Macro Fantastic

I finally got a macro lens a couple of months ago and I’m starting to really like it. Not so much the lens but taking macro shots. Why? Well, it requires not really going anywhere far. All I have to do is find a flower or plant (which they’re plenty of in Atlanta) and start shooting.

Think that's a beetle.

I usually just stroll out a hour or two before sunset and find a flower and start shooting. I haven’t yet had the patience to wait for insects and then hope for a good pose but I have some decent flower shots. Nothing groundbreaking but hey, they didn’t require that much effort.

The reason why I really like it, is that doesn’t really require planning and long car rides and such. So when I’m feeling lazy but bored, it fills a nice gap. Plus, it allows me to take more photographs and learn a couple of things, like you can’t focus stack a flower with any hint of a wind.


So what lens have I been using? The continually back-ordered Tokina 100mm f/2.8. It seems pretty sharp to me, though I’m looking at 26 megapixel files, so don’t take my word if you’re using a 50 megapixel Canon behemoth. The Tokina is pretty nicely made, considering the price and I’m glad I didn’t buy the Nikon 105mm f/2.8. Is it also 1:1 magnification (1 inch in real life will be inch on the sensor), which is what swayed me over the older Nikon macro lens.

There are three cheap ways of getting into macro photography:


More of your standard flower shot.

I won’t go into which marco lens is the best or best value, but the two above are cheap, good, are 1:1 magnification and have a good working distance, so you don’t have to get super close to your subject and block out all the light.

With the extension tubes you can either go smart (with auto-focus) or dumb (without). I did the “and/or” for the them because there’s nothing stopping you from using them on macro lens! Instead of the 1:1 magnification, you could get 2:1, so 1 inch in real life would be 2 inches on the sensor - welcome to the world of abstract macro photography. Of course you can use the extension tubes on a non-macro lens to get a higher magnification than your normal lens - even if it’s not 1:1, it’s a start and it’s cheap.

An abstract, shallow depht of field macro shot.

Peach tree bloom.

I’m having fun shooting macro and if you haven't started, hopefully I’ve shown you that it doesn't have to be expensive to get going.

Shooting Into The Sun

I learnt this lesson pretty late. Since I’ve never really read anything explicitly about it, I thought I’ll share it. When is it OK to shot into the sun? Seems like an extremely important question if you want to take landscapes right? Well it’s best to separate it into two separate times. Golden hour (1-2 hours before the sun sets or after the sun rises) and sunset/sunrise plus civic twilight (20-30 minutes after or before the sun leaves or enters the horizon).

First, let’s look at the sunset/sunrise plus civic twilight (S+CT). The sun here would be very close to the horizon or just below it. At this point the sun isn’t partially strong as the light from it is being scattered quite a bit by the atmosphere. The light from the sun at civic twilight hasn’t quite disappeared; the sun’s just dropped or risen below the horizon, but as the earth is curved, the light is still reaching us, it just has to travel through more of the atmosphere. This scattering (Rayleigh scattering) causes the orange/red color at sunset/sunrise and particularly at civic twilight.

Oh the colors.

Oh the colors.

At S+CT it is best to shoot directly where the sun is rising or setting. The most color is going to come from that direction and it best to plan for a shot at a time where the sun will rise or set in the direction you plan to shot.


Now golden hour is something that’s really puzzled me. I always approached golden hour the same why I approached a sunset/sunrise, which has led to some pretty bad pictures. I have until recently just shrugged it off, as most of time I plan for the sunset/sunrise and anything at golden hour is just a bonus.

Washed out picture at golden hour, shooting directly into the sun.

Washed out picture at golden hour, shooting directly into the sun.

As you can see the above looks washed out. The sun just overpowers the picture and the colors and highlights look drab and lacking depth. The solution? It’s really simple and I feel kind of stupid not figuring it out earlier: don’t shot into the sun at golden hour. Why? Well the sun is higher up in the sky and more powerful, so aim for a front-lit, or more preferably side-lit subject (your camera pointed perpendicular or in the opposite direction of the sun).

I should now come away with a few more keepers, though I wish I had my head screwed on right and figured it out sooner.