Have you ever seen one of those amazing close-up shots of a snowflake and wondered how they got the photo? Have you ever wanted to try it yourself but didn’t think it was possible? I had seen the photographs of close-up objects, but had never give it much thought and never thought it possible for an average photographer. Until I met Melissa, I had never shot with a macro (or micro in Nikon speak) lens, but now it has become one of my go-to lenses for a wider range of shooting than you might initially think. We shoot with a Nikon 60mm Micro f/2.8 lens and have found it a wonderful lens paired with the Nikon DX camera bodies.
Melissa’s father had a macro for a film SLR camera years ago and she has told me how it amazed her the first time she looked at a leaf close-up and could see the detail. Her favorite macro subject now is snowflakes. Yes, we live in North Carolina and only see snow once or twice per winter at our house, but, if it snows, she is out in the yard shooting snowflakes! I think that was one of the reasons she wanted to go to Alaska last winter, but she claims it was the Aurora Borealis…
We started shooting stock photographs and quickly realized that if we wanted high quality close-ups, we needed a better lens than what we were using. That is when we thought, let’s try the macro. The lens immediately won us over for most of our on-purpose stock photos. The quality, clarity and ability to tell a story that the lens allowed makes it a natural for this type of shooting.
By design, a macro lens has high quality glass in the lens. To magnify the subject without introducing distortion requires that the manufacturer use high quality optics. In addition, they are a relatively fast (low f/stop) lens, meaning you can shoot at a higher shutter speed – which makes sense when you start to shoot with a macro and realize that your own breathing can take a photo out of focus because you moved ever so slightly. When shooting extreme closeups a tripod really helps, but Melissa has done some amazing free-hand macro shots.
If you want to push your own creative skills, a macro is a good tool to consider. When you shoot with a macro, you will quickly sharpen your own critical eye in regards to focus, depth of field and lighting. The macro magnifies each of these skills and if you take the time to learn from your results you will see an improvement in your skills when shooting other lenses. This has been true in my shooting, I saw a steeper learning curve due to the macro than any other lens I shoot with. It will also bring a new element to your photography. You will find your eye drawn to the smaller details, you will notice the pattern in a piece of paper, or the detail in a small object. Ultimately we all shoot because we enjoy it, why not introduce a new level of fun into your own photography and challenge yourself in the process.
Melissa: As an organizational person, I often get caught up in the details and patterns, which is perfect for macro photography. I received my lens as a Christmas gift one year from my parents. The following February I was out on my porch enjoying the rare snowfall and noticed that conditions were absolutely perfect for snowflakes. I grabbed my camera and spent as long as I could taking picture after picture, trying not to breathe as I took the shot so as not to shake the camera. At the time I didn’t have a tripod so it was all about balance. And when you are that close to an object, any slight movement will take it out of focus. I came inside to look at my pictures and I was hooked. After lunch I went back out, but by that time the conditions had deteriorated (as they often do in the south) and all that was falling from the sky was little balls of ice. So now every time it snows I’m out inspecting it to see if the conditions once again create the perfect intricate flake.