Finding Beauty Hiding In Plain Sight

There is a fascinating, tiny world of normally hidden scenes waiting to be discovered by the macro photographer. For Steven Dillon, one of the most attractive aspects of macro photography is finding and then creating pieces using subjects in nature that most observers ordinarily walk right past. Here’s a guest post Steven sharing his tips on micro photography.

Macro flower in garden at Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis NC

I primarily compose at two times life-size using a 180mm lens paired with a 2X extender but you can obtain images from various levels of capabilities (including both higher and lower magnifications). In fact, many of my earlier efforts were created using only a life-sized magnification. Similarly, there are lots of equipment options for being able to create macro art including macro lenses, extenders, diopters, extension tubes, and reversed lenses. While all of my experience has centered around the use of lenses, extension tubes, and an extender, I have seen very nice work from nearly every combination of the aforementioned gear.

Macro Periwinkle at the Rye Patch in Aiken SC

Macro Gladiolus in Aiken SC

If you decide that macro photography may be something you’d like to try, there are a few considerations that add complexity and increase the challenge. For example, lighting, depth of field, and movement will be concerns you won’t be able to avoid. Each of those topic areas could easily fill an entire book so I won’t delve into them in this post, however, I am happy to discuss what works for me:

• For movement and stability reasons, everything I compose is from a tripod. As I previously mentioned, my current macro rig is a 180mm lens and a 2X extender that is both heavy and long which makes locking it down on a tripod head an easy decision.

• I use a wireless remote shutter release so that the camera is never touched, and I have my mirror lockup set to on as a default.

• I carry and quite frequently use an additional, older, very light weight, tripod fitted with Plamps that I can use to help hold a subject still.

• I don’t use any type of flash, but using only natural light is an aesthetic choice. I prefer to compose in early morning light when the wind is usually as low as it will be since the heat of the day hasn’t yet stirred it up. Shooting during the golden hour requires longer exposure times as there is generally less available light (even as high as 25 seconds).

• While there really isn’t much you can do to increase your depth of field for a single frame, I normally shoot at a fairly high F-stop (e.g., F/22) to obtain as much sharpness as I can get.

• Focus stacking is a technique that can be used to increase the apparent depth of field by taking multiple images with overlapping focal points and using software to merge them together. Focus stacking can produce images with an incredible view that have the ability to exceed the limits of our vision while simultaneously representing our perception.

Macro Clematis flower in Aiken SC

Macro Impatiens at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken SC

Macro Lily at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken SC

Macro Lily at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken SC

The next time you walk past a flower or compose a piece using the entire subject, you might consider the beauty that is hiding right in front of your eyes on a much smaller scale.

Macro Daylily at Yonce farm in Ridge Spring SC

Macro Daylily at Yonce farm in Ridge Spring SC

Macro Daisy at Aiken County Historical Museum in Aiken SC

Bio: I am a Fine Art and Nature Photographer based out of Aiken, South Carolina with a love of macro photography. I am a purist when it comes to light, and all of my art is created using natural light as I find the colors it produces much more appealing. I am fascinated with the ability to capture that which you would not normally see, due mostly to the scale, or would look right past at a typical distance while having no idea that such beauty exists.

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David Roma

Some stunning images. Thanks for sharing your pictures and method.

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