Close Up Photography in Nature
Author: John and Barbra Gerlach
Let me start by acknowledging my bias. When I got into photography I serendipitously attended a one day program John and Barbra gave in Columbus, Ohio. After hearing them for that day, I decided to attend their week long workshop based out of a small motel (which they take over each summer) in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That was my first workshop experience and I don’t believe I could have had better teachers to introduce me to a systematic approach to photography.
I sometimes hear John’s voice in my head reading me the steps of my mental checklist when I set up for a macro shot; I also hear John’s and Barbara’s voices as I read their new book. It starts at the beginning ( as he did years ago) with how to set up your camera to shoot most efficiently and intuitively, These are little things you might not think about but that do make a difference when you have to change settings quickly or in the dark.
They then take the reader through the intricacies of macro exposure with discussions of how to use the four histograms in many cameras to get the most information into a jpeg or raw image. They make manual mode not so scary by using s systematic routine to picking the numbers, guided by the histogram..
Exposure is followed by how to control sharpens in the image. They offer many techniques, tricks and tools to maximize depth of field and focus precisely. These include ways to stabilize the camera set-up, ways to stabilize the subject, live view and focus stacking.
For me the two most important chapters are those on light and flash. One big advantage of close-up photography is that you do not have to get up before sunrise for all of it. Dew covered dragonflies may fly away when they warm up but some subject will stay nicely in place all day. For these small subjects, the ability to control the light around them allow us to photography them all day. This book offers strategies on when to use main, fill and balanced flash and how to apply them. Removing the fear of manual mode and flash in one book is an accomplishment.
John and Barbara finish the book with chapters discussing how to apply their techniques to capturing images of butterflies, dragonflies, and flowers. This includes advice on what directions to walk a field in relations to the sun to increase the number of subject you find and the time you can spend with them.
If you can’t attend a workshop with Barbara and John their books are the next best thing for learning how they work through how to make an image. I nave not spoken directly to them since I left the workshop years ago but that doesn’t meant I haven’t had conversations with the little voice in my head. I suspect I am not the only former student with that problem.