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Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Soft And Beautiful Macro


Take a different approach to creating outstanding close-ups

Maybe out of frustration, I started rotating the camera right and left, and tilting it up and down. Suddenly, another composition caught my eye; it was soft, distorted and not focused. I released the shutter and the game began. Moving the tripod only a few inches, I started looking for the next "fuzzy flower" composition. I spent the rest of the morning moving the tripod a few inches one way and then another, looking through the viewfinder as if looking into a bizarre forest of color.

Shooting Softly
Soft macro compositions are exceedingly difficult to previsualize since they don't resemble reality. Yet exploring through the lens has continued to be my favorite approach to finding these images.

One technique that can yield interesting results (and at other times poor results) is photographing through foreground objects. I'll choose a portion of a flower as a subject that's partially obscured by other leaves and blossoms. Since the lens is left at a wide aperture, the plant parts between the lens and the subject remain so out of focus that they appear as a translucent frame. This method doesn't always work, attesting that every photographic situation is different. Still, the successes more than make up for the failures.

One technique that can yield interesting results (and at other times poor results) is photographing through foreground objects. I'll choose a portion of a flower as a subject that's partially obscured by other leaves and blossoms. Since the lens is left at a wide aperture, the plant parts between the lens and the subject remain so out of focus that they appear as a translucent frame. This method doesn't always work, attesting that every photographic situation is different. Still, the successes more than make up for the failures.

Several factors determine how soft or how sharp the photo will be. First among these is the focal length of the lens. While a close-up filter on a standard lens (45-55mm in 35mm, 80-110mm in medium format) will create a reasonably sharp image, even at large apertures, the same filter on a telephoto lens will produce beautifully soft images. My favorite combination of lenses and filters to use are a +3 filter on a 35mm lens. If using a digital SLR with a lens-magnification factor, 1.5x, for example, I'd probably still use the 70-200mm lens, but without the teleconverter and start with either a +3 or +4 filter.

The second factor in determining sharpness is the strength of the close-up filter. All other things remaining constant, a stronger filter will make a softer photograph (a +4 filter will be softer than a +1 filter).


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