Composition Basics In Microphotography

Photo by Huub de Ward

Portrait of small Jewel bug: Magnification 7, f/9, ISO 100 and 1/250 sec.

Microphotography is magical because it takes us into a smaller universe of vibrant colors, exquisite details and extraordinary patterns that can literally take your breath away. I photograph invertebrates so close-up that they are transformed into large subjects. Through my images I aim to highlight the different characteristics of a variety of species – and their individual charm.

Microphotography can be challenging because it involves moving in close and magnifying what is there beyond our normal perception of it. As a consequence, we need to pay a lot of attention to every detail we see in the view finder because it will have a huge impact on the overall look and feel of the image. Where we place the subject in the frame (i.e. composition) is critical; even the smallest movement left-right, up-down, can substantially change its impact. [Read more…]

Introduction to Insect Macro Photography (Part I)

Photo by Huub de Waard / Portrait of a little fly: Magnification 8, f/8, ISO 100 and 1/250 sec

Photo by Huub de Waard / Portrait of a little fly: Magnification 8, f/8, ISO 100 and 1/250 sec

This is a guest post by Huub de Waard, an exceptional photographer who specializes in close-up shots of insects. After reading his post, be sure to check out more of his awesome photos at his website. And, if you’re also interested in writing a guest post here on PhotoNaturalist, please contact me, thanks! –Steve

One of the most popular books that I read during my childhood was Eric in the Land of the Insects, written by the Dutch author Godfried Bomans. In this humorous fantasy, nine-year-old Eric enters the landscape painting that hangs on his wall and he discovers a world of man-sized wasps, bees, butterflies and other insects that is stunningly similar to the world of humans. Once photography became a part of my life and I purchased the Canon extreme macro lens MP-E 65 mm f/2.8, which has combined with a 2x teleconverter a maximum magnification of 10:1, my world was populated with grasshoppers, spiders, snails, flies, dragonflies and butterflies—Eric’s world.

Magnification describes the relationship between the actual size of the subject and the size of its image on the sensor of the camera. Photographing a 3 cm (1.18 inch) long blue-tailed damselfly so that its image size is 1 cm (0.39 inch) on the sensor means that the magnification is 1/3 (1:3) life-size. Dividing the size of the subject’s image on the sensor by the actual size determines the magnification. At 1:1 life-size, the size of the subject on the sensor is as big as it is in real life. Macrophotography is restricted to magnifications in the order of 1:10 to 1:1 life-size. Microphotography is the extreme form of macrophotography, dedicated to the photography of small objects from life-size to modest enlargements of up to about 20. [Read more…]

Three Great Tripod Accessories

Sometimes it can be really annoying to get your tripod in the EXACT position you need it. Just when you think you’ve got it set up how you want it, you lock in the ballhead, and realize your camera just moved down half an inch, which totally ruins your composition.

Well, luckily there are a few accessories that can help make your life easier: an L-bracket, a tripod collar, and a bubble level. [Read more…]

Three Quick Tips For Close-Ups

California Wild Rose / Photo by Steve Berardi

California Wild Rose / Photo by Steve Berardi

Now that spring has arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time to start thinking about photographing all those wonderful wildflowers and insects. It’s the perfect season for close-up photography.

So, here are three quick tips to get you started:

#1 – Get down to your subject’s level

Many of the plants and insects that come out in the spring live very low to the ground, so your first reaction may be to photograph them from where you first spot them (standing up and looking down at them). But, many times it’s better to get down to your subject’s level and photograph them from there because it captures a more friendly point of view (almost as if you’re seeing eye-to-eye with your subject). [Read more…]

How To Focus Closer With your Lenses

Every lens has a minimum focusing distance: the closest point where the lens can get a sharp focus. Generally, the longer the focal length of the lens, the greater the minimum focusing distance.

Most of the time, this distance isn’t a problem because with longer lenses you’ll generally be photographing a distant subject.

But, those longer telephoto lenses are also great for close-up photography, because they help you isolate your subject against a specific part of the background. In these cases, this minimum focus distance often becomes a problem because many lenses won’t let you get close enough to fill the frame with a small subject (such as a wildflower or insect).

So, how do you make your lens focus closer? [Read more…]

What To Photograph On An Overcast Day

Photo by Steven Burke (used under the CC-Attr-NC-ND license)

Photo by Steven Burke (used under the CC-Attr-NC-ND license)

In Southern California, we have this thing called “June Gloom” where pretty much every day in the month of June is overcast or cloudy. Some people call it our punishment for having bright sunny days for the rest of the year.

But, I look forward to the overcast skies because although they produce some gloomy feelings, they also create some very unique lighting conditions that bring out some of the best colors found in nature. [Read more…]