Getting Back to Macro
It's been quite a while since I shot any Macro Photography, and every time I peer through my macro lens (Sigma 105mm f/2.8) I realise how much I've missed it. Not only that, but in periods of prolonged creative emptiness, the macro view of the world really can be inspiring.
Having spent another fruitless morning in the hide waiting for the Kingfisher (she did show up but the light was pretty flat and uninspiring) I started to make my way home feeling pretty drained of my creative spark.
It was then that I realised I had also packed my macro kit (the Sigma 105 + Flash) so decided to see what I could shoot on the short walk back to the car park.
A Whole Different World Literally On Your Doorstep
Almost immediately I was transported to a foreign land. A land full of weird and wonderful creatures, all eyes, hairy heads, long legs and tentacles. In that moment, I felt that even in the few yards just outside the hide there was potentially a whole afternoon's worth of photography waiting for me to discover. As I pulled my eye away from the viewfinder I was immediately on the hunt for my next subject.
Bad Hair Day
I love looking at Bumblebees through the macro lens. Those big hairy monsters look cute enough to pet with all of that hair. For a smaller insect It must be like having a Wooly Mammoth around for tea. This particular Tree Bumblebee wouldn't be out of place in an 80s rock bad with that bright orange hair. Absolutely fantastic.
And of course who doesn't love to sit in a garden or indeed take a walk along a country lane or across a meadow and see various species of Butterfly flit from plant to plant. By the time I had decided to start my macro adventure the temperature had already risen, and so getting up close and personal was quite a challenge.
The Technical Bit
As already mentioned, all of the images are shot with the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 (along with the Canon 1DX). To give enough Depth of Field (DoF) I was shooing between f/11 and f/14 with my shutter set at the sync speed of my flash; 1/250 second. I then tried to balance the light using flash compensation. Lighting (as well as a steady hand) is the number one factor when it comes to creating standout macro images and there are plenty of guides out on the Internet which give a much deeper understanding of the basics. By the way, none of the above I would describe in any way as stand out but I quite liked them.
Some other tips;
- Keep an eye on the weather, especially wind. Even a slight breeze can look like a hurricane when viewed through a Macro Lens. Then again dew and even fresh rain drops can add some wonderful creative beauty to your images.
- Get up early. As the temperature rises the various insects you will want to photograph will become more active. Early in the morning, especially if the temperature has dropped overnight, can afford you some quality time with specific subjects as they sit patiently waiting for their body to warm up to flight temperature.
- Keep an eye on your depth of field and practice the rocking technique. I personally shoot on manual focus and rock back and forward to achieve my focus plane. Yes, you may look a tad odd, especially when crouched down on a country path, but it really will help you nail focus easier.
- Deep breath and exhale as you go to shoot. I see many folks holding their breath as they believe this to help them achieve a steady hand. Instead, when you think you are going to be ready to shoot, take a deep breath and then as you are about to hit the shutter button, start a slow meaningful exhale. You will press your shutter button during that exhale.
- Practice on slow moving (or static) objects first. If you have never peered through a Macro lens before then it's always a good idea to practice on easier subjects being heading out into the field. Depth of Field is one of the main challenges and you will be surprised how shallow this can be even when shooting at relatively small apertures (f/11 and above) which normally would give a good DoF in, for example, landscape photography.
Oh and one final point - yes I know there are lots of dust spots on my macro lens, another side issue of shooting at small apertures - every single dust spot becomes quite visible.
Someone needs a clean !!