This month, we sit down for an interview with Roz Batten, from Australia.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in Sydney and lived there for many years. I moved to a rural area south of Sydney about 16 years ago. When I developed a nearly obsessive desire to photograph everything around me I found the sheep, cows, horses and other animals to be quite agreeable.
There have been many changes in my life but I currently live with my 22 year old daughter, a much photographed miniature fox terrier called Katee, and a budgerigar called ‘the little bird’ also known as Charlie.
What is your occupation?
Currently I’m an extremely underpaid freelance photographer & digital artist, but in the past I have had many occupations ranging from graphic designer, secretary, receptionist and sales rep.
These professions were interrupted for long a period of time when I was a drug addict. Heroin, cocaine, you name it. Many people gave up on me. I have now been clean for 10 years. The only reason I mention it here is to give hope to other people who may have been touched by this soul destroying condition. Seeing someone who was a lost cause recover and move on in their lives can be inspirational, not only for people who are caught in the trap of addiction but for their loved ones as well. Photography and creative pursuits have helped enormously in my ongoing recovery.
When and how did you get into photography?
From a very early age I had a passion for drawing and painting. This evolved into abstract artworks in pen and ink. One of my all-time favourite artists is M.C. Escher.
I see photography and digital art as a development of this creative urge. I don’t feel complete if I am unable to express myself either through drawing, painting, photography or digital art.
February 2009. When i saw the praying mantis that seemed like it was begging, I immediately thought of how kids are always asking parents for stuff .. looked just like a few kids i know! This is one praying mantis photographed three times with the Canon EOS-40D using the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens. Combined the three photographs of the praying mantis, added other photographs of grass and did the sepia conversion.
On which websites can our readers find your photographs? Do you have a personal website?
DPChallenge is where I have grown the most as a photographer and also formed some wonderful friendships. My username is roz. Being involved in that site has been inspirational. I have tried a few other online photographic sites but keep returning to DPChallenge. It’s the best!
Have you ever had your photographs published or won any competitions?
Last year, 2010, I was published in Digital Photography magazine. Issue 12 focusing on Macro, showcased 14 of my insects photographs taken in their natural environment. Follow this link to to view my pages in the magazine.
I had one Highly Commended and two finalists in the 2010 Australian Museum Up Close & Spineless competition. My photographs are currently being displayed in the Australian Museum, Sydney and also online.
I have also had a number of exhibitions.
What type of photographs do you enjoy taking the most?
One of my passions is taking insect macro’s. I also love taking photographs of people just being themselves and our miniature fox terrier Katee. But any subject can inspire me.
Digitally manipulating these images is how I combine my love of photography and graphic design/art.
I don’t regard myself as a good photographer but this appeals to me because it’s such a beautiful scene. I love the ethereal quality and the fact that minimal processing was done. ’Minor’ alterations include cropping, adjusting the brightness /contrast, colours and sharpness. This photograph was taken in February 2009 on the firetrail near where I live. I used the Canon EOS-40D with the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM wide angle lens.
What camera mode do you usually shoot in? (Av. Tv, Manual, Auto…)?
All my insect macro shots are taken in Manual settings, both exposure and focus. Occasionally if I’m shooting sports I’ll use Tv but 99% of the time I’m manual.
What type of camera equipment do you own?
Currently I own these cameras –
And these lenses –
Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS for Canon – my first lens was the Tamron AF 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di II for Canon and I bought the sigma thinking the quality would be much better. After using them both I don’t think there’s much difference between them. Neither of these lenses are compatible with the 5DII.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro – This was my second lens which I bought specifically for shooting macro. It’s a fantastic lens for capturing insects. Kenko do a set of three extension tubes which i use in different combinations depending on the size of the insect I’m hoping to photograph.
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM – I use this lens on the 40D. It is not compatible with the 5DII. It’s a great wide angle lens.
I use a Canon Speedlight 580EXII external flash and a Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce plastic diffuser.
I recently purchased a Speedlite 270EX which I use on the 5DII as it’s lighter and smaller than the 580EXII. It’s similar to using an onboard flash but with more options. I haven’t tried it on insects yet.
I have a manfrotto tripod which I use occasionally but never for insects.
Do you have a favourite lens?
I use lenses to suit the situation. The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro is great for shooting insects and therefore one of my favourites. I love the 10-22mm on the 40D or 16-35mm on the 5DII for the wide angle. But they all shine in different ways.
This image is a combination of three photographs. They were all taken in June 2007 during a visit to Wollongong, which is south of Sydney. The reason this means so much to me is that it was one of the very first digital artworks I did that I was reasonably happy with. I like the drama, the movement and the tempestuous feeling. I used the Canon EOS-400D Rebel XTi with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens.
How are you able to get so much detail in your insect macro photographs?
I have always been fascinated by the miniature world of insects. When I got the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens that world opened up for me. I spent a couple of summers, 2008 and 2009, nearly obsessively chasing an elusive insect photograph that I could be totally happy with. Most of my “close-calls” were entered in DPC challenges. When they went well it spurred me on to improve. If they didn’t go well it motivated me even more!
When I’m slowly approaching the insect I’m considering the composition. As I only use manual settings I occasionally take a test shot of something close by, at the magnification and settings I think I’ll want, as I may have very little time to make adjustments once I’m actually photographing the insect. This increases the chances of having the correct exposure etc.
I use a Canon Speedlight 580EXII external flash with a Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce plastic diffuser, as the natural light can either be too unpredictable or not bright enough.
With macro, getting the correct exposure is the opposite to other types of flash photography. The closer you get the less exposed it will be. So as you move closer to your subject you have to adjust either your shutter speed, aperture, iso or flash to compensate.
Getting the details of any insect in the wild requires you to be very still, and quick on the shutter when you move through that perfect focal point, which for me is usually the eyes. Because my own eyesight isn’t that good I need to take many shots one after the other, but not in a burst, to make sure I get what I want in focus. Correct focus is critical. Seeing the image on the LCD screen of your camera can fool you into thinking you got the correct focus, but it’s not until you see it on the computer monitor that you’ll know for sure.
I also take a few photographs of different areas of the insect from the same position, if they don’t fly off or move too much, so I can focus stack later in Photoshop.
I specifically bought the Canon EOS-5D Mark II because of its full frame. By using a full frame camera I have greater control over the finished image. I am able to shoot from further away and can then crop without losing as much quality as I would have with the Canon EOS-40D, which is not a full frame camera. Shooting from further away also increases the depth of field and gives me more flexibility adjusting the composition.
Most of my insect photographs have been enhanced in Photoshop. I focus stack if possible, crop, sharpen and usually adjust the colours to be more pleasing. These days I try to retain the ‘real’ colours of the insect rather than making them appear unnatural.
Do you shoot insects in their natural environment, or are they set up shots?
All my insect shots are taken in their natural environment. The insects are going about their lives and I just happen to photograph them.
Can you tell us about the digital manipulation services you offer?
Being from a graphic design background I am able to offer a whole range of services:
Retouching Family and pet portraits
Restoring old photographs Business cards
Website photography etc
Did you evolve from Photography to Digital Manipulation, or vice versa?
Interwoven. Because of my love of drawing and art, when I developed a serious interest in photography & got my first digital camera it was a natural progression for me to use my photographs as a starting point and develop them into something more using digital manipulation. At the time I had a simple editing program and started manipulating them pretty much straight away.
In your opinion, what makes a piece of digital art successful?
Often the most profound or inspirational piece won’t be successful in the accepted sense.
But to me a successful photograph or digital artwork evokes an emotional response or an almost physical gut reaction. It could be a WOW feeling, or a sense of great beauty or power. Mostly it’s an indefinable ‘something’.
What aspect of digital art do you find the most difficult?
I find one of the most difficult aspects of digital art is using Photoshop effectively. Sometimes I’ll have something in mind that I want to create but I haven’t got the knowledge in Photoshop to make it happen.
Being inspired, stepping out of my comfort zone & having more imagination – these things do not come easily. I go through many dry times when I either have nothing, or I’m extremely dissatisfied with anything I do. In a way being uninspired is the most difficult thing. It’s like an emptiness and a grief all rolled into one.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Life can be so unpredictable that imagining next year is difficult let alone 10 years from now. But I’m a great believer in your thoughts creating your world.
I see myself –
Still greatly inspired by other photographers and artists
Feeling the passion, motivation and dedication to grow in my photography and art
Helping other people in that same journey
Having created at least one, if not a few works that I am totally happy with
Being a wiz in Photoshop and having loads of imagination
What do you love most about what you do?
I think we all have something that makes us feel whole, that completes us, something that we are passionate about and that it would be difficult to live without.
Taking photographs and digital art are those things for me – my creative outlet. I love how I can lose myself, especially when photographing insects. It’s like a meditation. It quietens my brain. When photographing people I often feel that I form a much deeper connection with them.
Taking photographs can change the colour of my day. I love that!!
Thank you very much for taking the time to participate in this interview Roz. Best of luck in your future endeavours. – PhotoWeeklyOnline