Saturday, 16 February 2019

When is macro not macro?

I'd been thinking of taking a new direction for my black and white woodland project for some time. A close up direction. Having tried close focusing normal lenses I wasn't getting the kind of pictures I had in mind, so I stuck an extension tube on my 50mm lens the other day and gave that a try. It worked to a degree.

I had a few problems with it not focusing close enough for some ideas I got. I could have messed about with different extensions but it seemed like a good enough excuse for buying a shorter macro lens than the one I have (which I don't use for close up photos very often). At the back of my mind was using the shorter macro as an alternative for the 50mm. Don't ask me why! Anyway, I took the plunge and by Friday I had another new toy to play with.

Some people test lenses by shooting brick walls or test charts and then zooming in on the files to check for edge to edge sharpness. I stick the lens on a camera and go take the sort of pictures I always take. Then check that they are in focus where they should be. Job done. Despite the accepted wisdom these days being that a 60mm macro lens on a 35mm sensor camera is less than optimal, I happen to prefer it to the longer lens. At least for 'creative' pictures. I might not be using it as a true macro, but it gets closer than a standard lens would while still giving a broader view than a longer lens would.

As a non-macro lens it's fine, if slow to focus. It even works for sheepscapes.

My plan today was to leave the zoom lenses behind for my visit to the sheep sale. The 'new' macro went along for the ride to keep the usual selection company. In the end I wished I'd taken one fast zoom and the 20mm as I kept finding myself lacking reach or framing too tight. The light was as awful as ever with warm foregrounds and cool backgrounds, vice versa or worse!

I got one or two different pictures for my troubles but didn't manage to nail anything that stood out.

The pregnancy scanning was tricky to photograph well. A combination of the light and my restricted position accounted for my poor effort below.

It being a sale of traditional (Lonks and Gritstones) and rare breeds (Hebridean and Whitefaced Woodlands) I intended to photograph the traditional breeds mostly, but in the end I came away with more pictures of the Woodlands. The seem a more placid breed, and are very photogenic.

I'm not one of those people who waxes lyrical about the way certain lenses 'render' images, but there is something about the 28mm f1.8 Nikon I have which strikes a balance between sharpness, depth of field and the quality of the out of focus areas which appeals to me. Maybe it's just the focal length which does this, or maybe not. I do like the lens though. And it's a lightweight.

Capturing action in the sale ring is always difficult for me. Aside from the timing and focusing, getting a decent vantage point tends to beat me. I was using the flip down screen again, and again finding it frustrating. I think I have two choices. Abandon it for anything moving, or try a different system. Given that the latter option costs money, lot of money, I reckon I'll be taking the other choice. Maybe I should invest in some knee pads? Or a folding stool?

Sale ring inaction is much easier to deal with.

The over-long and repetitive gallery tells a slightly better tale of the sale. It's a bit of a mishmash with not much in the way of standalone images. That's the story of my photographic life!

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