I bought a Canon 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens back in October. With school projects and a paper breathing down my neck I haven’t had that much time to play with it. The few pictures I took initially didn’t come out very well because I was trying to shoot at wide open apertures. This doesn’t work close up, because the depth of field at f/2.8 is tiny: at 1:1 magnification your margin of error is about 400 micrometers in each direction before getting unacceptably fuzzy. Even shooting stopped down to the neighborhood of f/5.6 only doubles that margin to almost a millimeter. But if you have really steady hands (or a tripod), a stationary subject, and a lot of patience, you can capture a very unique perspective.
When I first bought the lens I tried taking photos of my girlfriend’s mechanical watch. The front face is clear so you can see the inner workings. Unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing and the results were less than stellar:
It wasn’t until last week that I was able to read up on what I was doing wrong and why nothing seemed to be in focus. A hint to aspiring macro photographers: stop down the aperture very small (f/6 is about as open as you want to go, but closer to f/11 would be better), and jack up the sensitivity of your camera. Get the focus in the neighborhood and then leave the ring alone and focus by physically moving the camera forward and backward.
Around that same time I started looking at small objects again, trying to find subjects. Luckily my landlord is a bit of a collector of random items. He’d found a rock around Winkelman and kept it because it had an interesting texture. The rock fell off a shelf outside and split in half on the ground, and he put the pieces back without really looking at it closely. A closer inspection revealed that this was no ordinary rock.
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These are fossils of a type of sea-dwelling animal called a Crinoid that was quite common in the Paleozoic Era, approximately 250 million years ago. (At least, that’s what I think the fossils are.) At the time, most of North America was a large inland sea next to a supercontinent. A majority of the limestone found in the United States is composed of the compressed skeletons and shells of the invertebrates that lived in that sea, accumulated in silt floods over millions of years.
I’d gotten out early from school the day I took this photo, and I wandered around the front yard looking for more small things to photograph. Several honeybees seemed to be very interested in a neighbor’s flowers, so I tried to find one at eye level that was staying still. They didn’t cooperate. In one shot which was unfortunately out of focus, I actually caught the bee as it took flight. Still, you can see the hairs on this one’s leg:
Perhaps the coolest thing about a macro lens is how it forces you to look for really small details. I wanted to take a picture of the tiny green fruits on this tree, which were about half the width of my index finger in diameter, and I saw a little speck on one. So I zoomed in and took a look:
Yep, those are aphids. On a tree branch that was wiggling back and forth in the wind like a windshield wiper. I just set the camera to continuous drive and held down the shutter. Only about 3 of the 30 I took were even remotely in focus, and this one is a crop of an otherwise out of frame shot. I still like it.