Many people are asking me what kind of camera I use for my images.
The camera is a Fuji 2800z Digital camera. 2 megapixels with 4 x digital zoom and 6 x optical zoom and Macro (the reason I bought the camera)
With a 32mb Smart Media card I can take over 64 images.
The camera is very user friendly and fits well in the hand. The USB software is so convenient that I can download all the images to the PC in just a few seconds.
The main features I use are:-
Framing - generally I include a little more in the actual image than I would expect to use in the final shot. Cropping on the PC is much easier than precisely framing every shot in the field.
Movement - this covers two areas:
1) Capturing an image of something that's moving.
On the website, there are three things that move - plants, birds and insects
Plants usually move when it's windy. Flash is generally used to force the camera to use a short exposure time. This minimises the effect of a moving leaf or branch. Another useful tip is to watch where the plant reaches the ends of its movement, before returning. At these points, the movement will be slower, and this affords an opportunity to reduce movement.
Birds must usually be captured when sitting on a branch or other non-moving object. Catching them in the air will be difficult, and anyway, the distance - even with a telephoto lens - would make them too small to be worthwhile.
Insects on the ground, or feeding, don't move too quickly, so they can be captured without flash. If you want to get closer shots, you probably want flash off, anyway, since it would probably scare them off.
2) Capturing an image of something that's likely to move.
If I'm trying to photograph something that will possibly fly away, I tend to take shots that gradually get closer. I'd rather have a distant shot than no shot. So I zoom to maximum magnification and take a picture from as close as I dare. If the subject stays put, then I'll get closer and take another shot. I repeat this until I have to reduce the zoom, or even get close enough for Macro. That way I can end up with a superb close-up, but still have back-up shots if the subject gets frightened (or just moves away)
Very bright light can make a good photograph quite difficult. Plants can be very complex in structure, and the contrast between the lightest and darkest parts of an image can be very marked. That can result in a photo with a burnt-out part, or a too dark part, or both. So I tend to like taking pictures in softer early morning light or later when the sun has died a bit. Early morning pictures will also tend to get new blooms in the best condition, and may also show dew, which is always very attractive.
Another useful technique that I recently discovered through necessity is taking photographs in the near dark. The autofocus needs to be able to see something to focus on it. In very poor light conditions, i.e. night-time, the viewfinder can't see anything at all, so we have to find a source of light. Generally the sky is still a little blue at dusk, so I put my hand up to the sky at about the same distance from the camera as the subject matter would be. Then focus the camera on the hand. Keep the shutter half pressed to keep the focus locked. Aim at where the subject should be (you still can't see it!) and fire. Flash has to be on, of course. A few tries might be required to get it right, but it's better to get a few bad ones than get nothing at all. Photos captured using this technique are the Silver - y moth and the Hedge Woundwort in September.
My one regret is that I didn't buy a camera with manual focussing. All shots taken by the camera are focussed automatically. This works very well in conventional photography, and the autofocus is very accurate. With close-ups, however, we need to force the camera to focus at a particular distance. I have developed various techniques to force this precise focussing - all based on the 'pre-focus' capability of the camera. When the shutter button is depressed slightly, the camera samples the image and determines focus and light requirement (exposure). So I position the camera and get something with an edge (like a hand, card, or stick) and position it at the exact distance of the subject. (The autofocus likes an edge to help it to judge distance.) I then aim at this object and depress the button to the half-way position. The object is then withdrawn and the shot is taken by completing the shutter press. I have thus forced the focus to a particular distance.
Even though I was getting quite good at forcing the focus, I was still getting home to find that some of the shots weren't quite as sharp as I thought. The images appeared all right in the view finder, but on zooming in on the computer, it was clear the focus was not as sharp as I had hoped. That was when I thought of using the digital zoom on the camera to confirm the sharpness of the image. Once I used the digital zoom to preview the picture in the viewfinder I was able to confirm whether the shot was sharp enough.
Macro is essential for close-up shots. The detail I can get using the macro setting far exceeds what can be seen with the naked eye. I have discovered plant and insect features that I didn't even know existed using the macro setting. I can get to within about 1" (2cm) of the subject. The Zoom facility works when using macro, too so it's possible to get a very precise magnification.
One thing to be aware of is that flash doesn't fit with extreme close-ups. The built-in flash doesn't reach as low as the image when fully zoomed in (it would have fire vertically downwards, which is impractical, anyway). So extreme close-ups require natural lighting. I suppose some sort of ring flash would work, but that's something reserved for much more expensive set-ups.
The camera has a video option. It can capture video with sound for 30 seconds. The result is an mpeg file. Using software, I can strip the sound component out of the mpeg file and save it as a wav file. The camera thus doubles up as a sound recorder - very handy.
All in all, the 2800 zoom is probably the best piece of technology I've ever bought. The photos are far above the quality I have seen from similarly specified cameras.
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