Finer Focus

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 15, 2010

The wild flowers are blooming lively in the prairie, and I’m turning the focusing ring on my camera, moving closer and closer to the colorful display. As I get close enough for a single flower to fill the viewfinder, my lens reveals an intricate beauty that can’t be seen from a distance. By moving into this “macro” zone, a simple flower has become a work of art.

When I do macro photography, my eyes are constantly searching for a tiny creature or a simple composition that is not apparent from a broader view. I must slow down and be still while maintaining my focus on the subject. I also need artistry and creativity to portray the subject beyond a single dimension. For example, the closer I get to the subject, the more I really have to look for a central point of focus. I can then use my aperture (f/stop) to adjust depth of field and control the emotional impact of the photograph. With a wide-open aperture, everything around the edges of the image will become soft with only the central point of the image remaining in focus. A higher f/stop number will yield much more depth of field and therefore everything becomes in focus. In this manner, I can create, from the same subject, two images with very different visual impacts.

To give close-up photography a try, start by finding the central point of the subject you want to focus on (the eyes of an insect, for example) and start moving closer until the subject begins to fill the whole frame. You will notice that everything surrounding the subject will become soft and out of focus. Using a flash will help highlight the detail of the subject, fill in the shadows, and add contrast to the image. A tripod will give you a sharper image while allowing you to fine-tune the composition. Overcast skies are usually better than a bright sunny day, because you have a more neutralized tone and less harsh shadow being cast on the subject. This allows the image to be more saturated and richer color.

To take full advantage of macro photography, you will need a specialized macro lens that will allow you to focus the subject to its

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