Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers

Today I'm joining HolleyGarden at Roses and Other Gardening Joys for garden book reviews.  A book I got last year that I absolutely love is "Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers: The Essential Guide to Digital Techniques" by Alan L. Detrick.  I was already a macro aficionado before reading this book.  I really enjoy getting close to both flowers and insects; frequently I can see detail in my macro shots that I did not even notice with my eyes alone (this may be because my eyes are no longer capable of focusing that close to my face!)  Even though I had already loved taking macros and already had a great macro lens (the Canon 100 mm macro -- which has pretty much the best optics-to-price ratio you can get) this book really opened my eyes to more techniques and styles to try.  The book is inspiring.  Macro beginners might like to know that there is a chapter on equipment including macro attachments and extenders.  According to the author, you don't need a dedicated macro lens to do macro photography.

The best part of the book is the detailed discussion of photographic techniques and decision making.  Almost every photo has enlightening information in the caption, whether about composition, camera settings or additional tools.  There are also many examples where Detrick shows side-by-side comparisons of two or three different frames showing the same subject shot with slight differences in technique like choice of f-stop, lighting, or viewing angle.  In a few cases, Detrick includes a much longer description, a page or so, of a single photo, sharing the inspiration, all aspects of photographic decision making, and the final product.  Something new for me was the discussion of diffusers and reflectors.  A few side-by-side examples showing the difference they can make has convinced me to try it.  So far I don't feel like I've gotten as good results with it as the author (probably not surprisingly) but I will definitely keep trying.  Another thing I learned is how much difference the background can make in macro photos; I've been trying to keep that in mind more as I shoot. 

The photography in this book is awesome.  Even if Detrick did not include all the eye-opening information about taking the best macros, the photos would be an inspiration.  Even flipping through the book and analyzing which photos I like best has improved my own photography.  For example, I really like the photos in which the mostly out-of-focus background has a color echo with the subject.  This seems attainable in the case of flower photos, since other blooms on the same plant can sometimes provide the background.  Also, there are a few photos of insects here in which the insect is actually rather small in the frame.  This isn't something I would have ever thought to do on my own; I've been obsessed with getting up-close-and-personal with my macro insects to really get lots of detail.  Yet, Detrick's photos show a sort of fantasy world from the insect's point of view that really appeals to me.  For another example, after shutting my mouth again after my jaw dropped open at one gorgeous photo of the stamens of a daylily that looked like candle flames, I went out and tried to copy it for myself just to learn the technique.  I don't think I would feel comfortable showing this image as an original work (although it is not all that much like Detrick's after all) but I think I learned from the exercise.  Obviously, I will not show copies of Detrick's photos here, so I'm decorating this post with some favorites of my own macro photos, which are of course but a pale comparison.  Enjoy!