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It's a small world, and capturing it with a photograph can be challenging. In this course, photographer, author, and teacher Ben Long takes you on a fantastic voyage into the realm of the tiny, detailing the gear and shooting techniques necessary to capture extreme close-ups of everything from products to posies.
After touring the possibilities of macro photography, the course details essential gear at several price levels, including lenses, flashes, and other accessories. Next, Ben explores the special challenges of macro photography: dealing with moving subjects, working with extremely shallow depth of field, focusing, lighting, and more.
The course also explores advanced close-up tools and post-processing techniques, such as using Adobe Photoshop to "stack" multiple shots to yield wider depth of field than a single shot can convey.
So, you have seen that I have this nice geared head; this very stable tripod. I can really have fine control over the position of my camera. Whether you have this nice set up or not, you're still going to find that no matter how finely you can position your camera, very often you need to move your subject. I don't mean move it around for exploration the way that we were. I mean get it positioned a very particular way. Sometimes, the only way to get the angle that you want, or to get the focus that you need, is to be able to move your subject, and have it stay where you put it.
Most of the time that I spend on macro shooting is actually trying to figure out how to get my subject to stay where I want it to. So, while with this head, I can maybe get the shot that I want through camera movements, I'm going to set up this shot by moving the subject. And . . . because that's something you are going to see me doing a lot throughout the rest of this course. And, I've got a few different tools that will help stabilize and position the subject where I want. First thing I can do is just move the flower around within the vase. Very often, though, that doesn't get me anywhere. If I start moving it, when I let go, sometimes it has its own mind about what it's going to do.
So, usually what I'll do is get the flower into a stable position in the vase, and tape the stems with a little scotch tape. Tape the stem to be inside or outside of the vase, so that I now have a single object that I can move around. One problem that I have right now is I would like to shoot straight down into the flower, and my tripod is too low. I could raise the center column a little more, but then things become less stable. Sometimes, the problem is you're up too high, and you need to go down. If you aren't using a center column, it's a drag to move the legs up and down, because you got to move all three.
And, if you've got a heavy rig, it gets to be a pain. So, being able to raise and lower the subject is a good idea, or being able to tilt the subject, so that you can get the angle that you want. This is kind of what I would really like to have. So, I've got just this tiny, tiny little gap down here. If I could just prop this up somehow. Now, there are a lot of different options you have for holding things. Here's one that I just want to show you right now. We're not going to use it for this. It looks very dramatic, doesn't it? This is a McClamp. M-C clamp. If you Google that, you will find it.
It serves a lot of different purposes. I can clamp one end to a tripod leg, or a table leg, or something, and use the other end to hold something. If I was okay with damaging the flower, then this is what I would use right now. I would clamp this to my tripod somewhere. And then, I would have this arm that came out here, and I could just clamp the flower right in here. But this flower has still got buds on it that are going to open; I don't want to destroy the flower. So, this is not a great option for right now. You are going to see me using this maybe when we go out in the field, because it's also, great for holding little reflectors and diffusers, or for getting other plants out of the way. That kind of thing.
My next option would be to simply just try to find things to prop this up with. I've got a bunch of lens caps here, and some kind of something or other, an adapter ring of some kind. So, I can just try sliding these under here, and seeing if I can figure out a way to prop this up, so that it sits at the angle that I want. That's pretty good. And, a lot of times that will work. It's very often finding things that are exactly the right height. Coins are great, because you can go from dimes, to nickels, to quarters; you can have different thicknesses; you can stack them in different mounts to get different heights.
One problem with doing the stacking thing is now, for the rest of the shoot, I have to be very careful. I don't want to bump the table. I don't want to bump my tripod, and have it bump the table, because if this goes over, the flower could be damaged. I'll spill water everywhere. So, that's the downside to propping things up. I'm going to not do that, and instead, I'm going to turn to what I think is the solution that is going to work, and that's museum wax. Now, you can get this at, I think, just about any hardware store. Living in California, it's something that's pretty prevalent in hardware stores, because it's something you can use to secure delicate objects in the event of an earthquake.
In fact, it's got this quakehold little trademarked logo on it. It's called museum wax, because it says right here, "Used by museum professionals for anchoring artifacts, collectibles, glass and more." So, it's just a nice, thick wax. You pull out a blob of it, and you can squish it around. It sometimes needs to warm up before it becomes real pliable, and just your body heat will do that. What's nice about it is, it's really sticky. So, it's not just that it's going to prop this thing up. Instead, it's also going to hold it once I have it propped at the level that I want.
Most importantly, what I found is, even when it's underweight, it doesn't compress that much over time. I was trying to use silly putty for this. And, the problem with silly putty is it very quickly starts to just, from gravity, starts to deform. But museum wax has proven to be a really good way of securing things. It actually comes with a little wooden trowel. So, I'm just making a blob of it here. And, I'm going to get this where I think I want it, and stick this underneath there. And, okay, that's propped up very nicely.
I've also used museum wax before to actually just take a flower, a lighter flower, a more light-weight flower, and take its stem, and just stick it to the table, and the museum wax will hold it very well. This gets me an angle that I think is going to work a little bit better. My tripod is now out of whack, because I've moved my subject, but now I can get this lined up, get my focus set. I'm going for a deep aperture, because as you saw before, I discovered that I can get a nice foreground and background.
Take my shot. That looks a little soft. I'm going to switch over to live view, because I think I've got some movement, and that movement could be because perhaps my flower is less stable than it was. So, I'm going to go into full sharpness mode here, and go into live view. Step back from my camera. I'm going to let it sit for a minute, because I just handled the camera. And, using my remote, I'm going to take the shot. That looks better. That looks sharper. So, I like that. I'm going to explore that a little more, maybe.
But over these last few movies, you've seen how I can build up a deep shot through exploration; movement of my camera; movement of my subject; making sure that my understanding of the scene is complete; understanding what all the objects are that I have to work with (all the elements, rather); and understanding what I can do with depth-of-field. Putting all that together in my head, trying a shot, and then working it from there.
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