Monday, May 16, 2011

Water Droplets On A Leaf

Water and plants make for stunning macro photographs.

Both are natural materials and they combine to produce incredible results.

Professional photographers often add water to shots of flowers, fruit or vegetables to give their pictures a clean, fresh feel.

Adding water to a natural surface creates an entirely new dimension. Natural textures are already interesting when viewed up close, but sprinkling a few clear droplets onto them creates a new burst of life.

This photograph is a simple snapshot of a leaf on a garden plant, after rain.

You might want to try adding water to other subjects to see how they look. Or even experiment with photographing water on its own. Macro photos of flowing water can produce amazing results, particularly when you start playing with different shutter speeds.

Macro Photograph - Leaf Skeleton

Macro photography can open up intricate details that we so often ignore.

This leaf skeleton was one of hundreds, if not thousands, lying on the ground in Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens in Dorset, England. What was brown, botanical rubbish became an intricate masterpiece when held up to the light.

Leaves and light can create amazing photographs. If you're looking for something a little out of the ordinary, just look at how sunlight reveals lines and patterns in leaves, alive or dead. This had fallen but equally amazing views were to be had through leaves that were still attached to trees and shrubs.

Macro photography like this shows how important it is to get up to close to your subject. A photo of the entire leaf would have been interesting enough, but by getting really close to just one area I've been able to highlight nature's tracery.

The depth of field was achieved by holding the leaf at a slight angle, tilted away from the camera.

Camera: A350
Shutter speed: 1/320 sec
F-stop: f/3.2
ISO: 100
Lens: 50mm

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holiday Snaps with a Macro Lens

There's no shortage of subject matter for the macro lens over the Christmas holidays.

Lights, decorations, gifts, food - the list is almost endless. What is difficult, at least for me, is finding the time. Getting that great photo can take a while as you search out the best angle, find the right lighting and then experiment with different apertures and shutter speeds.

I decided to focus on photographing Christmas tree decorations. These tiny ornaments make an appearance once a year when, for a few weeks, they combine with the tree lights to glisten and glow, brightening up the darkest time of year.

Armed with my Sony A350 DSLR and Sigma 50mm macro I set about trying to capture something of Christmas through the lens. The only other piece of equipment was a borrowed tripod - an essential for indoor photography in low light conditions.

I spent about four hours taking photographs of two different trees and I'm pleased with the results. I'm still working out how to create pin-sharp images but these will do for now. The process taught me a few lessons about macro photography that I'll share in due course - the main one being that a tripod alone is not the answer to using a slow shutter speed.

The pictures themselves will come in useful later this year as illustrations for seasonal articles.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Quality Resolutions for the New Year

I did not take this photograph.

I found it on Flickr, where it's the property of Townend Photography. I'm publishing it under a Creative Commons licence.

This is a classic example of how macro photography adds depth to everyday objects. You don't get much more commonplace than cutlery, yet this picture transforms the humble fork from functional into fascinating - if only for a few moments.

The great thing about macro photography, as I keep telling myself, is that pictures like this can by taken by almost anyone. Yes, it requires a macro lens and an good eye. It also means thinking outside of the box, but not very far outside.

My New Year's resolution, for 2010, is to take some photographs like this. To make the time to create studies of everyday details. I don't expect to win prizes or even get much recognition, but it will increase my collection of stock footage and, more importantly, I'll enjoy doing it.

It'll be interesting, in a year's time, to see which pictures I choose as my best shots of 2010.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Delighting in the Detail

It's been a while since I posted on this blog.

That's partly because I've been busy working on my new business as a freelance writer. And it's partly because it's not a great time of year for taking photographs.

That latter statement is not entirely true. There's never a bad time of year for taking photographs. Every season and every time of day presents opportunities. There is always a new angle to be found even on the very familiar.

But natural light is in short supply in the UK at this time of year. We do get some bright, sunny days but the hours of darkness far outnumber those of daylight. Macro photography, as I've discovered, needs plenty of light.

A good solution for photography of small objects indoors would be a lightbox, allowing pictures to be taken at any time of day or night. They're not difficult to make, apparently, and at some point I'll try my hand at it.

For the moment I'll continue to grab snaps when I can in natural light. I'm taking quite a few macro photos to illustrate my online articles. Everyday objects are useful subject matter when taken in close-up.

I mustn't leave it too long before I post on this blog again!

Friday, September 4, 2009

What is Barrel Distortion?

The world of photography is full of strange terms. Pin-cushion effect, bokeh, depth of field, and white balance are just a few that take a moment to get to grips with.

The one I'm blogging about today is barrel distortion. This is the curious effect that reminds you a picture was taken using a circular lens, because the straight lines curve slightly.

It's particuarly obvious in photographs of buildings or other man-made structures because, not surprisingly, they tend to have a lot of straight lines.

The photos in the this blog entry demonstrate the effect. They are all stunningly unexciting pictures of the wall of my house, which comprises courses of bricks laid in a 'stretcher bond' pattern.

The top photo was taken with the Sigma 50mm macro lens. If there is any distortion it's difficult to see - the lines look good to me.

The second shot is with the kit lens that came with my Sony A350, at maximum zoom, or focal length of 70mm. Again, any distortion is invisible.

The final picture is with the same lens but at the other extreme of its focal length, 18mm. This is a wide-angle setting, which is where barrel distortion tends to occur. It's visible in this picture - which looks as if something is pushing the centre of the shot forward slightly, curving the lines of the brickwork.

Effects like this give the lie to the claim 'the camera never lies'. Incredibly sophisticated though they are, cameras are still not a match for the human eye.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Using a macro for holiday snaps

It's holiday time. This year we had the opportunity for a week by the sea, in Swanage.

This raised the question of whether to take my new Sigma macro lens. I naturually assumed that I would mainly use the kit lens that came with my Sony Alpha 350. It's a DT18-70mm F3.5-5.6, which means it's a basic zoom lens.

However, my Sigma macro was already on the camera and I decided to leave it there. I'm not certain how much dust enters a camera body whenever the lens is changed, but currently I'm being careful not to change too often.

On arrival in Swanage I decided to start taking pictures with the Sigma lens. It's supposed to
give good landscape results. After a little while I got used to the fact that it wasn't a zoom and if I wanted to get closer to a subject I had to physically move. It also did not give me the same wide-angle options as the zoom.

But you can learn to live with that. I downloaded the results, and I was impressed.

What clinched it was a comment by my thirteen year old daugther. She observed that the pictures looked more realistic because the buildings did not have curving walls. She was referring to
what's called barrel distortion, which results in straight lines becoming curves in photographs.

Barrel distortion tends to occur using wide angle lenses, or the wide end of a zoom lens. Apparently it's relatively easy to fix with software, but I prefer the pictures to come out of the camera without the need for post-processing.

I decided to stick with the Sigma macro lens for the rest of the week. I took some great portrait shots and landscapes, and it allowed me to get really close to subjects. It suited my style of photography.

There's a lot more that I want to write about. But the message of this post is simple - a macro lens works perfectly well as a general-purpose lens; it's not just for close-up work.

All the pictures in this post were taken with my Sigma 50mm macro.