Freelance Photographer
Durham, UK

Macro shots from Houghall Woods

OK, I’d better confess up front that these aren’t really macro shots.  But they are shots taken using just my macro lens in different roles on a photo walk from earlier this spring.  The bluebells weren’t quite in full flower, suffering from the dry spell it seemed.  All the same, I found some different angles and a couple of pleasant surprises.  More inside…

Lens choice

Zoom lenses are the norm for me and for most other photographers I know.  Over the years, lens manufacturers have poured significant time and money into improving zoom lens optics to a point where there isn’t such a great difference in Image Quality between a good zoom and a prime lens so the majority of photographers now rely on them.  There is still a strong case for using prime lenses but their benefits, for most generalists, are outweighed by the convenience of zooms.  They’re extremely useful tools to have in your gear bag and in most cases weigh less than a full range of the equivalent prime lenses.

But there are times when I feel as though I need a bit of a creative challenge.  I decided on this outing that I would take the approach of choosing a single prime lens for the session to force me to move my feet and work to find different compositions without relying on my zooms.  Doin’ it old skool….or something like that.  On a practical note, this would also mean that I wasn’t changing lenses in the woods where there would be a lot of dust and pollen around to clag onto the sensor.

Houghall Woods – in search of bluebells

I was looking for good individual bluebell specimens to isolate using the wider apertures of the lens but I was also keeping my eyes open for other compositions too.  I came across this beauty very early on and rather than fussing with my tripod I shot hand-held so I could keep up with the rest of the group (click this picture to link through to the image in the gallery):

Bluebell Arch

Bluebell Arch

I wanted to try to capture the full effect of the bluebell carpet if I could, something which can be very tricky to do.  Although a lot of individual flowers were out, we were slightly too early to catch the carpet effect, so I started to experiment.  While I was trying a few different angles, I came up with this:

Spring bluebells - ant's-eye view

Spring bluebells - ant's-eye view

I’m not totally sure about this one myself, but it is an unusual angle that gives a feel for the depth of the flowers and the woodland.

We progressed round the wood but I wasn’t convinced that we had really caught the peak of the display (and of course didn’t subsequently get a chance to revisit the woods before the flowers went over – often the way!).  Almost as a form of compensation, though, in some of the shadier spots I found ferns that hadn’t fully unfurled their fronds yet, so I got in close with the tripod and shot wide open to simplify the background:

Spring Fern Bursting

Spring Fern Bursting

The shallow depth of field is pretty extreme and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I love it!  Click the picture to link through to the image in the gallery.

As we headed back along the old wagonway, I noticed that the hedge on either side was forming a green tunnel.  I normally come at this section of footpath from the other direction when I’m walking in the area so don’t tend to see this view.  Just as I was lining up the shot, I noticed figures jogging in the distance, so I waited until they had cleared the stile and fired off a burst of shots.  This turned out to be my favourite shot of the day:

Jogging through the tunnel - family fun

Jogging through the tunnel - family fun

Conclusion

I thoroughly enjoyed the discipline of using a single prime lens for a whole session as it was different to my normal way of working, where I will change lenses to suit the shot.  This small sub-set of the images I created demonstrates that you needn’t be limited to a single “type” of shot by taking this approach – they aren’t all like the fern, for example – and you can quickly learn what you can (and can’t) achieve with each lens.  If you haven’t tried it before, give it a go!

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This entry was posted on Friday, June 17th, 2011 at 8:30 am and is filed under Locations, Photo equipment, Photo techniques, Photography. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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