[Oh, Snap!] The Magic of Macro Lenses

“The right perspective makes the impossible possible.”

Photography has the power to explore the world in ways others have deemed unimaginable, and macro photography specifically has a unique ability to bring life to the smallest of scenes, and to give us a different perspective of the world to wrap our head around.

Often called macrography, or photomacrography, macro photography gives an extremely close up view of small living organisms and objects that you wouldn’t normally have such a detailed view of. The metaphorical equivalent of making a mountain out of a molehill, the end result, is making the minuscule seem larger than life.

“The two most engaging powers of a photograph are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”

 William Thackeray

As I’ve developed more and more of an interest in photography, I’ve loved being able to explore the natural world around me through new eyes. Some of my favorite things to take macro photographs of are textures, bubbles, fungi, flowers with water drops, oils and my cat’s eyes – though since they’re not so good at sitting still, I haven’t exactly mastered that one yet. Total caveat, but – if you’re ever at a loss on photographic creativity, I highly suggest picking up The Photographer’s Playbook by Jason Fulford. Rich with assignments and ideas, this book has become an invaluable tool when I’ve felt a mental block in my process and I’m sure it’ll help you as well.

If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.
Robert Capa

My Picks for Best Macro Lenses

Depending on what type of photographer you are, there are several different types of macro lenses to choose from – back in 2014, I started my journey with a simple clip on extension for my smart phone and now, 6 years later, I’ve moved onto using a Macro lens as well as a macro lens extension that fits on a 78′ thread. Below I’ve outlined some of my favorite picks, for whether you’re a cell phone photographer, semi-pro or completely invested in your hobby.

For your Smart Phone: Shuttermoon Cell Phone Camera Lens Kit

Coming in at a sweet price of $17 for the basic edition, and $30 for the deluxe edition – the Shuttermoon camera lens kit comes stocked with either 5 or 11 different types of clip on lenses, depending on which option you choose.

The basic kit comes with the following goodies and is a great starter set for the new shutterbugs that aren’t ready to commit to a DSLR camera.

  • 198° Fisheye Lens
  • 0.63X Wide Angle Lens
  • 15X Macro Lens-
  • 2x Telephoto Lens
  • CPL Lens- 

Ballin’ on a Budget: Opteka Achromatic Macro Lens for DSLR

Taking a small step up from cell phone photography, the Opteka macro lens is a simple addition to your prime lenses and can fit on most 52mm and 58mm Threads. Coming in hot at $24.95, this is the perfect photography addition for anyone delving more into their photographic experiences. I use mine on our Canon, but there are several different models available.

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This is the macro lens that I take most of my current macro photography with, and it works fantastically with plants, flowers and fungi.

  • Olympus M4/3
  • Canon EF-M
  • Canon EF
  • Pentax
  • Sony A

Best of the Best: Canon Macro Lenses

Once you’re comfortable shooting with an extension on your lens, it’s only natural to want to evolve into using an actual macro lens. Now, this is where things start to get a bit nuanced – just within the Canon family, there are a handful of choices, and you’ll only know which one you want if you know what type of subject material you prefer to work with. To be honest, I consider camera lenses a ‘gateway drug’ into photography: once you acquire a few, you realize you need more specialized and specific ones to add to your mix, and your collection starts ever growing – so, consider yourselves warned.

My personal go-to is the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM, for $299 – it’s a great bang for your buck, but here are some additional variations:


Do you have any tips or tricks for Macro photography? Let me know in the comments and feel free to even share one of your favorite Macro photographs; as always, happy shooting!

[Oh, Snap!] Dive Into DSLR Photography

You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”

― Alan W. Watts

Serenity in the Sequoias

Being a photographer is a bit like if you give a mouse a cookie:  if you give a photographer a point a shoot, they’ll want a dSLR; give them a dSLR and they’ll want a prime lens; give them a prime lens and they’ll want a wide angle and a zoom lens; then they’ll want studio lights, a professional flash…and well, you get it – it becomes an addition of the best sort.

From as long ago as I can remember, my step-mother would always have a camera attached to her hip. She captured poignant moments of an awkward childhood, from gleefully following my dad and I on our beach adventures or feeding ducks, and capturing birthday parties and basketball games; as I grew older, I found myself in awe of her keen eye – finding the simple beauty in nature, exploring minimal architecture, capturing the first bloom of a rose, or creating a mood with striking black and white imagery.   At least once a month, the three of us would wander down to Stanford Shopping Center for an afternoon outing to the now defunct One Time Photo, enjoying some sorbet from the ice cream shop next door while we patiently waited for the film to develop.  Wandering back through the photo store, I let my fingers unknowingly explore film from different ISOs as the printer that took up almost two-thirds of the store whirred with excitement. Then, I started stock piling disposable cameras – with a quick flick of the wrist, and the wind up flash, they became my quick introduction to pre-digital photography.

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Finally, when I was in high school, through a combination of technological advances and parents caving to their teenage daughter: I was given my first digital camera.  Within the photo world, there’s an ever present debate between the merits of Canon versus Nikon, with both the Sony Alpha and Panasonic Lumix lines not far behind.  But in my family, there wasn’t ever a choice – we’re a Canon + Mac family, through and through; so it began: first with a Canon Powershot, and then a Digital Elph.  Fast forward to now, and the technology for your cell phone’s camera has caught up to the most basic point and shoots, and your most basic iPhone or Android has the rudimentary functions of a camera. How-the hell-ever, in a sense you’re still dependent on your technology to do most of the heavy lifting.  Enter the DSLR.  I had my first real introduction to them in college – when I worked in retail to make some extra cash, some of my coworkers were attending the Brooks School for Photography.  I eagerly lapped up every iota of information I could as I sat in through product shoots and photoshoots; truth be told I moved to Los Angeles because of my love of modeling but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve learned how much I prefer being behind the camera, versus in front of it.

 

As I forayed my way into the Music Industry five years ago – I realized cell phones and point and shoots simply can’t capture the depth and detail the way the professional cameras can; not to mention, with DSLRs – you can go from capturing a moment to creating a moment.  Leaving your camera in Auto relegates each camera function to its internal camera, meaning that even though you’re pressing the shutter to capture the photo – it’s actually the camera’s AI that determined the richness of color, depth of field and focus.  Conversely, in Manual, when each camera function now relies on the user’s aptitude and emotion in the moment, twenty photographers could take the same photo and each produce a very different image.  I’ll admit that for the longest time, the DSLR scared me – it was intimidating, clunky, with what seemed like way too many buttons but after almost four years of watching Danny make magic with the 6D, I’ve finally mustered up the courage to carry it around for the day and get a few pictures that I’m happy with.

Back in the Spring two years ago while we gallivanted through Sequoia – there was something in the air that was so inspiring, it lured my creative nature out of hiding and brought it out to play.   It was frustrating trying to understand settings on the fly, adjusting for almost each image to get it the way my mind’s eye saw it, but as is the thing with life: you can’t get better at the things you don’t try.  Every once and a while for the next months after, I’d pick up the camera, fire a few images I was unhappy with and politely place it back where I’d found it – until I found the right resources, books and mentors to help me get my bearings.  In the time Danny and I have been together, he’s gone from a self taught amateur to a contributor for Getty Images; it’s beyond impressive. What he always tells me is that everyone – every single one of us – sees the world through their own unique prism, and it’s only through the exploration of your own creativity that you can convey those images to everyone else.

Getty VillaRegardless of whether you’re surrounded by gear heads, mentors or photographers, the best thing you can do is get some real hands on experience while stocking up on excellent resources.  I started on Canon 6D for Dummies, which was a great introduction to all things DSLR from the bottom up: lenses, features, menus, camera set up and some more intermediate functions like HRD and Multiple Exposure images, setting up the WiFi and adjusting the White Balance manually.   Even though making your way through the manual page by page might seem like a bore – after reading through Canon for Dummies, it also felt absolutely necessary to learn the core tools of the trade.  Next time you pick up a camera, do yourself a favor and just play around with the settings, comparing images to fully understand what each button can do.Related image

Next up, I migrated to the more  advanced Canon 6D: From Snapshots to Great Shots, which was more of a top down approach to the settings based on epic images, along with some informative asides on F-Stops, ISO and Shutter Speed while diving into each function of the camera; and let me tell you: this is the most important thing to understand.  The Shutter Speed is the length of time that your lens is open to absorb light,while the aperture – or F-Stop, controls the depth of field that the camera focuses on.  Finally, the ISO controls the cameras sensitivity to light and the ways the camera processes detail. I just got my paws on The Photographer’s Playbook  which has a menagerie of photography exercises for anyone, amateur to professional. Here’s the thing – you can read books til the cows come home, sit in on photo shoots as the second shooter or an assistant, or pull up Youtube tutorials to walk you through the basics but the best experience will always be true experience.   If you’ve been itching to pick up a camera, just do it – you’ll be surprised to find your mind working in new and creative ways to capture a moment, and trust me – you’ll be just as hooked as I am.  For anyone looking to jump in – Best Buy has amazing Open Box deals, as does Amazon, while F Stoppers has a great online repository of resources.

If you’re in the market to take your photography to the next level, F Stoppers is a wonderful online resource as well. Not to mention,

Photo bugs – what are some of your favorite pieces of gear? Let me know in the comments below!