Wild Arena are hosting their ever popular macro workshop in our Salisbury store on the 22nd of September 2017. In honour of this, I thought I would write a blog about Macro photography, focusing on when Wild Arena bought in their beautiful peacock tree frog and the shots that I created. Who knows, you may be able to meet this little fellow (who is a female by the way!) if you book on the course! Don’t miss out!
A few years ago I had the opportunity to photograph a beautiful peacock tree frog while Wild Arena were hosting their mini beasts macro workshop at the store. As one of the largest tree frogs in Africa they make for fantastic photographic models, but still small enough to use a macro lens and capture the fine detail. Wildlife photography and macro being a particular interest of mine, I thought I would take the opportunity to talk through some of the finer details of this style and give you tips that helped me produce a photo worthy of this exotic creature.
Your First Photo
Information is a beautiful thing. It fills our mind with knowledge. However, too much thinking can get in the way of a creative masterpiece. We need to work on our emotions and the FEELING we get when we hit that shutter button at the exact right moment. With that thought in mind, shown above is my very first shot in a series of frog photos being taken with an hour at my disposal and I think it’s my best one! Of course, photography is speculative and I’ll let you make up your own mind, but my point is still valid. Sometimes its better to forget all the technical knowledge you know and shoot with a passion and excitement that comes from a primal feeling. Technology can only get you so far. The rest is endless.
Capture the moment
Following on from the above is the necessary need to capture the moment. Animals have a certain time frame of patience and they are gone! You have one shot to get the perfect pose or you might not get another opportunity. The Peacock frog was placed on the back of the leaf to climb onto it giving me a second to capture the image you see above. She hadn’t settled yet so there were some interesting poses awaiting me. As soon as she had settled she did not move a muscle! This gave me the opportunity to get lovely macro shots. However all the action and movement were in the first few seconds. The last thing you want is to stress the creature, so if they don’t move don’t poke and prod but rather work around them. (See “Perspective”) Animals work to their own tune. You just have to guess what that tune will be and be ready when they create their music.
Don’t be frightened to move around. Most people are afraid to move anywhere other than the space in front of them missing all those opportunities that are right in front of their nose! Try and get into the mind of the frog and focus on features that aren’t necessarily the obvious. The Usumbara peacock tree frog likes to reside on low hanging branches in the wet tropical forests of Tanzania. Although this may not be common knowledge, working around the frog to incorporate the leaves can create a different viewpoint. The leaves are part of its environment and should be a focal point of the photo. The leaves and frog are as one. If you can think out of the box your image will stand out from the crowd and get you noticed.
The draw to macro is the ability to capture those finer details. This opens up a whole new style of photography. This doesn’t mean that you need to get up close each time. You can create fantastic shots at a sensible distance, but still achieve the fine detail that macro lenses are known for. The most widely used lens in my kit is my old Sigma 105mm f2.8 (The equivalent is now the Sigma 105mm f2.8 EX OS) I use this lens for portraits as well as macro and it does a fantastic job. Look beyond the lens functions and play around with what your lens can achieve outside of its advertised purpose.
After the frog had retired from her photo-shoot it was time to bring out the big guns. The beautiful, if not slightly scary stick insect. The reason I have mentioned this, is to highlight the fact that you should never be satisfied with the obvious. Focus in on key areas and try to find different ways of shooting the inevitably shot to death animals.
Above all, have fun. Nothing is worth the time or money if you don’t have fun with it. If you fail this time round, just appreciate the fact that you got to spend time out in the field or in a studio environment getting up close and personal with the animals on this earth.