Beauty in My Backyard

 
Dewdrops are one of my favourite subjects, as they make simple yet powerful pictures. In this image, the reflection in one droplet is sharp but in the other one it is blurred. This makes the picture more interesting for me. Photograph/Rajshekhar Rao

Dewdrops are one of my favourite subjects, as they make simple yet powerful pictures. In this image, the reflection in one droplet is sharp but in the other one it is blurred. This makes the picture more interesting for me. Photograph/Rajshekhar Rao

Rajshekhar Rao uses his free time to explore the surroundings of his home and seek some macro subjects.

My Assignment

Description
Exploring and capturing the unseen, microscopic beautiful world in my backyard.

Duration
During different seasons, within a span of one year.

Notes
Focus becomes critical when shooting macro, because of shallow depth of field. Even at f/22, you might not get much depth.

The budding photographer in me always wanted to visit famous, exotic, beautiful places. But I never thought that the most exotic world would exist very close to my home—in my own backyard.

My Perspective
Everything looks different under a microscope, but my photographic purpose relied in showing real beauty. I wanted my daughter to like my photos, through which I could teach her about nature and insects. So I would shoot everything that caught my eye. I also wanted to test myself as a photographer, by shooting everyday subjects differently in the way that they look the most beautiful.

The Process
Find the subject and capture it—the process is as simple as this. However, when you watch closely you will find so many things taking place simultaneously—a spider making a web, an ant carrying an insect, a fly on a leaf. It is important to decide what you will shoot first. The spider sounds like a good idea, but when you look through the viewfinder, what do you see? It is very difficult to follow a moving subject with a macro lens, so you will have to find a slower subject. Maybe the fly on the leaf or the dewdrop on a small flower is a good idea to start with.

If you wish to use available light or direct sunlight, it might be too harsh or strong. Instead, use a flash with a reflector, which will give you softer light with good depth. Be patient and observe your subject first. Also watch the background and see if the shadow of any secondary object is falling on your subject. Your subject will keep moving so much, that you will have to adjust your frame every time. Observe for a while and study its behaviour—then shooting will be a lot easier for you.

My Equipment: I used a Nikon D50 and 18-55mm kit lens, in combination with a reversed Pentax 50mm. I also used a reversed Cosina 35-70mm. In some shots, Starblitz 3600btz flash and a small reflector were used to bounce off the light. Alternatively, you can use a compact camera with manual focus. To shoot effective macros, simply use a magnifier between the subject and the compact camera.

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Better Photography.

Tips For Shooting Better Macros

  • Before you photograph a subject, observe it for a while to understand its behaviour. Do not rush or make any loud sounds, or you might just scare away your little subjects.
  • Look under the leaves too. You might just find interesting, colourful creatures that can make great subjects.
  • Check the exposure settings. With a bounce flash, you can alter the exposure by altering the distance (if it is not a TTL flash).
  • Treat your subject as a model. Give it respect and let it be on its own.
  • Visualise how you want the light to fall on your subject. Accordingly, try to highlight the most interesting feature of your subject.
  • When using a reversed lens with its body cap, you will not be able to adjust the focus by rotating the focusing ring. To get a desired focusing distance, it is better to physically move your camera towards or away from your subject
Tags: Macro, On Assignment, bugs, close up, insects, backyard