(Enman standing head)

Making Pictures With Professional Photographer John Enman

Tools of the trade for macro photography

Canadian artist and writer, Freeman Patterson wrote, “Every artist is first of all a craftsperson thoroughly knowledgeable about the materials, tools, and techniques of his or her particular medium and skilled in using many of them.”

I looked up Patterson’s quote after I had a discussion with a person that walked into my shop this week looking for a lens that would allow him not only to get closer to the flowers he wanted to photograph, but make sharper pictures too.

He had tried using different lenses, but even with cropping he wasn’t able to get the effects he was seeing other photographer’s get.

Our modern high-technology cameras have become so point-and-shoot that many photographers have not even bothered to become, as Mr. Patterson wrote, “knowledgeable about the materials, tools, and techniques of his or her particular medium.”

A macro lens would be a first choice as it is specially designed for close focusing, but I expect that even with a macro lens most of his photos would not match the creative beauty of the flower photographs he was so impressed with.

I talked with him for awhile. and his expectation was that the difference between the photos he was now producing and those images he was seeing was just the lens. I didn’t bother to talk techniques or even suggest that those photographers that created the flower pictures were extremely skilled, but I did talk about the tools they most likely used to produce them.

I like a good macro lens of course, but I also like a good tripod with a good ball head. Many of the cheap tripods don’t have a ball head and are actually designed with a long handle sticking out for cine work. I also want a tripod that will at least reach my standing height. I don’t like to bend over. Standing straight is a lot more comfortable and easier to select and focus with. The tripod should also be sturdy enough to stop camera shake.

If one is doing real close-up work there is a tool called a ‘macro rail’ that attaches the camera to the tripod for micro-adjustments to specific positions.

The macro tool I regularly forget is a cable release. At one time the cable release was pretty much universal and threaded into most camera shutter releases, but now they are specific to the camera one is using. Both cable and wireless releases are now available. For those that are forgetful like me, and leave their cable release at home, the camera’s self-timer works just fine.

Those photographers that can’t or don’t want to purchase an expensive macro lens can opt for a ‘reverse adaptor’. The reverse adaptor threads on the front of a 50mm lens which I think is the best choice for this. The lens is then used backwards and makes a pretty good close-up lens. Note that it is no longer AF, and must be used in manual mode because the camera’s electronics aren’t connected.

There is also a ‘close-up filter’. Not really a filter, this is actually an optical quality magnifier that threads to the front of a lens. Most are ten-power magnification and are small, easily carried and a pretty good alternative for macro photos.

I like a flash, but many practitioners use reflectors to add directional light on their subjects.

Close-up photography is fun, and with the slowly warming weather here in southern British Columbia there will be lots of new growing subjects to photograph.

Stay safe and be creative. These are my thoughts for this week.

Contact me at www.enmanscamera.com or emcam@telus.net.

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