him. Since he is a dark, I set myself up like I did with the other dragonflies and used flash. I had to use full power (1/1) to get it to register since I was fighting a smaller f-stop. I shoot manual exposure, manual flash and spot auto focus. This set up seems to work the best for me.
We spent about a total of three hours there and we came home with some great photos and we were soaked and sore. But it was successful day. I never know what I’m going to get when I go out, some days I hit it out of the park and other days I wonder why I didn’t stay home. No matter where you are in your camera hobby, keep shooting and seeing what’s out there, it’s endless!
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean