Around this time last year, I took my first serious foray into macro photography. Since then I have returned to it over and over again until I’m finding that it takes up a lot of my time. I enjoy the hunt for subject matter – it’s not as dramatic as stalking deer but the results can be just as rewarding. For me, anyway.
Partially as a result of recent events (see yesterday’s post) and partially as a result of recent financial good fortune (well, one gig), I decided to invest in a new macro lens. Note that I convince myself too easily by using the word invest – which suggests a return is likely – rather than spend. Photography is not a business for me, although I have made some sales and done some photography work in the past and even had an exhibition. And I wouldn’t rule out doing more if the right opportunity arose.
Invest, purchase, buy, barter… however you choose to describe it, I obtained a lovely Tamron 90mm macro lens. For a few years I’ve read nothing but good reviews about this lens. My existing macro is a relatively short 60mm focal length so the extra reach of the Tamron would enable me to keep my distance from nervy insects and spiders and still get the magnification I need. I played around with it last night and I was very happy with the results, although I need to refine my technique a bit. Used to getting in close with the 60mm Nikkor, I found myself bumping into flowers and a spider’s web with the front of the Tamron as it extends a long way forward as I focus closer.
This isn’t an advertising piece. The kit I use is largely chosen on cost, although I would not consider buying something without first having found some good reviews. Most of the less useful kit I’ve owned has, over the years, gone either to fund other kit, or in one or two cases to charity (look up disabled photographers – a worthy cause). I’ve stuck with Nikon since I started in digital nearly 10 years ago, so I have built up a nice collection of lenses. This collecting process means I have been able to upgrade and since I buy most of my lenses second hand, it hasn’t cost anything like as much as it looks. If I’m feeling particularly geeky I might list the kit at the end. If I’m really, really geeky, I might include a snapshot of them.
Particular bargains have included three ancient, second hand Nikkor manual focus prime lenses – 50/1.4, 85/1.8 and 180/1.8. They are built like tanks and they are heavy, but they’re great for low light situations and the 180 is good for wildlife. They cost me tens of pounds and I see that the autofocus equivalents are hundreds of pounds second hand. I grew up with manual focussing so that’s okay, and the viewfinder image is bright and easy to check sharpness. Exposure is also manual although I can programme the camera with several manual lenses so that it recognises them and can calculate the exposure for me.
I’m off on one again. Back to the macro photography. I was squelching through the mud in one of my favourite locations the other day and I suddenly realised that my perception changes as the nature of the subject changes. By that I mean that if I’m off after landscapes, I’ll be looking at the bigger picture. I’ll see detail, but as a part of the wider view. With large vistas, the detail tends to be less prominent the smaller it gets. When I’m in macro mood, I tend to start off trying to see the smaller detail but only seeing the bigger stuff until suddenly, as if a switch has been flicked, the little things begin to appear.
I love that moment as, without trying to sound too dramatic, a whole new world opens up. The hunt for subject matter is over.