Let’s Zoom In…

I thought it would be fun to feature some of the beautiful flower images taken by Inge Hawkins. Inge has a terrific eye, one of the first requirements for producing great work whether you are photographing animals or flowers.  Getting the composition right is always at the top of the list. Inge knows that fully extending her zoom lens (setting her zoom to the largest mm number) when she’s photographing flowers will magnify the subject matter at the same time it blurs the background.  With this flower photo, she had her zoom set at 215mm.

Ok, to be clear. She isn’t using the zoom specifically to blur her background, but that is what is happening because as she increases the focal length of the zoom, there will be less depth of field in the photo. (If you‘re a camera techie, using a zoom with a variable aperture means that as you zoom, the maximum aperture keeps changing but let’s keep it fun and not go there.) For most of us, it’s enough to know that as you zoom out, if you are using a variable aperture zoom, the aperture will change and produce less depth of field. Here’s another one. Again, the zoom was fully extended, but Inge used a black cloth behind the flower to isolate her subject. Wonderful!

Inge uses I Photo to crop and enhance her photographs and says it is very easy to use. I took a look, and it is easy. This is one of the great things about photography…the software experts are always working to make things better for us so that new, easier techniques are available all the time. Well ok. We’re animal photographers. So what have we learned by studying these flowers? Here’s a hint. Look at this dynamite photograph that Inge made of an Anhinga, a bird we often see down here in the Everglades.

Same technique. Her zoom lens is extended so that it magnifies her subject matter, and that magnification is always pleasing. It gives the viewer a sense of being right there. What else? That we have to be sure to set our shutter speed fast enough (high number), to prevent camera shake no matter what we are shooting, and in particular if we are shooting moving animals. The rule of thumb is to set your shutter speed to the focal length of the lens. So if you are shooting a zoom lens at 215 mm, you need to set your shutter speed to at least 1/200 of a second, and preferably to 1/250 of a second. Try shooting some animal portraits with your zoom lens and see what you can make.


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