How to shoot macro photos in the freeze and frost

Ice crystals form patterns on my car windshield early this morning. ( Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Ice crystals form patterns on my car windshield early this morning. 1/128th sec. @ f9.1, ISO 400. ( Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

We’ve had our first two nights of frost for this year, the temperature down in the mid-20s Fahrenheit (-3.8 degrees Celcius), very cold for us this early in the winter.

This morning I went out and made some photographs, using my Canon EOS-1D X Camera and Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Macro Lens.

This is my favorite lens for all things that mostly tell their stories in the details: tiny, delicate bits of icy frost rimming a maple leaf, the dark mystery of a tung tree leaf frozen in the top layer of the dog’s water bucket.  I’ve written about this type of shooting before, once in another frost story and also in a story about a freezing photo walkabout.

In each case, finding your compositions up really close tends to slow your mind down, helping you really ‘see’ things in this altered way.

A tung tree leaf frozen in a dog's water bucket. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

A tung tree leaf frozen in a dog’s water bucket. 1/64th sec. @ f2.5, ISO 400. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Focus and aperture are very important for these images. You want the minimum depth of field that will render sharp the object you’re focusing on without bringing other unwanted elements into focus. I generally start with the lens wide open at f2.5, adjusting my shutter speed to fix the correct exposure.

Two Great Tricks

Here’s a tip for this work: once you’ve focused on the most important element in your shot, try to keep your camera back parallel to what you need in focus. This will give you the sharpest rendering of your scene at the minimum aperture.  For example, this red maple leaf is parallel to the back of my camera, where the light sensor is located, making an exposure of 1/83rd sec @ f2.5, ISO 400 possible.

Even the leaves on this Chinese Red Maple were rimmed with ice. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Even the leaves on this Chinese Red Maple were rimmed with ice. 1/83rd sec. @ f2.5, ISO 400. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Here’s a second trick: once you’re focused and composed your shot, unless you’re on a tripod, there will be some microadjusting that you’ll need to do to keep things sharp, since you’ll be swaying a bit in and out of best focus. Rather than trying to autofocus and shoot, simple use your body and very, very slowly rock in and out till you find sharp focus. Shoot several versions of what looks sharpest and you’ll have great results.

Early sun lights up this small yellow leaf, down in the frosty grass. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Early sun lights up this small yellow leaf, down in the frosty grass. 1/90th sec @ f2.5, ISO 400.  (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page ,Google+ pageor our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

Post a Comment