Powerful macro images can amaze us with the intricate details of the natural world. Macro opens up a fascinating world of the otherwise unseen. In nature macro photography, we are suddenly thrown into a micro world made giant by the lens. This allows us to see what is constantly going on all around us; things that we would normally be unaware of. With macro we are privy to the micro landscape of soil, mosses and kangaroo pellets and the details of the lives of the animals and plants that inhabit this landscape – ranging from the mundane to the sublime and surprising. Sometimes the goings on, seen through a macro lens, seem like a mini-soap opera. The excitement of macro photography, for me, is that you never know what will happen next. Having said this, it requires patience and can be frustrating (for example; when your ‘perfect shot’ is just a little bit out of focus or the wind makes it very difficult to get a good shot) but, for me, the rewards outweigh the frustrations and the challenge itself can be part of the reward.
The beauty of macro photography is that subjects are all around once you start looking. Often, a few square centimetres in area is all that is needed to end up with quite a number of interesting shots. As an example, I have chosen a study of a species that can be seen all through grasslands in this area and is worthy of notice for this post. Drosera peltata (also referred to as the Pale Sundew or Shield Sundew). It is an interesting species as it is a carnivorous plant. It is also a good subject to photograph. These photos were taken at St Marks Church in Canberra, a high quality natural temperate grassland dominated by Kangaroo Grass Themeda triandra. The photos were taken in August 2010. At this time Drosera peltata is in its rosette form and is lacking the central stem that makes it more conspicuous in the grassland in the warmer months. A single plant was used as the subject. I have used a macro set-up which includes a high magnification macro lens, macro flash and digital SLR, however, many point and shoot cameras have excellent macro functions that allow you to achieve great results.
Depth of field in macro photography is generally narrow (i.e. a relatively small area is in focus). Often the decision of what apeture to use is based on constraints of lighting and what the photographer wants to convey. For example, scientific photography is likely to require all of the subject to be in focus whilst other photographers may chose a wide open apeture (i.e. F-stop is a small number) to draw attention to a very small part of the shot and throw the rest of the shot out of focus for artistic effect. The image above shows the whole Drosera plant amongst others. If you look closely, you can make out a mosquito caught in the sundew.
Getting closer, we can see the structures of the plant more clearly and the mosquito is more evident.
A little closer and we start to see parts of the mosquito that are impossible to see with the naked eye.
Getting a closer view of the structures of the plant, the sticky droplets really become a point of interest and can provide catchlights from the light source (in this case the flash) that help to capture our attention. Cropping in on droplets that hold the relfection of other parts of the plant can also make for pleasing images.
Macro photography can also allow for the production of interesting abstract images. To me, the above image looks somewhat alien-like. Croppping in further or intentionally making the image out-of-focus are possible ways to make the image even more abstract.
So for those who haven’t yet ventured into macro photography, why not try your hand at it in the grasslands and show us the results at the Seeing Grasslands Flickr page:
You could also just head out to the back yard or nature strip and you might be surprised what you find!