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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Macro Everywhere

No matter what the weather, the light or the location, you always can get into the close-up world and find "the picture"

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Macro Everywhere
A native bee works a sunflower, Los Angeles, California. Canon EOS 20D, Tamron 90mm macro
Macro photography is an exciting endeavor‚ it's an entry into a world that's unseen by most people, who move blithely past the explosion of life all around us because it comes in such small packages. Photographers who find and capture that life in a picture immediately can show off images that will surprise and delight the average person just because the subject matter is largely unseen.

The best part of close-up photography, though, is that it’s possible any place, any time, any season. There always are bits of nature that can be photographed‚ a weed patch offers amazing colors and forms, a rock outcropping in close focus shows off abstract patterns that could hang in the Museum of Modern Art, a frosty window in the depth of winter brings close-up delight to cabin-fevered northerners and a night-weaving orb weaver spider offers opportunities to test your flash technique while observing a true wonder of nature.

Close-up photography is easier than ever. Even the least expensive of digital cameras has a close-up setting (even if most users never use it), plus macro lenses are affordable, and almost every zoom lens has close-focusing settings.

Focus Rules Change
Macro photography has some aspects that work differently than distant photography. The first thing that changes is focus. Perfect focus is critical up close, and the closer you get, the more this is true. If you photograph a mountain, your actual focus point is basically far away and little else matters. Focus on a grasshopper up close, and if you miss focus by a fraction of an inch, the photo ends up in the trash bin.

Focus on the stamens of a flower and miss the tips, and the photograph looks like a mistake.

We’re talking small fractions of an inch. When you’re at true macro distances, where a tiny subject is filling the viewfinder, even a tiny puff of air can knock the subject out of focus in the time it takes between getting focus and pressing the shutter. Here are some tips to follow.

1 Take your camera off autofocus (AF). AF is a tremendous technological achievement and serves us photographers well‚ except for close-ups. AF often finds the wrong thing to focus on when you’re up close. It can be used as an aid though by using it to lock focus when you press your shutter halfway.

2 Move your camera to focus. Once you’ve focused (either manually or locked AF), move your camera back and forth, to and from the subject, to get the optimum focus point. You have to be careful here, obviously, because it can cause enough camera movement to make your photo blurry. A macro focusing rail can help you move your camera into focus when using a tripod.
3 Choose your focus point carefully. As you move the camera, watch what goes in and out of focus. Each shift in sharpness usually changes the photo dramatically. It even can help to take multiple exposures to ensure you get something focused right.


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