Chal­lenge 3: Macro lens

Digital SLR Photography - - The Photo Workshop -

By the time we had de­voured our cake it was ap­proach­ing 3: 30pm. The gar­dens shut at 6pm, so it was time to fo­cus on our third and fi­nal chal­lenge – us­ing a macro lens. For this chal­lenge, Ian used a Sigma 1 50mm f/ 2.8 E X DG OS HSM macro lens. Tele­photo macros pro­vide a much larger work­ing dis­tance, mean­ing you can cap­ture close- ups from fur ther away. They al so have a nar­rower field- of- view, so it is eas­ier to cap­ture at­trac­tive, dif­fused back­drops. How­ever, they are tech­ni­cally more chal­leng­ing to use, be­ing heav­ier and more cum­ber­some; while fo­cus­ing needs to be pin­point ac­cu­rate, as they only pro­vide a ver y shal­low depth- of- field. A macro is the best choice for close- up en­thu­si­asts and Sigma are renowned for their high qualit y and af­ford­able range.

Rose­moor is home to an area of wood­land, where we no­ticed there was a large car­pet of anemones. These are prett y lit­tle white flow­ers and Ian needed no en­cour­age­ment to be­gin ex­plor­ing with his newly- ac­quired macro. I en­cour­aged a low, eye- level shoot­ing an­gle to cre­ate the most nat­u­ral and in­ti­mate re­sult. I men­tioned how I per­son­ally like to use out- of- fo­cus veg­e­ta­tion and other nearby flow­ers in the fore­ground of my flower close- ups to ef­fec­tively cre­ate a frame of beau­ti­fully dif­fused tone to help fur ther em­pha­sise my cho­sen sub­ject, or fo­cal point. Ian took my guid­ance on board, ly­ing prone on the ground and adopt­ing an un­com­for ta­ble low shoot­ing an­gle! Ian’s tri­pod wouldn’t al­low him to set- up at ground level, so he again had to work hand- held, us­ing his el­bows to pro­vide extra sup­por t. He had to be care­ful not to squash flow­ers while se­lect­ing his view­point, but the ad­van­tage of us­ing a tele- macro meant he could shoot from fur ther away and avoid any dam­age. A wide aper ture helped to pro­vide a faster shut­ter speed to elim­i­nate any cam­era or sub­ject mo­tion, while al so pro­duc­ing an at­trac­tively shal­low depth- of- field – with this st yle of shot, you don’t want to record too much de­tail in recog­nis­able fo­cus, as it can prove a dis­trac­tion and it be­gins to un­der­mine the lovely ar tis­tic, painterly ef­fect. When work­ing with such a shal­low depth- of- field – when the dif­fer­ence bet ween a sharp and un­sharp im­age is just a few mil­lime­tres – it is ad­vis­able to take a burst of shots to guar­an­tee at least one pin- sharp re­sult. It is bet­ter to ac­cept a degree of wastage, than re­turn home to find that none of your shots were sharp.

Ian con­tin­ued look­ing for sub­jects and tak­ing shots as we be­gan work­ing our way back to­wards the car park. His eye was now tuned into look­ing for interesting and suit­able minia­ture sub­jects, but with the gar­den about to close, we had to call it a day. And what a good ses­sion we’ d had. Ian’s memor y card was over flow­ing with great pho­to­graphs, achieved us­ing three ver y dif­fer­ent pieces of spe­cial­ist equip­ment. It just goes to show, what­ever your bud­get or ex­pe­ri­ence, great gar­den close- ups are well within your grasp.

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4 1) Ian's tri­pod won't al­low him to go low enough, so he lays prone on the ground. 2) Ian rests on his el­bows, pro­vid­ing good sup­port and min­imis­ing shake. 3) Check­ing the results on the cam­era's LCD. 4) Ian soon gets to grips with the macro lens – I had a job get­ting it back off him! 5) Ross and Ian take a break from shoot­ing to as­sess the results at the end of the day.

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Macro Mar­vel Ian's fi­nal im­age is one to be proud of – a wood anemone sur­rounded by dif­fused soft fo­cus. Great job! Ex­po­sure: 1/ 640sec at f/ 2.8 ( ISO 100)

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