I get asked alot, “Why do I like to shoot macro?”, as opposed to other kinds of photography, and I suppose that’s a valid question. The truth is, most photographers tend to shoot landscapes or human portraiture—and, hey, that is great. I do too. There are many wonderful photographs that have been produced by the many photographers who specialize in these subjects. But, for me, shooting macro photography is different. While most forms of photography are an attempt to capture grand-scale (or obvious human) beauty of some kind, to me macro photography offers a more subtle, almost a spiritual appreciation for the tiniest details of life, details that most of us miss.
Landscape photography has to head the list for photographic genres able to capture the full majesty of the world, from a breathtaking perspective. And, of course, portrait photography captures the beauty, essence, and/or curious complexity of man himself. So where does macro photography fit in? Well, I believe shooting macro offers the very same potential of other types of photography, only in more subtle ways. If we consider the old adage, “It’s the ability to appreciate the little things in life which gives life its meaning,” then macro photography typifies the appreciation of these “little things.” The truth is, in everyday life, almost any person (with eyes to see) can appreciate a glorious sunset, or a majestic mountain range … a breathtaking cityscape … or just a beautiful person … because these vistas are so obvious they can’t help but be noticed. Yet how many people likewise notice the intricate detail and beauty of a tiny insect or flower? Not many. The truth is, most people just walk right on by “the little things” in life and they not only fail to appreciate them, they fail even to notice!
Well, if the ability to “Stop and smell the roses” is but another way to express “the the need to appreciate the little things,” then macro photography is essentially a lifestyle of taking the time to stop and smell the roses. The macro photographer not only stops to smell the roses, he sets up his tripod and camera and attempts to forever capture their beauty … and then he tries to share this beauty with those close to him (if not with the world). This, in essence, is what I love most about macro photography: sharing all of the “little things” in life that I stop and take the time to notice with the people I care about. In fact, I ask that you please allow the following photo-sequence to illustrate:
Yesterday, I drove down to the local store in my area, and I passed some roadside Senna marilandica (the Maryland Wild Sensitive Plant, a kind of wild pea). As I drove passed these freshly-blooming flowers I texted a “note-to-self” on my Facebook page so that I would remember to come back and photograph them, when I got back, which I just did today. Now, I think it’s fair to say that most people who live in my area would probably drive right by these flowers every day without even noticing them. I also think it is fair to say that, of the people who in fact did notice these flowers, less than one-one-hundredth of 1% of even these have ever even thought to bother pulling their car over to the edge of the road, so they could stop to enjoy their beauty. (Before I seriously got into macro photography, I certainly wouldn’t have.) And, yet, because I have an active interest in shooting macro, I was able to appreciate the wealth of potential this patch of flowers might yield and to therefore consider investing about an hour of my time into immersing myself within this foliage—which really enabled me to see some incredible things:
Obviously, one of the benefits of my stopping to enjoy the flowers was my ability to photograph the flowers themselves, and I took several images of these amazing blooms (both with and without a flash) to commemorate my experience. But the enjoyment I got grew even more than I had originally anticipated. As I walked around the foliage, I noticed several species of butterfly were present, enriching the experience all the more. The species included Sleepy Sulphur butterflies–and a huge (freshly-emerged) Palamedes Swallowtail. The Sleepy Sulphurs were everywhere, as they actually lay their eggs under the leaves of the Senna:
As I continued to enjoy photographing these flowers (and butterflies) from different angles, still more tiny objects of interest and beauty became apparent … including the growing caterpillars produced by the eggs of the Sleepy Sulphur butterfly:
A whole other world was opening-up before me: a tiny world where creatures of all shapes and sizes began to reveal themselves … as I stopped, looked, and listened to “the little things” in life. Although everything I saw was beautiful, not all that I saw was innocent and gentle, for lying in wait for every one of these creatures were predators of various shapes and sizes, ready to take advantage of any opportunity. Yet, even here there was beauty in this as well, as the predators themselves came in all manner of beautiful colors, shapes, and sizes:
In a nutshell, what I love so much about macro photography is that I can literally “take a vacation” and enjoy the world around me right in my own backyard. On this particular venture, I wasn’t trying to obtain museum-quality shots, I just went out to enjoy myself for a bit. I only traveled a mere 2½ miles down the road to get these photographs, and on many (if not most) of my ventures I don’t even have to leave my own backyard. What is so wonderful about being a macro shooter is you don’t have to take expensive (and time-consuming) trips to get the feeling of being in The Great Outdoors. All a person has to do is grab his gear bag and take a casual walk out the back door … or go to a local park … and then learn to stop, look, and listen. This is a great habit to get into, because the benefits of doing so yield positive results that improve other areas of your life as well, not just photography. For only when we take the time to be still do all of the precious “little things” of this world begin to reveal themselves to us. Unfortunately, most people in today’s world are so busy attending to the pressures of work and family that they don’t ever slow down and bother to notice “the little things” anymore. We’re too busy.
In conclusion, macro photography affords me the opportunity, every day, to take a mini-vacation … where I can stop, look, and listen … and see an amazing world of “little things” that surround us all, which I would never have bothered to notice without developing an eye for this aspect of photography. Thus what I hope I have achieved in this opening blog post is for the reader not only to enjoy the images displayed here, but that each individual begins to look for and appreciate “why” developing an interest in this area of photography might be as rewarding for you as well.
Have a great one,
(This post was the opening post from my blog ever, while I lived in Florida. So I saved it.)