Chiltern Gentians on my birthday

It being my birthday this week, I took the opportunity of a day away from work to hunt down some Oxfordshire macro subjects…

Still a little early for fungi perhaps, especially given the warm and dry weather of late, but Chiltern Gentians (Gentiana germanica) are flowering very well in a range of BBOWT sites this year, and the first week in September seems a good time to see them at their best.


I had never seen these before, but grow Alpines at home and know how small some of these plants can be. This is where field guides can be very deceptive – macro photography wonderfully enlarges everything!


After a browse of relevant websites I made my way down to the Chilterns of south east Oxfordshire, picking on Oakley Hill BBOWT Reserve near Chinnor as a good spot and as a site new to me. Seemingly good for butterflies and moths as well as Gentians. For the latter, once I got my eye in there were many to see, and this allowed the luxury of seeking out some particularly nice individuals to photograph. I settled on plant with a single open flower to photograph from directly overhead, and a grouping which would necessitate some stacking work. In the event, I ended up stacking with both subjects, though the wind and vibrations meant that some efforts didn’t work out too well.


Below are the results of my efforts: two shots of the Gentians, plus a shot of another wild flower growing all over the reserve: a species of Eyebright.





Chiltern Gentian: single flower

ISO 100 1/60 f/7.1





Chiltern Gentian: a group of flowers

ISO 100 1/20 f/8

Stack of 27 frames

(took many hours to blend the frames in CS6 and manually correct for stacking errors!)






ISO 100 1/50 f/16 (no diffuser on this one)

Taken at 1:1


Two extra ‘on location’ mobile phone images show the setup:






Note in particular the following in the location shots:

  • the extreme small size of the subject relative to the size and amount of gear needed to photograph it (!)
  • the use of plamp and camera bag to hold the diffuser (light was full sun only mildly diffused by clouds);
  • the small grey cloth used for taking a white balance test shot – always important with such red-purple flowers, where DSLRs find colour accuracy particularly difficult. I think I still tweaked the white balance in ACR, but it’s good to get a starting point.
  • the working distance of about 60cm for the grouped shot.
  • the camera and tripod setup: full works here. D800E with 200f4 (with circular polarizer on the front) mounted on a Wimberley C12 clamp with a Wimberley lens plate, in turn mounted on the Novoflex Castel-L rack (stacking was done at 1mm intervals), mounted on another C12 clamp which is bolted onto the Manfrotto plate for the 410 geared head. If Manfrotto used Arca-Swiss compatible plates and clamps, I wouldn’t need the extra Wimberley C12.
  • cable release for relatively slow exposure (MLU used throughout)
  • eyepiece closed to avoid stray light (at least a two-stop metering difference if left open on this occasion!)






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