Taking better Pictures Photographic Courses

17th September 2010

Hello Peter

One day a photographer went to take photographs of the West Coast Wild Flowers. On his way back he was pulled over for speeding in Noordhoek. The traffic officer started to lecture him about his speed, pompously implying that the photographer didn’t know any better and trying to make him feel as uncomfortable as possible. He finally started writing out the ticket, but had to keep swatting at some flies buzzing around his head.

The photographer, just having taken some photographs of flowers and insects said, "Having some problems with circle flies there are ya?” The traffic officer paused to take another swat and said, “Well, yes, if that’s what they are. I’ve never heard of circle flies.” The photographer was pleased to enlighten the cop. “Circle flies are common in areas where horses are kept. They’re called circle flies because you almost always find them circling the back end of a horse.”

The officer continues writing for a moment, then says, “Eish, are you trying to call me a horse’s behind?”.“Oh no, officer.” The photographer replies. “I have too much respect for law enforcement and police officers for that.”
“That’s a good thing,” the officer says rudely, then goes back to writing the ticket. After a long pause, the photographer added, “Hard to fool those flies, though.”


You can take close-up photographs of flowers and insects with your standard or telephoto zoom lens, but to get close enough to shoot small subjects you need some additional kit. If money is no object this means a dedicated macro lens, but there are some more affordable options available too. Here are some options to consider...


These attach to the front of your lens like normal filters. They come in a range of strengths known as dioptres, from +1 to +4. The higher the number, the closer they allow you to focus your lens. Close up filters allow you to use all the auto functions on your camera, although as with all macro and close-up photography, you’ll often need to switch to manual focus to get the subject sharp. Quality can also suffer compared to extension tubes or a macro lens, especially when shooting with wide apertures. With prices starting at about R500 depending on the filter size you require, they are an excellent alternative if you cannot afford a macro lens, or only want to shoot close-up subjects very occasionally. Don’t tell anyone; but I would often use a close-up filter on my macro lens if I need more than 1:1 magnification.

Close Up Filters


Relatively new on the South African market, these macro filters are creating quite a stir. Like close-up filters, they attach to the front of your lens, but are far more superior in quality. These Marumi Digital High Grade Filters (DHG) has special ultra low reflection coating, minimizing lens flare and ghosting within your lens. With a dioptre strength of +5, they are generally regarded as the most useful.


These are essentially hollow tubes that fit between the camera and lens to allow your existing lenses to focus much closer than normal. The extension tubes from Soligor commonly come in sets of three different lengths that can be used individually or together. The greater the length of the tube, the closer you can focus. The extension tubes from most camera manufacturers like Canon and Nikon are supplied individually. Priced around R2500, tubes are cheaper than a macro lens, and simple to use. With Soligor extension tubes you maintain all of your camera’s automatic functions such as aperture control and auto focus and with no glass in the tube, you don’t lose any quality. I have a set of Soligor extension tubes myself and they work well, especially when I need to really get in close!

Extension Tube


For quality, versatility and convenience, this is the ideal way to go. One of the cheapest lenses to offer life size reproduction (1:1) is the Sigma 50mm f2.8. This lens provides superb quality and is excellent value. If you however want to shoot insects you’ll find it difficult with this lens, because you won’t be able to get close enough without scaring them off. For greater distance between the lens and the subject, and to make shooting insects or flowers easier you need a longer focal length. There are a host of options available from 70mm to 105mm. I use a 90mm macro lens and I also enjoy using the lens for portrait photography as well.

Macro Lenses


Join us for a full day West Coast Flower Photo Tour on Wednesday the 29th of September 2010.

This fun filled day includes lots of tips and tricks to improve your photographic skills and a visit to the very photogenic mission station of Mambre, the little “dorpie” of Darling and your entrance into the West Coast National Park to see the flowers in full splendour at the Postberg Flower Reserve as well as a light picnic lunch.

ONLY: R950 per person and kids pay half price!
(excluding agents commition)

4x4 Trip


If you have trouble photographing live insects, use this photocoach tip to get better photographs with your macro lens or close-up filters:

This method works really well on those “gogga’s” that are so insensitive to your photographic needs, and does not want to keep still allowing you to focus, never mind composing the shot!

The answer is to first set up your camera, aiming it at wherever you want the insect to be, and then, carefully, capture the “gogga” in a glass jar. Cover the jar and place it in your refrigerator for a few minutes. Now you can position the quieted bug wherever you please. Until he warms up again, he (she?) will be very cooperative.


My Wednesday Photocoach Promotion has been extended: Book for a one hour personal photocoach session with me, and receive another hour free, gratis, mahalla en verniet!


Learn more about how to take great macro and close-up photographs.

This is the ideal course for intermediate and advanced photographers, or for persons who have completed Taking better Pictures: Part One. It is also the ideal course if you just want to “brush up” on your photographic skills. An understanding of shutter speeds and apertures, as well as your camera features is needed, as this course involves a lot of practical work.

If you tell someone they will forget, if you show them they will remember, but if you let them do it- they understand.”

This is a 5 week course, consisting of one 3 hour class once a week on a Friday afternoon. The course is presented from our premises in Capri Village, overlooking the Solole Game Reserve.

Because of the practical work done on this course, it cannot be offered during the evening.

On this course you will learn how to use your shutter speed creatively, how to do macro and close-up photography, and learn how to take studio and product photography, in a relaxed and fun environment. We end the course with a session on Photoshop for the photographer, as well as an introduction to Adobe Lightroom.
Your investment into your hobby R1750.00 and includes a certificate on completion.

Receive R250 discount when you book before 22 September 2010!

Classes start Friday 8th of October 2010


“Don’t be Afraid of the Dark” at the V&A Waterfront on 27 October 2010

“Motion of the Ocean” on Blouberg Strand on 26 November 2010

Your investment into your hobby is only R250 per workshop!


Every time I do a People and Portrait Township Tour I am humbled. I return to my home very thankful for everything I have, especially the small things that we often take for granted; like hot water and a warm bath, a toilet and roof that does not leak.

I took this photograph on my last visit to the township of Langa, just outside Cape Town. This gorgeous girl was so proud to show me (and to play) her old broken toy!

Township Girl

When I got home I showed the photographs to my daughters and told them what happened, they both (Leyya who is 7 years old and Jayde who is now 4 years old) said that they want to give some of their unused toys to that little girl and the other kids in the township who do not have any toys!

When last did you do something for the first time?

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Keep those cameras snapping, till next time.

Peter Haarhoff       

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