Macro photography is a joy and pleasure that too few photographers experience or spend sufficient time exploring.
What is macro, sometimes called micro, photography? Basically, it is often said to be any kind of close-up photography but more accurately, it is when the photographic reproduction is 1:1 or larger.
What does this mean?
If you made a macro shot of a coin, then placed the coin on the photo, the coin will be the same size as the picture of the coin or smaller. You need a speciality lens to take this kind of photo, although, there are a number of workarounds if you cannot afford to buy one just yet. Nikon’s 105mm f/2.8 AF Micro-Nikkor is my favourite macro lens and doubles for portrait work too.
I like the level of immersion that comes with finding and shooting less obvious, smaller subjects that many overlook. Time passes very quickly when you are concentrating on making fine adjustments with your macro focusing rail and tripod.
On Friday afternoon, I took the kids to Bombo Beach and we ended up taking our time to take macros of ‘bluebottles’ otherwise known as the Portuguese Man-o-War. Most Australians have been stung by one at some time or other and I had, as a boy, one inside my board shorts in the summer of 1979. Tears flowed!
The above shot – aperture @ f/38 and shutter speed @ 1/30 sec – could not have been taken without my little Joby Gorillapod to get nice and low, close to the ground and subject. My full frame Nikon D700 weighs almost a kilogram and the105mm lens another 800 grams but the tripod is very stable, once you know how to position it effectively. I had to move in a spritely fashion, several times, as the waves rolled in to the shore. On returning home I used a blower to clean any sand and grit off the body and lens.
I had intended to use my Kenko extension tubes to make some very close-up shots of the ‘bluebottle’ but the light left me and I was also a little reluctant to change lenses on the beach, in the wind.
An aside: I recommend shooting in (A)perture mode for macros. I really like ‘stopping down‘ to get a great, increased depth-of-field. NB The other two macros below are shot at f/36 and f/29 respectively. Remember, the higher the number the smaller the aperture and the greater the depth-of-field.
Two favourite shots from recent years, were taken with the same 105mm lens and my Nikon D90. This cicada shell below was perfectly positioned, on a tree, near ‘Bombo’ (Kiama) cemetery. I pay my daughters spotter fees for finding good macros and paid double for this one.
A completely different kind of shot to look at is this stunningly white fungus found growing, in the gorgeous Minnamurra Rainforest, in the nearby Budderoo National Park. The contrast with the green background is just stunning.
I recommend reading quite a few books about macro photography, if you are seriously interested in exploring this style of shooting. There are many and I am happy to recommend several if you post a comment explaining what gear you are using or intending to buy.
I also recommend exploring the macro Flickr groups to share your shots and learn from others.
I’d love to see your macros!