Macro photography is just a posh name for extreme close up photography and is skill in it’s own right.  A skill I should state I don’t have :-)

To get “really close” images you need special gear, either a macro lens, or some extension tubes or a lens diopter filter.

The best solution is a dedicated lens designed to get really close and make the subject look bigger in the image, but these lenses are expensive.  Alternatively you can go for extension tubes that you insert between the lens and the camera body – years ago you could by “bellows” that did the same job that allowed you to move the lens nearer or further away from the camera.  But all extension systems really do is allow you to focus very close to the lens – which of course makes the subject look larger, they also reduce the amount of light entering the camera and force you to have much longer exposure times – so the subject needs to stay still longer.

Your last option is the lens diopter.  This is basically a filter that you can screw on the end of the lens that acts like a magnifying glass.  These are cheap, don’t reduce light, but do of course add additional glass between the subject and the sensor.  Also if you purchase a really cheap diopter, the images aren’t really that great.

Now I’ve wanted to play with macro photography for a while, and there really aren’t any great dedicated macro lenses for my camera.  So I recently purchased some extension tubes and a couple of diopters.  What I really want to shoot are some insects – creepy I know but they can look super cool close up big in the frame.  But January isn’t a great time of year to find insect subjects so I thought I’d capture something else.

I grabbed the camera and a couple of lenses and put one of the diopters on the end of the lens then I went looking for something to shoot.  First up I asked Abi if I could shoot her.  She stood in front of the window and I got really close and took some pictures of her eye!  In the picture you could see the reflection of the window and her eye in great detail.  In the end though I didn’t pick this one to post as she kept moving and many of the images were a little out of focus.

Next I found an old cent and took some shots of that – I actually robbed Abi’s purse for this – don’t tell her.  I put the coin on the kitchen counter and got in close for some pictures.  I didn’t add any extra lighting, just focused on the words “One Cent” and snapped away.  These came out really well and I selected one of the images to post.

This was a lot of fun, but definitely showed me how hard it is to grab those excellent macro shots.  But I like a challenge and will keep trying and we’ll see what I can capture in spring when the garden comes alive!

So the goal today was to go out and get some really nice pictures, but there was a kink in the day’s plans.  The weather was terrible, I mean really awful.  We had a major storm overhead and the rain was coming down unbelievably hard.  Now I don’t mind getting wet, but I can’t take the camera gear out in those conditions.  So I needed another plan.

Instead I thought I’d do something “arty”.  So while Lisa and I were out I popped into Home Depot and brought a couple of white tiles.  Then this evening I laid one of the tiles flat and placed the other behind it standing up.  I suspended one speed light over head and also suspended a pipette above (both on light stands).  Then the camera went on a tripod and I got out the cable release out.  I got some red paint out and watered it down and loaded up the pipette – you still with me?

Then the fun started, if you can call it fun.  I squeezed the pipette and took a picture, trying to time the picture for when the paint drop hit the tile.  This is the first shot I got. No it wasn’t, I just lied.  This was maybe the 50th picture actually.  But once I got the timing right I got loads of these.

Once I got all the pictures in to the computer we started a family “discussion” ove which picture or drop crown, looked best.  We all (Lisa, James, Abi and myself) had our favorites but we operated a very democratic mechanism to pick the best.  Yes, we chose Lisa’s.

Anyway the end result came out really well.  Paint crown looked amazing and the I got the shot I was looking for.   Hope the rain stops for tomorrow.

After doing something “arty” Carter and Master Chief offered to clean up – which was nice of them.

For a while now I’ve been meaning to go to the Japanese Gardens in Seattle to take some pictures.  But lately it’s been totally manic at work and I’ve even had things on over the weekend so I really have had no free time.  The gardens actually close next week for the Winter so I had to go now or wait till next year.  So today I headed over to check it out.

Luckily it wasn’t raining when I got there but it was cold enough that the gardens weren’t full.  That said there were a few people there so there was some waiting around required.  Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take tripods into the gardens and a lot of the gardens are in shade but I still got some great shots.  I’ll be posting pictures from the gardens throughout the week but I thought I’d start with something different.

There was this really big Japanese Maple and it was loosing leaves.  Below the tree there were a load of rocks covered in moss and the leaves were falling onto the moss.  The red leaves against the green moss looked fantastic and I thought it would make an interesting image.

I got down low and really close to the leaves to get the shot and I had a pretty narrow depth of field so the leaves at the back of the picture were out of focus.  I really liked the colors in this image, nice and bright.

Master Chief had a bad back tonight so he got a warmer to help ease the pain.  Not sure it worked though.

I was walking through my office building at Microsoft today when I passed the reception and main entrance.  This guy came in (a developer I think) carrying a single red leaf that he’d picked up off the floor outside.  Anyway he looked at me a little embarrassed and said “perfect leaf – shows that summer is definitely over”.  Both he and I got into an elevator and went up to the third floor.  All the time he’s looking at the leaf, clearly fascinated by the color.

Now 18 year old Tony would have been laughing his head off, I can hear my younger self now in my head, I was so embarrassing.  I probably would have made some derogatory comment to the guy about how stupid he was or something.  But these day’s being much older (50 next year), I can appreciate the beauty in a simple leaf and I started thinking.  At home we have the very cute little Japanese Maple tree (Lisa loves this tree) and this week the leaves have turned from their normal deep purple to this amazing red color (clearly they are soon going to fall).  And all of a sudden all I can think of is how much I want to shoot a single leaf when I get home.

At 6pm I walked in the door and after a quick “Hello everyone” ran into the back yard to find that “perfect” leaf.  I’m not sure if the one I selected was perfect but it looked great and I picked it off the tree.  It was raining outside so it was pretty wet and covered in water droplets and that looked great too.

Anyway I brought the leaf in and set up a little set to shoot it.  I had a light stand supporting a 40″ reflector with a black cover – that was going to be my backdrop.  I got another stand to support the leaf, and placed the macro lens on the camera and got out the tripod.

I used a single speed light to light the leaf and took a number of pictures.  Now they all looked nice but they were missing something.  Then I realized what it was, the leaf was now dry.  So I grabbed a spray water bottle an started to cover the leaf with water until a number of drops moved together and started to drip from the leaf.  Then I got the shot below.

I did very little to this picture, maybe increased the contrast a little but that was it.  I think I ended up with a keeper!  I love the red color on black, and the water drop about to come off the bottom leaf just draws my eye.  Hope you like this one too.

Sometimes I have no idea what these guys are doing, tonight it appears that Master Chief was trying to hatch a chicken egg by sitting on it in a birds nest he found!  Carter was shocked by this too!

I thought I’d post something different today.  I was playing with Abi’s coloring box last night for my Halo picture and I remembered a shot I did last year using my macro lens.  I basically stacked up some Crayola crayons added some soft light and shot them with the macro getting in real close.  I loved the image but never got round to posting it.  Even though I still have the images somewhere I can’t post it in my “Picture a Day” collection as my resolution states that I have to shoot the image this year.

So last night I got out the crayons, a softbox, a tripod and my macro lens.  I needed to use a tripod as when you use the macro lens the depth of field (area of focus) for a normal aperture (something like f/8) is very small.  So you need a tiny aperture (f/16-22), which requires more light and a longer exposure time.  As I can’t hold the camera still for a tack sharp image any longer than around 1/60th of a second I needed the tripod.  Note however that even with the tripod and a small aperture, not all crayons are in focus!

I placed some black card on the table and stacked two rows of crayons on top.  it took me quite a few attempts to place the light where I wanted it (I really wanted that specular line of light on the crayon’s point), but eventually I got the shot I wanted.  I was after something specific here though.  I decided to single file tone map the image too, I wanted the picture to have a gritty look and to pull out all the pit’s and details in the crayon.  This worked quite well and also emphasized the texture in the paper.

So this is the end result.  This was an example of an image I had in my mind that I was really going for.  Hope you like the picture.

Carter said that he and Red had an argument, but he sorted it out.  Not sure what he means but I haven’t seen Red all day!