A Guide to Close up Nature Photography

A Guide To Close Up Nature Photography-Free PDF

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50mm and 200mm that will allow you to get a 1 1 macro ratio That 1 1 ratio used to mean that you. could focus tightly enough on a subject that it would appear life size on a 35mm negative I don t know. exactly what it means with digital technology but I know you want it There are ways to get even better. magnification such as adding close up filters like screw on magnifying glass lenses or extension tubes. but unless you re photographing the eyes of fleas you probably won t need them I have a Nikon. 105mm macro lens which I really like It has a long enough focal length that I can be a comfortable. distance from an insect comfortable for the insect I mean and it also reduces the amount of. background in the photo A longer lens like a 200mm can be nice too but sometimes you have to be so. far away from the subject it s difficult to keep grass stems or other things out of the way between you. and the subject especially in prairies A shorter focal length gets you close to the subject and you get. more in the background something I don t want but that might appeal to you depending on what. kind of photos you take Some people get by with just buying close up filters the screw on type again. and putting them on regular lenses to make them focus closer and some are happy with the results. I ve never tried it but am always leery of putting more layers of glass between me and my subject. A jumping spider in Sarpy County Nebraska, If you re buying a tripod just for close up photography it doesn t have to get very tall or have a super. strong head to hold long lenses steady On the other hand you may want those features if you. photograph things other than just bugs and flowers A good close up photo tripod allows you to get the. camera close to the ground and has a tripod head that makes it easy to adjust your camera s position. very slightly important for last minute adjustments on small subjects It s nice if the legs can spread. very widely and lock in various places Some tripods let you reverse the center post so it points. downward which sounds great but then you re squeezing between the tripod legs to use an upside. down camera I like carrying a small bogen tripod with a compact ball head for close up work but I. also have a bigger tripod for other photography that also works for close up photos. Another useful tool I occasionally use is a Bogen super clamp Originally designed to hold big flashes I. think you can order a special plate for it that allows you to attach a tripod head to the clamp Then you. can clamp a tripod head anywhere on your tripod s legs or elsewhere to get your camera right down. to the ground for easy close up shots I don t use it often but I always carry it with me because when I. need it I need it, My small tripod showing my Bogen super clamp and ball head attached to one leg. Finally if you re going to use a tripod you need to also have a cable release aka a remote shutter. release This is just a cable with a button that allows you to click the shutter without touching the. camera As I ll discuss in a moment many close up photos are taken with a relatively long exposure. time and it s important not to jiggle the camera by pushing the shutter release button on the camera. itself Unfortunately cable releases for today s digital cameras are apparently made by endangered. pandas in secret underground laboratories because they can cost between 50 and 100 each Look. around for cheap knock offs mine cost about 4 and buy several in case they break. Controlling Depth of Field and Background, One of the trickiest things about photographing small subjects is that not much of the photo is in focus. there is a narrow depth of field When you focus on a particular spot the distance in front of and. behind that spot where things are also in focus is your depth of field see illustration below The more. magnification you have the less depth of field you have However you can also control depth of field. with your aperture settings A wide open aperture of 3 5 or so will have very little depth of field. compared to a closed aperture of 22 or higher So if you want more depth of field you can close down. the aperture but that also means you have to use a slower shutter speed It s not unusual for me to. use shutter speeds of over a full second or two just to get enough depth of field to make a photo work. This is why it s so important to have a tripod and cable release. When working with a narrow depth of field it s important to make good decisions about what part of. the photo really needs to be in focus and what parts don t With insects or other animals it s almost. always important for the eye to be in focus even if little else is When you look at a photograph of any. animal your eye is drawn to its eye and if it s not in focus the photo just looks wrong For other. subjects like flowers think about what the focal point of the photo will be for the viewer what will. draw their eye the most and make sure that s sharp. One trick that helps keep as much of the subject in focus as possible is to swivel your camera around so. the subject is parallel to the surface of your lens In other words get broadside to your subject This is. much easier with relatively flat things like butterflies and leaves of course than it is with many flowers. but there usually ways of flattening the subject not literally of course by moving the camera Again. a tripod makes this easier because you can take your time and set up just right. A cricket frog peers at my camera left While much of the frog is fuzzy because of shallow depth of field I made sure to get. the eye sharp Right Side oats grama is difficult to photograph but in this case I was able to position the camera so that the. grass stem and seeds were parallel with the front of my camera allowing me to get them all in focus. While it can present a number of challenges shallow depth of field isn t all bad Often it s really nice to. be able to fuzz out distracting elements in a photo This is helpful when you want to draw the. viewer s eye to a particular part of the photo or when you want to isolate the subject from its. background Normally my decisions about depth of field deal with things like grass stems or leaves. behind a flower or insect The extent to which they appear in the photo is determined by how far. behind the subject they are Sometimes it s nice to have a few leaves or flowers behind a subject to. provide some context and layering to the photo Other times it s nice to have a perfectly clean. background where everything behind the subject is far enough away that it s completely fuzzy and. blended together When you re trying to create a clean background you can play around with different. camera angles that change the background especially by shooting so that there is open space behind. the subject Many times moving so that the background is a uniform color e g all green grass with no. brown stems can help Other times a mixed color background works well The important thing is to be. conscious of the background and think about it before you take the picture Sometimes bending a few. grass leaves out of the way be ethical about this can make all the difference. Gray hairstreak butterfly on big bluestem I was able to position my camera so that the butterfly was parallel to the camera and. so there were no distracting stems in the background. Another important element of the background of close up photos is the horizon line In almost all cases. but not all a horizon line behind a close up photo is distracting and shows that the photographer. wasn t paying close attention to the background Moving the camera just a little higher can often. eliminate the sky from the photo and create a cleaner more uniform background The biggest problem. with including the sky in a close up photo is that the sky is so much brighter than the subject and the. rest of the background that it becomes washed out and overly bright There are of course exceptions. to that especially when you re trying to silhouette something against sunrise or sunset light or when. there are nice dark storm clouds in the air Regardless of what you put in the background be sure you. do it on purpose, The photo on the left is problematic because of the horizon line through the middle of it By getting a little closer and raising. the camera slightly on a tripod I was able to get a cleaner less distracting background. Weather and Light, As with any other kind of photography the most important factor is light There are three important.
components of light I pay attention to direction intensity and color Light can come from behind the. subject back light behind you and toward the subject front light or from the side side light Each. of those creates unique effects Back light can be great for silhouettes for example but the detail of a. small subject is often lost to shadows not usually a good thing Front light illuminates the subject well. with no shadows but can sometimes be less interesting for the same reasons Side light can create. some interesting patterns of light and dark portrait photographers usually incorporate side light for that. reason but can also be distracting if those patterns are too contrasty All three directions of light can be. useful the important thing is to recognize what the light is doing and use it consciously. The late afternoon light on this grasshopper was right on the edge of being too intense for a good photo You can just start to. see a few washed out highlights and the color is not as warm as it would have been in 15 more minutes In this case it worked. ok and the side light from the left it provided some interesting shadows that added texture to the photograph. The intensity of light is often more important than the direction Bright sun in the middle of the day. creates light so intense that a camera can t pick up the entire range of light to dark so part of the photo. will usually be washed out and overly bright while other parts are completely black Before and after. sunrise the dim light creates very little contrast between bright and dark but that lack of contrast can. sometimes also mean uninteresting photos Bright overcast days when you can almost but not quite. see your shadow are wonderful because they give enough light to see details but not so much that you. get harsh shadows or washed out areas The hour or so right after sunrise and right before sunset are. also great times because the light is diffused as it passes at a low angle through the atmosphere A few. light clouds along the horizon also can help stave off the harsher light that comes as the sun gets higher. in the morning and or allow you to start shooting a little earlier in the evening. The other great thing about early and late day light is its color When the sun is a nice warm color e g. orange or pink so is the light coming from it When that warm light reflects off of an insect flower or. anything else it makes it glow with color In contrast the brilliant white sun of a cloudless afternoon. has no color to it and heavy overcast conditions and deep shade tend to produce a bluish cast Bright. overcast days don t color the light but they still tend to produce saturated colors in close up photo. subjects but skies tend to look boring and white gray so bright overcast days can make scenic photos. The photo of larkspur left shows golden highlights from early morning sunlight I also tried to get the lower two flowers in the. same plane relative to the camera so they were both in focus The hoary vetchling on the right was taken on a bright overcast. Finally when taking close up photographs the other important weather factor is the wind Trying to. photograph an insect on a flower with a slow shutterspeed is nearly impossible when that flower is. bouncing around in the wind Yes it can be fun to play with artistic blurring of flowers as the wind. blows them around but how many of those photos can you really take Sunrise and sunset can be. good times for low wind speeds as well as for nice light because the wind tends to be calmer at those. times of day but of course not always The perfect day for close up photography is a bright overcast. day with calm winds When I look out the window and see those conditions I do what I can to free up. my schedule so I can walk around with my camera at least for a little while. Close up photography is not terribly expensive and doesn t require long trips to exotic locations Even. better it allows you to see things up close that you might have otherwise walked right past I ve. discovered more about the prairies I manage by photographing them than I have through research. because photography forces me to get down on my knees and look around The creatures plants and. patterns I find there always amaze me and I can share what I see with others Grab your camera don t. If you re buying a tripod just for close up photography it doesn t have to get very tall or have a super strong head to hold long lenses steady On the other hand you may want those features if you photograph things other than just bugs and flowers A good close up photo tripod allows you to get the

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