Finer Focus

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 15, 2010

life size (1:1 ratio). Special accessories, such as a close-up filter or extension tubes can also be employed to achieve macro results. Many point-and-shoot digital cameras on the market these days also have a macro feature that will focus as close as a specialized macro lens.

The next time you are in your garden, at a nearby park, or hiking a wilderness area, take time to notice the small details around you. Can you see the hidden beauty of small insects, butterflies, or interesting shapes and patterns that are only revealed when you get close? Macro photography can be challenging. But it is a rewarding technique that can raise your photography to a new level. If you have enough patience and creativity, you will be surprised to find yourself seeing things you hadn’t seen before. And, by learning to effectively photograph these small details, you can share this experience with others. end of main  article

Plains coreopsis

To accentuate the beauty of this bright plains coreopsis, I decided to use a macro lens because it can magnify a subject to its life size and capture much more detail than human eyes can see. I then focused on the closest stamen of the flower and controlled the depth of field manually.

100mm f/2.8 lens — f/2.8 1/160 sec — ISO 800


A macro lens, or any close-up lens, has a very shallow depth of field. So you need to decide first where you want the center of your focus to be. For this columbine, I decided to focus right at the tip of the stamen (anther filament) and keep the composition as simple as possible. The sky was overcast, which is always helpful to bring out the best color of the flower.

100mm f/2.8 lens — f/2.8 1/640 sec — ISO 500

Giant ichneumons

Midsummer can be an exciting time for any insect-seeker. My wandering eyes paid off big time when I found this giant ichneumons preparing to deposit her eggs inside a tree’s bark. When mature, they will chew their way out and begin life as an adult. With a constant-moving subject such as an insect, it is a good idea to use auto-focus to help you continue to focus as you move closer to the subject.

100mm f/2.8 lens — f/2.8 1/160 sec — ISO 800

Purple poppy mallow

Macro photography allows photographers to create works of art, for which they use their camera and lens like a paintbrush. Thus, it requires vision and creativity. For this purple poppy mallow, I wanted to create a blurry, dreamy look like a watercolor painting. I focused on the front petal of the flower and selected a shallow depth of field.

180mm f/3.5 lens — f/4.5 1/200 sec — ISO 800

Common scouring rush

Common scouring rush can be found along creeks in patches. They consist of a single central stem with multiple overlapping joints. When you see a busy subject such as this, the first thing you have to do is isolate and find a good composition. I was able to isolate just a couple of leaves that made a simple but elegant composition.

180mm f/3.5 lens — f/5.6 1/15 sec — ISO 200

Big bluestem

One rainy afternoon, I found this big bluestem covered with raindrops. In spite of rain constantly dropping on the leaf, I decided to give photographing it a try. I kept my focus on the raindrop and let everything else get blurry. When using a macro lens, a sturdy tripod is a must to obtain maximum sharpness of the image.

180mm f/3.5 lens — f/11.0 1/15 sec — ISO 200

Spotted cucumber beetle

One evening I found this spotted cucumber beetle crawling on a black-eyed susan. I focused my attention to the beetle, placing my camera directly on the top. The petal in the background simply added more color to the image.

100mm f/2/8 lens — f/2.8 1/400 sec — ISO 400


My main focus in this image was the grasshopper rather than the foxtail grass. With a sunset low on the horizon, the grass closer to my lens became abstract and translucent. This is one of the unique features a macro lens can offer. I often call it an abstract lens.

100mm f/2.8 lens — f/2.8 1/160 sec — ISO 400

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