The How Zone

D70 Macro Photography

M, A, and S: your friends

One of the things I took away from reading the book is how to use Manual mode on the D70. Coming from a point-and-shoot background I never really understood why you'd want to go through all of the trouble to mess with the M, A, and S modes.

The reason is control. If I point the camera at the flowers and push the button does the camera know what the subject is? Maybe it's in the center, maybe it's not. What about depth of field? The camera certainly doesn't know how much of the picture I want focused. If it was a landscape then probably everything, but with a close-up the choices vary.

The camera's automatic mode can often do an adequate job, but it's still hit and miss whether it comes up with the same picture that I see in my mind's eye. By learning and then using the manual modes we are able to have a much closer relationship with what the camera is doing to capture our image.

Which is a long way of saying that I use manual or aperture mode most of the time now.

In A, or aperture mode, you set the f-stop (using a dial on the D70) and the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed to match. It's just the opposite in shutter mode (S) where you concentrate on shutter speed and the camera picks the right aperture. In M mode you get to deal with both of them.

You'll want to pay attention to what the camera picks out, too slow of a shutter speed and moving objects will blur or, at the very least, you'll need a tripod and remote shutter release to make sure you aren't causing the blur. A handy rule of thumb is to use a tripod when the shutter speed approaches or is slower than inverse of focal length. For the zoom the range is 1/70th to 1/300th of a second, depending on how much zoom is used.

When you have the close-up lens zoomed in and look through the eyepiece you'll notice that only a very small sliver of the image comes into focus. This is depth of field. Now by default you are looking through a wide open aperture and, as odd as it sounds, the wider the aperture the shallower the depth of field (DOF). Press the D70's DOF preview button and you'll get a different perspective based on your true aperture setting. Much darker, most likely, and the area in focus changes.

By adjusting the aperture size you can decide how much of the picture is in focus (within the bounds of lens focal length and other factors). A shallower DOF has the added benefit of blurring, or softening the background, which helps in making your subject stand out.

Here is an example. The photo on the left has a narrow aperture opening but longer exposure time. Both the leaf and the background have a little bit of definition. The photo on the right illustrates a wider aperture with a shallower depth of field. The leaf is blurry and the background is uniform in color.

f/22 0.3

f/22 0.3 secs

f/45 1.3

f/45 1.3 secs

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