In The Bag

The video is the short version of this article with a slide show of the best of this year’s orchids at the end.

 

 

It’s not for nothing that Western Australia is referred to as the “Wildflower State”. There are over 13,000 species of plant to be found, with new discoveries added every year. If we narrow it down to my particular area of interest – orchids – there are 394 species of terrestrial orchids in the South West Corner of the state. Some of these species are so specialised that are confined to very small areas and found nowhere else. Some species will not bloom unless there has been a bush fire the summer before, others if the winter rains are delayed or are insufficient will not put a show on either. This means that no two years are the same. An example of this is my favourite spot near where I live is prolific with the number of orchid species found there. When I first went I was simply amazed by the number of fringed mantis and white spider orchids that were flowering. Over the ensuing ten years I’ve seen such a display of those species since. This year there was a carpet of purple and pink enamels like I’ve never seen before. So this not knowing quite what you are going to find adds to the whole experience. On a few occasions I may be lucky enough to be able to access the flowers by car and a short walk, but most of the time I end up walking through the bush for anything up to four hours.

 

Pink Enamel Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Pink enamel orchid, Elythranthera emarginata. Mokine, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM 1 mk ii with Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens. Aperture priority, exposure: 1/800 sec, f5.6 at ISO 400.

 

Purple Enamel Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Purple Enamel Orchid, Elythranthera brunonis. Mokine, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM 1 mk ii with Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens and Metz 64AF-1 flash. Exposure: Aperture priority mode, 1/40 sec, f8 at ISO 200 with -1 stop exposure compensation.

 

The Canon EOS 6d camera with 100mm f2.8 macro lens that I used to use for photographing orchids alongside the Olympus EM 1 mk ii with 60mm f2.8 macro lens that I use now.

 

I approach photographing orchids as I would shooting a person’s portrait – using off camera flash and reflectors to fill shadows, separate from the background, bring out the shape and textures. Too many botanic studies show indistinct photos where the subject does not fill the frame and the background is intrusive. To that end I use a macro lens of around 100 -120mm (35mm equivalent). It’s not because I’m necessarily shooting at a 1:1 ratio, it’s just because I’ve found there are very few zoom lens that focus close enough and have a fast aperture to allow control of depth of field.I used to use a Canon DSLR with a Canon EF 100mm f2.8 IS L lens and carry around a Manfrotto 143 Magic Arm Kit to support the lights. I made a video about using that setup some 7 years ago and that can be seen just below. Since making that video I added a full frame 6d, the Canon macro lens, and extra light and a set of TTL wireless flash triggers and consequently found myself schlepping 10-12Kg of kit into the bush on longer and longer forays. Something had to give – and my back did! So fast forward 7 years and I’m now using an Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens. I’ve not given anything up in terms of image quality with this change because I’m generally working at a base ISO of 200 with lighting which means all the usual objections to m4/3 about excessive noise and poor dynamic range have been taken out of the equation. The Olympus 60mm f2.8 is easily the optical equal of Canon’s EF 100mm f2.8 IS macro L lens at less than 1/2 the price and about 1/3 of the weight. The Manfrotto Magic Arm got binned as it was very heavy at 2.7 Kg and replaced with a Manfrotto Table Top Tripod Kit 209, 492 Long which weighs 454g. As far as lighting goes I’m using a Metz 64AF – 1 and an Olympus FL-600R flash with small soft box, snoot and honeycomb grid. The only thing that I have given up is radio TTL triggers for the flash, I’m using a TTL flash sync cable at the moment. I prefer to use the Metz unit when doing a lot of high speed sync work as it is the more powerful of the two. This may change in the New Year, it may not.

 

Lighting diagram for my basic lighting of an orchid.

 

The FL-600R is a flash with a guide number of of 50 (ISO200/m). In addition, it comes with a LED lightt for use when shooting video.

 

Other things in the bag include an 80cm 5 in 1 reflector – I only use the white reflector as the silver is too strong, the gold too garish. Some times I use the diffuser over a plant to cut down on ambient light levels. A Vittorinox CyberTool L is there. It has a good selection of small screwdriver bits that can most screws on a camera body, a set of pliers, wood saw, metal saw and file and a host of other doodads. I once re-assembled my Voigtländer 35mm f2.5 Color-Skopar with it while in on holiday in Beijing. Water – this can be in a 1L bottle for shorter expeditions or a 3L water bladder for longer ones. Extra clothing if needed, sunscreen and insect repellent to avoid nasty encounters. Batteries for camera and flash. Wallet of memory cards. That’s it. The whole process is very simple.

Fantastic Spring Show

According to those that know it has been an amazing spring here in the Avon Valley. We’ve had rainfall that hasn’t been seen for decades and we’ve had a flush of wildflowers that hasn’t been equalled for fifty years. It has been frustrating as I’ve only managed to get out and photograph the orchids three times, but when I did get out it was beyond superlatives. Here are the highlights.

 

Dark Banded Greenhood by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Pterostylis sanguinea, or , , Mount Observation, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d, Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens and Canon 430 EX Speedlite. Exposure: AE priority 1/50th sec, f16, ISO 3200 with -1 stop exposure compensation.

 

Hairy-stemmed Snail Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The Hairy-stemmed Snail Orchid (Pterostylis nana) most common and widespread of the Pterostylis species in Western Australia. Mt. Observation, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens and Canon 430EX Speedlite. Exposure: Aperture priority with -1 stop exposure compensation 1/100th sec, f8 at ISO 400.

 

Wallflower Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The wallflower orchid, aka the common donkey orchid (diuris corymbosa) lives up to it’s name and is commonly found in the south-west of Western Australia. Mount Observation, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens and Canon 430 EX Speedlite. Exposure: aperture priority mode with -5 stops exposure compensation, high-speed flash sync 1/2000, f11 at ISO 200.

 

White Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
White Spider Orchid (Caladenia longicaudia). Mokine, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-10 with Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro and Metz ring flash. Exposure: ƒ/16.0 , 1/80s, at ISO 800, manual mode with -2 stops exposure.

 

Purple Enamel Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Easily recognisable the Purple Enamel Orchid has glossy purple flowers which fade and become pink with age. Mokine, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-10 with Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro lens and Metz ring flash.

 

Dancing Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The dancing spider orchid (Caladenia discoidea) is also known as the antelope orchid and the bee orchid. Mokine, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM10 with Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro lens, & Metz ring flash. Exposure:

 

Lemon Scented Sun Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The lemon scented sun orchid, also known as the vanilla orchid,(Thelymitra antennifera) is named after its strong lemon scent. Mokine, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-10 with Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro and Metz ring flash. Exposure: 1/160th sec, f8 ISO 200.

 

Blue China Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Recognised by its intense blue colour, the Blue China Orchid is like the Thelymitra species in that it is heat sensitive and the flowers close at night on overcast days. Mokine, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-10 with Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz mecablitz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: manual mode, 1/100th sec, f8 at ISO 200.

 

Fringed Mantis Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The Fringed Mantis Orchid (Caladenia falcata) is also known as the green spider orchid. Mokine, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-10 with Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro lens and Metz ring flash.

 

Custard Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Custard orchid (Thelymitra villas), York, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-10 with Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens. Exposure: AE priority 1/320th sec, f8 at ISO 200.

Clicking on an image will take you through to my online gallery.