Macro Shells


With the weather being so poor lately I decided to break out the macro lens and extension tubes and look around the house for some inspiration.

Macro photography can be quite challenging, but when you pull off that killer image it is very satisfying.

Essentially macro photography is getting closeup photos and focusing at very short distances from your subject. Setting your compact or phone to macro mode allows you to focus close to the subject and get some really cool closeup shots.

Macro photography, although challenging and seemingly demanding the need of much specialist kit, can be easily achieved with quite a modest setup.

Most point and shoot and phone cameras today have a macro mode.

Macro photography, although challenging and seemingly demanding the need of much specialist kit, can be easily achieved with quite a modest setup

 

I prefer to use an SLR camera and macro lens and would recommend the kit below to improve your chances of success.

1. Flash – when getting in close, the light levels in most conditions, are going to start dropping. The lower light will force slower shutter speeds. Slow shutter speeds and high magnifications means the risk of blur will be pretty high. A flash will help keep the speeds up and reduce the chances of camera shake. Additionally the flash can create a more dramatic light than pure daylight. Use a diffuser to soften the light if you don’t want a harsh light on your subject. A diffuser simply cuts the harshness of the light and can be as simple as a piece of A4 white paper.

2. Tripod – To counter the lower shutter speeds a good tripod will be useful. Don’t forget though, if you cant get your subject matter off the ground and up to a reasonable level, you are going to have to get down and dirty. The ability for your tripod to get real low by splaying the legs wide will be really useful. I always have a waterproof picnic blanket with me if I am going out purposely to do outdoor macro. It helps keep you dry and clean but also allows you to keep track of things like lens caps, filters etc instead of losing them in the undergrowth. The tripod is also going to hold the camera steady when focusing. Focusing takes a bit of practice when you start and can be a frustration.

3. Macro Lens – a dedicated macro lens gives the best results for close up photography.

Slow shutter speeds and high magnifications means the risk of blur will be pretty high

Here is my setup used from any earlier post about Fungi photography.

Basic macro photography setup

Blanket laid out, camera on tripod all ready to try a few shots

To do the style any justice would need several posts to expand on what I have very briefly discussed above.

Back on topic, for years we have always collected shells off the beach when on holiday with the kids and have a pretty large collection. I sorted through them and selected a couple to see how they would look through the macro lens.

First off I started a way off before getting in close and personal. For lighting I used a Nikon SB700 with a sheet of white paper acting as a diffuser.

Brown White Shell Macro seashell

Brown and White seashell macro photo

For this next one I tried a more creative lighting setup by sitting the shell on a lightbox whilst still using the SB700. The intention was to try to generate an inner glow in the shell as the shell was very thin.

Brown White Shell Macro seashell photo

Brown and white seashell macro photo

For the last image I again used the SB700 with a white sheet of paper as a diffuser but this time got right in close using a set of Kenko extension tubes. Using the tubes makes things a bit more tricky as the depth of field becomes even more shallow and the focus is very very fine. As a result I am now convinced a focusing rack for my tripod needs to be high up there on the ‘kit I need to get’ list.

Pink White Shell Macro seashell photo

Pink and white seashell macro photo

I have a few more images I am working through and after reviewing all the images I have a number of ideas to experiment with. I think a couple of the images will make good B&W conversions so I will try a bit of editing over the weekend and see how that plays out.

As usual thanks for taking the time to stop by and read my post. Please feel free to leave any comments or perhaps details of any tips and hints you have picked up in macro photography.

cheers for now

Gary

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