At a certain point, there will be a time when you have taken pictures of just about everything in what seems like every possible angle. It is entirely possible you may run out of ideas or find yourself in a creative lull. One of the best cures for a situation like this is swinging by your local photo shop and picking up a nice piece of gear to experiment with. There are lots of different accessories to choose from that can improve and challenge your skills, but the best place to start is with a new lens. One of the most interesting and useful focused-use lenses out there is the macro lens.
All 35mm camera lenses have some kind of ratio that represent the size of an object in the picture compared to its real life size. A traditional lens presents objects at much smaller than their actual size (imagine a life-sized photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge!) while macro lenses will get a ratio much closer to reality. Have you ever looked at a close up of a flower or a head of an ant? Chances are those photographs were shot with a macro lens.
There are a few varieties of macro lens available. The most common ratio for consumer photo equipment is about 1:2 which means that subjects in the picture will be half their actual size. This may not seem like much, but remember that you're going to blow the image up when it's printed onto an 8x10 or 5x7 photograph, making the final version much larger than real life. Super-high grade equipment can hit a ratio of 5:1, which would be perfect for mapping out a snowflake or exploring a rough surface like a sponge. You can find simple attachments for your normal lens (these have varied results) or a full lens to attach to your camera body, whatever suits your budget.
Macro Lens Experiments
Once you have a macro lens and have got a bearing on how it works, go out into the world and start seeing things like you've never seen them before. Even the most familiar of subjects or environments can become dramatically new and exciting when viewed from a different perspective, and a macro lens will certainly provide that to you. Here's some fun things to do with your new macro lens:
* Explore your house and get a bugs-eye view of your furniture, carpet, and surfaces.
* See how the lens expands your creativity by shooting common items in your neighborhood
* Set up a small space and see if you can duplicate "catalog" type images of small products
Macro lenses can have a great impact on how you see the world and provide you with a versatile alternative to shooting with a regular lens. You never know when you might need to make something tiny the center of focus and there's no better way to do it than by making it huge. It's also fun to take pictures of common objects at super-close range and see if your friends and family can figure out what the item is. Macro lenses can turn grass into green bladed mountains or ants into scary creatures that make your imagination run wild.
While the cost of a separate macro lens can cost you somewhere between $200-400, you'll find that the extra options you'll have to shoot are well worth the cost. Making mountains out of molehills may not work out for us in our jobs or personal relationships, but in photography it can be great fun. Besides, it's the little things that make life interesting.
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