Getting down and dirty and up close and personal

If you have a camera that allows you to get quite close to your subjects, by that, I mean really close, so that if you were photographing for instance, a dandelion flower, and you were able to fill the entire viewfinder, or LCD screen with the subject, then you will have a good chance of being able to explore the wonderful world of close-up photography.

Hang on, hang on, hang on! Before you go wildly running outside with all guns blazing, you may be wise to heed a tip or two first.
There are a few requirements and things you should know before you can be ready to face the realm of the close-up world.
Firstly, we'll look at the equipment that you have at hand.

1. Do you have a GOOD STURDY TRIPOD?
I keep saying it, but it goes without saying I'm afraid.

2. A plastic ground sheet of sorts for "getting down and dirty"?

3. Can the lens on your camera accommodate a screw-on filter?

4. Do you have the option of manual focus on your camera?

5. Have you a small step ladder? (not imperative)

6. How about a reflector for diverting the light source onto your subject?

If this is the line of photography you wish to pursue, and a very interesting and fulfilling one it is, then to get it right, you will ultimately be spending a lot of hard earned money on getting the right tools to achieve professional results.
However, these ideas are to allow you to get a feel of what you can expect from this type of photography, and they won't cost you an awful lot of money either, but you should find the results fairly rewarding.
So let's take a broader look at what you need to get started.

1. If you have a tripod, is it a good STURDY one? And one that allows you to extend the angle of the legs? It needs to be tough, yet flexible.

2. The ground sheet. Any good strong plastic material that can be suitable for lying flat on damp ground and is able to be folded into a small bundle for carrying around. A camping bed roll would be ideal for this.

3. If you want to get closer to your subjects without spending 8 or 900 dollars on a macro lens, there are magnifying filters available called diopter lenses, that come in magnifications of +1, +2, +3 and +4. They screw directly on to your lens where your lens cap clips in.
I purchased a set of three (+1, +2 and +4), made by "Hoya", the filter manufacturers. They come complete with their own little case and won't break the bank either. When you set up your lens, start with the +4, then you can add more if necessary.

4. Does your camera allow the use of manual focus?
This is not absolutely essential, but it can be very handy when you need to direct your focus on a certain area that is difficult to get at when you use auto focus.

5. The step ladder is not absolutely essential, but can be a godsend if you need that little bit of extra height, especially when photographing flowers or bugs in trees.

6. Reflectors. It may sound a bit daunting, but you can make one or two quite easily. It's better, sometimes, to reflect natural light on to your subject than to use artificial lighting. All you need to make one is a length of aluminium foil. Scrunch it up a bit, then unscrunch it again, then lay it out flat and wrap it around a piece of 300mm x 300mm (12" x 12") cardboard and there you have your reflector. You can make them bigger if you wish, but in this case, less is more.

You will obviously have some upsets and disappointments along the way, but you will soon get the hang of it.

For more information on this subject, please check out "Getting The Bugs Out Of Bug Photography". Friday August, 2006.

"Here's another bright idea!" . . .

If you have a strong centre of interest that dominates the scene, use a large aperture (small number, eg: f4 or f5.6) to send the background out of focus. This will greatly enhance the subject's features.