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Spring is upon us - part 1 of 1 2 3 4 5 6

by Jon Ashton Published 01/06/2012

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Well spring is upon us, the birds are active, many have already begun nesting, mammals are chasing one another, that can only mean one thing - and no it's not all about big lenses, this time of year offers so many and different potential subjects - we have birds all year round but now we have many more subjects suited to shorter lenses, yes it's macro time.

I am using the term macro rather loosely perhaps, close up is suitably vague or general, I hope to show you something of the range of subjects that will become available to you.

Spring is the time to consider a veritable cornucopia of subjects. Let's have spontaneous thought over the possibilities that we have:
Plants eg woodland flowers Insects eg bumble bees, flies, beetles, bugs, butterflies and damselflies Amphibians eg frogs, toads and newts Reptiles eg lizards, snakes and slow worms Mammals eg mice, voles, shrews - even grey squirrels The previous is by no means intended be an exhaustive list but I hope it will help engage the grey matter into thinking about the range of possibilities open to you. I would suggest thinking about what may be in your garden now, as you read this article, then let your mind wander to your most frequent walks and then onto more specific locations or habitats where you would find items in the natural world that you always wished you had captured but never did - there is always something to photograph and improve upon.

Lens choice

Since my last macro article was written in June 2008 there are now several new lenses on the market. The table below gives an indication of the availability of current lenses.

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I won't go into detail over the merits of individual lenses, they are all capable of providing excellent image quality, but I offer the following guidelines:
Longer focal length lenses are generally more expensive.
Longer focal length lenses are generally more suited to insect and animal photography because they offer a longer working distance (ie distance from the front of lens/lens hood to subject).
Longer focal length lenses are heavier than short focal length lenses.
Shorter focal length lenses are better suited to indoor photography.
Shorter focal length lenses are usually better suited to plant photography.

A word of caution: most of the above lenses can be used with full frame and crop frame digital SLRs, but some are only suited to crop SLRs; if you are buying a new lens check the compatibility with your camera(s).

Image stabilisation

Image stabilisation has potential, both good and bad! Image stabilisation obviously comes into its own if you are hand-holding or using a monopod. I would, however, suggest that the sharpest images are made when using a tripod and mirror lock up, with or without a cable release.

Call me old fashioned but I still adopt the maxim that things are sharpest when they are still and "there is nothing more still that static" - hence the tripod. Image stabilisation offers improved opportunities when stalking insects, and very good results may be obtainable, but in general I would recommend at least using a monopod and when/where at all practicable using a tripod - and a reasonably heavy one - light ones are not stable enough in rough grasses. On the one hand (no pun intended) handholding a camera offers the opportunity to get more images, some of which will be good, and possibly some very good indeed, but using a tripod, by necessity slows you down. It makes you consider composition and the plane in which you are taking the image, it can even remind you to check aperture and shutter speed and provide you with the opportunity to use a lower ISO setting. The tripod will give you fewer images but I think you will end up with more genuine 'keepers'.


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1st Published 01/06/2012
last update 18/07/2022 16:31:48

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Updated 18/07/2022 16:31:48 Last Modified: Monday, 18 July 2022