Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tip #74: Fighting Macro Frustrations

Spring Lupine - Square Crop - Tamarack Nature Center, MN
Canon 5D Mark II + Canon 100mm f2.8L IS @ f5

Love it or hate it, macro photography provides a context for the broader environmental story. To the nature generalist, macro is just one of the many techniques we use to convey our vision. As with any field of photography, there are specialists. The “macro-master” is disciplined and patient beyond imagination; when compared to them, I am a toddler. The tedium of macro and ultra-closeup photography challenges my imagination and endurance. As such, I am only willing to invest discrete units of time in pursuit of the near microscopic universe.
Too Cold to Move - Tamarack Nature Center, MN
Canon 5D Mark II + Canon 100mm f2.8L IS @ f5
What follows is a list of macro tips for you to consider. If you’ve been following my suggestions thus far, you know the importance of a stable tripod, mirror lock-up and a cable release. I will not rehash these here. Instead, I offer a few ideas for making macro fun, simple and less tedious.
  • Pick your moments: Macro is most fun when you have an exciting subject and great light to capture it. I shoot most of my macros in soft morning light when there is dew clinging to the miniaturized world.
  • Use an L-Bracket or Tripod Collar: Tripod gymnastics is a key skill for framing and composing your macro subjects. Having to adjust and readjust to achieve a vertical or horizontal image adds frustration to this tedium. By using an L-bracket attached to the camera or a tripod-collar attached to the lens, you can seamlessly move from vertical to horizontal or anything in between.
  • Knee Pads save the Back: Making macro images requires a slow and deliberate approach. Regardless of your age, squatting or stooping for long periods of time leads to memorable aches and pains. Combined with rocky or wet surfaces, the pursuit of macros can be quite uncomfortable. This discomfort serves as a reminder to keep the macro lens in the bag when the opportunity suggests otherwise. For once, the solution is cheap and easy, wear knee pads when on the ground and get comfortable with your macro subjects.
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