Saturday, January 7, 2012

Back from holidays with a new macro lens

Well it was a long holiday break for me. It was a wonderful needed break. Most of my time was spent relaxing... but I did spend some time making big plans for 2012. One of these big plans will include changes to this blog to expand it, and to increase what I am doing for everyone. So stay tuned for changes soon.

One other change over the holiday was a new lens for me. It is a Sigma 70-300mm macro lens. This lens will do regular telephoto work, like shooting sports or nature. It will also do macro photography. For those that are not familiar with the term macro photography, these are the photos you see of very small things. If you see a photo of a bug where you can see their eyes and legs and wings well you are looking at macro photography. You might have noticed that with a lot of lenses you will not be able to focus them when you are closer than like a few feet from your subject. With a macro lens you can get much closer. If you have a point and shoot or bridge camera you can do macro photography if you use that button with the picture of a flower on it or beside it. The technical name of the button is the macro button, but I always refer to it with my classes as the flower button (after the initial explanation of course).

We had a party over the holidays. One of the things we served was popcorn that was seasoned with blue popcorn salt from the Grand Rapids Popcorn Company. I am planning on getting other colors of salt and making more macro photos later this winter. It is a cool look. I might even do a series of popcorn macro photos. It is really interesting to see the actual salt crystals on the kernels of popcorn.

One thing you will probably notice right away is the extremely shallow depth of field of the photo. This is true of macro photography. You will always want to use a fairly tight aperture when doing macro work to get your depth of field up to a reasonable length. So you will need a fair amount of light. You will also often use a tripod for extreme macro work. It would be good to start with static items when first learning to do macro. Leave bugs for your second round of macro photos.

Along with popcorn and bugs, you can also do macro photography with things like flowers. Now you can see closely deep inside the flower. You can do common household things like nuts and pencil ends and money. Find anything small and start to explore that world with the camera. You could even take photo close ups of peoples eyes, or hands.

Here is a photo of a candle that is very small. The candle is burned down almost completely. The candle width was just a tad wider than a birthday candle. The candle cup is about an inch and a half wide. The photo was taken with the camera on a tripod to allow for a slow shutter speed. I also pulled back a little bit and took the camera cup with a little more of the candle holder. It looks fairly large, but again is really quite small. One of the beauties of macro photography is making very small things appear very large.

I mentioned that you can do macro on point and shoot and bridge cameras using the flower button. If you are using a DSLR camera then you will need a special lens that is designed to do macro photography. You will usually see macro as part of the description of the lens. You can also use other lenses and use special adapters to get the camera to focus at macro lengths. You can get filters that will go on the front of the lens, or adapters that go between the lens and camera body. Most of these adapters will run less than $100 (often around $40 to $60). The image quality will not be as good as a dedicated macro lens, but you will get pretty decent results, especially considering the amount you are spending.

There are not a lot of bugs in Michigan in the winter time. It is too cold and snowy for bugs to hang around. Although this winter the weather is trying to prove that false. We don't have snow currently, and it is much colder than bugs like... but not cold like it is supposed to be this time of year. So I will continue to work on my macro photography on popcorn, candles, and other things around the house. Spring will be here soon enough, bringing with it plenty of bugs and new flower buds to photograph. Give macro photography a try yourself this winter. And if you are in the south where it is warm then get some bugs and flowers. Post links in the comments below.

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