Immersing into a Tiny World
Learning is equivalent to embarking on a journey. You explore, experiment, make mistakes, and learn. Now when I look at my journey retrospectively, deciding to take up photography was harder than buying the camera. Because, camera was just a tool that I needed to learn. Committing to the art of photography required me to open my mind to look at the world differently.
Opening the mental shutter …
Challenging as it has been, photography unfolded a very different side of the world to me. And I am sure that had I not taken up photography, I would’ve been leading a bland life. This journey is like walking down an unpaved path in the country side. Walking through the winding path is hard work. It’s all about understanding how camera works, the relationship between light and shadow, composition techniques, the list is endless. Putting in hours, days, weeks, months to inch closer to get a bunch of photos that you can be happy about. Not proud of, happy about.
Putting in all that effort, after work hours (I am a Marketing professional, not a full-time photographer), brought more frustration that satisfaction in the early stages. Thankfully, I did get my small successes. They were a solace. But, what was more exciting was the fact that I had the freedom to explore. I could try my hands at different types of genres. It was during this part of the journey I encountered Macro photography. It caught my attention instantaneously.
… unraveled a New World!
Macro photography – the art of taking extreme close-up photos of small objects – captivated my imagination. Close-up shots of tiny insects, leaves, flowers, miniature toys in real world situations, human eye, and any small object that one could find, all were a potential subject. Since the subject was very small, almost not visible to naked eye, a photo that isolated the subject evoked an interesting mix of emotions.
I found macro photography highly contemplative. Looking at the photo of a pollen, for instance, made me realize that it a very different kind of inherent beauty. Beauty that I was not even aware of until I saw that photo. In addition to that, the photographer had managed to fill almost the entire frame with the pollen. This unraveled a beautiful world that I was not familiar with.
It brought forth significant opportunities for creative thinking as well. Look for an everyday object, which is taken for granted, and turn it into a medium of creative expression. Find unusual angles, look for patterns, play with contrasting colors, dabble with exposure…awesome!
I wanted to transcend to this world, but…
I spent weeks reading about macro photography. Studying works of famous macro photographers, my interested kept growing. Then, I hit a roadblock. Quickly, I realised that getting into this genre required specialised lenses that costed a bomb. But, I had never been the kind to acquire a new lens or gear. Like most people, I had the impulses, but, I abstained.
… I had to find a viable solution first.
Does that mean I can’t pursue this form of photography? No. I searched for DIY techniques to do macro photography on a budget. I discovered the reverse lens technique. The technique is a smart way to leverage the fundamental science of how lenses work. Reversing a regular camera lens (prime or zoom) allows to magnify the image of the subject – precisely what a macro lens does. The technique has two downsides:
- The lens won’t be able to communicate with the camera; and
- Photographer must ensure that the reversed lens covering the mount properly. Otherwise, the focus will have to be re-adjusted.
I was enthused because: a) I love DIY techniques, and b) I didn’t have to lighten my wallet at the get go. Without wasting any time, I decided to test the technique with my 50mm lens. But wait, I needed a subject. And it was right there on the table – toasted bread! It took a while to get used to using a detached lens with the camera body. I had never used a manual lens before. So, I also had to tinker with camera settings for a couple of minutes. After multiple completely blacked out shots, I got my first macro shot!
Over the next 8-10 months, I kept experimenting with the technique. I even tried using reversing rings. They are an adapter that can be mounted on the camera. Reverse rings turned out to be a better option as I didn’t have to hold the lens all the time.
But, the real thing kept beckoning…
The reason why I love DIY techniques is that they help get the basics right. But, not every DIY solution is effective. Especially, when you want to level up to near professional grade quality (if not more). The photos that I made using the reverse lens technique were good, but not good enough. The photos had a lot of shake and colour bleed. Some of this couldn’t be corrected in post-processing.
I prefer to get the photo right in the camera itself. This not only reduces the processing time, it pushes me improve my craft to get best level of quality. So, after more than a year of playing with the technique, I bought my first macro lens – Nikkor 105mm f/2.8.
… and the camera shutter never stopped…
I bought the macro lens a day before I went out on a family trip. I got up early in the morning and went all out. Since that trip, I haven’t stopped practicing the genre. Over the years, devoting significant amount of time, macro photography has rewarded me with some of my best work.
Authored by Shivendra Lal