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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Be Abstract

The flowers that bloom so profusely in the Spring give you a chance to create otherworldly images of color and shape. It's photography that's beyond the ordinary.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Abstract Flowers
She created this abstraction of a Blue-Eyed Grass by adding extension tubes to her 50mm. The blade of grass coming off the stem adds a diagonal line to the composition that’s softened using this technique.
Extension Tubes
At this point, I find myself wanting to get closer and closer to the subject—to create larger-than-life images and abstract designs. Thus, I venture into a new realm of equipment: extension tubes, close-up diopters and teleconverters.

By adding extension tubes (which have no optics themselves) mounted between your lens and camera body, you’ll be able to focus closer to your subject. With this added magnification, you’ll lose depth of field, allowing you to create the soft, subtle colors and designs desirable in this style of photography.

The background will fall away, which will bring your subject to the forefront of the image, and with the softness created, the distinct lines of the flower will now begin to take on a new abstraction.

Don’t be afraid to stack two or more extension tubes together. You’ll be able to get closer and closer to your subject. The effect is amazing. Greater magnification transforms the flower from a recognizable object to an otherworldly image of changing light and incredible beauty. It’s this journey through increasing magnification that gives me the “Wow!” factor. Sometimes the image in the viewfinder is such an overwhelming surprise that it’s hard to believe it’s real. The results are those larger-than-life images, which are my passion to create.

Close-Up Diopters

If the flower is small and I’m using extension tubes, and I’m not able to make it big enough, then I’ll start to add diopters to get in progressively closer. If it’s a large flower, either diopters or extension tubes will work, and how many I use depends on how close I want to get and the effect I want in my composition.
Abstract Flowers
Earth Brodiaea and California poppy photographed at Montaña de Oro State Park, Calif. She used a 50mm lens, without tubes, to create a softened effect and to blend the two flowers together.

I use Nikon two-element diopters, namely, the 3T, 4T, 5T and 6T. There’s no discernible loss of light, but they shorten my working distance, so that I can move closer to the flower. Working much the same way I do when there are extension tubes attached to my lens, I explore, handheld, journeying through the flower.

Don’t be afraid to stack two diopters in front of your lens and add extension tubes at the rear of the lens at the same time. Often, I’ve added so many tubes that it looks impossible to capture any discernible image. But many times, I’ve been overwhelmed by the results. The image may be a part of the flower not visible to my eye, and I find myself wondering why I hadn’t seen that before.


Teleconverters usually are available in 1.4x and 2x magnification, and they contain optics, unlike extension tubes. Buy the best quality you can afford. Teleconverters enlarge the subject within the viewfinder without having to move closer to your flower. Although using a teleconverter will cause a loss of one to two stops of light, this won’t be a severe problem because your lens should be set at a wide-open aperture.


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