The Art of Seeing: Macro Techniques for Flowers and Plants


The Art of Seeing: Macro Techniques for Flowers and Plants


Lesson Info

Class introduction

The art of seeing. I'm Frans Lanting, and today I'm going to talk with you about macro techniques for flowers and plants, but that's a mouthful and I'm going to translate this into how you can play with plants because that's what I love to do. So before we dive in deep, let me summarize for you what we're going to do together. First, I'm going to tell you how you can play with focus. Your focus control is one of your main creative ingredients and then I'm going to show you how you can work with light because of course without light, there is no good photograph and then I'm going to tell you why backgrounds matter. And then we're going to go indoors, because you can play with plants indoors, as well. I'm going to share with you some examples of how you can create very simple sets at home or in your garage, and then at the end I'm going to share some special effects with you as a special bonus. So, are you ready? Yes. Let's go play with plants. I've been doing that all my life. I've ...

worked with plants in the jungles of Borneo where I made this image of a rafflesia. This is the largest flower on earth. It's about 3 feet across and it took ten strobes to illuminate it from within. I dove into the Okavango swamp to show water lilies from underneath. There were a few crocodiles around, but that's another story. (audience laughs) Now I used the wide angle lens to photograph these enormous proteus. Wide angles lenses stretch your perspective, so you can make something that looks big even bigger when you move a wide angle lens close. But I also worked with humble plants, like these simple, filmy ferns in a forest in New Zealand. And I like to stylize them. I applied some light from a reflector, bounced it into the fern and that made it glow and then by selecting a neutral background it became a much more stylized rendition of this plant. You hear me talk about backgrounds. I'm going to come back to that time and again. I did that for these fiddleheads in Hawaii. Long telephoto lens, threw the background out of focus, and it became a nice smooth color. Now, I have to go all over the world to find the plants to play with, but when you go to a botanical garden, like the University of California at Santa Cruz's arboretum, then you don't have to go very far. You can go from South Africa to Australia and to New Zealand without even getting your feet wet. That's why I love botanical gardens and that's why I like to take students there to practice plant photography. Here we are with some of the students who are actually with us in the studio today and this is where we're illuminating an agave. We'll see that later on.

Class Description

The beauty of nature runs deep. Every growing thing hides whorls, patterns, and subtle shadings of color that escape the cursory glance. Macro photographers are driven to capture these secret details, but it can be hard to master the techniques that allow them to truly evoke nature at its best.

Join renowned National Geographic photographer and naturalist Frans Lanting for this class as he walks you through the Arboretum at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
You’ll learn:

  • How to take great impressionistic shots freehand
  • How to use combinations of natural light, flash, and light modifiers
  • How to set up beautiful and controlled images
Frans Lanting has documented wildlife from the Amazon to Antarctica, and has made a career of recording the beauty of nature in vivid, transporting imagery. In this class, you’ll learn how he has distilled the quiet joy of discovering hidden beauty, and bring it home with you. Best of all, you'll be able to apply these macro photography approaches and techniques in the field or even at home with a bouquet of flowers on your kitchen table.