Taking Macro Shots


Cagayan de Oro, Mindanao, Philippines (07 July 2011) – It has been sometime since the last time I have posted a blog in this blog site of mine. I do hope I will be writing more in the coming months. For now, and to start the juices flowing again, I’m posting some macro shots I have taken using a technique I have not used in a long, long time. Way back during the film era, for us to take macro shots (without a proper macro lens), we remove the lens and invert/reverse the mount (handholding the lens close to the camera body). Because film was a precious commodity at that time, I did this technique for a few frames only and never got to “master” the technique. I could not afford to waste, as it were, precious frames of film. I, at that time, would not like to spend money for processing of totally out of focus or totally washed out (i.e. overly exposed) or totally dark (i.e. overly underexposed) frames.

New Beginnings - A macro shot of a newly grown plant in our garden. The shot was taken not using a "proper" macro lens but rather shot non-traditionally. I inverted the lens of my camera, set the aperture to its widest opening and focussed by moving the camera (further or closer to the subject) till I got proper focus as seen in the viewfinder. Lens used: 24-70mm @ 70mm.

Recently, I had a productive chat with a friend on facebook and our conversation revolved around his macro shots of insects and other natural objects. During the chat I mentioned to him about the inverse lens technique I’ve been using a long time ago way back when digital was still unheard of and discovered that, that is what he actually does when he takes macro shots. The only difference is that he has an inverter ring attached to his camera. Unlike the old technique I have been using before, mine was more crude and prone to a lot of problems (i.e. cannot use a tripod to steady the camera as I would have to use both of my hands to steady the camera and the lens, quality of the product suffers due to light leaks or inaccurate position of the camera to get the right focussing distance). Shooting with the inverted lens technique without the proper gear is definitely a trial and error exercise. Out of several shots you take, you can end up with a few good shots or non at all. This was the reason I never pursued the technique beyond trying it a few times. Just thinking of exposing a whole roll of film (i.e. 36 shots) and ending with nothing worthwhile was too much for me, at that time.

Dead Insect - Photo of a dead insect lying on our lanai table. Shot taken with an inverted lens using the widest end @ 24mm.

Now that digital photography is here to stay, worries about wastage of film is a thing of the past. The recent chat with my friend encouraged me to give the inverted lens technique another try. As can be seen in the photos posted, the quality of the macro shots is not as good as it should be. The depth of field is very shallow (which is not a bad thing in itself by the way) and the exposure is not spot on. I had to do some post processing adjustments after downloading the shots to my computer.

Red Planet - A close-up/macro shot of a piece of cement on a colored pavement comes out like the surface of the planet Mars. Photo taken with the inverse lens technique (24-70mm lens set at 24mm).

Taking macro shots is indeed possible even with the most crude of equipment. The quality may not be as good as one would want it to be but one can enjoy shooting the small, miniature part of our universe. Taking macro shots provides the viewer and the photographer with a very unique, different and refreshing view of our world — a view that otherwise is not noticed because of its smallness. Macro shots provides viewers with a new way of looking at our world.

Ring of Fire - Rust along the tip of nails come out like a ring of fire. Shot taken with the lens inverted. Lens used was a 24-70mm set at 35mm.

Macro photography may not be for me (that is establish a career around it) but macro photography being an aspect or branch of photography, I certainly would enjoy doing now and then. Who knows, if inspiration will hit me, I might just make a personal project revolving around macro shots of our environment or surroundings.  There definitely are gears and equipment (albeit expensive) designed to make macro photography results more accurate, precise and more pleasing to see but given the limited resources one have, gear does not become an obstacle for one to shot macro. The inverted lens technique will do. One just have to be aware of the limitations of this technique and learn how to go around its limitations.

Rattan Bristles - Strands of a cut rattan coming out like red branching corals. Shot with an inverted lens. Lens used was a 24-70mm set @24mm

At the end of the day, photographers would always say, “better to have a bad picture than having no picture at all.” Like all other branches of photography, to be good and excel in macro photography, one has to practice. One has to have the passion for it and utilize whatever tools are available.

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