One of the greatest functions of photography is its ability to let us get closer to the smaller worlds that exist with us on a daily basis. Shooting close-up to smaller subjects allows us to emphasise their often delicate structure and alien shapes, or reveal the finer details of larger subjects that are lost to the naked eye.

APOY 2009 Round 6 Looking Closer

Beneath our feet and beyond the naked eye are some of the most dazzling subjects one can imagine, and yet we walk by them (or worse, on them) every day without taking any notice. In our sixth round of APOY, Looking Closer, we want you to think small. We want you to look close at the smaller worlds around you and study the colours, textures and structures that make them special.

Below we have offered some tips and techniques to help you get started. With such a wide range of possibilities at your disposal, we hope to see a full and diverse group of images this month. Judging by what we?ve seen in the rounds so far, we?re sure we will.

We would like to remind you that you must include your address and details of your image in your email entry so we can judge your photograph accurately. Without a sentence explaining what your image depicts, our judges have to guess ? and they may guess wrong! And without your address and other contact details we cannot reach you in the event that you make the shortlist or win the round.

To submit your entry by post please complete the entry form published in AP dated 4 July 2009 or by email click here for more information.

One of the greatest functions of photography is its ability to let us get closer to the smaller worlds that exist with us on a daily basis. Shooting close-up to smaller subjects allows us to emphasise their often delicate structure and alien shapes, or reveal the finer details of larger subjects that are lost to the naked eye.

Thankfully, macro photography is no longer the domain of professionals and those who can afford the lenses, as prices for macro lenses have fallen and modern zooms can bring you close, sharp images. Even most digital compact cameras these days boast a respectable macro mode.

From flowers and insects to the delicate carvings of a cemetery headstone, your possible subjects are almost limitless. So get out there and get thinking small. Think about filling your frame and how you want your subject to be lit. Do you want a simple, clean background, or do you want to provide more of a context? Try to see the final image in your mind and study each picture as you take it. Does it work?

Lighting

When shooting small subjects, directional sunlight can prove tricky in that it often provides too much or too little illumination for capturing detail. What you want is nice even lighting. By using a ring or wireless flash or a DIY light source, such as a torch diffused through cloth or paper, you can get more even and visually appealing lighting. However, the easier option, if you can, is simply to move your subject into better lighting. When held under a slight shadow, these sunglasses darkened enough to reveal the people reflected in the lenses.

Focusing

Because you are working so close to your subject, getting your focus pin-sharp is vital. Using a tripod goes without saying, but there are other methods to help get your subject in focus. Try keeping the film plane on your camera parallel with your subject. When used with a large f-stop, this will ensure sharpness throughout the frame. Your film plane is the area inside the camera where the individual frame of film or digital sensor is positioned during exposure and is often marked on the body with a θ symbol, which represents the exact location

Fill the frame

Whether you?re using a macro lens or zooming in to capture detail on a pebble beach like the one above, shooting close up allows you to magnify smaller subjects within your frame and observe their structure. When you find a subject, ask yourself what it is you want to show people that they usually do not notice. Unlike wide vistas, when shooting close in there is really no need for negative space, as it can weaken the visual impact of your subject. For live subjects, such as insects, try using an extension tube to get closer while maintaining enough distance not to spook them. In the case of these stones, several loom large in the foreground, while a slightly longer focal length reveals the huge number that make up the beach.

Our first-place winner will receive Canon?s 12.2MP EOS 450D body, worth £669.99, featuring 3.5fps capture capability for a continuous burst of up to 53 large JPEG images (six in raw). Its nine-point wide-area AF accommodates off-centre subjects, and its EOS Integrated Cleaning System keeps images blemish-free. Other features include a 3in LCD with Live View mode and a DIGIC III processor. The winner will also receive Canon?s compact, lightweight EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens, worth £509.99 with full-time manual focus override and an approximate 96mm focal length (35mm format).

Our second-place winner will receive Canon?s PowerShot SX10 IS compact camera, worth £399. The 10MP PowerShot SX10 IS features a 20x wideangle zoom with optical Image Stabilizer, for great telephoto performance. The SX10 IS also boasts a 2.5in vari-angle LCD, full manual mode and DIGIC 4, as well as and Advanced Face Detection and anti-blur technology. The second-place winner will also receive the DCC-800 soft case, worth £27, with which to keep the PowerShot SX10 IS safe when not in use.

A pair of Canon?s 8×25 IS binoculars, worth £384.99, goes to our third-place winner. At just 12cm wide and weighing only 490g, Canon?s 8×25 IS binoculars are the most compact and lightweight IS binoculars it has ever developed. Features include Tilt Mechanism Image Stabiliser, 8x magnification power and its battery allows for six hours of continuous operation.

To submit your entry by post please complete the entry form published in AP dated 4 July 2009 or by email click here for more information. Closing date 24 July 2009.

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For more information on Canon products please visit www.canon.co.uk