A wonderful way to explore familiar territory is to look at it up close. I mean really close. That takes you into the world known as Macro Photography. Technically speaking, "Macro" (in photography) means a 1:1 or larger view. The image is rendered it's actual size on your camera's sensor. To get an idea of what this means: a quarter would fill the frame of your viewfinder.
There are some challenges inherent in this type of shooting. When you get that tight on your subject, every movement is magnified. A slight breeze looks like a gale force wind tossing your flower in and out of the frame. Photographing this single Rhododendron blossom took about an hour by the time I waited for the wind to settle enough to make the picture. All of the images on this page were taken using only natural light -- only because my flash was not working that day. You may wish to use some form of lighting to augment Mother Nature or to shoot in a studio where you can completely control the lighting and how much wind gets to affect your subject.
But this shot was not really a true macro, it was more of a "close-up." I used a 70-200 mm lens at 200 mm with 50 mm of extension tubes at f 14 for 1.3seconds. The extension tubes allow you to get in closer using your long lens. It helps bring the subject in, but if you know how big a Rhododendron blossom is, you know that I did not achieve a 1:1 ratio in this image. I did, however, fill the frame with it, which was my goal. I was able to use the hillside of the forest floor behind it to simplify the background since my polarizer would not neutralize all of the wet leaves that day.
Getting in this tight allows you to see details that you might miss on an ordinary day. Notice how shallow the depth of field appears in this shot. Even though I am at f11, the range of apparent sharp focus is very shallow. At 145mm with 50 mm of extension tubes on a full frame camera body, depth of field is measured in millimeters. Only a very narrow band will be in the area of apparent focus, allowing everything else to fade into non-subject.
The same rules of composition apply as in any other type of photography. You need an interesting subject placed in the frame in such a way as to hold the viewer's attention. Contrasting colors was a compositional technique that I played with to make the fly's eyes be the subject of this photo. At f 3.5 on a 100 mm macro lens, you can easily see the very narrow depth of field. Only the eyes and a narrow strip o the leaf are in focus. Yes ... this is a fly in the wild!
and this is a grapevine snail that I found on the trail. Be careful when laying down on a trail to take a picture of a snail though. My position evoked admiration from a fellow photographer, but the concern of another citizen who thought I might be in dire need of help! This little critter kept moving, so my shutter speed of .8 seconds at f 8 was a little long for many of the frames I clicked. Fortunately, there were a few that were still crisp and did not show movement. But even at f 8, notice how shallow the depth of field remains. Of course, the lens is only about an inch away from the snail!
All four of these images were made at an area that I visit regularly looking for larger landscape images. But capturing the intimate details forced me to stop and look around in a different kind of way. I had to turn off the auto-pilot and keep my eyes open for interesting things around me. The possibilities are endless!