Close-Up and Macro Photography – Art & Techniques 9 February 2021   

For our latest Zoom! evening, we welcomed Adrian Davis MSc ARPS with his presentation entitled Close to Nature. Adrian is essentially a “natural history and wildlife photographer” with a particular interest in Close-up and Macro photography. The distinction between the two, he said, was that Close-up means images of anything “closer than normal”, whereas Macro refers to images in which the magnification in camera is at least 1:1
AD wasp pollen  Throughout his presentation, Adrian used his images to illustrate the point he was discussing. He said that images, too, should “tell a story”, as with his wasp pollinating a Broad Leaved Helleborine Orchid. Another consideration to take into account is how much of the frame you want to fill with your subject. In some instances, for example with butterflies, you may want to provide some context, but at other times it may be better to fill the frame. You will also need to think about how close you want to get to the subject and, therefore, which lens to use. Close-ups of crocodiles are better taken with a long lens - preferably from the other side of the river!
AD PorcelainOn the other hand, patterns on lichen or the underside of fungi may need macro lenses and extension tubes to get close enough. Adrian showed us a series of images of lichen on gravestones in a churchyard in Devon in which each shot was a more magnified image than the previous one. He also showed us a whole array of fungus images, some in woodland context and others in ultra close-up taken in studio conditions.
Adrian said his favourite lens combination was a 105mm macro lens with a 1.4 converter, which he recommended should be by the same manufacturer as the lens. He explained that a teleconverter will increase the focal length of the lens (in this case to 147mm) while extension tubes will allow you to focus closer in on the subject. He said he almost always uses a tripod and manual focus, and rarely uses flash.
Bright light can be difficult when photographing nature as it can create unwanted highlights and play havoc with colours, as Adrian showed with a pair of bluebell images. In sunlight the image had some dappled shade but a lot of bright highlights on the flowers, whereas under cloud cover, the image was much flatter overall, but the colours were rendered more accurately.
  When considering depth of field, Adrian warned that you need to decide whether you want the background blurred or in focus. He used an image of a Deathcap fungus to illustrate that the distance between the tip of the cap and the stem will be from 1-5 cm. To show this subject in focus with a blurred background would be difficult, but he showed us that, using a focus-stacking technique, you can take a series of images with slightly different focus points and blend them in software.AD stag beetle He said that, to be successful, the subject must be stationary and you must be using a tripod. As well as his Deathcap, Adrian showed us images of Bird’s Nest fungus and Butterfly eggs in which he had blended 6 or more images in this way.
Adrian’s latest work, which he calls Invisible Imaging, centres on the use of Ultraviolet light, which, it is suggested, allows us to take images of subjects as insects see them. He showed some images to illustrate this effect including flower petals with different colours under UV that appear to attract insects to the pollen; pitcher plants that accentuate drops of liquid under UV to attract their prey; brimstone butterflies that have patches of brighter yellow on their upper wings under UV that is thought to be used to attract a mate.
Adrian warned that UV photography is not for the faint-hearted as it requires extensive, and expensive, modifications to camera equipment. However, he said that it was possible to use ultraviolet fluorescence to take some interesting images. Using an ultraviolet torch in a dark room, you can take images that show hidden patterns and colours. He showed us a whole range of images taken in this way, including the flow of quinine as the tonic was poured into his gin!
After a Question and Answer session, which centred mostly on focus stacking techniques, our Chairman thanked Adrian for a fascinating presentation and the provision of a set of new techniques for us to try out during Lockdown. DF
Images © Adrian Davis MSc ARPS