Thanks to those that came out last Saturday for our macro workshop. Some great shots and some glorious weather.
Macro photography, or ‘photomacrography’ to call it by its proper name, is concerned with the business of taking photographs at 1:1 magnification ratio; i.e. the object being lifesize. Looking at this in a less sanitized and technical way, macro photography offers you the chance of venturing into another world. Ever seen the movie ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’? That’s how I like to look at macro, as a ticket into the fabulous world of the everyday but from a very different perspective. Whether it’s the natural world – plants, insects – or the study of everyday objects from close-up, macro photography offers you a unique opportunity to explore your subjects in a totally new and exciting way.
Our workshop began down on the canal in Tachiaigawa, Shinagawa-ku, with a basic exploration of the techniques involved when using macro lenses and extension tubes. The canal offered-up some excellent subject matter as well; flowers, the exposed area of breakwater with the low tide, some boating paraphenalia, insect life.
At the canal it wasn’t long before some of the classic macro-on-location issues manifested themselves, the quite significant onshore breeze being the main one. Studio macro gets rid of the wind issue but, for me, all the life goes out of the shooting: I like my nature natural.
We first had a little play with the Orbis ring-flash down by the canal too, experimenting with shooting through it [lots of front, flat light] and holding it off-axis [much better at bringing up the texture of objects and surfaces]. The two shots directly below show the nice, even light you can get with the Orbis, especially when you are lighting from such a short distance. We used a Nikon SB900 speedlite in the Orbis, set to about 1/16th power. Shooting through the ring gives you a superb, even, omni-directional light. Ringflash started life being used for medical and forensic purposes, so it’s happy being shot very close to subjects and it delivers a very ‘forensic’ quality light when you shoot on-axis. For more texture, we used the unit off to one side, for low side-lighting. In each case the unit was fired with a SC-17 cable attached to the hot-shoe of the D700.
The most important feature of using the ringflash with macro photography, or any flash for that matter, is that you get the ability to flood the subject with light and therefore be able to select a much smaller aperture. Depth of field is at a premium with macro. Being able to shoot in dark little places – like the spot we shot these in, underneath a jetty by the canalside – but still being able to stop-down to f/18 is a massive bonus. The Orbis allows you to get in close and create very even light if that’s what you want. And, if you use it off-axis, to create controllable, diffused but dramatic lighting on very small subjects.
We grabbed a bit of lunch at the conbini and then headed over to my local park; Kumin Koen. Sadly the cold-snap, the strong wind and the rain had reduced the display of ume blossom to almost nothing and just a few trees were left with flowers on them. However, this was a macro workshop. You dont need many flowers to shoot in macro.
When we were done at the park, we headed back to my place and people picked out a few of their fave shots for some critique and post-pro.
Gallery of shots from our macro workshop
There’s a PDF here of our ‘Intro to Macro Photography’ info-sheet that we handed out on the day.