On Closer Inspection

On closer inspection

Last week Thomas Hawk blogged about the Poor Man’s Macro technique that he read about in a JPG Magazine article back in February. Basically, if you don’t have a real macro lens you can take a standard lens, flip it around, and hold it in front of the camera to get a macro effect. Well, after a cursory read of Thomas’ post I gave the technique a try. My first few attempts did not work, at all. Then I finally figured it out, and came up with this shot. It’s the passenger side rear view mirror on my car.

I used my 18-55mm lens set at around 50mm to take this picture. I first set the exposure with the lens on the camera, then took it off and shot through it backwards. Because the lens is off the camera, the aperture is open all the way so I could only control the shutter speed. Fortunately with digital SLRs, you can see the shot immediately and figure out the right shutter speed. Metering with the lens on at the widest aperture gets you pretty close, but I had to change the shutter speed to get this shot.

The technique requires a steady hand and lot of experimentation. I tried several shots of some outdoor plants, but had a really hard time because the breeze kept blowing my subject around. With the Poor Man’s Macro, the focal range is extremely small, so the slightest movement can blur the entire image. I left the focus on the lens set and moved back and forth while looking through the viewfinder to get the shot. I suppose you could try and stay still while adjusting the focus ring, but I think that would be too hard. It’s also a little tricky holding the lens in exactly the right position to get the shot.

Also, the technique is not without risk. The JPG magazine article explains how to set it up with a two lenses, which is probably a better way to go. By taking the lens off your camera you expose it to dust. I have an inexpensive Digital SLR that is worth less than most lenses at this point, so I figured the risk was minimal. But I would recommend the two lens solution if you can manage it. I don’t like taking the lens of my camera, so I was little nervous while shooting. But the effect is so cool, I couldn’t resist.

definitely going to continue to experiment with this technique under better conditions and with different focal lengths. It was fun to try something new, and I like the results. Here’s another shot I took:

Ideally I would like to get a real macro lens because I love macro photography, but I might try to set up a two-lens Poor Man’s Macro system. I’d like to see how those photos vary from how I took this shot, and how it varies from using a real macro lens.

Beneath the Lake

Beneath the Lake
Taken at Trinity Lake, CA
While camping I got a chance to shoot with my new 70-300mm lens. I loved it. It really brings things in, especially compared to the 18-55mm I’ve been using for the past couple of years. I figured after two years, I was due for a lens upgrade. So far I have not been disappointed with the new lens. At full zoom the images look great, although you do need a lot of light, even with image stabilization. I took some great shots of the kids from really far away.

Anyway, about the shot. Trinity Lake is a reservoir in the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area west of Redding, CA. It was farmland and forest once upon a time; the numerous tree stumps bear witness to the forest that once stood there. This year the lake is pretty low, so a lot of what is normally underwater is exposed. There were a few dozen of these stumps a short walk from our campsite.

The soil is a red dirt, so when it’s stirred up by boats or swimmers in the water you can see red clouds floating along the shore. The mud has stained all the stumps, giving them a red hue. Over the years of being submerged, the soil has eroded away from the stumps, leaving the major root structures visible. It’s a pretty cool effect with red tones and the stumps seemingly hanging in the air. Even more so when there are groups of stumps. I’d hate to see what happens to a boat that hits one of these when they’re hidden by the water.

Here’s a macro shot of a stump farther up the shoreline:
Old Knot

Trinity Lake is a wonderful place to camp. We don’t boat, but if you do the lake is great for water sports. It’s big, warm, and the surrounding mountains are spectacular. This year the lake is really low because of the low rainfall in Northern California. The lake was so low that the boat ramp near our campground was closed. The cement ended about 30 yards from the water. Here’s a shot of the walkway that runs along theramp:
Trinity Lake Boat Ramp

The main image is hosted on Zooomr with a geotag. There are some other shots of the trip there as well.