Larger than life

Spring Peeper
Spring Peeper – 100mm Macro lens

I like to photograph almost anything in nature. This past weekend I spend some time looking for salamanders and frogs. These guys are small and low to the ground, so how do you capture them?

First off you need to get low. Down on their level. This means the proper clothing and knee protection. I always wear my rain pants so I can wallow around in the mud and wet leaves. Knee pads or a garden pad are great ideas to protect your knees – we’re not getting any younger. A couple of Ibuprofen may also be in your arsenal to help with those aches and pains of getting low!

A macro lens, extension tube or close-up filters help you focus close and make your subject bigger if you’re using a DSLR or mirror-less system. If you’re using a point and shoot camera, then switch to macro mode. This is marked with a flower usually. This mode will allow you to focus closer. Try not to use the zoom when in the this mode, unless you can’t get close enough to the subject.

A macro lens is the best as it will render your subject life size on the sensor at it’s closest focusing distance. They have wonderful quality and a wide range of f stops, often opening up to 2.8. They also make great portrait lenses so you have multiple uses for them. They usually come in 50mm, 60mm, 100mm, 180mm, and 200mm focal lengths depending on your manufacturer. I prefer the 100mm for it’s size, distance to subject and  focal length. However, this may not be in everyone’s budget.

An extension tube is a great alternative that I used for years with my 70-200mm lens until I could afford the 100mm macro. This is a hollow tube that goes between your camera and the lens. It changes the focal length of the lens so it will now focus closer and it doesn’t impact the quality of the lens you are using unlike the close-up filters.  I also used it to great effect on my 400mm lens by reducing the 11.5 foot minimum distance. Now I was able to focus on a subject out in the water that I couldn’t get real close to but was closer than 11.5′ and still make him good sized in the image.

Bull Frog - 400mm lens with  25mm extension tube
Bull Frog – 400mm lens with 25mm extension tube

The cheapest method, but also lowest quality, are close up filters. These are essentially magnifier filters that enlarge the subject. They are an economical way to get started and see if you like this type of photography.

Armed with your set up, get low and get close. This brings your subject to life! You don’t want to have to crop 75-90% of your image to see your subject.

Marbled Salamander
Marbled Salamander – 100mm macro lens


Be ready to Grab Opportunities when they come your way

Last week I was working in my home office. It was a dreary, cloudy day, when suddenly I noticed this beautiful warm light filtering through the windows. I looked outside and the sun was beaming through the trees across the street. I’m thinking, “That’s really pretty, I should go see what I can do with it”. As I get up to go grab a camera, a friend calls. I chat with him briefly and then look outside again. “Well, I can still get out there in time, I think:.  Then I race downstairs as I am filled with a sense of urgency. Grabbing my camera, I head outside in my slippers and house clothes.

I loved the starburst effect through the trees, but the sun was getting too low to do much and the foreground by the trees was not great.The area behind my house is all new homes and construction, so there’s a lot of junk in the foregrounds. The clouds were quite nice, so I’m thinking, “Maybe the after sunset color will be good”. It’s so hard to tell sometimes. I wandered down the street as the sun sunk below the horizon, looking for a vantage point. There was great fog cover over the river in the background, but I couldn’t get up high enough to capture it. You can barely see it in the image I posted.

But you should never give up! I was wandering back when the clouds lit up. The image does not do it justice. Soft molten gold is as close as I can describe. I was shooting tree silhouettes, when one tree stood out from the rest. This was it! After a few test exposures, I was happy as a clam, changing compositions and enjoying every moment of a spectacular sunset as my husband was hollering for dinner in the background. “Just a few more minutes,” I holler back. He’s a good and understanding partner!

This is one of my favorite sunset images to date. You never know what will come your way, so don’t hesitate when it does. Run out and grab it!