In the past couple of posts I have been exploring macro photography. In the previous examples, I used a dedicated macro lens, tripod, electronic release, light stands, soft boxes and flash units. This is a heavy equipment list if you are just starting out or your funds are limited. It seems as if the funds are always limited. In this post I wanted to do something different, go at it with no extra gear. Anyone with a camera should be able to get the results seen in the following examples.
I thought that some people reading this might be thinking that, “Sure anyone with lots of money and equipment can get these type of images, I’m a little broke”. This was my thinking when I set out to capture the photos for this post.
What I used for these photos was my Nikon D300. It’s a DSLR, but don’t let that deter you. The magic is in the lens, whether it’s a professional lens or one that is fixed on a point and shoot. The lens that I used was Nikon’s 18mm-200mm f/3.5-f/5.6. This is a very popular lens amongst DSLR users due to it’s wide focal range. This completes the equipment that I used.
I knew that I wanted to blur the background. We live in a wooded area and I didn’t want all of the other foliage competing with the subject. I chose manual mode. If you have never tried manual mode, this might be a great exercise to try it. It was late in the day so I chose ISO 400 and I set my f/stop to 5.6. Why not use a lower f/stop? We’ll get to that in a minute. All that was left was to dial in the shutter speed. I started with 1/250 of a second. At this point I have the camera set up.
Here’s the other secret, you will notice that you can see detail in the highlights and shadow areas of the photograph. I waited until it was just about sunset. This gave a nice, even, soft light to our flowers. If I had photographed these at high noon, the results would have been much different. The flowers wouldn’t of had the color and softness that we have here. By the way, this works with any type of photography. Photographers will get in location before dawn and shoot during sun rise. The same thing happens all over again during sunset. Wait for the early/late light of the day and you will be rewarded.
I got down on my hands and knees to get at least eye level with these guys. Here in Florida, I don’t recommend laying on the ground in a wooded area. There are to many creatures that may want to bite you in a bad place. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to shoot down on the flowers. By getting on hands and knees, this brought my perspective to a new angle.
We’re almost ready to take a photo. The lens that I mentioned is not a “macro” lens. Also, this is a variable aperture lens, meaning that if I use it at the wide angle setting (18mm) that I have a minimum f stop of 3.5. If I zoom it out to the telephoto setting (200mm) then I have a different minimum f stop of 5.6. This is why I chose this lens for this experiment. This is typical kind of lens that you get when you buy a “kit” or sometimes they are called a “kit lens”. These range all over the place, I know a popular lens that Nikon is selling with their entry level cameras is a 18mm-55mm. This will work with that lens as well. Here is the secret to making this work, you want to use the biggest number (telephoto) on the lens that you have, in my case it’s 200mm. This will help throw the distracting background out of focus.
If your camera has it, I like to use the spot focus option. This way what ever you put that dot on, the camera will lock focus to that particular area.
Alright, time for a photograph. Get as close to the flower as you can. If you’re to close, the camera may not be able to focus. If this happens, just back away a couple of inches and try to focus again. I pushed the shutter button and the scene was to dark. No problem. I adjusted my shutter speed from 1/250 to 1/125 and that was the trick. As the light kept going down, I had to keep slowing up my shutter. Be sure to take both landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical) orientations so you will have options when you get back to your computer.
I like to keep my subject in one of the “thirds”. As you look at the following photos, you will see that the flowers are off set. I did this on purpose to add visual interest to the scene. Again, this works for all types of photography.
Please click on the following photos to see the actual size.
I hope that this has given you some insight to try this in your own back yard. Flowers are easy subjects to photograph as they don’t move (unless it’s windy out) and they don’t complain or require photo releases.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean