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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Art Of Small

When, where and how to shoot better macro images

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Milkweed seeds emerge from a large pod.
Toyo 4x5, Nikkor 180mm, Gitzo tripod, 8 sec. at ƒ/22
I know that when the first ice forms at the edges of the small streams in December, it creates beautiful abstract patterns, but if I wait until later in the winter, I lose these patterns as the ice thickens. I’ve studied and learned about the subjects in my area to know each month when opportunities will present themselves.

Where To Shoot
Just as learning when to shoot, you need to study where to shoot. In the spring, Michigan wildflowers tend to be in the woodland areas, and as they die off and summer approaches, I head to the open fields. In fall, I head back to the woods to shoot the colorful leaves that fall to earth.

I like to shoot in swamps and areas that have water, as the life-sustaining water holds more plant life and attracts more small bugs and critters. Swamps, open fields, deserts, rain forest and woodlands all hold their own unique plant life and insects, and many books on these terrains and subjects are available to help you. If your local park systems have a nature center, check with the naturalist as to where flowers, dragonflies, butterflies and interesting plant life can be found. While you’re out shooting, take notes when you find interesting subjects, and note the location and time of year you found them.

How To Shoot
Macro is much different from other forms of nature photography because we sometimes shoot subjects within inches of the camera, requiring the right equipment to produce good-quality images. A digital SLR camera will work best for macro, and as far as what brand, I’ve seen them all, from the 6-megapixel to the 24-megapixel, used by photographers in my workshops with good results.

Matching the right macro lens with the subjects you plan to shoot is important. Macro lenses will range in focal length from 50mm to 200mm. The short-focal-length 50mm and 60mm lenses are good for handholding shots and shooting stationary subjects, but the short working distance between you and the subject can make it tough for capturing butterflies, dragonflies and other small insects that will flee as you get close.

The next focal lengths are in the 90mm to 105mm midrange; these good all-purpose lenses can handle most of your needs.


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