Being Creative, While Staying Safe
When we move in close, the camera reveals intricate details, fascinating patterns, and intense colors unseeable with the naked eye. Very small subjects often lead to very big pictures. Even the most ordinary subjects can be completely transformed through magnification.
Macro photography is incredibly fun, and it can be done nearly anywhere—rain or shine, day or night. And with the current stay-at-home situation, macro photography is the perfect pursuit to keep a photographer creative and inspired—whether in the basement, the kitchen, or the garage.
It’s something like a treasure hunt to discover subjects around the house, but it’s worth the search. One of my favorite places to look for subjects is in kitchen drawers. The kitchen is filled with interesting shapes and textures that offer great potential for experimentation.
With just a few Speedlights and a macro lens, a wire colander can be transformed using color and selective depth of field into something that is nearly unrecognizable as a kitchen tool.
A small metal whisk photographed from above can resemble a flower by carefully selecting an interesting background and the appropriate f-stop to reveal the creamy bokeh of the optic.
A simple cocktail strainer becomes an exercise in lighting, color, composition, reflection, and depth when placed on a glass surface.
If the garden is where you prefer to find subjects, a simple mushroom growing in the grass makes for a whole day of macro experimentation. A day after pulling it out of the ground, it might become even more interesting as it loses its moisture and begins to contract. With the careful addition of some very controlled light, the radial shape and texture is quietly revealed.
Not far from the mushroom was a tiny dandelion. Some might consider this a weed to be pulled, but if protected from the breeze and brought indoors, this lowly lawn nuisance can challenge your composition and lighting skills for hours. The resulting photograph will make it impossible for you to see dandelions the same way again.
If flowers are your thing, they’re everywhere right now and they give you plenty of angles and textures to explore. With a a couple of Speedlight modifiers, the light can be positioned to direct the viewer’s eye exactly where you want them to look.
Butterflies have some of the most interesting patterns and textures, and a single specimen provides enough variation for at least a dozen completely different images. If you change magnifications, you will see even more possibilities from the very same butterfly.
Have you heard of focus stacking? Focus stacking is a process of capturing a series of images all focused on a different part of the subject and then merging them together to create a single image that is precisely sharp—anywhere you want precise focus. If focus stacking is something you’ve been meaning to try, few things are more interesting to photograph than butterfly wing detail.
Focus stacking is very different from the concept of depth of field because, rather than a single point of precise focus combined with the perceived focus you obtain with depth of field, focus stacking delivers actual focus throughout the image. Even the smallest f-stop on any lens would not deliver anywhere near the depth of focus obtainable with focus stacking. At five-times live size, every undulation of a dragonfly wing is revealed through the use of focus stacking.
If you’re up for something really unique, grab a piece of glass, some Rain-X, some distilled water, and an interesting subject to create a few water droplet images. It’s likely that you already have plenty of subjects around the house to use. I found these cupcake holders in a cupboard, flattened them, and then arranged them into an interesting pattern.
Want something a bit more challenging? You can make some pretty interesting images by introducing movement into your water droplet images. This gel-covered LED panel is rotating beneath the water droplets which creates the pattern within each droplet.
Finally, if you enjoy fine coffee, you’ll easily recognize this metal strainer as part of a French press. It’s a simple subject, but with a few lights and some selective focus, it turned otherworldly. Try it. But by all means, brew the coffee first so that you’ll have something to sip while you make your macro photographs.
Joey Terrill began his career as a photographer for the Los Angeles Times before moving to magazine and advertising photography for clients that include American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, Golf Digest, Major League Baseball, Nikon, Red Bull and Sports Illustrated.
“Every project I work on gives me the opportunity to meet amazing people, learn something new, and create a souvenir of the experience in the process. My camera is the window through which I experience life and I’ve been fortunate to enjoy countless memories through photography.”
Joey teaches workshops and speaks at seminars including the Summit Series Workshops, PhotoPlus Expo, WPPI, Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, UPAA Symposium, Consumer Electronics Show, World in Focus, NECCC, and Nikon School.
He is a Nikon Ambassador in the United States.