Getting Closer - Macro Art

The sun finally came out at the Beth Chatto Gardens. 

Leucojum aestivum at the Beth Chatto Gardens. 180mm Sigma macro lens

Leucojum aestivum at the Beth Chatto Gardens. 180mm Sigma macro lens

We all had a good day; lots of techniques and tips. The garden was looking wonderful. We dedicated the day to 'slow photography' - taking time to enjoy surroundings, chat and absorb the information. 

Checking out reflectors and controlling natural lightin the practical session.

Checking out reflectors and controlling natural lightin the practical session.

But first things first. Why do we like to photograph closeup? These images reveal detail that we don't see with the naked eye; they can make plants look like landscapes, or body parts...or anything. Sometimes macro photographers just revel in colour and texture. Why do you want to do it? Having a clear-headed answer to this can refine your images and really develop your photography. In the workshop we cover exposure, focus, focus staking, light , tripod/no tripod - all of this and more. But at heart it is all about what we want to communicate and developing the ideas and techniques that will enable us to communicate exactly what we want to communicate. So observation on a tiny scale is key. So is considering the whole frame - every section of pixels - since closeup work often demands attention to detail unlike any other kind of photography and it's often the background to the main subject that makes all the difference.

Personally, I think I tread a line between abstract and figurative. I never want to forget that the object is a plant and retains all its plant-ness. But I want to try to communicate something more, perhaps an emotion,  a feeling, an appreciation of the plant that goes beyond the decorative. That often takes me into a territory of texture and colour above all else.

Texture: Heather on Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire. Not really a macro shot but this was on a 'day out' with friends so no tripod or reflectors. Everything bar the subject is excluded - often what macro work is about. Panasonic Lumix.

Texture: Heather on Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire. Not really a macro shot but this was on a 'day out' with friends so no tripod or reflectors. Everything bar the subject is excluded - often what macro work is about. Panasonic Lumix.

Colour: grape hyacinth. When I shot this, most of my time was spent getting myself in the right position for the background to harmonise texturally with the flower. 180mm Sigma lens.

Colour: grape hyacinth. When I shot this, most of my time was spent getting myself in the right position for the background to harmonise texturally with the flower. 180mm Sigma lens.

Inspiration for macro photography can be found in many places but few are as rich as the Macro Art category of IGPOTY. This category is now open with a deadline of June 30th. Take a look. This is what the IGPOTY guys say about it:

The second photo project of the year is Macro Art. This is a chance to capture the world of plants and gardens on a completely different scale, utilising a unique set of photographic skills. From the life of tiny insects, to the mesmerising shapes and colours of flowers, you are encouraged to explore our green planet in miniature, whilst showcasing the beauty and complexity of nature. Judges will look for the extraordinary. Challenge their understanding of both macro photography and the flora and fauna which inhabit green spaces.

Find out more about Macro Art here

My workshops are coming up in May - in London and Herefordshire - Chelsea Physic Garden and Stockton Bury - both great gardens with lovely atmosphere- have a look here

Tulip 'Helmar'. Tulip time is great for macro shots; get in really close if you want to - but any closeup view is rewarding.

Tulip 'Helmar'. Tulip time is great for macro shots; get in really close if you want to - but any closeup view is rewarding.