Get started with close-ups

If you’ve read my past columns you’ll know that I’m in love with wildlife especially the big subjects like deer, bear and sheep. It’s a huge thrill to be able to shoot these creatures with the camera but the truth is finding these animals doesn’t happen every day. So, it’s nice to have another photographic interest during those down times. This month I’d like to get you thinking about close-up nature photography.

One of the great things about close-up photography is that it can be done almost anywhere. The journey is more about creativity and seeing rather than locations. Perhaps you have your own green space or live near a nature park or stream. No matter where you live, tiny landscapes can be found by all photographers with a keen eye. As a wildlife photographer, my lens of choice is often in the 300 millimetre to 500 mm range. For general close-ups I’d recommend any lens from 50 mm to 200 mm.

The tiny frozen landscape image above was made along an icy stream in December. Ice viewed through a camera lens can reveal beautiful patterns and textures and is one of my favorite close-up subjects. A word of warning however—close-up photography is addictive.

The process of close-up photography often begins with a slow walk along the banks of a creek or trail in search of interesting formations and designs. This kind of nature observation may take some practice as you try to view things on a smaller scale than you normally would. After a period of time, allow yourself to take some practice shots and don’t worry about anything but the composition of your images. Decide on what you want to include in your image and what you don’t, then you can focus on getting everything in sharp focus.

Sharp focus and precise camera positioning begins with your tripod. Holding your camera by hand just won’t do if you want the crisp details. An easy tip to help get everything in focus is to maximize the effectiveness of your depth of field by paralleling your entire composition, or just the areas you want to bring attention to, with the back of your camera.

So what is depth of field? Well, depth of field generally determines how much of your image is in sharp focus. This can be controlled by reading your user manual and adjusting your camera settings appropriately.

Close-up nature photography will open up a billion new opportunities for you and there’s so much information out there on how to get started. For now, I hope I’ve sparked your interest.

Find out what you can today and you’ll see that slowing down and observing the small parts of nature will increase your appreciation for the bigger picture.
Good Luck.

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