Side Note: According to DPreview's take on the Olympus PEN E-P1, the camera is just as good, if not surpassing the current entry level DSLR models, such as Canon 500D and Nikon D5000 being compared side by side, in terms of resolution sharpness and ISO-noise performance. What the PEN could do seemed a little overwhelming. Did Olympus just somehow bribe the whole DPreview?
I know Jason might scream at my another macro attempt, but hey, to be fair it has been 10 entries apart since my last macro entry posted here, and I have been itching to share this bit of my work with you people.
It may be difficult to see why I anchor myself so deeply into macro, and I am well aware of the fact that macro is not exactly everyone's cup of tea. Nonetheless, if you do observe me well enough through my progress in photography, I learned and improved on the drastic note over the past year, and the sole, main agent that played the major role in propelling my learning capability is none other than my obsession on macro. Taking photographs of bugs, spiders, and the tiny things in life may seem to be just another field in photography, but to me, it was where I truly broke through, the leverage that raised my knowledge and understanding level and acquiring skills which generally apply to all other forms of photography.
THE HIDDEN BEE
So what did I actually learn, or improve on through macro shooting? Here is a friendly and brief summary:
1) Control over depth of field (DOF), ability to retain details and create sharp pictures in very harsh shooting conditions.
2) Effectively steadying the camera. I have less hand shaking problem now with my camera thanks to my one handed 1/40 seconds shutter speed stunt with most of my macro shots. This training has greatly improved my hand steadiness, which I have lacked of previously.
3) Balancing exposures. Watching the world through the tiny point of view in macro made balancing of light and shadow quite a challenge. I have learned basic exposure techniques, such as high key and low key, all through my insect shots.
4) Wireless Flash. The use of external flash off the camera is awesome !! You can create effects you never dreamed of before.
5) Exploring more angle and composition angles. Insects tend to appear in most ungodly places, at the lowest level very near the ground, or the high tree branch above your head. To get close to them, I need to move my ass towards them, and find myself being opened to whole new series of unexplored angles in photography.
6) Patience. Never have I been so patient in photography before. And true professional photographers have almost infinite amount of patience. They could wait for days for that one shot to happen. I merely waited for probably 10-15 minutes max for now, but it was a good start.
7) Determination. Sometimes, I do believe whether that shot will happen or not, it depends largely on how determined you were to make it happen. I shall illustrate this further with an example in this entry.
Further to the point number 7 on determination, please scroll up for the image labeled "HIDDEN BEE".
In that particular photograph, I was originally intending to just take a picture of that beautiful fresh flower, but interestingly an unlucky bee decided to make an entrance to the scene seeking my attention. Attention I did pay to that little bee. As a kid growing up I do have aversion towards bees. Once I have picked up photography, and much later being obsessed with anything macro, I have come to see them differently: a challenge instead of fear. The moment I saw that bee, I knew I wanted it in one of my macro series.
Nonetheless, photographing that bee was not a breeze, not at all. I tried photographing direct front, but the flash just hit the side of the petals, and being bounced back without reaching the inner portion where the bee was so shyly resting at. I then took the flash off the camera and fired off from different positions, angled from left, right top and bottom to the front, but to no avail. I have snapped more than half a dozen attempts, but it all came out rather similar, with the petals being overblown by the flash, but the inner part was all shadowy and the bee turned out dark. I almost gave up, because I was seriously running out of ideas on how to get the light inside the flower. In theory, I would say the macro ring flash would be useless in situations like this.
I was not ready to quit just yet. Out of desperation, I set my external flash in wireless TTL mode to FULL POWER via the manual setting, and placed it at the bottom of the flower directly below the petals, set the ISO to 400 to receive more light, focused tightly on the bee, prayed that some miracle would happen and finally, KACHAAAAKKK (imagine the shutter sound lah) the miracle happened !!
THE DIFFUSED BEE
The bee came out looking happy in glowing bright light encircling it inside the flower. I got the shot I wanted, properly focused, sharp bee, with bright exposure.
The trick this time was FORCING the damned flash through the totally not so transparent super thick multiple laters of petals to get to the bee. It worked. You have no idea how it felt like when I previewed that shot on my camera screen for the first time. I know this was nothing award-winning worthy, or anything praiseworthy. However, for a noobie like me, the minutes before the shot happened when I almost thought it was impossible to capture the bee to the moment I managed to make it happen, the feeling was truly indescribable. It may be a small achievement, but it added to my list of "things I learned in macro that I can improve on my overall photography skills".
On another note, the super good feeling of making that shot happen counts to in making me happier and smile wider to my colleagues in my working days the following week.
Oh dear, this entry seemed to have stretched further than it was originally intended. I know I may not be able to please everyone with my macro shots, but it has defined my photography style in so many ways, and plentiful of positive outcomes have oozed out from this. Purchasing that macro lens was probably one of the happiest decisions I have ever made.