Thursday, December 1, 2011

Macro photography: A really close look at our front and back yard

Before the cold air and blustery winds made their entrance, I decided to go outside and shoot some macro shots of the yard. When I teach photography, I am often asked about shooting locations. I tell people that you don't need an exotic location to get nice photos, just go outside and take a close look at your surroundings. With that in mind, I stepped outside into my back yard and focused on a small group of flowers.

I started by shooting this one flower. I liked the way that the white petals and blue and yellow inside colors worked against the green leaves in the background.

Then, using my Sigma 150mm macro lens and an extension tube, I moved in closer. My goal was to bring the details of the flower into view. How many people stop to look this close at a flower? I like the symmetry of the flower, but was also interested in showing the pollen spread across the petals. After looking even closer at the pollen, I noticed that much of it was not on the petals, but was suspended above the flower on very faint spider webs.

And then, after spending a little more time looking closely at the flower, I noticed that the owner of those webs was hanging out on the backside of the flower. I waited a while and the spider decided to come up for an appearance.

My new friend, and neighbor, hanging out on his flower. (Photographer's note: Don't be impatient when photographing nature. I once took a snorkeling class at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and the instructor explained how you would see so much more if you stopped in one spot and REALLY looked around. He explained that we were not in the water for exercise, but to see the wonders around us. I took his advice and swam slowly, often stopping for long periods of time, and saw things that I would normally have missed. The same is true when it comes to macro photography. Don't just look at the obvious! Then, zoom in, capture the details, and show your friends a world that they are missing. )

After shooting the images in the back yard, and being intrigued by the little visitors to our yard, I then went to my front yard to capture the Brown Skipper Butterflys who were busy.

As I mentioned, the greatest thing about macro photography is that we see things that normally are not seen. I shot hundreds of images of these butterflys (since they move fast and macro photography requires a very steady hand and precise focusing). Looking through my images I was able to see just how the insects were collecting their nectar, using their proboscis. The proboscis is really cool and rolls up like a party noisemaker. This then can be extended into the flower for easy extraction of the nectar. I have seen thousands of butterflys in my life, but never really taken the time to see them this way.

I like these last two images, because not only am I capturing the Brown Skipper while collecting their nectar, but I am capturing them as they are watching me. I wonder what they were thinking as they stared into my lens. Hmmmm...maybe they learned something about me. :)


Trevor said...

Very nice pics, Jeff. I enjoy your macro work. Small but important point: it's petals with a 't'. 'Pedals' are what you find on a bike.

Sorry, I used to be a magazine editor. Again, nice images.

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Good catch. Thanks for being my "virtual editor"!

Jenna said...

Love your advice about taking your time to see what's there and showing your friends what they're missing. Very helpful.

Betty said...

Thanks for the advice to slow down!

And thanks for such a great blog. As a budding photographer with my first dSLR, I've learned so much reading your blog. You give so many great tips and they really are helping me learn how to take better pictures! Thanks again!

John from Macro Photography For All said...

Jeff, I like your step-by-step explanation here. I agree that great macro photography subjects are as close as our back yard. I'd take it even a step further: there are great subjects within arm's length of where we're sitting, right now! No type of photography is easier on the travel budget than macro photography.