Macro photography methods: early spring blooms

Here in Virginia, spring is just beginning, and most of the signs of it are small and close to the ground. This spring, I decided to zoom in on that small world. Macro photography can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. For my photos, I used a 100 mm macro lens, some extension tubes to cut the minimum focal distance, and a kick light for illumination. If you don’t have a macro lens, you can also get great macro images using any lens with reverse lens macro. I used reverse lens macro to capture the image below.

Resistors with reverse macro

While I waited for a warm day, I practiced indoors. Below is an image of a civil war token lit with a kick light. Kick lights are great– they are small and bright, and you can couple them to your smart phone to control the color of the light. I chose blue here, thinking it might complement the copper tones of the coin.

Token the size of a penny. Lit using a kick light set to blue light.

Token the size of a penny. Lit using a kick light set to blue light.

In another exercise, I went to the kitchen and took pictures next to the window. This way I could think about natural light without dealing with the more trying aspects of nature like wind and the lack of convenient countertops.

A bottle cap in macro.

A bottle cap in macro.

Finally I got a nice day. My first subject was a lenten rose. Viewed from above, these early bloomers look more like shrubs than flowers. Only from below do you see what pretty flowers they are. Which means getting underneath a shrub-height flower.

I used a kick light to pull up the deep shadows in the middle of the flower. A gorilla pod (a simple $10 mini-tripod/flexible grip sort of thing) let me get the kick light where I needed it. After some trial and error (and some laying in the dirt and cursing the glare on my view screen while simultaneously really appreciating the view screen since my older camera doesn’t have one), I got this image below. With the aperture set to f11, the depth of field is good. A few of the stamen are out of focus, and I wonder if another stop or two would have captured them. I didn’t notice them while I was taking the image. Still, pretty pleased with this image.

A lenten rose in macro, lit from beneath with a kick light.

A lenten rose in macro, lit from beneath with a kick light.

Next I found some scilla. These flowers are electrically blue, but they are dinky. Each flower below is about the size of a penny. They were growing in deep shadow, so again I used the kick light, this time more to achieve the contrast and the white balance I wanted.

Scilla flowers in macro.

Scilla flowers in macro.

Later, I found some moss growing on a brick. For this image, I used my extension tubes. They cut the light, but they allow great and affordable zoom. This was in full sun, so I didn’t need the kick light. I find this image slightly creepy, like those tendrils are going to grow into the pine cone and consume it. Here the aperture is f4– this was for effect rather than for exposure.

Moss and pine cone on a brick in macro.

Moss and pine cone on a brick in macro.

And finally, my favorite image of the day, a lovely purple crocus. This shot was just a matter of playing with angles and trying to stay in focus. Happy spring, everyone!

Crocus in macro.

Crocus in macro.

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