Autumn is the perfect time for capturing close-up / macro shots and this is something you can do even if you're a compact user who doesn't have an arsenal of lenses at their disposal. Be on the look out for subjects that have interesting textures or are full of colour, plus look on the ground as well as up at the trees as you'll find conkers and other interesting items that make the perfect subject for an Autumn macro shot.
Photo by David Clapp
You're Going To Need Camera Gear
To get started, you're going to need a compact that has a close focus. Around 10cm is fine, however many modern compacts focus much closer now. The macro mode is usually indicated by a flower icon and you need to ensure this is selected otherwise your camera won't know you want to shoot macro shots. Plus, this mode will also usually mean your camera picks a larger aperture (small f number) so you get backgrounds that are nicely thrown out of focus.
A tripod will help prevent camera shake and if you plan on shooting fungi and other subjects that are close to the ground, one that has a reversing centre column will help but it's not essential. A beanbag or even your camera bag can be used as a support for a quick snap if you don't own a tripod.
For locations where there's not much light, such as in woods, you may need a small reflector to bounce more light on to your subject. If you don't own one try making your own from a piece of card and silver foil. You can use your camera's built-in flash but it tends to be a little harsh which can result in fungi looking a little too shiny and can take away from the overall atmosphere of the shot. Do try taking a few shots with it, though and see what you think. You never know, you may prefer the shots with flash rather than without.
So you don't cause camera shake by pressing the shutter button you can use your camera's self-timer on its shortest setting. By doing so, you'll not be pressing the shutter button as the exposure begins, reducing the chances of shake spoiling your shot.
Photo by Peter Bargh
What Can I Photograph?
Autumn means lots of gorgeous coloured leaves falling off trees and they can make interesting macro shots on their own or you can use your macro leaf shots as textures in other photos. Look for different patterns and shapes but this doesn't mean they have to be perfect as little imperfections can add interest to your shot. Make the most of backlight to really make your images 'pop'.
As the leaves fall off the trees, they become bare, and this gives you the chance to capture shots of bare branches and bark which again, make great textures for background montages. Also consider textures that can be printed as triptychs - three photos framed in panels side by side.
In the Autumn, the first frost of the year usually appears and can make interesting photos when it covers leaves or grass. Head for open spaces (lawns and fields) rather than places that are sheltered, which can stop frost from forming. Side and direct light will help emphasis the way the frost glistens and it will last longer in shaded areas but you'll need to use a reflector to bounce extra light into the shot. For shots that capture the patterns and textures frost creates, get in close and avoid using flash.
Conkers are becoming ripe and falling so be on the look out for them. Don't just go for brown ones either as they look just as good when popping out of their bright green shells.They are perfect subjects for an Autumn still life when used along side leaves and even berries. If you do use berries you may need to adjust your shooting position as reflections can be a problem due to them having an almost shiny surface.
To give your close-up work a more abstract feel remove your subject from its surroundings by focusing on a small part of it. Look for interesting shapes and textures that you can focus a tight crop on. Overcast days are good for this sort of technique as the diffused light will help bring out detail in the shapes, lines and form you're capturing.
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