The Art of Seeing: Macro Techniques for Flowers and Plants


The Art of Seeing: Macro Techniques for Flowers and Plants


Lesson Info

The Lighting Toolkit Wrap Up

All right well Frans, I think we have some time to do some Q&A before we go to our next break. So I'm gonna throw it to the studio audience here and then we'll go out to the Internet and see what they have to offer. Frans, I would just like to make a comment about it was so easy to see you get more excited as you got deeper into that of agave and saw different possibilities and changed what you were doing and that's what I love about photography is getting to that place where now you're really excited. Now you really see what you want and I just love seeing that. Oh, thank you. And Frans, from ojodepadea wanting to know when shooting agave, what leads you to decide whether you're going to use a long lens versus a wide-angle lens? I could say if you're not afraid to get entangled in the agave, by all means use a wide-angle lens. If you little bit more cautious a telephoto lens might be better. Now, I can answer it in another fashion too Remember what I said earlier in the cl...

ass, wide-angle lenses will enable you to stretch perspective. The closer you get to your subject the more exaggerated it becomes in size and the more the background recedes. Telephoto lenses do the opposite. They enable you to compress a perspective so things that are in the foreground appear as if they're in the same plane as the background. So it depends on the kind of image you're after. Whether you want to stack a pattern or whether you want to make a picture of an agave that is part of a larger environment. And if it's the latter, I tend to use a wide-angle lens. If it's about a compressed pattern then I'll use a telephoto lens. Frans, you were talking about front lighting is for color and side lighting is for shape. Do you ever use back lighting or a combination of more than one reflector? Yes. I showed you an image early on in my introduction, there was a detail of a fern which I'd photographed in New Zealand, which was naturally backlit and then I put a reflector on the front of it and that bounced light back into it so I had a combination of both. And the back lighting emphasized the shapes and it showed the spores and the front lighting emphasized the color. Yes, you can do that. And Frans, a lot of folks are asking again about manual versus auto focus. Can you talk a little bit about your workflow on that? Well, that gives me a chance to comment about the difference between what we started off with, which is to play with focus and the comparison with what we just saw now, which is working with light. And in the first section we were free and easy. In the last section we saw how deliberate everything was becoming. Cameras on tripods, the macro lenses, it became precision decision making. And that is necessary for certain kinds of images but sometimes I want to change it with a more loose kind of photography. And for that selective focus approach, I really think it is better you put the camera in manual focus. And actually for a lot of the precision imagery in the macro range, I don't have my macro lens in auto focus either. That is why I'm still able to work with this, with this older 105 lens that serves me quite well. And dennis99 would like to know, while we all hope for a day without wind. there can be times that it can't be avoided. Besides increasing shutter speed, can you suggest any useful field techniques for reducing plant movement? How about the clamp? It really is a fantastic device and I'll show you this here. I'm glad to see the color orange amply represented here in this bouquet. As a Dutchman of course orange is a happy color to me. So this is what a plant clamp does. What a clamp does very easily. It very gently wraps around a plant stem without harming the plant and then this end can be clamped to a tripod and then your plant is steady. And that is the best tool that I know of to deal with involuntary movement of plants in wind. Of course, it becomes a little bit more difficult if you have multiple plants moving at the same time. For that kind of situation and sorry. For that kind of situation, I sometimes also use a big light box. It's a light tent that's about a three square foot, little light tent that I can wrap around my subject. Great. And Frans, a lot of folks are asking a little bit about mobile photography and the Lensbaby. Is that something you've done, that you've ever used? I'm not sure but who's being meant by mobile photography. Can you? I believe using your phone. Oh, using smartphones. Yes. Well, there's two questions. The first one applies to your Lensbabys and let me pull one out here. This is a soft focus lens. That's got peculiar optics that resemble a tilt shift focus lens. If you can see, maybe I can hold it like this. So you can rotate the lens around and depending on the angle, you can put the focal point in the middle or in the side of your composition. Just like a tilt shift lens does. So it's very ingenious device that enables you to pursue extremely selective focus portraits of plants or animals or people. Lensbaby has started making different kinds of lenses that are all rendering images in a really ethereal soft focus fashion. This is my latest acquisition. The Lensbaby Velvet lens and we're going to see an image later on that Kate made who used this lens with with great effect. So this is a little bit more sophisticated. And Frans, let me know if this question, I think this is an interesting question but I'm not quite sure what they're getting at. Would you please show what is meant with regards to perpendicular or parallel to subject? Yes. We use that term when Kate and I were photographing those purple asters in the arboretum and what I meant by being perpendicular was that if this is the plane of the pattern you want to photograph and you want to maximize your depth of field, you want to choose a camera position that is perpendicular to that plane. So in other words this is the pattern and you want to come at it with your camera from that direction. Does that help answer the question? It's great, thank you. And then funart would like to know are you in manual or aperture priority when photographing the asters and in general do you shoot in manual or aperture priority or shutter speed priority? That's a good question. My default setting on my DSLR cameras is your aperture priority. I do not use manual exposure metering all that much anymore. Sometimes I put it in a bracketing mode if I'm not quite sure what the optimal exposure is but manual exposure, not so much anymore. Great. And a lot of folks asking a little bit about sort of best practices when you go to an arboretum. Do you have to check in first before you go to one of these environments to see what kind of equipment they'll allow and what you can bring in? That's a good question. If you're a normal visitor going to a botanical garden, you don't need permission but if you bring in lots of equipment, it's always good to check in with people who you are looking after the plants in the garden to find out if there's any special rules that apply to what you may want to do. And of course, you don't want to bother other visitors. You don't to set yourself up in the middle of the path with backpacks and reflectors and tripods. But all these things, apply common sense. Great and speaking of backpacks, a lot of folks are asking about your bag. Could you bring it out and talk to us a little bit more about it? Sure. You've seen me haul this pack around during the videos and I made a comment about it earlier on but just briefly because I didn't want to stop the action right there. I loved this pack. It enables me to open it like a conventional backpack but I can also shut it here and then selectively open one section or the other. And that is especially useful when you're working in inclement weather, when there's wind with dust blowing into your camera bag, so just very quickly you can open and shut it. Much more practical than an old-style backpack. The other thing I like about these packs is that they're very lightweight and that matters when you're lugging a lot of stuff around. And then you're dealing with airline restrictions especially when it comes to check baggage. This largest pack, this is a 32 liter pack, is designed to still fit in the overhead compartment in commercial airlines. And it fits a 200 or 400 or a 500 millimeter lens when I go on safari and in the other compartment, I can put in two camera bodies and a wide angle lens and a 70 to 200 millimeter and there's still room for all kinds of accessories. So this is a very useful piece in my traveling gear. And can you let us know the brand on that please? The brand is Gura Gear but it's now become part of the Tamrac brand. T-A-M-R-A-C. T-A-M-R-A-C. And they make a whole line of these lightweight super sophisticated packs. Great, thank you. And another really good interesting question here, Frans, from photomaker. A lot of times for landscape photographers and for outdoor photographers, the time of day and the the direction and the placement of the light and the sun is very important. Where does that come in effect to this style of photography? Can you rephrase the question 'cause I'm not sure what... As landscape photographers, we know about the golden hour and the morning and that morning light and the color temperature. How much of effect does finding that specific type of lighting for macro photography, how important is it? Well, if you think back to what we were doing during the first lesson, we were working with available light. In the first hour the morning the light was soft and we were beginning to see an interesting gradient between the light warming up on the flowers and the light still being cool in the background of a still in the shade. That gave us a very nice tonality. As the light progresses during the day, typically it becomes more contrasty. When you have a single point light source, also known as the sun. And then I can extend the so-called magic hour by using these reflectors. So now, in this past lesson we've just introduced you to the toolkit of diffusers and reflectors, which are continuous light sources. I mean, you really see what you're gonna get, which I find one of the real appealing features of those devices. Of course, you can start applying strobes but then your photography becomes much more technical. You really have to start calculating exposures and I use these Speedlights made by Nikon a lot. I almost never use them in a naked capacity. The very least that you can do is to put a diffusion dome on them but if you want to create a softer light, think of bringing these kind of little soft boxes with you when you go into the field. In our next section, when we go indoors and I'm going to start talking with you about how you can create a set, how you can control all the conditions, we're going to see much bigger soft boxes. These are very compact tools that are made for photographers who have to lug their gear around. So strobes are another way to extend the magic hour of early morning and late evening light that it can be very directional into the middle of the day. Here's another interesting thing that is in my toolkit for macro photography. This is a powerful spotlight, which gives me a directional continuous light source that can be very effective early in the day or late in the day when there is not a lot of ambient light. So it's more of a point source version of the reflector. See what it does. Now, if I find that this is a little bit too harsh, what do I do? I will shoot the light through a diffuser. The benefit of this light source is that you see what you're going to get and you can experiment with it a little bit more easily then when you use strobes.

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.