The talk by Alex Hyde at Nantwich CC last night (1 Apr) was very well attended. I spoke to members from Holmes Chapel, Alsager, Mid-Cheshire, Northwich as well as Crewe and, of course, Nantwich. I hope Nantwich felt very encouraged by the great response and will put on another such event.
Alex’s talk was very well structured. These evenings can easily become one picture after another but this was far from that. Alex set the scene beautifully as he took us to first Borneo and then Madagascar, each introduced with luscious landscape photographs before we were zoomed in to the macro world of insects, spiders, fungi and other many and varied organisms; some alarming, some dangerous, all amazing. Camouflaged lizards and moths, frogs living in tree ponds, luminous fungi and centipedes retrieved from his companion photographers nether regions (!) held us captivated. Plenty of practical advice about visiting rainforests with your camera gear were included.
Alex, despite a scientific background, is keen to get some art into his work and enjoys portraying the sinusoidal shape of the centipede, the patterns of a butterfly wing, the texture of an insect exoskeleton, this surely helps him to sell his work, which as a professional he must do.
He loves to capture the environment of his subjects in wide angle shots and uses a 16-35mm lens for such work (sometimes with extension tubes), the kind of thing illustrated above. Although he had some very technical flash control (for multiple firing) for some shots his basic gear was really simple; 100mm macro lens (on a full frame DSLR), a flash gun with a Lumiquest softbox attachment on a short extension lead from the hot shoe and a white reflector made from a cut-open orange juice carton! He had become a master of using multiflash though, to create backlighting etc, just like a mini studio for the min-beasts! Here he is using it to shoot wasps on his breakfast jampot…
After the break we were brought back home to Derbyshire where Alex kept us fascinated by the amazing tiny creatures found right in our own homes (who can forget the sparkling iridescence of the Ruby-Tailed Wasp, photographed in Alex’s conservatory!). Alex talked about focus stacking using Helicon software and finished the evening with a word or two about his new lens; a 65mm f2.8 which starts where most macro lenses finish, at life size, and gets down to 5 times life size! At such magnification depth of field is tiny and a special rack is needed to allow the sensitive changes in subject to camera distances. The focus stacking then allows a number of shots to be combined (one had 25!) to produce amazing detail.
A great evening, thanks Nantwich CC for putting it on and I hope they feel encouraged to do it again!
Alex would make a great speaker for the L&CPU Big Day.