Soft and shadowy vs. light and textured: A lesson in closeup photography.

I keep feathers all over my house. I have six chickens and a parakeet so, there are always feathers. Every where. I am fascinated by close up macro photography. These were taken with my Canon EOS D5 Mark III 50 mm lens with a X10 lens magnifier (not a “real” macro lens).

The think about these lens magnifiers (I have no idea whether this is true of a macro lens) is that the slightest movement will blur the photo. Your shutter speed has to be super fast. I get my best results over 1/200 shutter speed. In order to focus I have to use manual focus and instead of using the focus ring I move the camera back and forth. This is because your focal range is so narrow that the slightest movement will change your focal point.

I generally love to shoot with my aperture wide open (teeny tiny numbers between f1-3). I find I do get a faster shutter speed this way, but you pay for it in the way of a very narrow depth of field. I wasn’t getting as much detail as I wanted. While I love the soft feeling of the rooster feather against the green, I had to rework my methods to get finer detail throughout the image. In the parakeet feathers (each measuring no more than 2-3 inches) I achieved more detail throughout the subject matter. Here’s how:

I secured the feather in a bit of modeling clay to avoid any movement. I decided to back light the subject. I get loads of natural light in my dining room in the morning, so I wasn’t too concerned with that. I placed the subject on my dining room table and gave myself enough room to rest my forearms on the edge to lessen camera shake. My ISO was at 320 and I shot this at f11. My shutter speed was 1/1500 on the color shot and 1/750 on the black and white shot.

In contrast, the softer rooster feather was in a tiny antique bottle on a window sill in front of an open window over my kitchen sink. The room was relatively dark and the time of day was early evening. The feather was back lit with a small amount of overhead light. I was standing up with nothing to rest my camera or arms on. I may have managed to prop my elbows on on the sink, I can’t remember. My ISO was at 320 again, but my aperture was set at f1.4 which only got me a shutter speed of 1/90 which is generally where I like to shoot portraits. Not great for closeup photography. Although I do really like the soft edges, I wish I would have gotten a bit more detail. Those soft shadows are dreamy though.

So, there’s your impromptu close up photography lesson. You’re welcome.

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