Am I good? Or, am I good because of good equipment? Or, does the equipment make me good? And so on and on… Luck? This butterfly cooperated. This all has a lot to do with the butterfly, who held still for its close-up. My good luck! Look at the detail – eye, the hairs. Pretty nifty! Hey! I’ve done this before. It’s not my first. But, its rare enough that I appreciate it’s not a given. A lot of things come together to get to this point. Ho hum. Whip out an iPhone and shoot. Uh uh. Not by the hair of its chinny chin chin.
It’s not microscopic photography. Once upon a time, I did plenty of medical photography through an operating microscope. Macro photography is focusing in on the small details the eye will usually not see unaided. The macro lens brings that detail into focus. In this manner one can see the fine hairs on the stamens or almost make out the individual grains of pollen. It’s fascinating. It’s eye-opening. I can demonstrate detail that I never saw in the past without the aid of a macro lens. It elevates your perception and appreciation above the ordinary flower photo. I don’t think I could get these results with an iPhone. (Go ahead. Zoom in on the images to see the extraordinary detail.)
Ho hum. Another flower picture? Yawn, boring. Till… I noticed the tiny details. Last summer I shot the flowers in my garden with a regular camera zoom lens. The details I captured were eye-opening. This year I updated my gear and got an (up-to-date) macro lens. I got the right tool for the job. I can appreciate the improvement in my images. I was used to a wide-angle view of the garden. Now, I see and capture tiny details. Learning a new trick has been fun and introduced interest once again. I am challenged to illustrate things we would not ordinarily notice in the common flowers in our garden.
No, not the genetic debate. (Shhh… there really isn’t any debate.) …It’s the change occurring in my photography as a result of change in my cameras. It has caused my technique to evolve. Evolution is slow and the change that results is subtle until it isn’t. I found the DSLR viewfinder of my Nikon D610 to be restricting. I got (am now) used to a movable LCD screen that allowed me to get down to eye level with my cats. This translated to: getting down to eye level with the flowers in my garden. There are a lot of moving variables to consider: shutter, composition, focus…. I get it that iPhone users just want to click and forget. All around me, family has little or no interest and they are quite content to have iPhone as their primary camera. That little tiny lens… Yes, a screw driver is a hammer in a pinch. But, the converse is untrue.
My kids make fun. They tell me I’m blind. Or, at the very least I don’t pay attention. Colleen says the same. I concentrate and am oblivious to an earthquake. It served me well when I was in a noisy operating room. I was testing and comparing three cameras and their ability to photograph flowers. I zoomed the lens and let fly. It’s amazing what the camera saw that I did not. It’s equally amazing to get good shots. What I learned is that a blind squirrel does get a nut, sometimes. As for seeing detail, I’m lazy. The camera does the work. Press (the shutter button) early and often. Then again, what they didn’t tell you is when to do it. That’s judgment and it’s something you have or not. But… I did not see the pistil nor the water droplets.
We have monarch butterfly caterpillars. Where do they come from? Ha! Well, we have a bunch of caterpillars eating my parsley. So, they aren’t monarchs. They are swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
It’s all figured out from what they eat. Monarchs only eat milkweed. Okay! The identification is solved. I’d like to have had monarchs. Alas, it’s not to be. Meanwhile, it’s devilishly hard for me to get a properly focused picture. The depth of field is shallow. The caterpillars are small. There are ways… but a point and shoot isn’t the best tool. I got shots.
I didn’t try to go out and find my macro lens. Well, I did it. I was curious to see if I could get a better shot. No, not better, different. There were pros and cons. But I was in much better control with manual focus. Autofocus has been around forever. You become dependent. Or, you adapt. Solve the problem. Okay!
Forsythia, they bloom for a short time in the spring. Bright, brilliant, showy, and then gone. I don’t like them because the bloom is so relatively brief. And daffodils, the same. I’m not a bulb guy. I like to look, but I’ve never cultivated them. Water droplets are a plus. This detail of a forsythia bloom is less usual than the whole bush. I don’t mind visiting these flowers in someone else’s yard.
First, middle, or somewhere in between. It’s funny. I sometimes get ‘the shot’ right away and then try to improve upon it. Or not. With digital, I just shoot and shoot. When I shot slides that cost time (for me to develop) and money (film cost). Nowadays I just shoot first. I do notice that I don’t shoot as many vertical compositions. It is awkward on my computer screen. Certain composition or framing is standard stuff for me now – like low angle, wide angle. Different day different flower. The graphics are still striking.
I’m spinning the dial and just picking random recent images. Ice tea melted sugar – it’s just a simple macro image. Simple? Yes, call it a close up of something common. I take pictures of common things. Simple. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to go back to basics. Meditate. Serenity.
Ok. Be impressed. Even a blind squirrel gets a nut (sometimes). Yes! My dive buddy saw the eggs. She did not have a lens to photograph them. The other two of us did. We shot. I was singularly unimpressed. The eggs had been laid on a white PVC pipe. The guardian parents was buzzing us. The current was moving me about and the visibility was near zero. It was murky! I closed my eyes, adjusted my settings, and pointed and shot. I could not get a high high mage shot. But the image magnified shows eggs and eyes. At least that is my story. And, I’m sticking with it. This made my day.
Macro. It’s what they call it. Macro means large to me. It is counterintuitive to me. But the art or style is to get the details. And believe me the details are often not obvious on first look.
Red coral has hair – like the fine hair on your arm. Not obvious. I don’t know what the purpose is. I don’t see the hairs on most coral.
Horns – rhinopores. The yellow orange are pretty obvious. And the serrations are a new discovery since I now get magnified views with my super macro lens. The black and white – gee! – I didn’t know there were rhinopores for three years. There is a front and back! Damn! Starfish – fine details – it was out because the water was so murky the starfish was fooled into thinking it was dark. This is stuff that I simply never appreciated till I started macro photography. Neat!
I finally got it…for now! This is my best ever! Look at the detail! I know you have no frame of reference and cannot possibly know how rare an opportunity…
Macro. Green eyed shrimp! If you live long enough you can do this! Too! But I often wonder. I can dive the Red Sea freely and often – for now. And on any given dive, this would never ever happen to me. So if you persist and luck is on your side, well, you too may find your unicorn. I have many. There are a couple shots still on my bucket list. Green eyed shrimp are shy! They are found when the light reflects off their eyes from my brilliant LED flashlight. And as soon as the light hits their eyes, they retreat. This poor shrimp did not get the memo that it is safer to stay out of the light… and he will be someone’s meal soon. But meanwhile it got a shot, then got closer, got another and another, and then my dive buddy signaled me that we had to go – now! Darn! (My language would be a lot more colorful!) But, he’s boss, we go, when he says. Safety! Remember? He was concerned about tide, current, and rip surges. But it only takes a single shot. I got it! Macro! Close. Yes! Close enough to “see the white of their eyes….” Well, green…. I like the quote attributed to the Revolutionary war leader… don’t shoot till… Hey, can you tell I’m pretty excited about getting this shot. Everything works against you. The odds! Yup. Right place right moment. Eureka! Yeah, I’m a happy camper!
Here’s my rose garden now. The best garden is the one I can admire but don’t have to tend. No weeding. No deadheading. No watering. Just admire and smile. I did container gardening for more than twenty years. I’ll pull out some slides and show you someday. Plant, wait for the flowers to grow, deadhead, water, and fuss. It was a pretty damn good garden. It was like therapy. I’d water for an hour and be pretty mellow. Then it became a chore. And no one appreciated the effort. Oh well. Everything changes. These days, this is my garden. It is a landscape of coral that look like gray stalks underwater. Shine a daylight color balanced strobe on them and they are spectacular. You don’t have to agree. Fine by me. But I get to admire them and they always make me smile. They are down below 70 feet. Not too many divers venture here. No one seems intent on destroying beauty. There was a gorgeous fan coral someone destroyed not too far from here. Fortunately, the beauty of this coral is hidden until you make them shine. I get to see a lot of neat things. I get to see them over and over. This sort of makes all the downside better. Like roses with thorns, coral has the nasty habit of giving you skin irritation. So remember. Don’t touch nothin,’ nothin’ ever! I can assure you my advice is sound. (I’m itching the back of my hand as we speak.)
Nothing new here. I take pictures of everything. Fish when they are there. Food when it’s in front of me. It’s a learning process. I look. Then I wonder how it is different. We see things. But do I look at them. Too much. Too many things. Details. I would never move on. I just look and sometimes things strike me. So here is the latest. A plant from the nursery that I just planted. Actually, I think it was Lowe’s. I just randomly pick things that will be colorful and grow with not too much fuss over the summer. I’m pretty much with a camera all the time. Or an iPhone. I prefer a camera. If it’s worth shooting I should be serious. The exception is in the hospital. I have my smartphone always. And the image is good enough for Powerpoint. I shoot images of the x-rays I see. Interesting cases. And then use them for teaching.
But here, the macro capability of the camera shines. Stamens. Focused. Detail. I daresay it’s better than the other images of the whole flower. Do I really need to show you the whole thing. Sure, if it’s a catalog. No, if it’s to draw your eye to a detail you might otherwise not appreciate. I’m good. Not great. Got a shot you might not have taken. But I didn’t get out a true macro lens and set this shot up with pinpoint detail. Nope, sorry. That would be work. And this is all fun for me. I watch my kids roll their eyes and stop listening. Then I know I have gone from fun to work. I’m not working right now.
However, I do take play seriously. The funny thing is that I pull out my phone to show pictures and the same rolled eyes start.
Nice detail and nice background. Well, the detail in the coral helps the image. It’s why I took the image. So here’s the process. Did you want to know? No? Skip the rest and look at the fishie. First you swim by. You see the fish. You determine if it will stay put. Then you turn on the camera and the flash. Macro? Set up things by twirling the buttons and dials. Flash is done manually. There is no auto exposure. You set it up. And you set up the depth of field. And you make sure your background is uncluttered. And at high mag you are moving and so it’s exceedingly difficult to hold still while the current is pushing you up and down and to and fro. Meanwhile steady your hand and move in close whilst not scaring the poor fishie. He moves and your shot is toast. Still with me? Then you are indeed my friend. I imagine most folks would have given up on me way back. Ha! No paragraph. It makes it harder to skip ahead. Maybe you were reading along because you thought I might teach you something.
At the end of the day I like the detail in this white coral. I’d never post this image except the fishie got cooperative and stayed so that the two together make a good pair. You think this is easy? I now understand how to shoot a gun. You hold your breath and press the shutter slowly. Anything else and everything is moving and you don’t have much chance to hit a target or to get your image in focus. I’m getting quite good at holding my breath. No! That is the first rule of scuba. Breathe normally – in and out – and – out and in. But then again rules can be stretched without breaking. I’m holding in place. My lungs will be just fine. I will not pass out from lack of oxygen. And I got the shot!
In the movies the good guy shoots while falling out of a car and shoots three villians between the eyes in three shots. What you see here is a good shot. How it got here was a journey. Breathe in, breathe out.
This is a colorful bit of red coral. Did I say, “Don’t touch a thing!” Don’t do it! Ever! And here’s why. Look! Are you looking? The hairs! Yes, macro detail, look at the hairs. They are sharp looking and like glass needles poised to sting you. Thorns on a rose or some such like that. However I have other images where they look like hairs. Not quite so straight and sharp. Go ahead and touch it then, it won’t sting.
Nope! Touch these and you will itch for a few weeks. Don’t believe me. Go ahead and touch them, Or, not! And there are seams! Really! That’s cool too. The details you can see are brought to you by great technology.
Someone came along and photographed them and voila. So I took it one step further and photographed the orange sponge too. Yup, hairy! My dive guru photographer does not believe me. He says they are red. All the hairy ones are red.
Dare I believe that I have spied something he did not notice? It’s neat to one up the teacher. I was always a handful as a student. Too much time on my hands I guess. But that’s orange and it’s hairy, and don’t touch! Ever!