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Behind the photograph

Date: 12/06/2014 | By: Heather

Behind the Photograph – Blues on the Beach with the Olympus Pen E-P5

behind the photo blues e-p5

Behind the Photograph – Blues on the Beach with the Olympus Pen E-P5

As many of you already know, one of my favourite subjects to photograph is the butterfly. Cliché as my preference may be, I find a certain kind of quietude I simply cannot find elsewhere when it is just me, my camera and the “flying flowers” that colour my photographs. My passion first took form a few years ago thanks to my dear dad (you can see his Flickr collection of butterfly photos here) who is an avid amateur lepidopterist, and has expanded beyond the simple photography of these gorgeous insects to the careful documentation of their names and the various locations where they were seen. One photograph in particular that left an impression on me is the one you see below of a Common Blue feeding off of a holly plant on the coast of mid-Wales. 

E-P5, 1/640, f/ 5/1, ISO 100
E-P5, 1/640, f/ 5, ISO 100

As with most of my butterfly photos, it took over an hour to get the shot I was looking for. I spent most of my time chasing the same butterfly from flower to flower, in varying positions and with various backgrounds. However, I knew that by the end of the day, there were a few elements I had to have in my shot: a background featuring the beach, sea and sky, the sea holly and a side-view of the butterfly feeding.

Here are a few of my attempts. Most turned out well but didn’t quite have the particular look I was after.

It wasn’t an easy shot to take as the sea holly was quite low on the ground. To overcome this difficulty, I used the combination of the Olympus Pen E-P5‘s tilt and touch screen. First, I framed the shot by tilting the screen upwards, and then I focussed on the butterfly by pressing the touch screen with my finger. Many photographers say that they don’t need or want a tilt or touch screen on their camera and I respect that, but in these cases, both functions can prove quite valuable if you don’t want to be lying in the prone position like an army militant to frame your image.

Given that the colours of the original photo were too bland for my liking, I then chose to take the photo to Lightroom to bring out the vivid blues of the butterfly I’d observed in real life. First of all, I made some slight adjustments to the overall contrast and vividness of the image. I then clicked on the Adjustment Brush and created a mask overlay over the butterfly, allowing me to increase the sharpness, contrast, clarity and vividness of the butterfly while leaving the rest of the background intact.

Though you may not be able to tell from the final result, this photograph is actually a crop. I was using the M.Zuiko 14-42mm kit lens at the time, which simply doesn’t allow for the kind of close focussing you’d get with a macro lens, so cropping was my only option.

The original shot before cropping and post-processing - E-P5, 1/640, f/ 5, ISO 100
The original raw shot before cropping and post-processing – E-P5, 1/640, f/ 5, ISO 100

Cropping is generally a big no-no in world of photography as it induces a sort of laziness in the photographer and permits him/her to think less about creating the perfect composition in-camera. The fact that I had to drastically crop this photo to achieve the composition I desired is actually what first got me thinking about investing in the wonderful M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8. I wanted to be able to reproduce the photograph that is the theme of this article with the right tools and the right composition from the word go. And indeed, since I bought the 60mm, I haven’t had a single regret.

E-P5, 1/1000, f/ 32/10, ISO 200
A proper macro shot of the Scarce Swallowtail taken with the 60mm (no cropping) – E-P5, 1/1000, f/ 32/10, ISO 200
E-P5, 1/320, f/ 35/10, ISO 400
Another macro of a Speckled Wood taken with the 60mm (no cropping) – E-P5, 1/320, f/ 3.5, ISO 400

This coming summer, my plan is to travel back to Wales to the very same spot, and attempt to recreate the photo that is the theme of this article with the M.Zuiko 60mm. It is the first photo that made me become aware of my intense love for macro photography and despite its many technical imperfections, will live on as a favourite in my collection.

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About the author: Heather Broster

Heather Broster was born in Canada, has lived in Japan and Italy but currently calls Wales home. She is a full-time gear tester at MirrorLessons. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Heather

    You’re doing a great job! I see you have a penchant for the blues and swallowtails just like me. :)

  • Sphene


    I am jealous

    My tries with the 60 mm … all uncrop

  • Heather

    Thanks Olivier, that means a lot coming from you! :)

  • Olivier Duong (@fstopeight)

    I’m usually not the fan of nature photos, but I must say, these are pretty well done ><

  • Heather

    Thanks, you can also try the G+ community. There is a bit more conversation going on over there.

  • Heather

    Thank you, Thomas! That’s very kind.

  • Heather

    Yes, I do enjoy the 45mm macro as well but in the end, I went with the Oly. :) Give the tilting LCD a try…you’ll love it for this kind of shooting!

  • Bob B.

    Love the butterfly.
    Love the holly (WOW! I live at the beach …but we have no beach holt :-()
    LOVE the camera! (It is my favorite!)
    Interesting…I can be QUITE the camera snob…(know it all)…and I do have a tiltable VF-4 …
    I NEVER work of of the LCD…LOL!…but after reading your article I could see where the touch screen actually activated on MY camera could really make the shooting more fun in the situation that you were trying to capture.
    The Panny/Leica 45mm Macro would have done you well also! Cheers.

  • Thomas

    Beautiful images and interesting article. Many thanks!

  • Francesca

    Hi heather,
    Love these butterfly images. You have convinced me of the merits of the 60mm macro lens. Yesterday tried using 45-175mm to get shallow depth of field for some butterflies.
    Will try to post one on flick.

  • Heather

    Thanks – that’s very kind of you to say! The 60mm is a great lens. I can’t wait to get off work so I can use it on a daily basis!

  • pbass wil

    Really nice, Heather; your patience and perseverance payed off. :^)

    I like the look of that 60mm macro — nice creamy background blur.

    Keep ’em comin’!

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