Sunday evening I had the opportunity to return to one of my favourite macro locations of the recent years. I used to go out for a stroll regularly in Aston Rowant NNR when we lived closer. These chalk hills have quite a variety of flora and fauna and what I especially likes, lots of different species of orchids. I had the duty to take my sister-in-law to Heathrow so on the way back I left the motorway and stopped here.
The winter was very long and cold this year, there was a chance still to find some blooming early purple orchids (Orchis Mascula). After leaving the car park I headed toward the spot I remembered finding them. It didn't disappoint, they were exactly there but unfortunately almost all of them started to wither. The other problem was the wind, it had picked up. As this part of the hills is well exposed to the elements there were no cover for the plants. Here the wind blew too strong for macro work. I decided to walk back to the other side of the hills where I could usually find common spotted and pyramidal orchids. But their blossoming cycle starts later so I wasn't sure if I could find any. I was right, these had no sign yet at all, probably they still need 3-4 weeks to emerge. This area has longer grass and small bushes which butterflies really like for spending the nights on. As the wind couldn't sweep through this part of the hills I could find them. They were Common Blue Butterflies, mostly females. I brought one of my new extension rings, the 16mm wide, so I attached it to my Samyang tele lens and the hunt had been started. By the way these new rings are brilliant. They are sturdy and don’t wobble at all (here you can find them if interested). I wished I just had had both parts with me. The Common Blues are tiny butterflies you need at least 1:3 magnification ratio to get a nice detailed close-up shot. Although the 42Mp sensor of the A7RII can help a bit if cropping is needed I had to compose carefully. With the reduced magnification I had to include more environment around the butterflies without adding too much negative space in order to keep the balance of the photos. I turned the dial on my camera to shutter speed priority and set 1/160 with Auto ISO. I only played with the aperture ring on the lens ranging between f2.2-f2.8. These little creatures sat calmly on the plants letting me come as close as I wanted. Of course I was moving very carefully, I didn't want to disturb them in their resting cycle. I brought my little tripod as well but not with the purpose to use it when shooting macros. It wouldn’t have worked here without disturbing the butterflies. I packed it just in case I wanted to grab the landscape in a very nice sunset light. But that didn't happen it was too cloudy. I had a great time and also a thorough exercise. Ducking down, standing up, stretching and twisting my body into weird postures constantly in order to find the right viewing angle are very good workouts for your body. Especially when the viewing angle is very low, typically around ground level. The photos can be seen below. I took some with the sun behind me and back-lit ones as well. Both have their advantage and both create a different mood.
Now that I've seen how the natural cycle is progressing here at Aston Rowant I'm sure I'm going to return for the orchids within a couple of weeks. And if there were butterflies as well that would be the icing on the cake.