Flora - Nature - Photo Expert (Part 2) - Len accessories, Lighting aids, Tripods and alternative camera supports

6/4/2012 5:37:54 PM

Len accessories

Close-up filters: You don't need a macro lens to get frame-filling shots - adapt a standard or zoom lens with a close-up filter. Available in a range of filter threads and strengths, they screw on to the front of your lens and act like a magnifying glass. A +3 or +4 dioptre is ideal for nature. They can be bought individually, or in sets, and cost between $16- $32. They degrade image quality slightly so for best results selecta mid-range aperture in the region of f/5.6 or f/8.

Description: Close-up filters

Extension tubes: Auto extension tubes cost more than close-up filters, but they don't affect optical quality. They are hollow tubes that fit between camera and lens, reducing the lens’s minimum focusing distance. Auto extension tubes retain all the camera's automatic functions. They are best used with short focal lengths, ie a standard 50mm lens. They don’t generate a large working distance, though, so be prepared to work close to the subject.

Description: Extension tubes

Lighting aids

Reflector: Small, collapsible reflectors are available from the likes of Lastolite, and are useful for reducing contrast and relieving ugly shadow areas on plants and flowers. The reflector can be held in position to angle light onto the subject, while the light's intensity can be altered by moving it closer or further away. One of the biggest advantages of using a reflector is that you are able to see its effects instantly and change them if needed.

Description: Lighting aids

Flashgun: Light can be limited when working in close proximity to the subject. Therefore, a flashgun, or the camera's built-in unit, can be useful when shooting plant life. Flash will allow a smaller aperture setting to be used in order to provide more depth-of-field. It will also allow you to select a faster shutter speed - useful if your subject is being wind-blown. It is often best to shoot at a reduced output in order to keep results looking natural.

Description: Flashgun

Tripods and alternative camera supports

Tripod: A good tripod 1 will give you support, stability and guarantee f I \ sharpness. It will also slow down the picture-taking process, making you think about composition and viewpoint. A tripod also assists precise focusing, so you can fine-tune your point of focus. For nature, opt for one that can be positioned low to the ground. A design lacking a centre column or one that can be positioned horizontally is a good option. A geared tripod head, like the Manfrotto 410 Junior, is perfect for close-ups.

Description: Tripod

Beanbag: Beanbags offer surprisingly good support for your set-up when placed on the ground. The bag's filling naturally moulds around the camera and lens, and absorbs the majority of movement. When shooting at ground level - which nature photographers do regularly -they provide perfect camera support, being hassle-free and easy to arrange. Try Wildlife Watching Supplies. A crumpled-up jumper or a fleece can also be used as a substitute beanbag.

Description: Beanbag

Wimberley Plamp A Wimberley Plamp will open up more opportunities for nature photography, allowing you to shoot things you wouldn't normally be able to. Clamp one end of the Plamp to anything from your tripod to a tree branch, and use the other to grasp your subject - it's the perfect tool for steadying delicate plants or flowers if you're shooting in windy conditions. At $48 it’s a great investment that you'll find a number of uses for in the studio or out on location.

Description: Wimberley Plamp

Nature kit Q&A

l struggle to look through the viewfinder when shooting plants from ground level. What can I do?

Unless you own a camera with a vari-angle LCD - like the Nikon D5100 or Canon EOS 600D - shooting from low angles can prove awkward. Rather than having to lie flat on the ground and contortyour body to peerthrough the viewfinder, buy a right-angle finder. This L-shaped attachment fits onto the eyepiece, allowing photographers to comfortably compose images at right angles to the camera's optical axis.

Do you have anytips for maximising sharpness when shooting flowers?

Firstly, always use a tripod whenever it is practical to do so. Also, avoid physically depressing the shutter button as the pressure of your finger can create a small amount of movement. Instead, trigger the shutter remotely - either using a remote device or your camera's self-timer facility. Finally, if your camera has a mirror-Lock facility, use it. By 'locking-up' the camera's reflex mirror prior to taking pictures, you eliminate the risk of internal vibrations or 'mirror slap' softening image quality.

I've heard polarisers are useful for plants too. Is this true?

Yes, it is. When rotated correctly, polarisers reduce glare and reflections from foliage, petals and shiny fungi. By using the filter, you can restore natural colour saturation and capture images with added vibrancy. However, polarisers do have a filter factor of around two stops, so shutter speed is lengthened as a result of using one. In good light or still conditions, this won't be a problem, but in low light or blowy weather, it might be impractical.

How can I avoid getting damp and grubby when photographing plants?

Wear waterproof clothing to protect your clothing when kneeling or lying on the ground or invest in a groundsheet. Consider the Linpix Photography Mat to help keep you clean and dry. Using garden kneeling pads is another good option.

You should also consider photographer's shooting gloves like those from Just Ltd ( to protect fingers and hands from thorns and nettles.

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