Really Tiny Baby Plants

Really Tiny Baby Plants

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Yep, that’s my super intelligent title for this post. Sorry, I’m kinda at a loss for this one. The resulting pictures from this shoot are actually for the Emergency Food Network. They have a harvest every year where they grow their own food for the food donation cause. The EFN team want me to capture the harvest at different points of the plant growth, then use the resulting photos for large prints around the office and such. So I’ll be heading out to the harvest a handful of times from now to September. Pretty cool idea, something a little different for me, and a reason to try out the most recent addition to my lens collection, the new Canon macro lens.

Yes, I market myself as a portrait photographer, however, I do a lot of other kinds of photo work besides just capturing people. So much so that I invested in a top shelf macro lens. Enter the Canon 100mm F2.8 L USM Macro. I’m using this bad boy for all of my small product photography as well as… well really small plants and anything else I need really great close-up detail on. So this post is kinda of a shoot/gear post, as I’ll talk about the shoot itself and the macro lens too. I’m not great at all about doing the whole review thing on my gear. I just kinda like telling you what gear I have, how I use it, why I like/dislike it, and show you some work made by the gear. I’m a practical guy. I like practical explanations and real examples. So that’s what you’re getting. 🙂

A no-brainer here, walk up to a field full of nothing but 2-3 inch high plants poking out of the dirt. Hmmm… not a job for a wide angle lens. Time to get close and personal with these guys. As time goes on and the plants get larger I’ll be able to mix in a variety of lenses and perspectives, but not this time around.

You’ll notice that the depth of field of this macro lens is crazy shallow at low apertures, meaning only a sliver of the image is in focus. The lens produces such a beautiful bokeh (blur) and can make the blurred areas almost dizzying. You can create such a dramatic separation to compose completely different images using different focus points, all while working with objects literally millimeters from each other. All this is great, but your focus has to be dead on! Typically a tripod is used for this kinda work, as your depth of field margin for error is practically zero, and a slight budge of the hand will make or break the focus, but… I’m not really a tripod guy. Plus I like to get down on the level with my subjects, and when your subjects are 3 inches off the ground, I don’t have time to whip out the world’s smallest tripod and setup that low to the ground.

Check out the ham in the upper left of this next shot. An extremely friendly cat came out and kept me company during the shoot. I had to keep an eye on him, he’d just come and plop right down in front of my lens when I was trying to shoot close-ups of the plants. Here he is rolling around for attention in this shot, it makes me laugh.

You’ll notice that the majority of the image composition is very soft. I shot most of the images all the way at F2.8. Again, this pushed my focus points to a very small, specific area of my subject, but it also provided great separation from the dirt background and made the photos look a little more interesting. In a sense, it makes the plants look a little larger than they are. If you just took a normal lens and pointed it at the ground/plant and snapped a shot, it’d all blend together. Here you have great definition of the subject, complete blur of the background, and something the mind usually correlates to larger objects or where the fore/backgrounds have great distances between them.

Not super interesting shots by any means, but I think when you see the harvest carried through all stages in a series of photos on the wall after the harvest is complete, it’ll be something kinda neat.

As for whether I liked how this lens performed… of course I liked it, it’s Canon’s L series. This is the first lens using Canon’s newly release hybrid IS technology, but I haven’t played with it enough to tell you how great of an improvement it really is. Lens feels good in my hands, superior build quality, weather sealed rings, 3 different focal range settings as well as 2 IS settings on the side to toggle. Great contrast and saturation levels. I didn’t take a huge variety of shots with this lens (only shot at very low apertures), so don’t think it lacks sharpness one bit! During the course of another project I’m working on, I’ll be combining flash lighting with this lens (and much higher apertures), and I expect it to produce the sharpest images I’ve seen out of any of my L lenses.

Below is one last shot of a completely unrelated flower that was chillin’ near by. The yet to bloom flowers are millimeters from each other, however, only the one is a recognizable object. Detail is amazing, notice the hairs on the bud, you’d have to see this picture full size to appreciate it. Per usual, this picture hasn’t seen photoshop, this is the real color and contrast produced by the camera and lens.

Lots more plant-life on the way as this project continues, and you can trust that the macro lens will get it’s use throughout the harvest season.