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|Category:||Landscape and Travel|
Shooting Bark - Ben Boswell explains why bark's far from a boring subject.
Bark is just the kind of subject I love to shoot. It is full of interest, you can use various photographic techniques to get great results and just a small change in position can make a huge difference to the picture. Since macro photography is something I really enjoy I have concentrated on really close-up pictures, but the techniques are just as relevant shooting from a little further away.
If you are lucky enough to have a proper macro lens then that will be the best equipment. I don’t, so I improvise using a magnifying glass taped to the front of the lens. There are a couple of warnings though:
- Don’t try this with a camera with a retracting lens.
- Be very careful that your magnifier does not touch the front of the camera lens.
- If the front of the lens rotates when you focus, make sure that the magnifier you use does not have a handle sticking out.
I first started using this technique while trying to find out just how far you can push ‘toy camera’ photography, but I now use it on almost any camera. Find a magnifier with a diameter about the same as your lens: it isn’t critical, but it is much easier to attach. Making sure that the magnifier does not touch the camera lens, use masking tape to fix it to the front. Make sure that the centres of the two lenses are as closely aligned as you can get them (I only ever do this by eye so don’t get too hung-up about it). Each magnifying glass will have a range of possible focussing distances; one of mine will only allow me to focus between 7cm and 9cm. With the camera prepared, look through it and move the camera in and out until you find where the focus is. The auto focus on the camera will almost certainly still work since AF generally works on image contrast. However, if you are outside the range that the magnifier will give you the camera will not be able to do anything.
Depth of field will be very shallow. I like this and I use it to isolate things in the picture, but if you align the camera square to the subject then you can get a more general sharpness. If you are struggling to get the focus sharp, shoot diagonally to the subject and you should have at least something crisp!
Pay attention to the light
The light on your subject is crucial: from the sunny side to the shady side the contrast will be completely different, so look carefully at the tree to see which looks best or shoot both. They will look even more different in the final pictures. If you are lucky you may even have the dappled shade from the leaves which will add yet another dimension.
Bark is really varied too; if you think of silver birch, oak or plane, they are worlds apart. So search out bark with interesting texture, pattern or colour and see if you can make interesting pictures of it.
Words and images by Ben Boswell.
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