Shooting hoar frost with Tamron’s excellent 90mm Macro

I have always enjoyed macro photography. Unfortunately, I don’t own a dedicated macro lens (waiting for the rumored 80mm macro from Fuji). Fortunately, I had access to a Nikon D7200 with the famous Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD.

Frozen Grass

After last year’s Christmas, it was quite cold with a lot of humidity which led to hoar frost covered plants and trees. A great chance to make use of the Tamron Macro and the Nikon.

Pattern of Frost

Shooting macro and depth of field

While the Nikon’s high ISO performance is excellent, I decided not to shoot above 800 ISO to prevent highlight clipping due to a decrease in dynamic range. Even though the Tamron ist stabilized (VC), I used a tripod. This gave me greater flexibility to close the aperture to achieve more depth of field. A smaller aperture is necessary as the depth of field in the macro range can be very shallow.

In some cases, F8 was not enough to achieve the wanted sharpness. Shooting 90mm wide open (F2.8) and close (which is on the D7200 135mm with F3.5) will reduce the depth of sharpness to a few mere millimeters. Shooting this lens wide open might be great for portraits to isolate the head while keeping it sharp. In a macro situation, it will result in just a tiny fraction of sharpness. This has nothing to with the lens’s capability to produce sharp images. Even wide open sharpness is excellent.

In close-up situations, apertures around F8 will still produce plenty of out-of-focus areas. The capability to create a soft and creamy bokeh is another highlight of this lens.

  Winter Photography - Using Contrast to re-create Atmosphere

Backlight and Frost

Despite the cold, it was a joy to shot with this lens camera combination. I am quite happy with the results. Especially, when taken into consideration that I am not very familiar with neither the lens nor the camera. I also underestimated the shallow depth of field when doing macro. Sometimes I wished I would have closed the aperture more. The Nikon offers a depth of field preview which I used, but viewfinder and camera monitor were too small to figure out those fine details. Maybe, it was just too cold to have a close look.

Hoarfrost on Grass

Lightroom processing

These images are processed in Lightroom using what I would call my standard post-processing. This includes opening shadows and lights, adding a little bit of overall contrast and more deliberate contrast by adjusting the dark and light mid tones. Usually, I add some clarity to enhance micro contrast and some overall sharpening. I also use the (relatively) new haze remove function. This also improves sharpness and contrast and can be used independently of actual haziness. When it comes to colors, I found that some subtle desaturation is often a great way to add some contrast and atmosphere. To achieve this, I set the colors individually (under HSL / colors / B/W). I rarely ever use the general saturation controller. Finally, I do some dodging and burning with correction brush, gradation filter, and radial filter. Most of these touch-ups are very subtle, combined they make a huge difference.

Winter Shadows

Hope you enjoy those images. I like them and think that they would look great printed.


Photographer: Jörg Faber