Macro photography in the winter

“I am really looking forward to spring so I can do some macro photography.”

  • Jan. 31, 2011 3:00 p.m.
Macro photography can produce some interesting pictures such as these frost covered leaves.

Macro photography can produce some interesting pictures such as these frost covered leaves.

“I am really looking forward to spring so I can do some macro photography.”

It took me a moment to respond to that comment made by a photographer who had just purchased his first macro lens. I was amazed that anyone would think a lens would be season specific.

After a short pause I told him that in my opinion now is a perfect time to wander in the garden photographing plants, and in many ways might be more interesting then just looking for pretty, coloured flowers.

Many of my friends dedicate themselves to photographing winter sports or snow-covered landscapes this time of year, but as exciting as those subjects can be my interest isn’t always so vast; without going far from my own front door I can study and photograph the more intimate and close-up landscapes provided by my wife’s garden.

I like using flash when there are open shadows as in the day I walked out to the garden. For this session I connected a Nikon ring flash to my 200mm macro lens and mounted it on my camera. Ring flashes have been in use for a long time. They were very popular not only for close-up photography during the 1970’s, but also became an interesting way to light fashion, providing both flat and direct light. Although not popular for a while, recently ring-type lighting, available from several manufacturers, has made a come back not only for those of us doing close-up work, but also for portraiture. Mine however, is reserved for forays into the world of close-up photography.

I tried some backlit subjects in the bright sun without flash, and turned it on for photographing a subject in the shade. The closer one gets to the subject the less depth of field, but with the added light a flash brings, I can use higher shutter speeds and therefore smaller apertures allowing for increased depth of field.

Macro lenses can be purchased for a DSLR in many focal lengths. One isn’t limited to their personal camera brand and there are several manufactures from which to choose. There are also high quality magnifying lenses that attach like a filter in front of any DSLR lens.

The longer the focal length the further one can stand back from a subject and that’s the reason I like using a 200mm macro. The one I own isn’t auto focus, but I usually turn the AF off anyway so the control over a focusing point will be mine, and not the camera’s. I also use the little green focus-assist dot in the viewfinder.

Regular readers, and those that have taken classes from me, know that I like using a tripod, but on this day the snow was melting fast. I knew that not using my camera on a tripod would increase camera shake and reduce the number of keepers, but I was in a hurry and I would be out again in a few days, so I got my camera ready and rushed out.

If I’m lucky there will be more fresh snow and temperatures will drop again, so next time I’ll have more time and include a tripod. The tripod allows a photographer to be concerned with the subject and not the camera. For close up work I don’t extend the legs, I just place the tripod where I want to shoot from and move the centre column up and down depending on the subject’s height.

My plant photography usually isn’t so much descriptive as it is about shapes I think are interesting; like the way some dead looking branch bends, or how the light comes through a leaf, or how the snow sits on a branch, or a bough, and then sometimes it is about the colour. I also try to visualize how my image would look in black and white.

That novice photographer will be missing many opportunities if he waits until spring and only uses a macro lens for blooming flowers. Just a walk through the forest, park or, if one is creative a city street or back alley, will produce many opportunities for a macro-lens-wielding-photographer.

These are my thoughts this week.

Contact me at emcam@telus.com or at 250-371-3069 or stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. I offer professional wedding photography, photographic instruction, and sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment. My website is www.enmanscamera.com.