Macro Photography - Wildlife Photography Course Macro Photography Andre Nel 1 Module # 3 – Component # 4 Macro Photography Close Up and Macro Photography I thought it was worthwhile

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)

Text of Macro Photography - Wildlife Photography Course Macro Photography Andre Nel 1 Module # 3 –...

  • Digital Wildlife Photography Course

    Macro Photography Andre Nel &


    Module # 3 Component # 4

    Macro Photography

    Close Up and Macro Photography

    I thought it was worthwhile to devote a component to discussing close-up photography.

    It is a specialist area all of its own, but one that the wildlife photographer should be aware of and I say this for two reasons: firstly, there is an

    abundance of little creatures and the observant photographer should pay them just as much attention as the larger animals and second, these animals tend to be active at a different time of day, broadening your

    photographic opportunities.

    Whereas large game is most

    active early morning and late afternoon, butterflies, for

    instance, only start to appear as the morning warms up. I was at a picnic site at midday when a

    member of our group said "I wish there was something to

    photograph, but there is nothing but a herd of impala resting in the shade in the distance."

    Without taking a step, our main

    guide, Dan, overturned a rock with his boot and exposed an

    entire world of insect life. He then gestured towards a spider-web in the bushes. These

    actions changed the emphasis of the trip from that point onwards.

  • Digital Wildlife Photography Course

    Macro Photography Andre Nel &


    I, for one had my eyes opened to a whole new photographic experience. For many people on the trip, the macro photographs were their most rewarding, but for all of us, thinking close-up added a lot of interest to

    otherwise dull moments of inactivity by the big game.

  • Digital Wildlife Photography Course

    Macro Photography Andre Nel &


    A Word of Caution

    One work of caution, though - be careful when uprooting rocks. This became very clear to us after a few minutes, when Dan unearthed a rock

    to expose a rather annoyed Mozambique spitting cobra. He deftly engaged the snake while calling for his camera and the sight was amazing to behold, but Dan is an expert with snakes and knows exactly how to treat


    On a different trip, we saw a black mamba and Dan behaved very

    differently - backing off smartly and herding the observers to safety. He knows how to approach snakes and when to back off.

    Exercise extreme caution when digging around in the bush: snakes,

    scorpions and wasps are a real threat. For this reason, I rarely poke around, and when I do lift a rock, I pry it aside with a suitably long stick!

    Know your own limitations and work well within them to avoid accidents in the field.

  • Digital Wildlife Photography Course

    Macro Photography Andre Nel &


    Macro vs. Close Up ?

    Macro photography is practically the same as close-up photography

    photographing small subjects. Classically, a macro photograph is one in which the image of a subject is larger than the subject itself, but in recent years, the term macro has become synonymous with any close-up work.

    The reason that macro has always been treated as an entirely separate specialization of photography is that optics behave quite differently when

    used in this range, so photographic technique needs to change. In particular, lens apertures alter. For instance, an aperture of f/2.8 on a

    distant subject is only f/5.6 in macro and in the days before cameras could calculate exposure, the photographer had to calculate exposures very carefully when working close-up. Thankfully, those days are gone and

    modern cameras now make macro work much easier than ever before.

    Macro photography is never easy: at high magnifications, every photographic flaw is magnified. Camera movement is exaggerated,

    and reduced depth-of-field requires more accurate focus. These constraints are similar to telephoto work, so it is no wonder that wildlifers often pursue both activities.

  • Digital Wildlife Photography Course

    Macro Photography Andre Nel &


    Macro Equipment

    I will briefly discuss macro equipment, before moving on to the more

    relevant topic of technique. Most general-purpose camera lenses cannot focus close enough for

    real macro. The closer your subject, the further your lens has to be from the sensor in order to achieve focus, and everyday lenses cannot move

    enough to achieve true macro. With most lenses, the closest focusing distance is good enough to allow you to photograph small animals like frogs and chameleons, but not insects.

    Although a variety of aids are available for macro, two are common in the

    field: you can attach a purpose-built macro lens, or you can use an extension tube to increase the distance between lens and sensor. I have discussed extension tubes in module one, so I will not repeat here, but

    tubes give a simple, effective and cheap entry point into close-up photography.

    Hand-holding a macro lens is difficult, due to the

    exaggerated movement I mentioned above: camera

    shake is magnified and depth-of-field is very thin. If you are serious about macro, you will

    invest in a suitable stable support.

    I use the same tripod I use for wildlife, but I put my camera

    onto a focusing rail, which allows me to slide it back and

    forth by a fraction of a millimetre at a time. I use a specialized 100mm macro lens made by Canon. It uses an image-stabilisation system that is geared towards

    macro (called hybrid image stabilisation) that makes hand-holding much easier. It gives me freedom of movement in situations where a tripod is

    inappropriate - tripods do not work when you are at ground level.

    Although there are many facets to macro photography, I would like to concentrate on what I consider to be the two main ones, because these are pivotal to good macro work. They are focus and lighbting. I will keep my

    comments brief, so you can remember them in the field, but don't disregard them because they are brief - these are probably the two most

    important things to know about successful macro work.

  • Digital Wildlife Photography Course

    Macro Photography Andre Nel &


    Focus & Lighting

    Firstly, focus. At close range, depth-of-field is highly limited, and

    beginners tend to select an aperture that is too wide. Whereas most daylight photography is shot with an aperture of f/5.6, plus or minus a stop or two, the most common f-stop in macro is f/16 or thereabouts. Use

    this as your starting point in macro, and adjust from there to suit the effect you are trying to create.

    Secondly, lighting. At the small apertures required by macro, you either need a long exposure, or strong light. Long exposures are a problem,

    since camera shake is magnified close-up, so blurred macro pictures are common, unless you have very good light. In most cases, that means

    flash - whereas wildlife photographers generally use flash for a small proportion of their photographs, macro specialists use flash almost exclusively.

    If you are serious about macro work, you will probably purchase a

    specialized macro flash unit, but a flash-diffuser, such as the one made by Hylow below is a cheap, and very effective alternative.

    This photograph

    demonstrates why a normal

    flash is ineffective for close-up - the

    flash will shoot above a subject that is close to

    the lens. A diffuser placed in

    front of the flash disperses the light, giving a soft

    lighting effect that is very


  • Digital Wildlife Photography Course

    Macro Photography Andre Nel &


    This adder, eating a frog, was taken with the diffuser set-up

    described above. Notice the very soft lighting effect that it creates.

    A ring-light attached to the end of the lens also produces a soft light.

    The light comes from

    all around the lens, so there are no shadows. Since the light is direct,

    and close to the subject, it is intense

    and therefore bright enough for typical macro work.

  • Digital Wildlife Photography Course

    Macro Photography Andre Nel &


    A twin-light flash is another unit specifically designed for macro. The

    two flashes can be adjusted to different

    intensities, giving more control and better modeling (at greater

    expense) than the ring light.

    Many lenses, like the 100-400mm zoom, and the 300mm f/4 prime, focus sufficiently close to capture small subjects. This small snake

    was photographed with a 300mm f/4 lens without any extra lighting, or any close-up aids.

  • Digital Wildlife Photography Course

    Macro Photography Andre Nel &


    This simple, yet effective photograph was taken with a standard zoom lens, hand-held at 70mm, but with a flash diffuser over the

    external flash unit. F/8 provides just enough depth-of-field, and by shooting at the sync speed of the camera (1/250 s) the

    photographer is ensured of the shortest possible flash duration to eliminate camera shake.

  • Digital Wildlife Photography Course

    Macro Photography Andre Nel &


    This photograph was taken at 1/200s, just below the flash sync speed, so it utilized the very high speed of the electronic flash to its full effect. At this close range, there is very little depth-of-field,

    yet the photographer wanted to keep both the insect and the chameleon in sharp focus.

    Notice how this was done - by posit