Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Taking a Closer Look

“A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower - the idea of flowers ... Still — in a way — nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven't time — and to see takes time ... So I said to myself — I'll paint what I see — what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it — I will make even busy New-Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers...”
Georgia O'Keeffe

I think it was a fascination with Georgia O'Keeffe's closeup paintings of flowers that piqued my interest in macro photography and my Instagram feed is littered with closeups, mostly flowers and plants.

It seems, even when I'm taking photos of our meals I like to zoom in.


A couple of months ago I discovered the Creative Inspiration Community (CIC) on Instagram, a group of photographers who set monthly photographic challenges and provide tutorials to learn the techniques to meet the challenge.

Apparently, in the photography world, May is Macro May so the CIC's challenge was “Getting Up Closer/Macro”. The perfect challenge for me, and the perfect introduction to the CIC!


Because I usually take macro photos of flowers, I decided to challenge myself and photograph subjects other than flowers. So I ended up with photos of food, homewares, clothing, Quila, and because I couldn't tear myself away completely, flowers and leaves.


One of the most liked photos was a black and white macro photograph of the kibble in Quila's bowl!

I found the CIC tutorial on How to Shoot Macro without a Macro Lens particularly helpful for macro photography on my smartphone.

What do I use to shoot my macro photographs?

Most of my photos are shot using my iPhone 5S and the Camera+ app. Camera+ includes a macro mode, which gives 3x magnification, and a (very handy) stabilizer mode, which means the photo is only taken when the camera is steady.

I use the Perfectly Clear app to initially enhance the image, and then one or both of the following East Coast Pixels apps: PhotoToaster to apply filters, frames and vignettes, and ColorBlast! to highlight specific areas in colours and display the rest of the photo in black and white.

Other CIC tutorials discussed light, colour and perspective. Being Autumn there was plenty of colour! I took this photo of Autumn leaves on the footpath by squatting down and placing my phone close to the ground. I've been known to lay on the ground to steady myself but never in the middle of a footpath.


Spending a month looking more closely at the world revealed a hidden beauty in the minutiae of seemingly everyday objects. I find myself attracted to patterns and shapes, the little details of life around me. I stopped to photograph the bark on a tree and discovered little white ‘eggs’ attached by fine threads to the bark.

Throughout May I found myself increasing the magnification of images or cropping images more tightly, challenging myself to look closer than I'd previously done. So, instead of a closeup of a flower, I'd take a photo of the petal.


Using my iPhone is convenient; it's rare that I don't have my phone with me. However, on some screens, areas of the photos can be pixelated.

Ideally, I'd use our digital camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60. The camera has a macro setting and produces higher resolution images than the iPhone, which means less pixelation when I crop photos.

And that's good because I've been having problems using the macro setting so this photo of (what I think is) a chrysanthemum was created by cropping a photo of the flower taken with the digital camera.


If you're interested, the photos posted for the CIC “Getting Up Closer/Macro” challenge are available on Instagram under the hashtag #cic_closer.

The next CIC challenge is ‘Light’ and is running over three months. Unfortunately, the weather is grey and dull so I think most of my photos will need to rely on indoor lights. It's going to an interesting couple of months for photographing light. 😆

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