Being stuck indoors most of the time means that you are constantly trying to find new subjects to photograph. Whether that’s setting up a bird feeder to attract birds closer to your garden hide or setting up a camera trap to capture the garden’s nocturnal visitors, there are many ways to keep busy.
For me one of my new found favourite things to photograph is macro subjects. I love to see the importance of the small things and that’s the magic of using a macro lens. You get to see in detail the things that usually pass us by, it makes us stop in awe of how incredible and diverse the animal or plant kingdom can be.
Having previously mentioned my friend Javiar, I dropped him a message about softening the light on my subjects when using flash. He suggested a few soft box options so I thought I would have a look on Amazon to see if there was a cheap one to test out before I invested in a more dedicated flash or diffuser for my macro work.
After having quickly browsed a few I settled on this one above. Now I figured if I was to buy a dedicated macro diffuser I would trial out a general diffuser to see whether it was worth investing in one. This one was a bit larger than expected but this also meant that the front lip of the front edge sat on the end of my Sigma 105mm lens when the flash was tilted forward.
One thing I would be aware of is the grip to attach the diffuser. This one was good but could have gripped the flash a little tighter meaning I didn’t have to worry about it falling off. That said I was excited to test it out.
Heading out to the garden I went to the turtle pond. I have rescued a few turtles from people that can no longer look after them. For them I have built a dedicated outdoor enclosure which provides a much more naturalistic setup and much better than living in a tank all it’s life. The Red-eared slider species provided a great subject to practice with and the initial images were very promising. As this was just a test shoot with the diffuser I didn’t take that many images but here is an example which I quite like. The diffuser did it’s job well and set against the darker background, helped by using flash, the turtle is set out against a neutral background, really bringing out the vivid coloration of the animal.
Having left the turtle pond I headed to the various outdoor buildings in search of spiders. The weather had been very cold and on a few days snow had fallen so invertebrates were a bit thin on the ground so to speak but I knew that the spiders would still be perched on their webs waiting. After having no real luck in the garden sheds the garage was really the last spider venue to check out.
With lots of webs and signs of spiders it was a bit disappointing not to find one of the larger species of spiders here in the UK, although I knew they were just hiding in cracks in the walls. But I did have luck next to the garage light where a variety of Sheet-web spider (Labulla thoracica) had set up shop. It was obviously a good location with the grizzly, hollowed out remains of some unfortunate moths showing the previous days dinner.
The main problem I was having when trying to photograph the spider was that it was directly above me. It was too high for a tripod and so I was moving up and down in order to keep the spider in the frame, coupled with a fairly large diffuser made for a bumpy ride when photographing such a small species, around 3cm in length ( or at least this specimen was) !
To help better my chance I used a higher aperture in order to increase my accuracy in focus. By shooting with flash I was able to use a fast shutter speed to help freeze the action and provide ample light for an aperture of around f11. With everything in place things were going well until I tapped the edge of the web accidently with the diffuser. I thought the spider would run and hide but just scuttled across to a new position, revealing two large pedipalps. This would indicate that this was a male of the species. Having got my technique sorted I was ready to capture this spider in all it’s glory.
Now after having a go trying out the diffuser I think it’s safe to say that it really is worth it. Now, I’m by no means a macro photography expert and will need some more practice but i think that macro is a great way for you to have fun at home. The subjects are often very accessible and more of the time will happily sit and have their photo taken. Winter is often a great time to photograph spiders as they generally like to come into people’s homes to escape the cold, not that my mum enjoys the unexpected house guests !