shares his hints and tips on how to take great macro shots with the Tamron 90mm f2.8 SP DI macro lens
How do you get the shots?
I tend to keep things simple and use as little equipment as possible. For me the technicalities involved in taking a shot are just a necessary evil in that I have to know something about how the camera works, but I’m really only interested in the end result and in trying to make something that is appealing to myself and hopefully to others as well. However, everything is done in manual mode and shot in RAW as even though I don’t like it I know it makes sense to use the cameras capabilities to maximise the potential quality of a shot.
With macro work the Tamron 90mm f2.8 SP DI macro lens
I have tends to produce the most desirable results at between f/7.1 and f/11, providing good detail, balanced with reasonably clean backgrounds. To capture the subjects I shoot most (invertebrates) I use a mixture of shooting early (when subjects are less active) and field craft (to find, stalk and creep up on them). I also use luck! For example, sometimes an individual butterfly will seemingly want to be photographed and will sit still readily and for some time, whereas another of the same species and on the same day will fly the minute you even think about going near it! Some days the luck can be with you, on another you just want to throw in the towel and go home.
What interests you most about Macro photography?
I think primarily it’s because it opens up a way of seeing things and in a level of detail that the human eye can’t, without assistance. If you see a butterfly land on a flower you may see and enjoy its beauty, but only as far as the naked eye can see and only for a brief moment. However, a well captured macro shot can enable one to start seeing and studying far more. For example you may notice the colour of its eyes, length of its proboscis, intricate wing patterns and indeed see the individual wing scales. You can even see that butterflies are hairy, more so in some species than others.
Do you plan your shoots?
Yes and no. I enjoy photographing the natural world because the one thing you can be sure of with nature is that you can’t actually be sure of anything and that a surprise can always be around the next corner. That makes it exciting. So sometimes I’ll just go to a local nature reserve or park and see what happens. If I don’t get a shot my philosophy is that I’ve still enjoyed a walk in a beautiful location and kept myself moderately fit at the same time! When it comes to planning a shoot, this is usually to find and photograph a particular species of plant or animal. Knowledge plays a large part on the route to success, if you know where and when to look then you’re already more than halfway there to achieving your goal.
Where do you shoot most of your work?
Anywhere outside is the simple answer! You can find nature almost anywhere and actually the countryside is often a bit of a green desert of agriculture. So even if you live in a town or city you will have access to a garden, a park, allotments or nature reserves, where an amazing array of wildlife can be found. I tend to spend most of my time in the parks & nature reserves end of that spectrum though, because I like to get as close to nature and gain as strong a sense of space and tranquillity as I can – it’s a necessary break from the chaotic urban jungle for me.
Do you have anything you like to focus on? Cover more than anything else?
Although I do dabble a bit in plants, reptiles and nature inspired abstract, I tend to specialise in invertebrates - butterflies in particular. I’m an active member of the national charity Butterfly Conservation and since my childhood I’ve been fascinated with the metamorphosis process from caterpillar to adult, one of natures many miracles! I also don’t have the patience or equipment to get seriously into other areas, such as bird photography. I like the fact that I can carry just one or two fairly light lenses with me. I also like that with invertebrates I seek them out and don’t have to wait, say in a hide for hours, for them to come to me. I put it down to having a mix of the hunter / gatherer instinct, albeit the animals I shoot walk (or fly) away afterwards unharmed and the images I gather fuel only my hunger for more!
Do you have any tips or hints that you'd like to share?
My number one tip for nature photography is to get out there! As often as you can! It’s obvious when you think about it but the more time spent in the field, the more chances you will have of finding and shooting something.
Know your subject. It doesn’t matter if you like butterflies, birds or botany! The strategy of understanding and learning as much as you can about the subject you are interested in shooting will pay off in huge dividends.
Join local wildlife groups. They will have very knowledgeable members that are nearly always keen to share their knowledge. These groups also run events where you can learn where certain plants or animals live and when to see them.
Finally please respect the wildlife and the habitats in which they live. It can be easy to get over excited and lost in the moment of “getting the shot”, but do remember that much of our wildlife and their habitats are very sensitive and under increasing pressures. You may also fall foul of the law if you disturb or damage certain protected wildlife, but my main message is not about enforcement, just a plea to look after what it is you are out there to photograph.
Words and images by Matt Berry