Digital Nature Closeup!
Jon Cox shows you how to get up close and personal.

Are you using your digital camera to its full potential? If youâre not zooming in on the macro world youâre missing out. There are countless photo opportunities at the very end of your lens just waiting to be captured. Whether youâre using a point-and-shoot digital camera or top of the line Digital SLR chances are you have the necessary equipment to capture close-ups. You may even have some old macro camera equipment buried in a closet that you can bring back to life.

Photographing the big snowstorm of January 2005, which blanketed much of the east coast, was no easy task. Bone chilling temperatures and howling winds forced me to seek shelter under the eave of an old outbuilding. I almost missed this delicate scene because I was concentrating my photography on snow-covered barns and dangling ice sickles. A relic of the past, this frost coated bubble glass windowpane was my favorite image of the day. The abandoned building was pitch black inside, allowing the white frost to contrast with the dark background. I used a tripod and my favorite lens for close-ups, the 105mm Micro-Nikkor f/2.8D AF lens. Since the scene was on one flat plane I was able to use a low f/stop and still maintain everything in sharp focus.

Copper butterfly

[Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Nikon D1X with Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8D AF lens] Stopping for lunch at the Grand Teton Lodge, I decided to take a walk on a trail that overlooked a meadow that lead up to the majestic Mt. Moran. Taking in the beautiful scenery, I photographed this copper butterfly to my hearts content. I inched to the left and right, up and down, rotating the camera vertically and horizontally, snapping off shots the entire time and didnât worry about how much I was shooting. It was one of those transcendental moments when there was nothing else on my mind÷I was living in the moment. By sticking to my subject I was able to capture a variety of images, each with a slightly different appeal.



Gentoo Penguin Chick
Of all the wildlife species I have photographed, penguin rookeries are some of the most entertaining. Gracefully gliding through the water, these hilarious creatures are all thumbs on land. Tripping and sliding up rocky cliffs, they somehow manage the journey to feed their hatchlings. This fat little ball of fuzz seemed to be weeks ahead of most other chicks in the rookery. In fact, he was large enough that both parents ventured to sea at the same time in search of krill, a small shrimp like crustacean, which sustains the penguinsâ existence. Because penguins are not afraid of humans, photographing them is a breeze. Tourism regulations state that you must not approach a penguin any closer than 15 feet. However, penguins can approach you and they do. I was photographing the far ends of the rookery and when I looked away from my camera this puffball was only about 8 feet in front of me. Since I was using my 80-400mm lens, I quickly zoomed out to fill the frame with my subject just in time before he waddled within inches, too close for me to focus with my lens.


Stag horn fern spores
Close-up subjects are everywhere but visiting a public garden opens up numerous and exciting possibilities. Strolling through Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, I was looking for close-up subjects when a few tiny spores of this stag horn fern caught my attention. My Micro-Nikkor 105mm lens didnât give the magnification I needed to fill the frame with my subject. I added an old 20mm extension between my lens and camera body giving me the added magnification needed to capture the spores in full view. My ring flash attached to the end of my lens produced the precise light desired to accentuate the contrasting turquoise and orange colors.


Before boarding the ship to Antarctica, I wanted to loosen up the old trigger finger. A two-hour catamaran ride from Ushuaia, Argentina is Harberton farm and whalebone museum÷the perfect place get into a creative mode. It doesnât really matter that this image was of the other side of the world, for it could have just as easily been taken in my backyard. To capture this perspective I lay on the ground and used my 12-24mm wide-angle lens shooting up towards the sky. Itâs important when shooting close-ups to look for different views of ordinary subjects and donât be afraid to get a little dirty.

-Jon Cox



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