Although each aspect of landscape photography presents its own challenges, working with macro equipment is one of the more demanding facets.
Effectively viewing the landscape through a magnifying glass can provide us with a whole new way of looking at the world, and it can be much more than just photographing a specific subject.
There are several equipment choices for taking a closer look at the landscape, which range from macro-capable lenses, to extension tubes, bellows, and close-up lenses (often referred to as close-up filters). A true macro lens will offer a 1:1 ratio, where the subject size on the image is the same as the size of the subject being photographed. A 1:2 lens images subjects at 1⁄2 of life size, while 2:1 will provide 2× magnification, and so on.
Extension tubes offer an inexpensive way to turn 20 mm and longer focal length lenses into macro equipment. At their most basic they are simply a hollow tube that moves the lens farther away from the camera body. Different sized extension tubes have different effects, but one of the fun things I enjoy playing around with is using a very thin (8 mm) extension tube on a 20 or 24 mm focal length lens. Using a small aperture to maximise the depth of field lets you position the lens almost up against the subject, so the main emphasis is on the foreground subject, with enough detail in the background to provide a sense of place.
Close-up lenses screw to the front of a lens like a filter (which is why they’re often called close-up filters, despite not filtering the light in any way) and come with different magnification strengths, ranging from +1 to +4 diopters. Adding a close-up lens to a conventional lens will allow you to focus closer, but they don’t offer as many options as extension tubes. However, these filters shouldn’t be disregarded. They can be stacked to increase their effect, used to add additional levels of magnification to a macro lens, or attached to a lens fitted to an extension tube.
Macro photography is really about the details within the details, and the best way to see this for yourself is to set up the camera and just experiment. Lie down in some dew or frost- covered grass and see what colours and textures appear in the viewfinder. Don’t think about specific subjects, like flowers, webs, or insects— just see what creations evolve. Put an extension tube on a zoom or try adding a close-up lens so leaves and flowers become a wash of coloured shapes, and details are reduced to simple lines and textures.
Acclaimed photographer Carl E. Heilman II has been photographing the landscape for more than thirty years. In this comprehensive guide, he shares the latest techniques for capturing professional-quality digital images in the field. Bursting with hundreds of inspiring images and a genuine passion for the natural world, Advanced Digital Landscape Photography is the definitive guide for today’s outdoor photographer.