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I developed this idea from the interest I have in macro photography through scuba diving, where macro photography plays a big part in documenting the miniature lifeforms that live on a coral reef. What I ultimately wanted to demonstrate through my work is that macro photography on land can be as interesting as macro photography beneath the sea. However, I came across quite a few negative reactions from my peers and tutors suggesting that macro photography is boring and unoriginal, so I wanted to break that mould.
I started by researching macro photographers such as: Joni Niemela who is a Finnish photographer that captures the natural world through a macro lens. Niemela’s works consists of many natural forms such as wild indigenous flowers and plants that he photographs and keeps on mind a distinctive colour palette that complement each other subtlety.
Another photographer that I looked at was Todd Hido, Hido is from the San Francisco Bay Area whose work has been featured in Artforum, The New York Times Magazine, Eyemazing, Wired, Elephant, FOAM, and Vanity Fair. Much of Hido’s work involves photographs of urban and suburban houses taken from a far, Hido wants to show what a house has to show from a view of the world looking in from a far. He also captures images of wintery, deserted landscapes taken from a behind a rainy, snowy window or out of focus, this angle gives a hazy outlook of the world which intrigued me and inspired me to produce a hazy background for my subjects.
Einar Sira who is a Norwegian photographer that photographs the disturbing and bizarre. His work is mainly based on decaying animals and plants. Sira work is mostly abstract and dark with a dreamy surreal back drop, Sira wants to remind us that nothing last forever and that decay and death are part of life. I found Sira’s work unique, original and inspiring. At first, I wondered how Sira created his work as it looks so original. However, after looking closely and researching Sira was able to decipher his work and found out his work is created quite simply by using his garden pond, with a sheet of glass over the top where he places his subjects. I also found out that Sira uses a high end Hassleblad medium format camera that cost thousands of pounds but creates high resolution images that are second to none. This is something I unfortunately won’t have a chance to use at present.
Also, researching photographers like Mike Moat and Joni Niemela gave me a valuable insight into macro photography, and abstract photographers like Einar Sira, Todd Hido and Billy Kid gave me a valuable insight into surreal and abstract photography. Combined these photographers opened my eyes to a different aspect of photography I had not seen before and in turn inspired me to create a body of work that was not just technically accurate but creative too.
How useful was their work for your project?
Through looking at their work I wanted to create a more artistic body of work. Generally macro photography is technically on point but lacks artistic concept, so not only my work had to be technically accurate but also have an artistic theme attached to it. I researched the technical element first, so I could find out what equipment was needed and what settings my camera had to use. I found out that is important to use a tripod and manually focus the camera lens, I also needed a high f-stop such as f-11 plus and as I’m using a tripod I can use a low ISO such 100 ISO. I was quite unexperienced using a macro lens on a DSLR but also excited, as using a macro lens is something that I wanted to experience. At Leicester College they had a Nikon 60mm macro lens and a Canon 100mm lens. I personally have a Nikon DSLR so firstly I used the 60mm lens to experiment with and practice getting the technical aspect corrects. Initially, I had a couple of problems using the 60mm macro lens, as using auto focus can be very inaccurate when focusing on very small subjects, so I switched to manual focus which took a bit of getting use to but was a lot more accurate all round.
Firstly, I decided to do a test shoot in the studio using the 60mm lens, a light table, tripod and Bowens lighting, plus using small subjects such as snail shells, dead insets and rotten fruits. The results were interesting as the macro lens and the studio light was effective but a bit too flat, plus, using a light table, with a light underneath and the images turned out quite stark.
After researching more I decided to do a shoot at home with more of an interesting back ground. Einar Sira has some interesting backgrounds on his images so I set myself a challenge to see if I could re-create something similar. I knew this would be a trial and error shoot but being experimental I was egar to see what I could create. I started by building my own studio at home by placing water in a washing up bowl and adding dead leaves, rotting wood chip, sticks and anything natural that was decaying. Next, I placed a sheet of glass on top where I would place my subjects. I also used two speed lights to light the subject with a blanket of subtle light. My idea was to place my camera on a tripod looking over the subject placed on the sheet of glass, use a slow shutter speed on my DSLR so, just before I press the shutter I gently nudge the washing up bowl of water to show some movement whilst the subject on the sheet of glass remains still. However, I did experience some problems with movement and focus because subjects on the sheet of glass was moving when I moved the bowl of water. Also, I experimented with ambient light which was a lot more effective than using fill-in flash. So for my next shoot, I decided to do it outside in the garden to get the most out of using ambient light, and stop the subject moving I placed the sheet of glass on bricks either side of the bowl of water so there was no movement when I moved the bowl of water. This technique was a lot more effective all round as I managed to perfect the lighting and also keep the subject sharp and still by using manual focus and putting the sheet of glass on bricks either side of the bowl of water. I also used a range of subjects including, dead, wasps, bees and other dead insects, dead flowers, old rotting apples and discarded feathers.
The next shoot was about perfecting the idea, so I set up my homemade studio again in my mums garden, on a bright sunny day and became more creative with the idea, by using different subject and splashing water on the glass and the subjects to create a glazed look. Once I was happy with the shoot, I edited my chosen images in photoshop, getting rid of any overexposed streaks of light, correcting levels and sizing up. I then cropped my images so they were square with the subject in the middle and added a black borders. I didn’t want to do too much editing in post-production as I didn’t want the editing to distract from the original image. Finally, I framed six of my images in16inch, black, square frames ready to exhibit.
To reflect, I’m very happy with the final results as I managed to perfectly and expand on macro photography with a car path to progress my work. However, I could of used more interesting subjects and also experimented more in regards to the background of the images. On the other hand this gives me the opportunity to progress my work which is something I will definitely be doing in the future. I would like to use the same principles but change the subjects and use a wide variety of colours in the background. I have thought about using the idea to highlight pollution in our seas’s and also framing the images really big so they have a huge presence.