The leaves are turning, fungi are sprouting on the forest floor, and wildlife is hoarding food. She shares her best autumn macro and close-up pointers listed below …
Every autumn I lie on my belly in stubborn belly of stacks leaves and observe the world around me.
If you lay still the forest will reveal its secrets. A jerk of leaves betrays a squirrel hoarding acorn. The missing portion of a mushroom recommends a deer has actually gone by. A rotting tree stump shows itself as a bug hotel. The closer you look, and the stiller you become, the more you see. For more than a years I have actually captured this magical world through my electronic camera, utilizing close-up and macro photography to check out information that are typically hidden from view.
The closer you look and the stiller you end up being, the more you see. This lichen was growing on top of a fence post. Canon EOS 10D, 105mm, 1/60sec at f/4.5, ISO 400, tripod. Credit: Tracy Calder.
Obviously, lying on the ground when it perspires and littered with poo (I live near the New Forest where ponies, deer and donkeys roam and alleviate themselves, freely) can be very undesirable if you’re ill-equipped, which is why among the very first things I pack in my kitbag is a set of waterproof pants. I team these with a waterproof coat and a pair of sporting gloves (these are breathable with exceptional grip).
It’s much easier to determine fungi ‘in the field’ rather than when you get home as it permits you to utilize the environment to draw conclusions. The fly agaric mushroom, for instance, is usually found under birch trees.
Studying the topic of your Autumn macro shot
Once I have found a photogenic specimen I study it from every angle. One of the happiness of shooting small topics is that you can frequently look down on them, as well as up under them.
At this moment I check the topic for any tears or imperfections– what looks like a small mark to the naked eye will appear magnified and hugely distracting in the last photo. When I have actually decided on a pleasing composition I examine the background for potential interruptions. If there are roaming blades of lawn, leaves or twigs I do some gentle ‘gardening’.
When the wind speed rises above 10mph it’s typically better to concentrate on fixed topics such as bark, rather than leaves and flowers. Fujifilm X-Pro1, 60mm, 1/50sec at f/8, ISO 1250, tripod. Credit: Tracy Calder
The tools of my trade are smaller sized than the typical spade and trowel– I use tweezers to eliminate errant leaves, nail scissors to cut yard, and a paintbrush to get rid of dirt.
If there are larger diversions in the background (i.e. a plant stem or sizeable twig) I hold them out of the frame using something called a Wimberley Plamp. This strange-looking device is basically a moveable arm with a large clamp on one end, which can be clipped to your tripod, and a smaller sized one on the other end, which can be used for holding a plant stem, leaf, petal, or perhaps a diffuser or reflector.
If you’re shooting leaves or other windblown subjects, the Plamp can often be used to hold them consistent, however if the wind speed rises above 10mph you’re much better o focusing on fixed topics such as bark or fungis. Alternatively, you could take a selection of leaves home and tape them to a window to develop some beautiful backlighting. When you’ve found a topic that’s likely to stay put you need to make certain that your video camera is great and steady too.
Typically speaking, the closer your video camera (or to be more precise, the sensor inside your cam) is to the subject the shallower the depth of field. This frequently means utilizing little apertures and sluggish shutter speeds to increase sharpness. When you’re utilizing slow shutter speeds cam shake is a risk, so a tripod is necessary.
I mostly shoot close to the ground so a tripod with a central column that can be utilized in the horizontal position is invaluable. When my subject is simply inches from the forest floor I prefer to utilize a beanbag.
The closer your video camera (or to be more precise, the sensor inside your video camera) is to the subject, the shallower the depth of field. Canon EOS 10D, 105mm, 1/90sec at f/4.5, ISO 200, beanbag. Credit: Tracy Calder.
Refining the composition of your Autumn macro shot
With the video camera connected to a tripod, the subject constant, and the ‘gardening’ total I turn my attention to refining my composition. At this moment it’s worth keeping in mind that all the basic ‘guidelines’ of structure still use. While you may be dealing with topics simply centimetres in length you can still utilize the rule of thirds, lead-in lines, and various blends of favorable and negative space to achieve a well balanced image.
I utilize live view for composing as it enables me to amplify a location of the frame and move it around inspecting all of the edges for possible diversions.
My existing camera is a Fujifilm X-T2. Although the majority of the photos here were taken with a Canon EOS 40D and Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro lens, which I still use regularly. In theory I could use the viewfinder to move the amplified location. But as I use my left eye to make up, the joystick falls too near to my nose, so I use the LCD keep an eye on.
Using the LCD keep track of will assist you to tweak the focus, too. While AF is ideal for general photography, I always use manual focus for close-up and macro work. The X-T2 has various MF Assist modes, but I usually overlook these and utilize the Focus Check function rather. With the electronic camera in manual focus mode and Focus Check switched on, the display screen will zoom in on the focus location as quickly as the focus ring is turned, enabling me to make adjustments.
When depth of field is limited to simply a few millimetres, accurate focusing is important, so explore the choices readily available to you. When I use the X-T2 I usually team it with a Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 macro lens. (I’m conserving my pennies for the XF 80mm f/2.8 LM OIS WR macro– ₤ 1,149 for a lens without an all-metal barrel, seriously?).
The 60mm just enables zooms of as much as 0.5 x (half life-size) without an extension tube (see set list), which can in some cases be annoying; so I frequently find myself switching to the Canon DSLR and Sigma lens, which allows 1x zooms (life-size).
With a lot colour around during autumn it’s easy to forget that black & white (or in this case, sepia) can also work. Nikon 1 J1, 10-30mm lens, 1/60sec at f/4, ISO 320, tripod. Credit: Tracy Calder.
What are some budget plan options to macro lenses?
If you’re simply starting with close-up photography, and you’re not exactly sure if you want to buy a macro lens, there are some inexpensive alternatives in the type of extension tubes, close-up accessory lenses, bellows and reversing rings.
Extension tubes fit between the lens and the electronic camera body and work by increasing the distance between the focal airplane (sensing unit) and the back of the lens, decreasing the minimum focusing range.
Close-up accessory lenses ( or diopters) screw to the front of the lens and likewise lower the minimum focusing range. Bellows fit in between the lens and the video camera, and work in much the same way as extension tubes, however with higher flexibility.
Lastly, reversing rings enable you to mount a lens on the electronic camera back-to-front. As an outcome, the lens will focus much closer to the subject.
All of these alternatives have their downsides, so make certain that you know the negatives prior to you sprinkle out. Despite the technology you use, the best way to enhance your close-up and macro photography is to decrease. The more you look, the more you will see. Autumn is a time for introspection, reflection and renewal, so rest on the leaves and drink everything in.
Wish to know what the very best lenses are for macro photography? See the best value macro lenses and finest Macro Lenses for Mirrorless and DSLRs here.
Tracy’s leading suggestions and techniques for Autumn macro photos.
1. Attempt black & white.
Credit: Tracy Calder.
When you’re surrounded by abundant autumn colour it’s easy to ignore the skeletal shapes of trees and leaves, however these can make attractive subjects. Set your image quality to raw + JPEG and try out monochrome settings. For the very best results, process the raw file later.
Lawn, branches and leaves can sneak into the frame when you’re concentrating on the primary subject. Most of the time you can crop these out later on, however it’s excellent practice to get things right in-camera. Use live view and amplify the focus location. Now pan around the frame, paying specific attention to the edges.
3. Display wind speed.
Credit: Tracy Calder.
At times like this you can focus on stationary topics, such as bark. Or experiment with creative blur using slow shutter speeds.
4. Follow the rules.
Credit: Tracy Calder.
The fundamental ‘guidelines’ of structure, such as directing the eye utilizing lead-in lines, positioning crucial elements according to the rule of thirds, and KISS (keep it simple, dumb), still apply to close-up photography. Think of what attracted you to a subject in the first place and try to stress this.
5. Think about the negative.
Credit: Tracy Calder.
The location of the frame that contains the primary subject is ‘positive’ area. While the area surrounding it is referred to as ‘unfavorable’ area. Constantly ask yourself how these areas associate with one another, and what occurs if one dominates the other.
Top spots for fall macro photography.
New Forest National Park, Hampshire.
Thanks to the high concentration of ancient trees, the New Forest is one of the most important areas in Britain and Europe for lichens, beetles, bats and fungis. You can see autumn colours all over, but Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, Bolderwood and Eyeworth Pond are especially photogenic. Check out www.newforestnpa.gov.uk.
Westonbirt National Arboretum, Gloucestershire.
In the 1820s Robert Holford, a landowner and eager garden enthusiast, started planting trees at his country retreat. His desire to create the best arboretum in England was shared by his son, and the family was quickly hosting ‘colour picnics’ beneath the Japanese maples in autumn. Follow the Silk Wood Trail to view the spectacle from the treetop sidewalk. Go to www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt.
Dawyck Botanic Garden, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Home to one of Scotland’s finest tree collections, Dawyck Botanic Garden homes specimens dating to 1680. Throughout fall the maples, rowans, beech spindle trees and the wonderfully called candyfloss tree form an abundant tapestry of reds, golds and browns, which have a lot of great autumn macro picture capacity.
Take a mushroom ID guide for identification. Credit: Tracy Calder.
Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean.
The Wye Valley supports a vast array of habitats consisting of limestone cliffs, heathland and thick native forest. Throughout autumn a journey to the Forest of Dean is a must, with spectacular views throughout the River Wye from Symonds Yat Rock. See www.wyedeantourism.co.uk.
Grizedale Forest, Cumbria.
In 2017 the Lake District was awarded World Heritage status. Grizedale Forest lies at its heart, sitting between the lakes of Coniston and Windermere. Take the Tarn Trail climbing eastwards out of the valley to reach the only natural tarn in the forest. Check out www.forestry.gov.uk/grizedale.
Package list for fall macro photography.
A portable LED light (like the Manfrotto Lumimuse 3) is perfect for raising shadows under mushrooms and backlighting leaves and insect wings. As it’s a continuous light source you can see the effects prior to releasing the shutter.
When buying a macro lens think about the maximum zoom it can accomplish (e.g. life-size, half life-size). Plus, the minimum focusing distance (how close you can get to the topic before focusing becomes impossible).
Water resistant pants are a must when shooting fungis or leaf information. Over the years I’ve utilized bin bags, ground mats and picnic carpets.
A beanbag can be bought filled or unfilled, with lining or without. Wildlife Watching Supplies has a good range. You can fill a bag with dried beans, rice or corn, however if you want to avoid the contents decomposing then go with plastic pellets.
At high magnifications, any motion can trigger image blur. Keep whatever consistent with a tripod and clamp or ‘plamp’ clipped to a leg. I use a plamp for holding plant stems and keeping disruptive foliage out of the frame.