Lesson from the Shot: Macro Photography - The Magic of Nuance

  by Stanley Leary


I remember the moment clearly. I had just finished playing Haydn’s Concerto In E-Flat Major For Trumpet for the first time without any mistakes.
“Now you are ready to start working on it,” my music teacher said.
I was so disappointed; I thought I had nailed the piece and was ready to move on to something else. But while I had played each note on the page correctly, I was being taught an important lesson - only by mastering the nuances could I avoid sounding like a robot on the instrument.
Artists look at things differently than non-artists do. We notice details, we appreciate the nuance and the beauty. Artists respond differently to things than non-artists do. We tend to be more sensitive.
Nothing can sharpen your understanding about the nuances of photography more than macro photography. This is where you photograph objects extremely close, where the image projected on the “film plane” (i.e., film or a digital sensor) is close to the same size as the subject. We would say the image is a 1:1 ratio.
There are a few ways to get this close to the subject with a camera. You can buy a
(1) macro lens, which gives you 1:1 or even closer.
(2) a set of close-up filters that you screw onto the front of your lens that let you get closer.
(3) extension tubes that go between your lens and camera to let you get closer.
(4) a bellows that acts like a zooming extension tube.
(5) a tele-converter, which increase the magnification of the lens and come in 1.4 or 2.0 powers. They go between the lens and the camera to work.
The closer to the subject, the shallower the depth-of-field
Whatever macro photography method is used, the closer to the subject, the shallower the depth-of-field. That is, the area that is sharp at the point of focus, to the space behind that point, is quite shallow. One would typically need a ƒ/number of ƒ/11, ƒ/16 or even greater for the subject to look like it is in focus.
When working with such a small aperture (ƒ/number), one will need a lot of light or a good tripod to keep the camera from moving while taking the photo.
Once you have all the equipment you will be at the place I was when I finally learned how to play all the notes of Haydn’s trumpet concerto — ready unleash the artist within by discovering the nuances of a subject.