Where's the devil

Where’s the Devil? In the details, of course!

I’ve always been interested in looking at things differently, from an other angle. Sometimes it leaves place for a bit of imagination and the results are sometimes quite interesting. An example of that is macro photography, where small things are being seen on a different scale. Some photographer do just that. It’s their passion.

My friend Pete used to say “When look at things through a lens, you start to see things differently”. How true. And I believe things are very different when looked at from their angle, on a 1:1 scale.

Insect and flower pictures are very popular subjects for macro photography. I like the idea of taking close shots of things in their context, as opposed to shooting objects in a light tent with a white or any colour background.

So many time I found myself crouched in tight spots, interested by a little subject and its own environment. Once you take the time to looks at things that was, you end up understanding a bit more about them. Well, that goes for live stuff, because a rock is a rock and there is not much interaction with other things around. Accept its “impact” from a scientific point of view.

Many photographer who specialize in Macro photography are using specific macro lenses. This article is not about equipment, and I will skip that part since anyone can make great macros with any lens or camera, as long as they apply good practice and pay attention to the details..and the Devil within! But as a quick not, I achieve many great macro photos with a 50mm (prime) and even with a small digital camera. Of course, at that scale, stability is extremely important (read: essential) and the use of a tripod is a must, unless you can use some other object to stabilize the camera in front of the subject. This could be a mini tripod, a rock, a pile of sand, a pair of gloves, a fence or anything you can get you hands on. As a quick tip, I have been using early versions of the Canon G series. If you remember these cameras came with a flip LCD that you can position to serve a “leg” behind the camera. I made good use of it but this LCD disappeared with the later models. What a shame. But Canon listened to its customers and the G11 now comes with such LCD. Great! Anyone interested in buying my G10 now?

Anyways, back to the macro topic, keep in mind you should never zoom with the camera (for point & shoot cameras) while using the macro mode, often represented by a flower. This will bring out of focus and lower image quality anyways. For DSLR, get as close as possible and frame accordingly. That’s simple and especially with a prime lens.

Earlier in this article I referred to “context”. I think it’s an important aspect of macro photography. It gives proportions and room for imagination. The pictures below are perfect example of that. The bears on the left were shot in studio for a project and a white backdrop was used. The picture on the right was taken in a bonsai green house in Montreal. There is not much to imagine in the first one. But the second one gives a lot to think about. How big is that? Where is it? What’s that grass on the floor? What kind of tree is growing there? As a matter of fact, most people that saw this picture hanging on the wall in my house were amazed by the actual size of the guy reading his book. The print is 13×19 and is mounted in an even larger frame. Yet, the size of the reader is not more than an inch!

The shutter speed is not a big issue here since you’re shooting with a tripod or some stable object. The aperture is critical if you want to isolate the subject of give it a bit of room and details in the background. That’s a question of taste and your decide how you want this to look.

Shooting inside brings a big advantage, there is no wind. The leaves don’t move, the subject is fixed, the whole context is stable. You are the only one moving. A good idea is to use a timer on the shutter or a remote to take the shot. Besides that, if you have the right parameters and good lighting, you should get great shots. Speaking of lighting, some photographer use ring kits on their lens and/or camera to compensate for the lack of light in some area. These are expensive and require some experience if you want to keep a natural look to your pictures. Otherwise, you will end up with a full flash picture, which is of no interest.

Now, just do it! Grab your camera, your tripod and go. Practice makes you better. The more you do it, the better you get. And to be honest with you, it’s a lot of fun too and it gets you out of the house.

Good Light!


© Normand Primeau