It takes practice. And patience. And lots of small things to photograph. But I think I”m finally catching on to using my new 100mm Macro Lens. I took it along with me on a backpacking trip to Shenandoah National Park last weekend, along with my 28mm-135mm Standard Zoom Lens that came with my Canon 40D. That added up to 2.5 pounds worth of lenses alone which I lugged up and down a couple mountains, but I definitely found myself switching back and forth a lot. Aside from the wide angle capability of the zoom (which I really needed sometimes because with the amount of fog we had, I couldn”t afford to back up very far away from my subjects), I hate trying to frame shots with a fixed focal length lens. That said, there were plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the macro, especially along the trail. By the end of the weekend I had decided to leave the macro on my camera unless we were cresting a mountain.

The macro lens does work as a standard 100mm lens quite well, with no additional considerations. Personally I find the 100mm focal length to be a bit awkward for framing, but that”s just me. The only real difference is in closeup shots – I could stick my face a foot away from my subject and still have the 100mm magnification power, but because there is very little incident light when you get this close to a subject the f/stop is usually at its minimum . . . resulting in a miniscule focal depth.

To illustrate, here”s a friendly little salamander I found on the trail. Both shots were taken with the macro, though you can clearly tell that the side view shot had little need for a deep focal plane. The head-on shot was not modified at all – the amount of blur you see is due strictly to the depth (or lack thereof) of the focal plane.

salamander side view
salamander front view

Both of the above images were taken in full daylight with no flash. Ok, well it was filtered daylight since it was foggy, but this was definitely not in the shade. I love the detail in this little guy”s face (though he wasn”t too sure about having my giant camera lens 6″ away from his nose), but I think the excessive amount of blurring along his body really damages this shot. Out of focus would have been fine, but that”s downright blurry. Oh well, live and learn.