If you're not doing close-up work, why not? Here are your opportunities to explore new worlds without leaving home.
By Rob Sheppard
4Try a beanbag. Beanbags are a great way to support a camera when you need to get it low, such as when photographing moss on the ground. You can get small ones that easily fit in your camera bag. When you use the beanbag, push the camera into the cushion’s softness so that it’s supported and the movement is dampened. 5Use your hand as a clamp. Since close-ups mean you’re getting so close to your subject that the area seen by the camera is small, it’s easy to use a hand to grab a wind-blown flower to steady it or pull it into focus, and you won’t see your hand in the photo. For a more refined way of doing this, check out the Wimberley Plamp or the McClamp Clamp devices that attach to your tripod and hold a flower still.
6Use a right-angle or waist-level finder. A right-angle finder for SLRs (film or digital) allows you to get your camera lower to the ground without having to smash your face into the soil. Another option is to use a high-quality, compact digital camera or D-SLR with a swivel, live-view LCD. That allows you to use the camera at odd angles while always seeing what the lens is seeing.
7Temper your built-in flash. Few cameras are set up to give a good exposure for flash when used at very close focusing distances, plus the flash itself may be aimed poorly for such use. Put any kind of diffusing material over the flash to cut its light and make the light better for close-ups. You can use a specially made diffuser, a piece of white cloth, translucent plastic or even a small Styrofoam cup.
8Use continuous shooting for better focus. Because of wind, you may find it difficult to get the precise focus you need. Put your camera on continuous shooting and just hold the shutter down for a burst of shots as you work to find focus. You’ll almost always find that at least one of these shots will be perfectly focused. This is an ideal method with digital cameras because there’s no cost to the extra shooting. (see image on page 1) 9Balance your flash. If your flash completely overpowers the existing light, the photo may be dramatic, but the shadows may be too dark and the background may be black. Choose a camera setting that balances your flash to the existing light so that some of the light from the sky, for example, fills in the shadows. Unfortunately, camera manufacturers haven’t chosen a consistent way of doing this, so you have to check your manual for more information. This is easy to do with digital cameras because you can set the camera on manual and keep decreasing the shutter speed until you see the needed detail in the dark areas when reviewed on the LCD. You have to be careful of movement, though, because this is often a problem with slow shutter speeds.
10Corral your insect subject. Use the sensitivity of insects to your advantage when an insect moves away from you to the other side of a stem. Reach out and move a hand over there, or have a companion move to that side, and the insect will usually move over to where you are. (see image on page 1)