The most impactful part of my life as a photographer, especially as a nature photographer, was not all of those years with birds, or photographing all of those sunrises, or even the many western landscapes I was fortunate to photograph. Instead it was all of the little scenes, little animals, and the up-close details of nature that I witnessed and photographed through macro photography. A never-ending supply of subjects, right at my feet. I learned more about photography, and more about nature by looking at the parts that make up the whole, than anything else. I also learned more about natural and artistic design. More about composition and abstraction and more about how nature works.
The photos that I share today are all mine, and for those who have followed my work they are old hat. Just the same, they present you with one photographer’s personal evolution in close-up photography. It is a journey of exploration.
In 1974 or there about, I bought a set of extension tubes for my Canon 35mm equipment. That act, changed forever the way I looked at the world. Many of the pictures below were made on film, but most with digital equipment. The lenses used include my Canon 100mm Macro, my Nikon 105mm Micro, a Sigma 300mm Macro, several limited macro zooms, and even my 500mm Nikon lens with extension tubes. I have also used macro bellows with 35mm cameras.
Of course in this digital world, it is possible to work from a distance and crop, and there are some of those below as well.
I only made comments on the photos below when something of interest occurred to me. I have written more technical (light loss and exposure, depth of field etc) articles on macros in the past, but for today, I simply felt the need to spread the joy of nature and a few other subjects as seen, up close and personal.
Dew and rain
You will find that a number of my macros include a dark or even black background. In the 1980s that actually became a cliché in the world of photography. Everybody was doing it. . Those were film days and most black backgrounds were created naturally, through composition and lens selection. Almost all of my dark backgrounds are also created in that fashion. At times, I add contrast or reduce some light to the background in the editing process, but the joy I always got from this artistic decision, was capturing it naturally while I was in the field. One unnatural way to create black backgrounds while you are still in the field is to select a subject that is a good distance from the background, and light that subject with electronic flash. The flash will not reach the background but will light the subject.
Today, most photographers either stay away from this idea like the plague, or are not schooled in how to accomplish it while they are out making the picture. It is a natural phenomenon and it is one more tool in your photographic bag.
I could watch and photograph “little critters” all day. I have spent dawn to dusk on a long summer’s day doing just that. They teach you a lot about the ways of nature, and a lot about behaviors which spill over to their bigger cousins the mammals and birds.
Creative use of depth of field with little critters.
All macro photography lends itself to creative interpretation.
Wildlife up close
There is no end to the natural (there’s that word again) patterns and designs created from frozen water.
Actually, lichens are among nature’s most beautiful subjects. We just need to look down.
Flowers, nature’s art.
Gull feather at sunrise
Grasses & Tamarac
In the studio
There was a time in my life when studio work was fairly common. I photographed small electronic components, and other tiny man-made subjects for money. I created the lighting for those images myself and that was a good training ground for understanding natural light in later years. This shot was made in the 1980s on a cold winter’s night when I had nothing else to do.
Zoos allow for a close (limited macro) approach.
With today’s equipment, huge crops from outdoor wildlife photography can be made while retaining high quality. Still, a good way to create highly detailed images of wild animals up close and personal, is in public zoos.
Thank you and never forget to look down.