With Autumn rapidly approaching, they'll soon be ample opportunity to unpack your macro lens so you can capture images of fungi and close-up patterns of leaves as the golden shades take hold. Outdoor macro photography, particularly during the Autumn months, can be very rewarding but as you'll most likely be doing some walking, you may be wondering if fastening a tripod to your camera bag is really necessarily as after all, they can be heavy and a bit awkward to carry. Well, the quick answer to this question is 'yes' but here are 6 reasons that'll further explain why you'll be annoyed at yourself if you don't pack your tripod when heading out of the door.
Photo by Peter Bargh
The most obvious reason for using a tripod is for added stability. Camera shake is more noticeable when working close to your subject so the use of a tripod's recommended. To minimise movement further, use your camera's self-timer or use a remote / cable release so you're not actually touching the camera when the exposure begins.
2. Low Angles And Awkward Spots
Not all macro subjects are in places which are easy to reach so use a tripod with a centre column that can be moved to a horizontal position or even turned the opposite way around as they make it easier to get into tight spots. It also helps if your tripod can get low to the ground. You can use various tripod heads but a ball head can be more flexible than other models as their range of movement means more camera positions can be achieved. They can take some getting used to so do have a play around with one at home before heading out into the field.
3. Longer Shutter Speeds
A tripod, bean bag or whatever support you're using will become even more important when you start using longer shutter speeds as if you try hand-holding the shots, you'll probably find shake causes blur to appear. You'll find longer exposure times are needed in woods where fungi thrive but not much light gets through the tree canopy.
4. Composing Your Shots
Having a tripod with you when out shooting means you can get your framing right then make adjustments to white balance, aperture, shutter speed etc. without the camera's position changing. It also means your hands are free to adjust / remove distracting objects from the frame without the camera having to be put down. This could be moving a branch out of the way, removing stray twigs etc.
Photo Rick Hanson
This points more for the warmer months when butterflies and other flying insects are more likely to be around as speed is of the essence when working with small, fast subjects like these. To increase your chances of capturing a subject that moves quickly and doesn't hang around for long, try pre-focusing on the spot where you expect your subject to land. The reason you need a tripod for this is that even the smallest of nudges can change the focus. It also keeps your hands free for making minor adjustments (if needed) to the lens so you can reach your required focal plane once your subject is in the frame.
6. Focus Stacking
As John Gravett explained in a previous tutorial, this technique is excellent for any static macro subjects. It's not recommended for use on live subjects such as insects as these tend to move. For the technique to work you need to use editing software to combine several shots, where the focus is set at different points in each image, to effectively extend the depth of field of one shot. A tripod's needed as all the images need to line up perfectly for the technique to work successfully.
For more information on Focus Stacking, take a look at John Gravett's article: Focus Stacking Images In Photoshop
Photo by Peter Bargh
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