Thursday, June 13, 2013

The fun of macro photography - And it is just outside in your yard!

Someone recently asked me why I love photography so much. My answer was that photography allows me to see the world in a whole new world. All of you photographers out there know what I am talking about. You see light differently, you see patterns in simple objects and shadows, and you see beauty in all types of subjects.

It is also for this reason that I really enjoy macro photography. This allows us to photograph really small subjects that normally would be ignored by the rest of the world, and we can bring them to life. I also love that anyone can shoot macro shots without having to travel to exotic locations. Most of the images in this blog post were taken in my front yard or backyard. No major travel cost, no waiting in airports, no inconvenience, just grab the camera and walk outside.

I photographed this grasshopper in my backyard in 2006 with a Canon 30D and a Sigma 150mm macro lens. My wife saw this little guy hanging out in one of our potted plants and knew that I would love to capture this shot. I really love the contrast of colors between the insect and plant in this image. (f/4, 1/125 sec, ISO 500, 150mm)

This photo of a bee was taken in my front yard about 4 years ago. As you can see from this and many of the other macro shots, the depth of field is much narrower with a macro lens as compared to a standard lens. This photo was taken at f/9 and the focal plane is really narrow! Keep this in mind when you shoot your macro photos. If you were to shoot this image at f/2.8, only a small part of the bee would be in focus.

Like most other photos of people and animals, if the eyes are not in focus, then your photo will not be as strong (unless you are trying to highlight some other part of the subject). I shot this at f/9 to make sure that the eyes were in focus along with the translucent wings.

This photo was taken while on a camping trip in Patrick's Point, in the very northern area of California (towards the Oregon border). I came across this red snail as he worked his way across a hiking path. I was intrigued by the red color, having never seen this before. Honestly, like myself before taking up photography, most people would not notice this little creature or see the color in his body. Macro photography takes this little subject and makes it bigger than life.

I talk about the simple things in life that most people pass on by. This was a flower blooming in my backyard, and I was drawn to the symmetry of the pedals and the way that the light was hitting it so perfectly. With so many flowers and plants around us, it is rare that we stop and see the beauty of a single bloom. Using my camera and lens, I can bring these details to life to share with others.

OK, this macro shot was not in my own yard, but on the island of Maui. This gecko was not more than 2 inches long and was blending in with all the foliage. I was determined to find a photo of a gecko in these plants, and having looked for quite a while, I continually missed this little guy. Looking at this image, the viewer would not know the true size of the gecko, and I am OK with that. Knowing the narrow depth of field of the image, I shot this at f/11 to get more of the gecko in focus.And here is something really special. For this shot I did NOT use a macro lens. Since I was on a family vacation and did not want to bring a ton of lenses with me, instead I brought the Canon 100-400 lens and something really special called the Canon 500D Close-up lens. This is not a lens, but really a filter that fits in front of the 100-400 (or any other 77mm lens) to convert it into a macro lens. It is small, easy to pack, inexpensive and works very well. Most people have never heard of the 500D Close-up lens, but it is Canon's little secret that you should know about.

While teaching and shooting in the Pennsylvania area, I found a great area to photograph butterflies. This is something I would like to do more. I really love photographing their streamlined bodies and the amazing patterns in their wings.

Tulips are very pretty flowers, and I enjoy seeing them in full bloom. But, when I took this photo in 2010, my goal was to show a different view of this plant. Using a macro lens, I bring the viewer inside the pedals, to see the beauty of the stigma. Now everyone has a chance to see the explosion of orange color and not just the obvious purple pedals.

Not all macro shots need to be of plants and insects. Back in 2006, while experimenting with a new 150mm macro lens, I pointed the lens at my dog's eye and shot this image. They say that the eye's are the window's to the soul, and I think that this photo shows that. Our dog (who has since passed), was a gentle soul and I swear that you can see it in this photo. I took this at f/2.8 to make sure that only his eye was in focus and that everything else would be soft. I wanted to draw the viewers attention right to Bailey's eye, and nothing else.

So, grab your camera and a macro lens (or add an extension tube to your current lens), and go have fun! Challenge yourself to find something so small that we all pass it by, and show it to the world.


Unknown said...

Hi Jeff, great shots as always. do you have an opinion on lens extending rings rather than buying a whole new macro lens?

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Phil - both will work. I like using macro lenses for the best clarity and often use extension tubes in combination with a macro lens. If I am traveling, I usually do not carry a macro (unless I am heading somewhere where it might be a primary use).

Lisa Gordon said...

Really beautiful photographs!

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Really great shots. I feel very happy to see your post.