We had an hour to spare before getting Morgan and her boyfriend Ben back to Ben's house, and Morgan asked if we could take a hike to the quarry. The dilapidated structures along that section of trail fascinate her, and she enjoys photographing them. I was particularly quick to say yes because I'd just gotten a new camera: a Canon EOS Rebel XSi with a Tamron 90mm macro lens. I was eager to get the new rig onto the trail and find some small subjects.
The patch of moss shown here is about 3" wide.
The patch of moss shown here is about 3/8" wide.
Minutes later my eyes landed on the melange of greens and browns in a small patch of moss. Then I saw the tiny stalks sprouting up through the mat, and I was hooked. I got myself into macro mode: kneeling, crouching, bracing my elbow on whatever was available, and exhaling smoothly in calculated intervals, I started snapping away.
Three days before, when I got the camera, I didn't know a thing about SLR photography. During those three days I gave myself a crash course. Between my friend Karen's uncle Joe and various internet resources, I gained a theoretical understanding of apertures, shutter speeds and ISO settings. That's sort of like saying "I gained a theoretical understanding of juggling." It takes a long time and a lot of work to go from understanding it to being able to do it well. This was the first step on that path.
The depth of field of this new macro lens is stunningly shallow, so I kept refocusing on different clusters of the little capsule heads nodding on their slender stalks. I also experimented with different F-stops*. I wanted to get a sense of my aperture limits for handheld shooting, so I didn't use the tripod yet. I didn't bother going above F8 because I figured I'd get nothing but blurs if I narrowed the aperture too much.
I started with the two bloodroot, moving all the way up from F/2.8 to F/32 while focusing on the nearest one, then moving the focus to the farther one and going back down to F/2.8. I see that the shot I chose to show both flowers in the same frame was taken at F/16. I'll have to review my original shots to be sure, but this may confirm the claim I read that this lens starts to produce softer images once the F-number goes higher than 16.
I finally tore myself away from the flowers and the spike when Morgan and Ben came back, Morgan excitedly telling me to come look at what they'd found. It was the same stone structure Mary and her fellow hikers wondered at two weeks ago. I put a mental star next to my mental note to research it. I should have taken a picture of it! Oh well... next time.
*To see the camera settings I used, click the "more info" link to the right of any photo in the Picasaweb album.