Best thing about macro photography – you don’t have to leave home!

We were delighted to welcome back Derek Gale on Tuesday, to hear his talk on Close-Up and Macro Photography.
Derek is a professional photographer and trainer, based in South Oxon. He trains for the RPS and also leads photographic holidays for the Holiday Fellowship. He’s a very good speaker who gives a very interesting talk with a lot of information; you learn a lot (then you have to remember what you learnt!). Check out his website
With the sales pitch over (happy to give those details), Derek started with a definition of macro: ‘Photographing a small or a very small object, so that it is bigger than lifesize when you view it (however you view it)’. It’s a whole new tiny world that people don’t even consider being there. The images are fascinating, images of day-to-day objects that are unrecognisable. The world is fractal as you move to small scale, more complex, more complicated. Close-up is not macro, but macro is close-up.
The equipment needed varies from expensive, to free (or almost). Options include normal lenses (focussed as close as possible), reversed lenses (with an adaptor), extension tubes (between body and lens), supplementary lenses (screwed into filter thread), compact cameras close-up mode (small flower), supplementary lens on a mobile phone, even a water droplet. Various combinations will work – none will focus on infinity. Buying a macro lens – may be expensive but the options are better and can focus on infinity; you can use for everything but they have a small aperture.
Different lens behave differently, so you have to test for yourself. Reversed lenses – you can use almost any old lens you may already have as long as it has the aperture setting on the lens barrel (so only an adaptor to buy).
Dealing with camera movement is important; everything is magnified. Using a tripod is really important, or learn to rock back and forth to focus (manually) but then you have to press the shutter release button at exactly the moment your subject is in focus. Many digital camera may be used in manual focus mode and if it has the Focus Peaking function it will highlight elements of the image as they come into focus. It is possible to buy a focusing rail to mount on your tripod. Focus stacking in Photoshop can help as depth of field can be an issue; another tip – ensure that you shoot parallel with the plane of the subject, much more will be in focus – but of course, that doesn’t work with live subjects.
Lighting can be a bit of a problem; getting up close may mean the subject is shaded by camera (and you). Ring flash, ring LED – either will help – lots of options on price and quality. An LED torch might help, depending on the subject. Lighting to the side or even inside the subject.
Lots to learn, lots to try. Have fun.
Thank you Derek, a very useful and entertaining evening. FOTGA micro 4/3 extension tubes for my Pen-F already ordered.

Images: Geoff Sims
Report: Marny Thompson LRPS



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