Macro Photography has one [of several] definition by Wikipedia that states “…extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size….” I do not consider it constrained to macro lenses. Leica [and other manufacturers] have several lenses with exceptional resolution that allow photography at close ranges with resulting images of large size. Within the Leica family the 1:2 reproduction ratio of the Macro-Elmar-M 90mm is optimum, but the 75mm APO-Summicron has a reproduction ratio of 1:7 at .7m distance and the 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T has a 1:7.5 ratio at 56mm [85mm equivalent for 35mm full frame] at .45m. Any lens with exceptional resolution across most of the image will produce large images that are striking in detail and impressive to view.
The attached photographs and this article are based on my more recent use of the M (typ 240) with the Electronic View Finder EVF2 and 90 mm Macro-Elmar 90mm f/4 lens with macro-adapter. My previous Leica and other camera/lens combinations have been a great learning experience over the years, but my current Leica equipment has provided the most rewarding results. They have been best suited for my style of photography because the Leica equipment is significantly smaller and easier to handle and the resolution/contrast/color rendition of Leica lenses is exceptional. The EVF and camera also allow magnification of 5x and 10x along with a focusing aid that indicates the contrast areas in focus–as my eyesight has not kept up with my aspirations in photography this is a most welcomed aid to capturing my best images.
My pursuit of flowers, bees, and butterflies! Macro photography of these subjects began in San Antonio TX in 1994 when we purchased a house with an “English Garden.” The first learning experience is that even though it had an English Garden, butterflies are not necessarily attracted to those blossoms, in spite of their convenience. One needs to research any specific subject that you want to photograph. In this case, what species of plants attract butterflies, which season of the year are they in bloom, and what time of the day is best [in addition to what time is the lighting optimal] come into play. Wind is a significant factor–butterflies move with the plants and if you are seeking to photograph something different, like a Japanese cherry blossom where the very delicate petals of the blossom are constantly moving during the time of the year they blossom. Nature does not always conform to your desired schedule–one needs patience and when the conditions are right, you must be prepared to take advantage. Keep in mind most macro photography at close ranges means your depth of field is very shallow, even at f/4 or 5.6. Stopping down diminishes the shutter speed or if the ISO is adjusted upward the detail will [at some point] start to diminish.
My most recent experience with macro–in August my wife Laura and I noted a striking black/yellow/white banded caterpillar on a milkweed she had planted the previous year. It is supposed to attract butterflies and is a primary feeding plant for Monarchs. We were able to identify it as a Monarch caterpillar having a feast–leaf by leaf as it munched its way across the milkweed. Eventually we had 3 Monarch caterpillars, but nearing the end of their cycle of feasting two disappeared. More research revealed they often crawl 20-30 feet away and find a safe place to attach before they go into the pupa (chrysalis) stage, but we were fortunate to have at least one remain on the plant. Ever seen those nice butterfly photos that are almost perfect? Quite often these may be taken by removing the pupae into a controlled environment for observation and control for photography. It may be something to consider, but I preferred to let Mother Nature take its course and see what I could achieve photographing outside. This proved to be most rewarding, especially the backgrounds in the photos. Within the chrysalis you can see the metamorphosis take place.
These photos are sequential in the cycle of the Monarch, from caterpillar to pupa (chrysalis) to a butterfly. Photos were taken 20 Aug., 23 Aug., 23 Aug., 1 Sept., and the last 3 of the emerged butterfly on 2 Sept. 2015.
I was relatively lucky with the timing. Early on the 2nd I went out to check the pupa and discovered the butterfly had just emerged. The 4th photo taken is the one I selected, followed by quite a few more. In the sequence only a few captured the butterfly with spread wings. After it climbed to the top of the leaf and up the stem, again spreading its wings, I sensed it was about to depart and quickly took the last photo without benefit of accurate focusing. By the time the shutter had operated it had flown off. It left me a bit frustrated with the quick departure, but elated to have captured the event.
Some other butterflies from our garden include the yellow and black Appalachian or Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and the charcoal with blue and orange marked Spicebush Swallowtail.
Some examples of blossom photos and other insects were taken at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, just west of Wilmington, Delaware. Such gardens provide greater opportunity for photographing flowers, various other plants and trees, and several of our flying friends if you do not have close access to a location that attracts them.
The following images were taken at Longwood Gardens.
The caterpillar, wasp, and orchid were taken with the Leica T with the 18-56mm Vario-Elmar. The water lily was photographed with the 75mm APO-Summicron-M f/2.
A few last photos within the macro range: First is an image of cherry buds encased in ice. As it is melting two drops of water are captured. The aperture blades shape light reflections–I was shooting almost into the sun. It shows the issue of dealing with light coming almost directly into the lens and a possibility to add a different element.
The second image is a partial blossom from a Yashino Cherry Tree, which is the same species as the majority of the famous Japanese cherry trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. I took this photo in a mist/light rain. It was a good lesson on dealing with wet conditions.
The last photo is a bumblebee on the same milkweed where we discovered the Monarch caterpillar. It bloomed earlier in the summer during mid July. We never observed any butterflies during that time, but I did capture the bee and blossoms.
One last thought–backgrounds in the photos. It is important and often difficult to keep them from being a distraction or not allowing important small details to be seen. Improving the depth of field to improve the macro photo works against the bokeh or having a blurred background to reduce distractions from the main subject, so it is important to pay attention to this aspect. Often the adjacent subjects add the needed context to make the photo better, or make the setting appear natural.
If you have any comments or questions you may contact me at M@AtelierM.com. Please use a subject with Blog Article or Macro Photography in the subject so I will not file your email in a place where they may not be retrieved.
Mikeual Perritt [Michael] September 2015
Personal Background: I am a retired architect now enjoying fine art and photography. Photography was essential during school and in the profession. It is now a significant activity in my life–an enjoyable one. Besides architecture, with interest in [but not limited to] Jugendstil or Art Nouveau and Bauhaus influenced or the Neue Moderne, I also enjoy landscape, mechanical objects [from door knobs to steam locomotives] and certainly people.