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Archive for Sunday, June 6, 2010

Behind the Lens: Experiment with scale for vacation photos

Using a close-focus mode on a point-and-shoot camera enabled me to capture larger-than-life photos of these pottery shards at New Mexico’s Tsankawi Pueblo Site. The shards remained at the site, but these visual souvenirs returned home with me.

Using a close-focus mode on a point-and-shoot camera enabled me to capture larger-than-life photos of these pottery shards at New Mexico’s Tsankawi Pueblo Site. The shards remained at the site, but these visual souvenirs returned home with me.

June 6, 2010

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A lot of people consider vacation photos to consist mainly of mountains, canyons and family group shots in front of Old Faithful. But sometimes it’s good to go small.

An underutilized feature on point-and-shoot cameras is the close-focusing mode. It’s usually symbolized with a flower icon. With this mode selected, your camera limits its focusing range to minimal distances, enabling you to get closer than normal to focus on a subject.

This feature was handy for documenting some objects on a hike at the Tsankawi Pueblo Site near Los Alamos, N.M. This is a largely unexcavated Anasazi pueblo from the 13th century, located on a detached portion of Bandelier National Monument. It’s a beautiful hike and not as crowded as Bandelier. A couple climbs up ladders, and several steps carved in soft volcanic rock takes you to a plateau with good views over the Rio Grande valley.

Along the trail you may spot small pottery shards. These pieces are not to be removed from the site. I laid a few in my hand, used my macro mode for a photo and returned them to the ground. The larger than life images captured the shard designs — a visual souvenir of the hike and of a long-vanished culture.

Here are a few tips for close-up point-and-shoot photography:

  1. Focusing is a little more critical on close-up objects. In auto-focus, with the camera set to macro mode, frame your subject using your camera’s LCD monitor. Press halfway down on your shutter button until you see the lens focus and lock on your subject. Hold steady and finish pressing the shutter button to take the photo.
  2. Make sure there is enough ambient light hitting your subject. For macro photos your camera may be so close to your subject that you block the light. If possible, re-position yourself or the object so light can still illuminate your subject.
  3. If there is not enough natural light to hand-hold your camera and maintain a shutter speed faster than 1/60th a second, use a tripod.
  4. For some unique flower shots I lay the camera on the ground and tilt up for photos. I guess at my framing and just check my results to adjust the tilt or angle.

Next week I’ll write about using off-camera flash to help illuminate petroglphys or other subject matter.

— Chief photographer Mike Yoder can be reached at 832-7141.

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