Close Encounters of The Best Kind

In my opinion, one of the greatest contributions photography has made
to the world, is that it has pushed mankind, through the eyes of
photographers, to look at the world close up. All great things are
made up of little things. It is the details, that tell the story.
Close-up work of many different subjects will allow others, including
other photographers, to see what a dragonfly, or a flower, or a wild
animal or a piece of wood, really looks like. It is also a form of art
unto itself.

If a photographer uses a close focus (macro) lens, or extension tubes
or any other device that allows focusing from a closer distance than
other equipment, or a long lens that brings us closer from a distance
to a subject, or for that matter a digital crop that simulates having
been close to a subject, that photographer is a close-up, or macro
photographer. They are allowing future viewers of those images, to
have a close encounter with any given subject.

As a photographer, I would have never limited myself to only
landscapes, or wildlife, or even nature. With that said, if I had to choose
one discipline of image making, close-up or macro photography would be
it. The act of discovery when you are up close or magnifying what is
in front of you, is incredible. It is a 60 minute per hour adventure
that holds your interest indefinitely. It is the act of exploration.
Macro photographers, are in fact explorers. The resulting images not
only often reveal details that the world misses, but it is sometimes
an interpretive art form.

A sturdy tripod, mostly one that can be dropped to ground level, was
used for each of today’s pictures.

Certainly one of the most obvious and common subjects for a close-up
photographer is flowers and other plants. So much color, shape, and
natural art.

Have you ever seen the fuzzy end of some long grains/grasses bend over
into an arch?  This subject would not even be noticed by 99.999% of
mankind, and 90% of the photographic world. My Nikon 105mm Micro lens
was used.

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It is the act of discovery and it knows no bounds.

The study of color, tone, and design is endless when it comes to
flowers. I know not what this flower is, but as pretty as it might
have been from a distance, up close it is a marvel of nature. 105 mm
lens again.

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Shooting Star flowers are pretty common in these parts in spring, but
how many ways can you look at them.

The lens for the first flower was once again that 105. I needed to
keep more physical room between my subjects and myself for the second
image. That was both in an effort to not disturb the flowers with my
tripod, and in an effort to isolate the background. The longer the
lens the farther you can work from the subject, but also the narrower
the amount of background that will creep into the scene. I used a
Sigma 70-300mm macro zoom set at 300mm.

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Another subject for some photographers, are dewy webs. They are not
among the more popular subjects with macro photographers. They were
with me. You must get up very early to find webs still wet and
drooping with dew. This subject also calls for an indescribable amount
of patience. No, I am not a patient person, but I became more patient
because of the subjects of dew covered grasses and webs. Many of my happiest and most fulfilling moments in the field, came while I was examining and capturing nature’s jewels hanging precariously from a razor thin string of spider web.

Believe it or not, these two images were made over five years apart.
The second picture shows a very tiny and very hapless insect trapped
on a strand of web. You can actually see enough detail to tell what
this critter looks like. Neither you or I would have ever noticed
him/her without crawling around a meadow looking for art. I carefully
managed to place a shadowed area in back if my subject for both
photos. 105 micro in both cases.

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Wood grain, including that of cut wood, is a viable and interesting
subject for macro photographers. I cannot think of a reason not to
examine wood and make pictures of it. 105 lens.

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Insects and other little critters, are very popular subjects with
macro makers. This too takes a lot of patience, but insects and other
little critters, can become predictable.

This is a small fly and it did take a while to create this image. Most
little flying critters will land a lot, and if possible, they will
return to the same spot over and over. Most people including some
photographers, will see a fly like this, and either ignore it or swat
it away. I would have never realized all of the interesting detail and
patterns that this little guy had, if I had not decided to photograph
it. Close-up photography is a great aid in natural history study.
Again the 105.

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This Great-spangled Fritillary landed for nectar several times before
it landed in sidelight, with a shaded woodland in the background. I
used another zoom, this time a 70-300mm Nikon, set at 276mm in an
effort to keep some space between me and my subject. No flash was
used.

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Dragonflies are a popular subject and they do return to favorite
hunting perches over and over and over again, making them quite
predictable.

Slightly different landing positions, along with me shooting from
slightly different perspectives, made for slightly (again) different
images. Vary everything you can. All three pictures were made with
that Sigma 70-300mm again. Every shot was made using a different focal
length beginning at 195mm and ending at 300mm, with crops being the
deciding factor in the appearance of closeness.

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This final dragonfly was photographed with my 105mm, from up quite
close. Notice the single drop of dew between the eyes.

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Abstracts are a subject I love as much as insects, but you usually
don’t get both in the same picture. This is a hairy sort of
caterpillar with a lot of dew. Another reason to get up early and stay
patient. Yep, that 105 micro again.

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Close-ups of animals, whether they are gotten by the use of long
lenses, by the photographer being physically close (not always wise),
a severe digital crop, or a combination of any of the above, are still
close-ups and are fascinating.

These first two images of a Siberian Tiger and an African Lioness, are
both of captive zoo animals. I used my Nikon zoom at 270mm for the
tiger, and my 500mm f4 Nikon for the lioness. They are not super
close-ups but they do take viewers close enough to feel like you know
them personally. A part of up-close wildlife photography is to allow
viewers to really feel they know the subject.

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This image of a male Goldfinch on a sunflower is also not s super
close-up. It is however, close enough to let us inside its world as it
forages for food. 500mm Nikon.

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Another close-up that allows us to both see what a Mississippi
Red-bellied Slider Turtle looks like, but also makes us feel like we
have a relationship with it. I used a zoom, a Nikon 70-210 I believe,
set at 190mm.

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Well, if you want to know what a male Greater Scaup looks like, a
500mm lens, a close viewing point and a small crop will do the trick.
500mm F 4 lens.

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Close-up images of preening birds are natural art. We need only to be
ready with our cameras and lenses (both 500mm), and recognize that art
when it happens. The first bird is a Sandhill Crane, and the second a
Mute Swan. Both are wild.

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Here’s to keeping it close.

Happy trails,                                                                                                                                 Wayne

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