XDrive Photo Lesson 8 – Closeup/Macro

This is my submission for XDrive Photo Lesson 8 – Closeup/Macro. All photos were taken with Nikon D750 and Sigma 105 mm Macro lens (I didn’t know we have a macro lens! 😉

Raj said, “In this micro world, the colors are so vivid; shapes are intricate, life is very different, nothing is trivial.”

Vivid color was probably the first thing I have noticed.

(F/13 1/80 Sec. ISO-200 105mm)

(F/4.5 1/320 Sec. ISO-125 105mm)

Raj said, “Also, remember by shooting from the nearest distance, you are also separating the background from the subject better.” (Is it because of shallow DOF?)

(F/2.8 1/250 SEc. ISO-3200 105mm)

By the way, this photo was the result after many shots. During the whole process, I gave up 4 times. It still can be better, I am sure.

Just for fun, I lighted up the candle and held the leaf in front of it.

(F/3.5 1/200 Sec. ISO-200 105 mm)

Raj said, “I strongly recommend you do manual focus and not to rely on auto-focus whenever possible.”

I tried using manual focus like Raj suggested, but… every tiny (I mean very tiny) move (shake) would end with a blurring photo. Using a tripod is near impossible. Monopod didn’t help me either. Maybe it’s not for senior citizens? 😉

(Bee: F/3.5 1/200 Sec. ISO-125 105 mm Cricket: F/2.8 1/200 Sec. ISO-1600 105 mm) )

The bee — the difficulty of using manual focus is particularly true when shooting bees. Bees don’t stay at one spot long. They move constantly and they move fast. I finally switched back to auto-focus, and even with auto-focusing, it took many tries to get one that looked “okay”.

The cricket – it’s probably better if the whole cricket is in focus. I am not sure using F9 would help in this case, since its head was closer to the camera than its body. After giving some thought, I came to a conclusion that if I lowered my body, I might get the shot I wanted. I tried to re-take with F13 in manual mode, but I didn’t get any good one (got two mosquitoes bites instead.)

(By the way, people said we should focus on the eye. Do you see how small those eyes are?)

Raj said, “Close up shots are the most time-consuming photography activity in my opinion.”

I agree. I shot 300+ photos for this lesson and most of them (95%?) went straight to the trashcan. ;-( I didn’t realize how much I LOVED my zoom lens; I can’t wait to switch back! But I definitely will miss those vivid colors. 😉

Now, a confession… after reading Raj’s comment for Amy, I realized that what I-thought-macro-photographing-was is not what it is. I use to think the challenge of taking a macro photo is to be able to focus on a small spot; the smaller that spot is the better. Now I know that, not every in-focused tiny spot has an impact to viewers. The real challenge for me is to know what should be in focus and how to achieve that. (Thanks, Amy and Raj.)

Final question… Reversing the lens — isn’t that hard? I mean… one hand has to hold the lens, and the other have to focus and shoot. Also, dust may get onto the sensor, right?

Thanks for visiting my blog.


About Helen C

A retired computer programmer who loves writing and photographing, and has managed to publish a YA novel "Jin-Ling’s Two Left".
This entry was posted in photo, photo and thoughts, Photo Question and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to XDrive Photo Lesson 8 – Closeup/Macro

  1. loisajay says:

    I think your photos are wonderful, Helen. I got confused with close-up and macro…and then manual? I did have to laugh about your ‘focus on the eye’ comment. I am looking forward to Raj’s suggestions.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Lois. I was a little confused too, but I think I know now. I think. 😉
      Raj’s comment often surprises me, which is good because I’ve learned a lot from reading his comments. So, yes, I am looking forward to reading his comment too. Ha.
      By the way, I emailed you at Hotmail. Hope you still have that account.
      Have a wonderful day!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Raj says:

      Lois, the difference between macro and closeup as follows.
      A true macro shot, should reproduce the image in 1:1 ration on the camera sensor. That is if you are shooting an ant, which is 1cm in length should be on the sensor as 1 cm. That’s amazing magnification when you look at it on a big screen or printed.Only dedicated macro lenses can do it as they allow very close focus distance. General lenses what we are using have the magnification of about 0.2 or 0.3 of the actual size, also they have minimum focusing distance of about 3 feet or so. So they are called close up shots. Hope that clarifies.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Last two are engaging with strong composition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Sally.I really really appreciate your comment!!! After I posted the photos, I was a little disappointed, because I thought those two looked much better on my PC. 😉 Thanks.
      I find myself pay more attention to each photo nowadays. I am happy for that.
      Have a wonderful day!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. neihtn2012 says:

    These are very nice shots, each in its own way. Great work, Helen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Good morning, Hein. I am grabbing the opportunity to learn as much as I can… isn’t that obvious? 😉 I also determine to have some unique photos, which turns out is good because I get to exercise the creative side of my brain. Ha.
      Have a nice day.


  4. restlessjo says:

    Heavens, I don’t try for the technical stuff, Helen. The one I like best is that fragile see through leaf with the pebbles behind. It would be a pure fluke if I took that. 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amy says:

    These macro images are remarkable, Helen! The first and second photos are very sharp and the third one is really cool. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Good morning, Amy. Thanks for your comment. I re-shoot the first one after reading Raj’s comment for you. The original one only had anther in focus (I thought it was so cool that I could do it 😉 This one definitely is better. So much to learn!
      Have a wonderful day.


  6. Raj says:

    Thank Helen, once again for the participation in the sessions.

    Pic 1: Great yellow playing hide and seek with the lights. The black background gives good separation and sets the target well. But I am not able to see the sharpness as expected here considering you are using a macro lens. You have an aperture of f13 that should have sharpened whole of the flower. The reason is your shutter speed. At a focal point of 105mm, you should be around 1/160 sec minimum. So there is a micro camera shake in the picture. Also, direct sunlight is not advisable for macro shots.

    Pic 2: This is a great picture in my opinion. Perfect settings have been used. Exposure is optimal. However, I would have eliminated the unfocused third subject from the framing. Also, that vignette looks artificial.

    Pic 3: Perfect way to utilize the macro lens. Settings seem to be adequate. I remember commenting to Amy about dried leaf! 😀 Please note your lens can go close to a distance of one foot to the subject still do a sharp focus. Always take advantage of closest focus. Yes as your focus is closer the DOF gets shallower. A bit more blurry background would have still separated the subject better.

    Pic 4: Very creative shot. Looks like a sunrise silhouette shot.
    Pic Bee: Nice effort there. I can see the macro effect there. But the bee is not posing properly. I agree it’s not easy to do manual focus on bees as they are constantly changing their position. You need continuous(servo) focus for this shot. Also, 1/125sec may not be sufficient.

    Pic Cricket: Nicely done. The eye is in focus that’s very important. Yes, narrow aperture would have given you better dof. But you are already at ISO 1600, and without the artificial light, you couldn’t do that. I feel you should have tried the camera flash in this situation.

    Yes, the focus is most essential aspect in macro photography, but knowing what is to be your focus is the key. Since there is very short dof in macro shots (as we are very close to the subject) things get very complex. Add to that there is a shortage of light and camera shake to handle. Not to mention about the mosquito bites. 😀

    Reversing the lens in addition to all the above, now you need to hold the lens in one hand revered and do it. Also, worry about not to damage the lens and not let those water and dust not to enter the camera! 😀 Since you have the macro don’t even consider it.

    Hope this helps. This critical review is part of XDrive Photography Learning sessions. Thanks for the contribution Helen. It was a great experience.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Helen C says:

      Thank you, Raj. I appreciate your comment.
      Pic 1: I was surprised at that f13 didn’t sharp the whole flower, too. But for me, it was a nice surprise, because I didn’t want the whole flower to be sharp. Still, it bugs me for not knowing why. It was a windy (very windy) week, I should mention. But if it was because of the wind or camera shake, wouldn’t the whole flower be blurry (why part of the flower was in focus)?
      I followed your suggestion and avoided direct sunlight for most of the photos, but I did take a few because I wanted to see the reason behind it. I am not sure I found the answer yet. ;-(
      Pic 2: I was very pleased to see how focus this photo is. I held the grasses with my left hand trying to stabilize them (it was a very windy day) and shoot with right hand; I didn’t expect this result at all. But I didn’t like how this photo looked, didn’t like the composition. I’ve learned that when we do flower arrangement, we should include odd number of flowers… 😉 You were right – I’ll get rid of the third one.
      Pic Bee: I don’t like Mr. Bee’s posing at all. But out of 20, this was the only one Mr. Bee was in focus 😉
      Pic Cricket: using camera flash is okay? But not direct sunlight… (This is probably a not-too-smart question, but I can’ help who I am. Ha.)
      Seriously… I think I am going to play with macro lens a little longer. After reading your comment, I suddenly had an ah-ha moment. I was using “Program” or “Aperture” mode for taking these photos. I should use “Manual” mode instead, so I can control both aperture and shutter speed settings. Urg… another re-shoot… (But I am happy. 😉
      Thank you very much, Raj.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Raj says:

        Helene if you check carefully the pic 1, the stamens and everything in that plane in sharp focus, and foreground and the background is soft, so check if its f13 to be sure.
        Pic Cricket: I am asking you to use flash as a last resort, since its a tricky shot and to have more light you need to do something and only one thing finally left is flash. You can use flash as long as its not very harsh. In this case I assume you are shooting with some distance so it should be fine.
        Regarding using manual mode, that may not be necessary as program or aperture priority would do the same thing. Right now your exposure is fine. In macro shooting you have to give maximum importance to shallow dof, becuase of close focus. Try to put your subject in the “focus plane”… hope you get that point, if not let me know what is focus plane… (ex is your dry leaf, where whole leaf is in focus plane so there is good sharpness all around.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Helen C says:

          Raj, Thanks again. The first photo is F/13. Weird. Sometime I felt my camera wasn’t being honest…

          >> Try to put your subject in the “focus plane”
          That was why I said if I lowered my body, I might get the shot I wanted (because if I did, the whole cricket would be in the “focus plane”. ) But I thought of that a little too late – long after I took the original shot.

          I am using this space to respond your other comment.

          You said, “When your frame filled with the insect, its very difficult for the camera’s auto focus to know “which one needs sharp focus” But I was using spot focusing. Wouldn’t that tell camera where to focus?

          I re-took a couple photos using Manual mode (set my own shutter speed and aperture). It worked much better, because the shutter speed wasn’t too slow. You are right. Program mode or Aperture mode would work too, if I use “auto ISO” and set minimum shutter speed. I didn’t use auto-ISO, so many blurry photos due to slow shutter speed. Lesson learned. 😉

          Thanks again.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Raj says:

            Ok Helen, if you are talking about focus locking(lock focus and recompose) its ok, but still it’s not a very accurate focus, may be it will be more evident in macro photography where a millimeter also makes a big difference. That’s why manual focusing is recommended.
            Yes, the macro photography exposes one to ultimate exposure challenge. Whatever exposure mode you are comfortable go for that mode, the main thing is you should be able to react quickly. My 95% of the work is on “Aperture Priority” mode rest in manual mode. Only when I am doing panning shots or sports photography, I lock shutter speed on “Shutter Priority.”

            Liked by 1 person

          • Helen C says:

            Thanks, Raj. This is really an educational experience. I wish more people would take advantage of your kindness in both giving the lessons and offering constructive feedback, which I appreciate a lot!
            Good night.


  7. Anabel Marsh says:

    Technical stuff just goes whoosh! over my head, but the results are stunning. I like the ragged leaf, also within he candle behind it. Wouldn’t have guessed why that was!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Anabel. I saw that ragged leaf one day when I was walking in my neighborhood. I thought it was so pretty so I carefully carried it home 😉 There are several photos that I like in that series, but most of them were not very sharp. One photographer said the content is more important than the technical stuff like sharpness. I like to believe he is right. Ha.
      Have a wonderful day.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Mabel Kwong says:

    I thought these were amazing macro images, Helen. Really like how you framed the first one of the yellow flower from the side view – bit of darkness, bit of light. Very well done. Agree manual focusing can be a challenge especially when you have a moving subject like the bee you had. I still thought that shot was excellent – and you just got to time yourself 😀 Personally I use auto-focus pretty much all the time whether close-up or landscape photography. Then again, auto-focus sometimes focuses on parts that I don’t want it too, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Mabel. I, too, use auto-focus most of the time (99.999%). It does take time for me to get use to manual focus. I sure had fun trying it though.
      Raj is not the only photographer suggesting using manual-focus for macro photographing. One photographer said that using manual-focus is particularly important for moving subject. My guess is that if one is quite familiar with manual-focus, using manual-focus is quicker than using auto-focus. I have a feeling that this is true, but I am not familiar with manual focusing at this point.
      Have a wonderful day.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Raj says:

        Yes Helen, when you are shooting a general shot like a building or a landscape, you are not very much worried about the target focus as you want everything to be in good sharpness, but when you shoot people in closeup or macro shots of things, where is focus is extremely important. Assume that you have an excellent macro shot of a insect, but it missed focus on the eyes, your whole shot is ruined for sure. When your frame filled with the insect, its very difficult for the camera’s auto focus to know “which one needs sharp focus” only you can decide on that. So the manual focus. Hope that clarifies. I am also on auto focus for all my shots except the closeups. But yes sometimes I do auto focus on macros and pray to god as I click the trigger.. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  9. prior.. says:

    Now let’s see – cannot figure out what is better – the photos or the comment section – dang! Both good – win win

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Pingback: XDrive Photo Lesson 9 – Focus | HHC Blog

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