Wildlife and Nature Photography Tip 28 - Below the Knees
I don't reside in a part of the world where extreme climatic conditions are experienced every year. As a matter-of-fact, the center of California has a very pleasant temp most of the year. A couple of weeks in the Summer will send some folks inside for refreshing themselves with the air conditioner, but for the most part, great photo weather is had all year around.
Earlier today, Feb 5, while some are out shoveling snow in another part of the country, I was out walking on one of the bike trails in a nearby neighborhood. The past couple of weeks we have been receiving the much needed rain to tow us out of the drought we have been stuck in for the past few years, but it is also a great time to explore with the camera as well. Between storms, at times when the last rain is soaking into the ground, it is your chance to "Get out and look low".
So what do I mean by that? Simply put, "Get out and seek the organisms who find moist ground, rotting logs, and last autumn's passing vegetation giving birth to the new year's growth". The woodland or forest floor is where it is all happening this time of the year.
Now is the time to put on a jacket and shoes that will keep the toes warm and dry, and then, head for the woods. (see above) The trees shed their leaves a few months ago, so they may not have the bright colors of Fall, but they are not any less interesting either. The opening image is of an oak leaf. One of the many tens of millions of ones on the ground this time of year. Bring a kneeling pad like the ones that you might pick up at a garden center or 99 cent store.(see above) They are constructed of closed cell foam and not only provide a dry surface, but they also protect the knees from stones, thorns, etc. lying about.
As for technique and equipment, you don't necessarily have to own a macro lens either. These shots were procured with a medium focal length zoom lens. Something that falls within the range of 24 to 120mm would be sufficient for a full frame body or even the cropped frame as well.
A small tripod would be handy. Often the shutter speeds will be very slow on low light, overcast days when stopped down to F8 or F11. You may decide to adjust your ISO so that it is higher if you don't want to carry that tripod and use the lower ISO's.
The key is locating a likely spot, then getting down so your camera is below your knees when standing. The closer you are to the ground, the more opportunities will provide themselves to you.
The following shot was an image taken hand-held. I didn't have my taller tripod.These beauties were about 18 inches off the ground on a dead limb. I set my foam pad on the ground, sat on the pad and took about three deep breaths before holding. This gave me enough oxygen for the shot while being able to hold still.
Take several exposures. This will provide you with some choices. You should also use your image stabilization if you have a lens or camera that offers the feature...especially if you are hand-holding the shot.
The other thing to remember is to keep the film plan as parallel to the subject as possible. This will provide you with better Depth of Field results in the final image. Do try to take a tripod if you can. This shot above is actually three shots stacked together to insure the greater depth of focus. So sharp hand-held images are possible if you are careful and practice.
So, before the wet season has ended, and before the sun has dried everything out, get out and "Look Below the Knees for your next shot. And as always, happy shooting.