The Aperture Academy Botanical Garden workshop was met by a beautiful sunny day at the Santa Cruz Arboretum on Sunday, June 16, 2013. There was a refreshing cool breeze that kept us company all along our journey around the Arboretum. Our class was a fun combination of several return students as well as a handful of newbies. Everyone seemed excited to jump in and start shooting. We started the class with our introductions, learning more about the merits of macro photography as well as a refresher on the basics of using the exposure triangle. A simple way to start understanding this triangle is by starting with aperture or your f/stop. Why? Because it helps you determine what you want in focus. Looking at your subject such as a bee on a flower, you are able to set your aperture accordingly.
We decided to start with a wide open aperture (i.e. f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4) so that we could get our buzzing bee and flower petals in focus with our background going out of focus into a nice smooth blur. In context with this, we made sure to set up our cameras on aperture priority, making sure to pay attention to the exposure compensation via our light meter. We started at our first stop which was the Succulent Garden where we saw interestingly shaped flora. We practiced switching our lenses around for non-macro lens users; we moved our bodies to bring our subjects into focus with this fun make-shift macro technique. Along our walk, we had to adjust some of our settings to include our histogram so that we could analyze the information in each of our images better. It was different for different brands but once everyone had their cameras ready, it was easy to adjust their settings according to what the histogram would read (highlight clipping which are cut-off spikes in the histogram to the right or shadow clipping which are cut-off spikes in the histogram to the left).
We made sure our settings showed our histogram with a well-exposed “mountain” in the middle of the graph. Continuing through the garden, we stopped at various plant-life like pin-cushion bulbous red flowers as well as furry velvet flowers. Hummingbirds were a great detour as we stalked them, hoping to get that perfect shot (as many of the students were able to get!). We played around with the diffuser, seeing the difference in the quality of light between direct sunlight and the diffused soft light. Having our water spray bottles handy, we went around to flowers and gave them a little spritz to capture the idea of “dew droplets”. Students were encouraged to try out their different macro lenses for two purposes: 1) Play around with lenses that have wider apertures for a more shallow depth of field and 2) See how the range of their lenses affect their position in relation to the subjects. It was fun to experiment and see what students found most interesting.
We traveled further into the Arboretum, taking a break to rest in the sun and enjoy some snacks, then continued to shoot different flowers, bees and hummingbirds with the learned techniques. The group then gathered for a unique group shot, each person poking their heads out of a long curtained tree. The day ended near an area with potted plants for a more isolated focus on subjects versus them being in clusters in bushes. It was truly a great day for learning about macro photography and how to use your cameras functions to their best potential.
Until next time, Alicia, Danielle and the entire Aperture Academy team!
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.
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