Macro Play For a Cold, Wet Day

experiment in macro 1

Well, I started thinking about those of you who can’t get out because of the snowdrifts, or don’t wish to go and freeze for the sake of a picture. I bought some pot pourri in a charity sale a few weeks ago that I’ve been displaying on my coffee table (smells gorgeous). And I’ve failed to get out today because the snow was too heavy and the sky too dark to get effective shots. Frustrating or what? So, I got my camera out, mounted it on my trusty tripod and put on my Tamron 300mm macro lens and started playing. I have a couple of small lamps fitted with daylight bulbs. I used one of them for these shots. I’m hoping my experiments will be useful to you, especially if you’re new to macro, your camera or just experimenting. I’m no technical genius. But I do know about looking, playing and learning from experimentation. So here goes. I’ve been wondering what these shapes would look like close up for a while and here was my chance to find out. It took several attempts to get the colour, depth of field and texture I wanted, but this shot (above) I’m really pleased with. Remember that your photos should please YOU. What you learn about your camera will be really useful when you take it out and want to get a good shot of, say, a mushroom close up, or a flower. It’s great practice.

For the techies, My camera was set at aperture f5.7, focal length 300mm, spot metering, no flash. I had the camera set to manual. Auto leaves no room for creativity, so ditch it and play! Otherwise you can’t control the results as the camera makes all your decisions for you.

I quickly moved on to more of the objects in my bowl. This next series of shots shows what happens if you play with your white balance settings. I’m looking for abstract images here, not accurate, real life rendering of the objects. In this next shot, the metering is set to pattern, flash auto, white balance auto, exposure auto. A dull, predictable result. It’s worth mentioning I’m looking for abstract, not perfect focus.

macro experiment 2

Now one with white balance set to cloudy weather. Note the huge difference in colour. If you were taking a life-like shot this would be unacceptable, but when you’re getting arty, what works is what works. I’m not sure this does, but it shows you what can be done.

macro experiment 3

And this next one, the white balance is set to tungsten.

macro experiment 4

In this last shot of the pine cone, I changed my approach completely and decided on a different angle, different focussing and different light balance. I’ve used the natural daylight setting, which is closest to the lighting I was using, so  rendering a more natural colour (the cone is dyed black and sprinkled with glitter). I was looking for the texture and pattern of the cone and more sharpness to define the edges. I think this one suceeds in my aims.

macro experiment 5

Satisfied,  I moved on to the next object.

macro experiment 6

I really liked the colours of this object as they were, so again the white balance is set to daylight. I’m not sure if the focus is as I’d like it, though, and may well have another go at this later. But the result is fairly pleasing, and I do like the diagonal flow of the pattern. It’s all about playing with what you’ve got. There are a lot more photos of these things, but I don’t want to bore you. So for this final shot I pulled back a bit and took a group shot of some of the contents of my bowl. Again, I’ll probably play some more before I decide I have my perfect shot. But I quite like this one.

macro experiment 7

Once I’d done all these, I got bored with the subject (that happens quite frequently to me) so I moved on to a skull my partner bought for me some time ago. It was from a company that finds road kill and natural death animals and cleans the skulls (so don’t worry, no cruelty involved). But that’s for my next blog and more about expermentation.

What have you got in your home you could get creative with? I’d love to know.


20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Randy Wornhole
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 21:46:06

    OMG these would make amazing large canvas prints, really arty and intruiging. Love to see these in an exhibition…..bout time you had one…I could help you organise one next year :o)


  2. chriscaff
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 22:04:22

    Thankyou Randy for the praise and the offer. I may well take you up on that! Check my blog in the next couple of days. Skull next!


  3. helenog
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 22:51:52

    Cool photos. I’d love a macro lens because I love photos of the detail of things. I particularly like the macro experiment 2 shot. It feels like you can reach out and touch the end of the cone!


    • chriscaff
      Dec 02, 2010 @ 23:06:23

      Thankyou Helen! My macro is a zoom (150-300mm) one made by Tamron and was only around £100. It’s a great lens for taking macro from a distance away (around 2′) but not super close. I’m saving up for that. The one I have is brilliant for butterflies and other insects in summer because you’ve less tendancy to spook them. Good luck with your photography. I hope santa brings you a macro for Christmas!


  4. Peet
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 23:34:45

    I got to agree great share wonderful graphics!


  5. crazygoangirl
    Dec 03, 2010 @ 03:21:09

    I love Macro photography although I don’t have a lens yet. My point and shoot had the option and I loved it. Loved Pic 1, Pic 5 and Pic 6 🙂 I’m really excited about my D 90, although I must confess am a bit intimidated with all the settings being an amateur.

    Have subscribed and will be back later to look at more pictures!


    • chriscaff
      Dec 03, 2010 @ 12:27:43

      Thanks so much Harsha? And happy belated birthday. I’m glad you’re enjoying my site. The D90 does take some getting used to, so try one new setting at a time and get familiar with it (aperture priority for instance) and just PLAY. That’s how kids learn and how we learn best! As adults we allow ourselves to get too bogged down with trying to ‘get it right’. That will come. Good luck.


  6. gilsongardensinc
    Dec 03, 2010 @ 12:33:53

    Experiment #7 is terrific! I love them all but that one is my fav! It’s nice to know that other photo junkies that can’t find a bird or are stuck in the house will focus on something we walk by a million times a day and make it special! Good job!


    • chriscaff
      Dec 03, 2010 @ 12:38:59

      Thanks Gilson. There’s nothing like looking at the world with fresh eyes! It’s great practice for when you do get a chance to get out and about and fun to do. I’ve played with a skull I have in macro too. More on that later today, but right now there’s snow everywhere and good light, so I’m hoping to go for a walk with my camera soon.


  7. hideg
    Dec 03, 2010 @ 21:27:22

    I became fascinated with them. I was interested in the beautiful pattern drawn in this photograph.


    • chriscaff
      Dec 03, 2010 @ 22:00:46

      Thankyou hideg! Close up there’s a lot of patterns we’d normally miss. I have a magnifying glass I often inspect things with. It’s fun and can spark new ideas.


  8. jruthkelly
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 21:58:15

    i’m no expert but i love these…such a feast of texture and color…


    • chriscaff
      Dec 04, 2010 @ 22:47:14

      Thankyou Ruth. Everyone’s an expert in what they do and don’t like. So thanks. And thanks for visiting my blog. The feedback is really valuable to me.


  9. weaselwiththecam
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 09:04:13

    I like no. 6 and no. 7 very much. I find the texture and the subtle shades in no.6 really awesome.


  10. chriscaff
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 11:20:48

    Thanks Weasel. And thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m surprised how popular these images seem to be.


  11. Todd Actual
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 01:57:44

    Thanks for being the first person to look at my blog. I’m afraid compared to yours my efforts are a bit amatuerish. These are very nice macros. Mine come out blurry about the edges. Of course I can always crop, but it irks me to have to do so. With macros the space between too far or too near where the camera will focus properly came be a few millimeters. I think on the ones where your subject has a lot of depth (the spikey plant parts) you did especially well getting as much in focus as possible.


    • chriscaff
      Dec 09, 2010 @ 16:37:15

      Thankyou Todd. First person? I’m honoured. You do only have a very shallow depth of field in macro. You can maximise this by using a large aperture (F22+) but you’ll need good lighting. Then it’s a case of choosing which part of the image you want to have in best focus. Macro is a creative weay of working, and sometimes those blurry edges can serve to direct the viewers focus to the main point of interest. I sometimes crop, too. Don’t worry about it, especially if you are working on large images. Good luck!


  12. hocsoundsystem
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 15:05:44

    I’ve always loved your macro photos. You seem to take so much care over each one.


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