Against the wind

Make your close-ups a breeze when the wind is blowing

When you’re shooting flowers up close and personal, wind—even a gentle breeze—is Photographic Enemy Number One.

That’s because if you’re shooting at 3:1, 2:1 and especially at true macro magnification—1:1 or more, everything gets magnified, including the effect of motion on the image. Even the most benign, mild spring breeze can seem like a hurricane when shooting that close.

What can you do to get rid of the shakes?

First, eliminate camera movement. That’s easy: plant your rig on a solid tripod, and even better, use a remote control to trip the shutter release. Pressing on a shutter release can cause camera movement. Mirror movement can also cause camera motion, so if your camera has the option, shoot with the reflex mirror up.

Then, eliminate foliage movement. There are several plant and flower clamps, such as the Novoflex Rod Support System for Macro Photography that attach to a tripod leg and hold the stem or branch, stabilizing it. Use a clamp to hold a flower in place at just the right distance. Some models have an articulated neck, which gives you greater flexibility in positioning your subject.

This combination should greatly reduce the chances of getting the perfect flower shot blown away.

No clamp: This bud, which measured about one inch across, moved in a slight breeze; it was enough to mess up my carefully composed shot! ISO 100, 1/160 sec at f/5. Camera: Canon 40D, Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 lens.

Clamp: That’s the way I wanted it. A spring breeze didn’t bother this tiny bud a bit.

Increase ISO. The ideal ISO setting for overall image quality is the lowest one on your camera, but in a pinch you can increase it enough so you can choose a fast shutter speed that will freeze blowing flora. If your camera’s lowest setting is ISO 100 and the fastest shutter speed you can get is 1/60 sec, switch to ISO 200 for 1/125 sec, ISO 400 for 1/250 sec, and ISO 800 for 1/500 sec. Be careful not to overdo it. On a compact camera (and that includes EVF “bridge” cameras) the images will display distracting digital noise by ISO 400. On an SLR, you can get away with ISO 800 and in some models even ISO 1600. I’d recommend this approach as a last resort.

Use a ring flash. A ring flash or ring light, such as the Digi-Slave Mini L Ring Ultra (shown) surrounds the subject with light, and because the ring of light surrounds the lens, all harsh shadows are eliminated. Since the duration of the light burst is shorter than 1/1000 sec., it will certainly eliminate shake. Another plus is that you can shoot at a smaller aperture, resulting in greater depth of field so more will be in focus. Disadvantages? Light beyond the flower will fall off to black, and you won’t see backlighting very well, unless you use a wireless, synchronized slave flash.

Good luck battling the wind. With these tools, you should be able to defeat it.


Handheld, ISO 100: 1/160 sec at f/4.5
Just a bit of shake. I’ve gotta lay off the caffeine!

Handheld, ISO 800: 1/500 sec at f/8
No more shakiness, but the image is a bit grainy if you blow it up

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