Obviously, I have a fondness for small aperture, fully stopped-down flower macros that use high depth of field to convey sharpness. (I explain the relationship of aperture to depth of field in Chapter 2 of Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers.) For example, take a look at Echinacea Harvest Moon, Rose Study 11, and Lily in a Green Vase.
But sometimes the high-depth-of-field approach won’t work, either for technical reasons or because having the entire photo sharp doesn’t give the desired visual and aesthetic impact. In fact, selective focus can be so attractive that there are special tools you can use, like the Lensbaby, intended for just this purpose.
The apple and pear blossoms in this pair of photos are espaliered along a fence with our western neighbor. These trees have multiple varieties (five in the case of the apple, three for the pear) grafted onto a single trunk, with the varietal branches spread across the fence. It’s an interesting tangent that any apple you are ever likely to eat will have come from grafted stock rather than seed. Apples seeds simply don’t reliably reproduce, so once you get a good eating apple what you do is reproduce it over and over again by grafting, which essentially means genetic cloning.
I do generally believe that a tripod is the photographer’s best friend. But in this case, the blossoms were high up the fence, so I wasn’t going to able to bring a tripod to bear. Besides, there was a steady breeze. So I made the best of it, and hand held these photos using image stabilization at a fast enough shutter speed so that the subject motion wasn’t much of an issue.
The trick here is to get the plane of the camera as parallel as possible to the area of the subject that you care about. Also, you need to press the shutter release at exactly the right instant, because even slight subject (or camera) movement can spoil the focus. But if all the stars line up, selective focus can make for very nice images.
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[Both photos: Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens, 36mm extension tube, +2 diopter close-up filter, ISO 100, hand held with image stabilization enagaged; Apple: 1/250 of a second at f/8, 95mm (142.5mm in 35mm terms); Pear: 1/160 of a second at f/6.3, 82mm (123mm in 35mm terms)]