This is an excerpt from "Shoot Macro: Techniques for Photography Up Close" (Amherst Media), $27.95
Acclaimed photographer and Professional Photographer contributor Stan Sholik takes you deep into the lighting and shooting techniques used to produce otherworldly images of tiny subjects. Step-by-step techniques show you how to choose and use the right equipment, solve common problems, and make best use of the specialized equipment designed for this technically demanding genre.
A rose is such an over-photographed subject. A new macro photo must add a little something unique to the way we see it, or it’s not worth doing. This is my take on it from a few years ago when Lensbaby first introduced their macro lens kit.
For those unfamiliar with Lensbabies, it is an optic system that replaces the lens on Canon and Nikon DSLRs, many 4/3 cameras, or PL-mount video cameras. There are several lens bodies that allow you to shift the focus point while blurring other areas of the image, and a range of optics that mount into the bodies and simulate various camera lenses. There are also lens accessories, such as the macro lens kit that I use as well as newer macro converter extension tubes.
For this photo I used a Lensbaby Composer body on my Nikon with the Lensbaby double glass optic, an f/8 aperture disc, and both macro close-up lenses. The double glass optic is a well corrected, multicoated lens that is quite sharp when the Composer is not shifted. But when you manually shift the Composer, the area of sharpness moves and blurred edges appear. The amount of sharpness and blur, as well as the exposure, are determined by the lens aperture. The aperture is adjusted by discs that you place into the Composer.
For close-up and macro photography there is a +4 and a +10 diopter available in a kit. These you can screw onto most of the optics either individually or in combination.
As always, choosing the right subject is important. I found these small roses at a market when I was shopping and bought them to photograph. While I was shooting them with my Nikon macro lens and producing results that I was happy with, I thought of the Lensbaby macro lenses that I had recently acquired.
Using available sunlight, I started playing around with the macro lenses individually and in combination. With the +4 diopter mounted on the double glass optic and the f/8 aperture disc installed, I shifted the Composer quite a way off axis to create an area of sharp focus and streaks of blur around the area. This is my favorite from that day. The shot works because there is enough color contrast in the red to clearly show the blur. With a single color rose, it doesn’t work well at all.