This week I did not have the opportunity to go down to the lake because I attended a Model UN conference. So, I thought this would be a good time to talk about one of the more difficult photography techniques that has been especially difficult for me: macro photography.
While I do not directly know the experience of many professional photographers (as I know few), I am sure that the biggest limitation on my abilities in macro photography is my equipment. This may sound like a bit of a cop-out, but it is true! I swear!
The reason for this is that lenses specifically made for macro photography (the good ones) can run you out over 1000 dollars in cash. What is the difference between a good macro lens and just a normal camera lens? Well, macro lenses have a ridiculously wide aperture setting, around f/1.8, making the backgrounds of the image heavily blurred. For a good example of how different aperture settings affect the backgrounds of a photo, check out the comparison of these four different photos:
Expensive macro lenses also have the ability to focus on the subject of the photo from a very close distance, allowing for images to be magnified to a great degree. If you do not understand what I am talking about, try holding something up to eye level to look at. Then, slowly, move it closer and closer until it is no longer in focus. Like your eyes, camera lenses have a focusing distance as well, except it can be changed depending on what lens you use.
Knowing these two things, I wanted to find a cheap alternative to a macro lens. After a lot of searching, I finally learned about these things called extension tubes. Extension tubes go in between the camera and the lens and effectively make the focusing distance far shorter than the lens would normally allow. And the best part? They only cost 30 dollars!
After acquiring a cheap set of these extension tubes, they have become an essential part of the gear I carry with me. However, they do have their drawbacks. While shortening the minimum focusing distance, they greatly decrease the range you can focus. So, I end up moving the camera forward and backward to focus instead of just turning the dial on the lens. This means that in a slight breeze, it can be almost impossible to photograph a flower as it is constantly coming in and out of focus. That being said, the tubes really are worth it. Here, take a look at two photos, one without the tubes, and one with them. Each was taken as far zoomed in as possible with the respective gear.
As you can see from these two images (neither of which has been edited or cropped at all), the extension tubes give us the ability to take a much closer look at the flower than even possible with our own two eyes. They really are an essential part of my toolbox, no matter how finicky and difficult they can be to use.
Next week, I will talk about the opposite of macro: telephoto. It comes with its own challenges but is definitely my favorite.