Can you believe it's nearly Christmas, wow how time flies? Have you done your Christmas Cards yet? Do you even do Christmas Cards? I know it's a little old-fashioned, but I still send them (but admittedly it is getting less and less). How about this week we create something you could use as a Printed card (you can get some great deals from Officeworks or Vista print, if there is still time?), or perhaps just an E-card?… Just for fun. Not into Christmas so much? That's OK too, instead of all things Christmassy, try for found objects in your garden or even your home...
Time to get up close...
Do you own a Macro lens?
Yes! Fabulous let's dive a little into the world of macro...
No? Well that's OK you can still play too, many modern DSLRs have a macro feature/ function, check out your manual (or Mr Google) for your make and model to see if your does too. Otherwise, you can generally get pretty close with a standard lens, or we can play with different distances or if you have a zoom, different focal lengths.
On most Macro lenses, there is a little toggle switch (on the side) which is for normal, macro and super macro (just to make it easier to understand), they are distances you need to be from your subject to focus. Let's try all three settings, shall we? If you are on a zoom lens pick three focal distances and try them, say 35mm, 50mm & 75mm. If you are on a point&shoot or Smartphone you may have to move yourself, say 1m, 2m or 3m. (You can learn a bit more about macro lenses here) - or there is another article about Magnification here.
You may have noticed that more often than not, a pleasing Still Life image has an odd number of items in it, usually in 1, 3, 5 or 7s, or even groups of 3 or 5 or groups of groups. This is not random, it is just something that seems to work...try it for yourself. I touched on it briefly in some of week 1 & 2 critiques. I think perhaps as it happens a lot in nature, it is less jarring to look at.
Set up a little backdrop of perhaps some cardboard, fabric or tiles, or against a fence, anything that is not too distracting, grab three Christmas ornaments or balls off the tree and line them up (sideways). Now take a photo at each Macro or Lens setting as above, you may find this easier if you set your camera up on a tripod and move yourself around. If you don’t want to get all Christmassy, it could be stones from the garden or even normal household ornaments or kids toys, just try to keep them small and roughly the same size for this exercise. Focus on the middle item. Try at different apertures as well, say F/2.8, F/5.6 and F/9, or distances, of focal lengths. Don't forget to adjust the distance setting on your macro lens if move in close to your subject.
Now using the same three items arrange them in a triangle, one in the front and two behind. Now repeat, using the same focal lengths as before and same F/stops. Little changes like this can make a big difference. Focus on the front item, or focus on the ones behind - which looks better? If you cannot see all three, life you camera up and shoot down on a slight angle.
Bonus...line the same three items up from front to back and repeat again, but this time change from focusing on the front to the middle and then the back item. This is a great exercise for learning about different aperture and depth of field (DOF). The larger aperture makes it a little difficult to focus, but does make the DOF stand out more.
Having Problems with Focusing?
A common problem when working with a Macro lens is making sure there is adequate lighting. As you are often closer to the subject and are often blocking the light, try have your subject side lit or use a reflector (white card etc) to bounce and reflect light back onto your subject. The higher the F/stop (and the closer you are to your subject the harder it is to maintain focus, try dropping the F/stop go from say F/2.8 to F/4/0), making the shutter speed a little faster or using a tripod. Don’t be afraid to raise your ISO if you need to and don’t be afraid of grain, it can be beautiful.
Sometimes we have to take each opportunity to celebrate, even the small things in life, a little win here, a little win there; each is a reason to celebrate. Sometimes it feels like one step forward and one backward...but it is always moving forward, just as time does.
So what do you have to celebrate this week? A small win is good enough
I am really enjoying the way many of you are sharing your work and already making dramatic leaps and bounds, supporting each other and commenting on working, sharing ideas - that is a win for me this week. I know a few of your really enjoyed last week’s challenge, and totally fell in love with this style. It was truly inspiring to see all the imaginative and creative photos.
So now, you will have a variety of images to choose from, pick your favourite and add a Christmas Message, a poem or inspirational quote, remember it does not have to be Christmas themed.
I would love to see what you created or even just your favourite, don't forget to use the hashtag #mysundaystills #macro #celebrate and drop a pic or two on the Facebook Group Page.
A little Extra for Lightroom Users
I know not everyone is using Lightroom, perhaps you don’t own it, perhaps you just don’t like it, or perhaps you just prefer the program you are already using. I am sure that there are good and bad points for each program. Mostly I like to use Lightroom for my Still Life, as it is great for cataloguing and comparing. I also like to make my own Presets in Lightroom for Still Life (Plus I also have a huge array of presets I have won in comps, been given or purchased), I have developed four new Lightroom Presets and have placed them online, for FREE. You can check them out and download from here, there are also some fabulous free and cheap textures and overlays for use in Photoshop from my store as well, here.
Not sure HOW to install Lightroom Presets, or even why to use them? I have made a little video for you below