The lock-down is terrible and as per the authorities, this is the only way out. So, I started off with various tasks to keep me busy. Most of them were the tasks that I had been postponing for a long time. Creating Back-Ups, cleaning up the storage, post-processing some old files again, polishing my photo-editing skills, and catching up on lots of reading. Still, there are times when I miss going out and photographing. Today, I took out my camera and started clicking whatever I could.
(The Trishul peaks were visible in the morning. Though for many these are an exotic view but trust me when I say that for me these peaks are visible every day, for almost 6 months. That’s more than even how long the rains last. Yet, I still photograph them again and again.)
It’s spring season now. Wild flowers like chamomiles, daisies, and dandelions are starting to open up. Bees come buzzing by, settling down on one flower, then the next one and then another one. Their faint buzzing is broken by occasional tweets by the birds. It is hard to see them now due to the dense foliage on the trees. They hide inside the trees and chirp from time to time. A couple of butterflies frolic around on a patch of radish flowers.
Well, if not the portraits and street, genres for which I have a sweet spot in my heart, I could at least click some macro. Unfortunately, my macro lens is locked-up away from me. It is in another city. The closest I could find was a Zeiss 135mm lens, which also happens to be one of my favorites. This is not a macro lens but can go a little less than 1:5. Good enough for some casual work. The photographs captured could be cropped later on.
It was a sunny day. Lots of bright sunshine and the bees buzzing by. I love this kind of weather. Bright sunshine tends to lift my spirits up, which was something I was desperately in need of. Whether you say it or not, lock-down tends to get on nerves. Camera in my hand, sun-shine on my back and the music of nature in my ears… this was already starting to feel like bliss.
(Bee on Clover – The photograph would have been incomplete without the slightly blurred flowers in the lower right and white blurs as part of bokeh in the background)
My first ‘tourist destination’ was a patch of white dutch clover, growing in the corner of my lawn. Its flowers are magnets for various insects and bees. Some years back, I had captured a whole series of photographs with ladybirds and bees in this patch. I sometimes call it my ladybird-farm. (White Clovers and Ladybirds).
The lens is a manual focus lens. For macro photograph, I have a very simple technique. I set the focus to somewhere where I want it to be, today I set it to the closest I could focus on. Next, I crawled near the clover patch and found a couple of bees that interested me. They were hovering around from one flower to another. For focusing, I prefer to move my camera as a whole (using my body movement), to and away from the subject. No fiddling around with the focusing ring. Once the subject is in focus and the composition as to my liking, I press the shutter release button. This is the same focusing technique that I use even with my dedicated macro lens and while doing any kind of serious macro work.
Since the light was bright, I had set the camera to aperture-priority mode and aperture varied between f/8 and f/11. A small aperture helps in getting enough depth of field in such close focus work. While I clicked some bees, one of them happily settled on my hand. Earlier I would have been scared but now I know that most of the bees don’t sting as long as they are not irritated, and even when irritated, they prefer to fly away rather than attack. I was correct. The bee just explored by hand and flew back to the flower it was enjoying earlier.
(Orange and Black Butterfly – Photographed using Nikon Df and Zeiss 135mm manual focus lens)
Further ahead, some seeds from last year’s radish had sprouted and were in a flowering stage now. There was a dark orange butterfly there. I still can’t tell the difference between butterflies and moths in some cases, so don’t ask me the species of this one. I do know that the caterpillar of this one loves a wild tree near one of our walls. I make sure that we leave that tree undisturbed since those caterpillars are the ones that turn into these colorful butterflies.
I used the same technique that I had used with the bees. The butterflies are quite large in comparison to bees so filling the frame becomes easier. Less of cropping required while post-processing.
Two Oriental-Turtle Doves landed near the clover patch. I really like the way they look. These are quite common in this region so photographers don’t point their cameras at them, but during lock-down, anything works. I start focusing my lens on one of them when suddenly they flew away. So, I ended up pulling in some dust in my lens and no photographs.
For those of you wondering about the dust thing – every time your lens barrel extends or contracts while zooming or focusing, it pushes out the air or pulls in air. When the air is pulled in, some dust also gets sucked in. Yes, every time when the lens gets extended! Some lenses have done away with this by moving the optical elements internally while keeping the outside barrel size the same, and also weather sealing the lens-body, yet even in those lenses some amount of air-exchange still takes place. Anyway, this is more of a theoretical than a practical problem. Just a piece of small advice though, never zoom or focus by turning the ring quickly, especially when the atmosphere is dry and dusty. Be gentle and the air sucked in will be less turbulent. Also, for the lens to get actually affected by such dust, it takes years of use (or rather misuse).
(Chamomiles – Post-processed in Affinity Photo to soften the image. The look I was aiming for something on the lines of yesteryear polaroids with their pastel look)
From the butterfly place, I walked back again to the center of the lawn. The hills in front were already covered with clouds. None of the peaks were visible now. In fact, the sky too was getting covered with clouds. I thought of capturing a few more photos while the sun shone. For me more than the light on the subject, the bright sun-shine was nicely warming my body. It was something I had longed for, the whole winter.
A flock of parrots flew past. Beautiful green against the blue sky. An old woodpecker came and started tapping on an apricot tree. It loves this tree. It is a regular visitor. As long as it doesn’t start pecking on our wooden roof (which it sometimes does), I have no problem. Some colorful finches also settled down on a tall tree.
During the lock-down, I have seen pictures surfacing of how the earth is healing itself, how nature is coming back to the places from where it was driven away. I am not sure of how much of it is true, but I have seen more birds this year than in many earlier years, and I live quite far away from civilization! I do feel that humans have been rather ruthless with their surroundings. My only hope is that once the pandemic gets controlled, humans would come out more sensitive and more caring for the fragile nature all around us.
I must have clicked just a handful of images but the time did fly by. The lunch was ready. Maybe, I’ll leave the camera on my desk, hoping to capture some landscapes in the evening. Let’s see how things unfold in the evening.
The clouds gathered up and darkened the whole sky. I changed the lens to a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G. This one of the best Nikon primes that is available in the market and quite affordable too. When I saw the clouds outside, I thought of capturing two subjects. One was a feeling of an upcoming storm and second maybe lightening if it happened. I’ll pen down the technical details in another article, but sharing one of the images here. I was able to capture what I wanted to and rush back into safety before the thunderstorm struck.
(The thunderstorm had bolts of lightning too, and then, it started raining cats and dogs)
Even in lock-down, this was a day well spent. I maintained social distancing, even from the insects. The lens did not let me get too close and I had to crop them. Tomorrow, I’ll further explore the chamomile patch. That should also be attracting some insects.