The art of Macro Photography: Part 1

July 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

As noted a few weeks back, I have begun work on a new macro tutorial series entitled “The art of Macro Photography”.

Due to other commitments, including the imminent launch of my new website, it has taken a while longer than I had hoped to produce the first part of this series. But I am now happy to report that the first part is now ready.

I have decided to start slowly, with Part 1 being a simple introduction to the genre and will be moving on to the next part shortly. By the time the series is complete, I hope it proves useful and informative to at least some out there!

Of course, if you have any feedback about this first part, as requests for anything you would like included in future parts of the series, feel free to let me know!

Below is a direct link to a downloadable pdf document. Either click to view directly, or right click and choose “Save as” to save the file to your PC.

 The art of Macro Photography.  Part 1: Introduction

TaoMP_PT1Sample pages from “The art of Macro Photography” Part 1: Introduction

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Upcoming macro tutorials

June 20, 2011 § 4 Comments

Over the last couple of years I’ve had a lot of people ask me for more information on how I capture my macro images.  I’ve often threatened to put together a series of tutorials and walkthroughs of my processes, but until now I simply haven’t managed it. Well, I figure that it’s about time I actually changed that!

Over the coming months I will be endeavouring to sift through a mountain of thoughts in an attempt to dilute them down to some practical and structured notes that will hopefully give you some insights into how I go about my macro work.  I will try to encompass as much as I can, from equipment, through to in-the-field techniques and my digital work-flow.

At the end of the series, I hope to have shed enough light on the subject to help those already interested in macrophotography as well as hooking a few of those who have been wondering what the fuss is all about. In my opinion, the more people we can encourage to either try the genre or even just appreciate the subjects, the better!

IMG_4103-2Learn the art of capturing high detail macro images with my upcoming tutorial series

The importance of being receptive

June 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

At the end of a long shooting session, when you have lost the light and exhaustion is setting in, it becomes all to easy to take off your shooting glasses and let your senses return to the everyday world. 

It’s at these times however where we need to develop the ability to remain receptive to everything around us. Without even realising, it is possible to slip into a closed mindset where things around us fail to register and we wander blindly through a landscape that at other times would spark our creative juices.

When I first started out in photography, I found that this exact scenario would occur regularly. At the end of a session I would leave an area without noticing the potential around me, only to return at a later stage and wonder how I had missed this shot or that previously. Once I had pinpointed what was happening, I made it a goal to always stay focused until I had returned to the end of my trail.

Waiting for a fairytale“Waiting for a fairytale” *
Canon 5D, 17-40L @ 39mm, f13, 1 sec

On a recent outing I found myself on an isolated beach, with a walk of a few kilometres back to my vehicle. The last light of the day had faded and only my trusty torch kept me company. When I headed off the beach and back onto one of several trails that returned to my vehicle, it would have been easy to simply put my head down and slog my way back with thoughts only for a hot meal and a soft pillow. Instead I remained receptive and scanned the off trail areas for potential.

At one point where two trails intersected, a brighter area about 50 metres down the intersecting trail registered on my periphery and stopped me in my tracks. I scanned the area with my torch and was struck by how closed in the trail around the brighter patch was. I could make out twisted vines and trunks arching over the trail and as I swept the torch over the area, the odd large fallen leaf would appear as a flash of glowing yellow. The whole area had an ominous mood about it, as if something had crafted the pathway for its own use and always at the limit of my vision was the brighter patch, as if luring me to come through the twisted trail.

At the time there was simply not enough light to do anything with the scene, so I made a mental note to return early the following morning and investigate the area further. To my relief on returning, I noted that I hadn’t simply let my weary mind turn the scene into something more than it was. The same mood still existed and the soft pre-dawn light allowed me capture a scene that I could easily have missed had I not be receptive to it’s potential after a long days shooting.

*Note: The viewing angle on certain monitors can greatly affect the brightness and hence mood of this image. Please ensure you are viewing from directly in front and the image is at eye height for best effect.

Picking your patch

May 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of the questions I am most often asked by people viewing my macro images is “where do you find these things?”. The answer to that is simple… most places you look! Insects and the like have acclimatized to and infiltrated our everyday life to an extraordinary extent. We cross paths with them every day, but most people are simply oblivious to their presence.

So does this mean that most macro shooters simply shoot around the house? Not at all! While a few may have the required habitats in their yards to support an abundant variety of insect life, most of us are forced to go looking if we want to find an area that offers a good range of bio-diversity in a concentrated area. It’s this bio-diversity that helps keep interest levels high and provides a wide range of subject matter.

When I first started shooting macro, my biggest concern was simply finding enough interesting subjects to shoot. I tried several nearby locations that looked promising, but none offered more than the odd subject here and there. It wasn’t until after several of these frustrating outings that I finally came across an area that was literally crawling with life in all shapes and sizes. It has been my staple shooting area for the last couple of years and I am still finding new species to shoot.

Recently, I had cause to look back and think about why this area is so much more productive than others areas I have tried. Below is a list of attributes that I have come up with that I now look for when picking new areas to shoot

1) The presence of permanent water, both still and running
        It’s a simple and well known fact that water attracts life. A mixture of running and still water provides both feeding and breeding areas for insects.

2) Diverse flora
        A lot of insects will limit their existence to a single species of flora, be it a plant, tree or other. The larger the range of flora in the area, the larger the range of potential subjects!

3) Low human interaction
        While many insect species are happy to co-exist with us, most prefer to do their own thing. Finding an out of the way spot provides a greater chance of finding the more solitary or wary species.

4) Dense vegetation
        A lot of insects spend their lives hiding from potential predators, so the denser the vegetation in an area, the more hiding spots that are available which in turn can encourage larger populations into the area.

5) Abundant food and housing sources
        Linked with points 1 and 2 above. An area with more food sources will usually be home to more insects. In conjunction with this, the correct types of habitat for housing these insects is required if the insects are to become regular visitors. In this sense, it pays to know the habits of your subjects as they can help identify likely areas of habitation.

I’m sure there are numerous other traits that make an area good for macro photography, so please feel free to respond with any thoughts on the subject!

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