MACRO: PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE REALM OF THE “BIG 5”
text and photographs by Chris Collyer
What a small world we live in.
Zimbabwe is one of the premier destinations in Africa for wildlife photographers, all itching to experience the magic light of Mana Pools, the huge elephant herds of Hwange and the teaming birdlife of Kariba.
Unfortunately, some photographers seem to get “blinkers” and pass by the smaller things right at their feet. There is a great abundance of subject matter in the form of insects, plant life, objects and abstracts – patterns in nature and texture.
So what is macro photography?
In simple terms it is an extreme close up; the ability to take a picture of a tiny object and produce a larger than life size photograph. Really good macro photography portrays a magical or alien world, where details not visible to the naked eye leave you in awe. The beauty of macro is that it’s all around you; you needn’t travel far to find your subject.
Crisp early morning walks through long grass… the smell brings back such pleasant memories of my childhood growing up with unlimited reign to our excursions… building forts, catching frogs in the rivers and collecting a myriad of bugs in a jam jar. This I am sure is what set up my lifelong love of the smaller creatures and macro photography.
Nowadays I get most of mine from my garden, the local golf course or any patch of open ground. So imagine what’s available if you are on safari. In the heat of the day, when most photographers are resting in the shade with a cool drink you will find me scratching around the undergrowth, searching for spiders, ants, butterflies, grass hoppers, scorpions, flowers… the list is truly endless.
The secret to good macro is making your main subject stand out – or pop – from the background. This is normally achieved by setting a shallow depth of field, which will blur the background. I leave just enough background imagery in the picture to give some hint of the habitat. Lighting the subject with a flash will bring out more detail. Or you can use ambient light… or both. Remember to focus on the eyes where applicable.
An unfortunate side effect is that magnifying a subject also magnifies camera shake. Wind can also be detrimental, so either use a sturdy tripod or learn to hand-hold with image-stabilized equipment. Once you get to know the smaller critters you can get very close to them without frightening them away. Move slowly, and set the fastest shutter speed possible.
Give macro a try. It’s a learning curve for sure, but once you get a good picture of a tiny subject the rewards are massive.
And you’ll become addicted…
I was born in Gweru, Zimbabwe, October 1958. I am currently semi-retired and focused on Photography.
Family holidays were to places like Hwange and Matopos. This is where I developed a love for the outdoors. I have been taking photographs in some form or other since the age of 18. I dabbled briefly in video for a few years, before returning to stills photography, shortly before the inception of the digital format.
My passion is wildlife and nature photography with particular emphasis on “wildlife action.” Allied interests are camping, fishing, boating and being outdoors. My ambitions and dreams are to upgrade my photographic equipment and improve my abilities towards becoming a professional.
I love Zimbabwe because there’s no better place in the world where I can live my passion! There is always something to photograph; just step outside. I enjoy people’s reactions to my photographs, and I try “in an artistic way” to capture a dramatic moment or scene. In my mind’s eye I see “everything” as a photograph. I am obsessed by “light”.