Seeing small with digital cameras

By Tom Moertel
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One of the many great things about digital cameras is that they are surprisingly good for close-up photography. Most have macro modes and can focus on subjects only a few centimeters away.

Digital cameras also provide a partial remedy to close-up photography’s notoriously limited depth of field. When the subject and field of focus are nearly the same size - sometimes only a centimeter or two - it’s hard to focus on the entire subject. Slight errors result in severe blurring. The workaround is to focus (probably imperfectly) on the subject, back off a bit, and then take numerous shots while slowly moving closer to the subject. The best-focused shot will stand out later, during a full-sized review. While this kind of blanket bracketing would be expensive with traditional film, digital cameras make it practical. Shots are free; snap as many as it takes.

As an example of what is easily within reach, look at these backyard photographs I took earlier this week. The white clover is probably my favorite, but the honeybee in the Stokesia flower, where you can see the grains of pollen, is a close runner up.

If you have a digital camera, spend a few minutes with its manual. Figure out how to take close-up photographs. Go outside and photograph the things you usually overlook. You might be surprised by what’s out there when you’re seeing small.

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