This year is unique in the amount of rain the west has seen. And with this abundant rain comes superblooms of wildflowers. Arizona is already seeing incredible poppy blooms, and the cactus should follow. California should have a record year for flowers. And for photographers, that means some great spring macro photography opportunities.
You have many choices for macro. Nikon just published my second article on indoor macro photography, this story talks about bubble photography. And for the technical photographers out there try doing some water droplet collider photography. The beauty of bubble and droplet macro photography is you can do it inside your house anytime you want. Those spring rains and winds won’t affect you.
The one aspect of macro photography that I see overlooked by some photographers isn’t macro lens technique and depth of field, but instead it is lighting. Set up on your favorite flower, get the right focus, and take the shot in the light you have. But then ‘bracket your lighting’. What does this mean? Simply try a variety of different styles of lighting on the same subject and examine the effects achieved. If you are in the sun, then try using a simple diffuser overhead to soften the light. Next, try adding a silver or white reflector under the flower (and diffuser) to add some contrast and edgy highlights. How about shooting below the flower up at the sun at F16 to create a sunstar, and use a silver reflector to fill in shadows. Next, try using a small continuous light source like a Lume Cube to add light and create shadow on your subject. If the sun is overpowering this light then bust out your speed light and use this to light the scene. With a speed light you can underexposure your ambient light and create a pitch black background for your image. Or you can use a speed light to simulate sunlight in the scene. Lighting options are practically limitless, so instead of thinking bracket exposure or bracket focus point for better depth of field (both good things!), consider bracketing the light on your macro subject. Always remember lighting is the architect of your image, without it you don’t have a photograph, it doesn’t matter what the subject is. Simple adjustments of light can convey very different feelings and emotions in your image, as well as make it graphically stronger.
If you really want to explore macro and using artificial lighting, consider our workshop to Costa Rica in 2024. The macro photography on this trip is exceptional with plants, flowers, dart frogs, and reptiles. The hotel grounds have beautiful flowers to photograph. And each night we have an air conditioned room to do image reviews and class sessions.
Enjoy the spring superbloom, and make sure to get outside and take some pics!