Monday, 25 October 2010

Macro Madness!

Well it's half-term and I've also got a week off work. What to do...what to do? After perusing my classmates blogs, I think I'm in danger of being left behind. Not only, are many of them much more diligent in their blog posting, but their photography seems to be advancing in leaps and bounds. So, rather than sitting round twiddling my thumbs, I thought I'd spend the afternoon getting to know my macro lens.

Nikon 60mm F2.8D Af Micro Nikkor Lens

I've already used my macro lens for the course, but, rather than being any predetermined plan, it was usually because my standard lens wasn't quite giving me the picture I wanted. A perfect example of that, is the picture of the apple in my depth of field post. Although there was nothing wrong with the image my standard lens produced, I just didn't feel it sufficiently illustrated the concept of a narrow depth of field, so I decided to use my macro lens to show an extreme example. Another task I used it for was when we were asked to take 50-100 shots of the same object. This required different settings, locations and angles. I don't mind admitting it, but I was really struggling towards the end of the task. That's when I decided to break out the macro lens.

Bottle of  Sprite: Shutter 1/1000, F/5.0,  ISO 100
The Idea!

I've always liked the way macro pictures of leaves create a sort of abstract landscape. The stems and veins forming rivers and tributaries, and the epidermis almost looking like forested islands. That then was my task for the day. I left the house, and went in search of my subject. I don't know if it was the sight of a grown man wandering around collecting leaves, but I got some rather funny looks from my neighbours (maybe I shouldn't have been skipping?) Having found a selection of leaves I headed home. That's when I realised there was another problem....I really wanted to back light the leaves. Now, not being a professional photographer, I don't have access to all the fancy lighting rigs, I'd have to improvise!

Here's One I made Earlier

My DIY Macro Set-up

Here's what I used:
  • Two CD racks
  • An anglepoise lamp
  • The backing board of a clip frame
  • The perspex front of a clip frame
  • My D80 Camera, and a 4GB memory card
  • My cameras remote control
  • A small piece of polystyrene (to balance the camera)
  • Masking tape, to hold the leaves in place.
Disclaimer: I'm not in any way recommending you try this, so if you do, and you break your camera, don't blame me!

I chose the CD racks, because I knew the individual slots would allow me to adjust the height of the board/perspex, whilst maintaining a constant level. I got my Dad to cut a circular hole (just large enough to fit my lens through), in the backing board. Unfortunately, when Nikon spent millions of pounds designing  my camera, they didn't anticipate that I'd one day have to balance it on a bit of wood. So I needed a small piece of polystyrene to place underneath. Placing the lamp beneath the perspex, not only allows me to back light the subject, but by using the CD slots, I'm able to adjust the distance from the lamp and therefore the amount of light coming through. The camera remote was to eliminate any movement I might have caused when pressing the shutter release. Heath Robinson eat your heart out.

Now Then, To The Pictures!

If I'm honest, I had mixed results. As this is a learning process, I'll post the good and the bad, then let you decide.

Shutter 1.0 sec, F/51.0, ISO 100

Of all the back lit pictures, this probably came out the best. Even then, I don't think it's that great a photo. If I was trying again, there are a couple of things I'd do differently. The composition is my main concern. It feels awkward. I'd have preferred to make more of a feature of the main stem, but due to the damage on the leaf, I had to try and work round it. Back lighting the leaf has made the veins really stand out (which was what I'd hoped would happen), regrettably, it's also caused a problem I hadn't anticipated. Because the main stem's a lot thicker than the rest of the leaf, rather than be illuminated, it's actually been made darker. I could probably counter this, by using another subtle light source from the top.
By cropping and rotating the picture. it gets rid of the distracting stem, and allows me to work round some of the worst damage.

Cropped And Rotated Image

I had slightly more success, when I abandoned the idea of back lighting (for now). Instead I decided to use the lamp for directional lighting,

Shutter: 1/6, F/10, ISO 100

I like this picture, and feel the composition works much better. Instead of being a distraction, the main stem naturally leads the eye further in to the picture, and using the lamp as directional lighting has really brought out the rough texture of the surface. Because this leaf wasn't taped down and I used a wider aperture, not all of the leaf's in focus. I don't feel this necessarily detracts from the quality, but it might have been nice to try. Although the colour of this leaf isn't as striking as the green of the other one, I think it still works well.

P.S. If you're reading this Marie, I promise I'll put up some of my initial ideas soon...Promise...Just don't beat me up!

P.P.S. Sorry about all the exclamation marks!!!

1 comment:

  1. I love the fact your so down on yourself when your blog is actually coming along fantastically...your macro images are looking fab and I'm very impressed with your mini studio set up! Your reflecting on your work and learning from the experience which is what it's all about. The last image is lovely, I love the softness of it and the texture is great :) The studio will be set up for a still life/close up shoot on wednesday so bring anything along you fancy shooting :)