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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
Bluebells gain a nice contrast against a soft background with the use of selective focus, outside Anchorage, Alaska.Sony DSLR-A100, Sony 100mm macro
Depth of field also is a challenge up close‚ the amount of sharpness in depth becomes shallow, shallower and even more shallow. So why not just stop your lens down to a small ƒ-stop to get the most depth of field possible? Most lenses have what‚’s called a diffraction effect that affects sharpness up close. Small lens openings diffract light, making sharp areas less sharp. As you get to macro distances, ƒ/16 or ƒ/22 can drop image quality significantly on most lenses except for macros (which still may show the effect). So using very small ƒ-stops for more depth of field may not be an option. Basically, you often have to live with a certain amount of unsharpness in close-ups. Here’s how to handle this:

1 Be sure of your focus. Since depth of field is very narrow, you must be sure you have it where you want it.

2 Work the contrast. It can be interesting photographically to contrast your in-focus subject with a distinctly out-of-focus background.

3 Be sure that what should be sharp is sharp. That means using higher shutter speeds, higher ISO settings or electronic flash.

Light Rules Change

Light doesn’t change up close, but how you handle it definitely does. Close-ups deal with very small areas, obviously, but if you think about that, this means you can easily change the light on those areas. The only way to change the light on a mountain is to shoot at a different time. The good news is that you don’t have to accept the light on your subject as is if that light causes you problems. First, you can almost always move your position or change the angle of the light on your subject, changing it quickly from front to side to backlight. Next, you usually can shift your position enough to gain a new contrast in the background from the light.

If those steps don’t do enough, modify the light. Block the sun completely by creating shade on your subject or background. Shade can be a much nicer light on many subjects. You also can use a diffuser between the light and your subject‚ anything from a white shower curtain (cut to fit your bag) to small diffusers made specifically for this purpose. Diffused light is effective for many types of close-ups.

Macro Everywhere
Hawkweed, near Two Harbors, Minnesota. This perennial only opens during midday when the sun is out. The image was deliberately shot through other flowers with a telephoto at a wide ƒ-stop in order to gain the soft color. Olympus E-330, Olympus Digital Zuiko 50-200mm
You also can try adding your own light. This can be as simple as using a reflector to redirect sunlight onto your subject. In any situation, adding light may mean using a portable flash. Flash is a controllable light, meaning you can put it anywhere with the right cords and accessories, making it front, side or backlight in an instant. It also can be diffused or reflected to change the quality of the light.

Flash is consistent. Once you set up a close-up flash system, you can count on it delivering the same results again and again. This can be a great advantage for certain subjects, especially insects that are constantly moving. On the other hand, that consistency can be a problem when photos taken with a flash system look monotonously the same, photo after photo. This can be avoided with systems that allow you to change the position of the flash or flash heads.

Flash has some disadvantages, though. The light isn’t natural, which means the existing light conditions, good or bad, are lost. Flash also falls off quickly, so that a close-up subject can be perfect in exposure, but the background is dead black. Finally, flash systems can be heavy, bulky and awkward to handle in the field, especially if they unbalance the camera.


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