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The Art of Seeing: Macro Techniques for Flowers and Plants

Lesson 1 of 15

Class introduction


The Art of Seeing: Macro Techniques for Flowers and Plants

Lesson 1 of 15

Class introduction


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. 


JIll C.

I had the pleasure of participating in this class as part of the live studio audience in the Creative Live San Francisco studios. I really enjoyed the format in which two students had been pre-selected to visit the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum for a photo shoot with Frans Lanting about a week in advance of the class; then the videos were edited and played out during the class. Frans stopped the video frequently to clarify and supplement the information provided, so we weren't just sitting in a room watching pre-recorded material. Nor were we just listening to him lecture for hours. It was actually a surprisingly dynamic format. I also enjoyed the final session in which student-submitted images were critiqued by Frans and edited by Jim Cetechi (Creative Live host) real-time. It was interesting to learn how our images could be improved with just a few simple techniques, e.g. cropping, contrast, highlights etc. - all done in Lightroom. Frans helped us to see the potential for perfection in each image. I was thrilled when he didn't find anything to "fix" in my images :) Frans seems to truly enjoy "playing with plants", and helped us think about how we can use our photography to portray the beauty and significance of the natural world. I like the fact that he helped us to think about the potential of photography as more than just a hobby. He is an enthusiastic and personable trainer, well-versed in all aspects of photography, not just macro photos. I can't wait to add some of his techniques to my photography arsenal.

North San Francisco Bay

This workshop will give you everything you need to start macro photography, appreciate macro photography, and/or take your personal skill set to the next level. Frans really is a fantastic instructor whose love of teaching is obvious and infectious. He provides you the technical tools, inspiration, and has a unique ability to help you refine your own vision while simultaneously broadening the possibilities of that same vision. His respect for individual artistry coupled with his fined tuned eye of decades of experience puts him in a very elite class of photography instructors. You can expect to have a list of gear (much of out inexpensive and very effective) to put on your wish list as well as the urge to immediately go out and try what you have learned. If you have gone so far as to read this whole recommendation then go ahead and purchase the class. You won't regret it. Have fun!

a Creativelive Student

Frans is an inspiration. Not only is he an incredible photographer, but also he is an equally wonderful teacher. His ability to explain both the simple and complex in easy terms -- as well is the ease with which he shows as he speaks -- makes learning from him a treat. You can also see him come alive with excitement as he 'plays with plants' which makes you all the more excited. So glad I was able to take this course with him! Thanks, CL!

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