Nature Photography Tips Tricks and Techniques

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Photographing Flowers (Part1):
Macro lenses, close-up filters, extension tubes,
and exposure compensation

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In the North Country, the wildflowers are plentiful in early summer....And who doesn't like a great flower photo? They're colorful and great photographic subjects either on their own, or as a part of a larger landscape photograph.

Remember: There are many rules in photography. Try them once and then be sure to break them in pursuit of your own style. The following are a few tips to help you make the most of your wildflower photos.

There's a lot of information about the techniques for photographing flowers, so I'm going to split it up into two installments. Stay tuned for Part 2!

Get close (or not!)
In many cases, I like to do both. Show the individual flower, then pan out to show it as part of its environment.

In order to photograph individual flowers with good magnification, you're going to need some hardware: a macro lens, extension tubes, or magnifying filters.

A macro lens is designed for close-up photographs. Although magnification varies from lens to lens, most true macros have magnification factors of 1:2 ( life size) or 1:1 (life size). Many point-and-shoot style cameras without interchangeable lenses have some sort of a macro mode too, although you probably won't get even 1:2 magnification. Check your manual.

The next easiest solution is to use close-up filters. These filters screw onto your lens just like any other filter, but have the effect of magnifying the image. Close-up filters come in different strengths, for example, +1, +2, or +4. No exposure compensation is needed when using close-up filters, and they are lighter than most macro lenses. Close-up filters can also be used on any lens that they fit. Inexpensive step-up adapters can be purchased to adapt a filter to be used on different sized lenses.

Extension tubes fit between the lens and camera body on SLR cameras. By moving the lens father from the film plane, image magnification is achieved. Extension tubes are relatively inexpensive and can be used with most lenses. However, the downside of using them is light loss. Use the following formulae to calculate the exposure compensation.

The basic calculation for exposure compensation is

Exposure Increase Factor (EIF) = (1 + (d/f) )^2

d = length of the extension tube
F = the focal length of the lens


16mm Extension Tube With 80mm lens
EIF = (1 + (d/F) )^2 = (1 + (16/80))^2
EIF = (1 + 0.2 )^2
EIF = 1.44 or approx
EIF = 1.5

Below is the conversion of EIF to f-stop value. Note that the f-stop value is about half of the exposure factor.

EXPOSURE FACTOR f-stop value
1.5 0.5
2.0 1.0
2.5 1.25
3.0 1.5
3.5 1.75
4.0 2.0
5.0 2.5

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