Macro photography has always interested me. Macro photography requires a great deal of concentration, time and patience, but the results can be well worth it. In this article I’ll be discussing how I captured this shot of a moth.
To simplify what macro photography is, I’ll describe it as zooming into the world that we cannot see with the naked eye. The science and technicalities of this type of photography is best left for another article. For now all you need to know is the limited gear and technique I used to achieve this natural looking shot.
The first thing that I needed to do, was find the subject for the photo. In order for me to do this I set up a moth trap in the garden. Moth traps are set up overnight and checked first thing in the morning. They use light to attract moths which then move down into a honey combed darkened box where they stay unharmed until the trap is checked. At no point should a moth be touched as this will wipe off some of its wing scales. A baldy looking moth does not make for a nice photo. If the trap has been set up to coincide with high moth activity, then there will be loads of beautiful moths to choose from (and many hours of work). If not then try try again. Once you have your moth, it can be carefully put in a little jar and placed in the dark…even better, in the fridge. The next stage is setting the scene.
When I do macro work, I need my subject to be as still as possible and these little guys do not stay still. After experimenting, I have found that the best place to photograph moths is in the fridge. Yes, you heard me correctly… The fridge.
When moths are cool their metabolic rate slows down and they stay still. As they warm up, they get animated and start beating their wings. When this happens you can forget it. I used to set up my moth shoot on a table next to the window(for natural light) but was continually back and forward to the fridge to slow the moths down. This became a real pain so I decided to try out photographing them in the fridge itself…it works a treat!
I now set up a little scene in the fridge using textured wood, stones etc and a coloured background. For this I use a towel. I like green but any colour of background can work, as long as it compliments the colours of the moth. The background will be out of focus on the finished shot and no one will ever know that your favourite dish towel was used.
Remember it’s all about miniature composition, texture and colour at this point.
The tiny film set can only be set up by continually checking your cameras view finder or screen. It is also crucial to use a tripod and of course a macro lens. The lens I use is 100mm macro. Once you are happy with your set it is now time to carefully position the moth. I use a spoon or something similar to transfer the moth to the set…remember to take care, take your time and be patient.
Once in place it’s time to illuminate the scene.
Macro ring flashes cost a small fortune so forget this luxury for now. I get decent results by using a selection of small torches in various stages of battery strength. Dying batteries create a softer light. With careful positioning of these torches great results in mood lighting can be achieved. The most important thing I watch out for is shadows. In the miniature world even the smallest shadow can ruin a shot. Remember to always check your screen or viewfinder. In macro photography the camera must never move…if it does your image will not be sharp.
I always use a tripod, always use the lowest ISO film speed and always use a remote or cable shutter release with mirror lock up set on the camera.
Once you are finished, the moth can be released unharmed back into the wild.
So there you have it. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions please feel free to ask. Comments are always welcome.
Until the next time…happy snapping