“There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. “
Why are you passionate about this topic?
I have this overwhelming obsession with details. The more minute or mundane, the more fascinating to me. I have always been one to study bugs and different kinds of fungi, the patterns in the pollen when summer rains disturbs film. I can be found with my nose to the ground, literally, squinting at some tiny thing. And on more than one occasion people have asked me what the heck I am doing laying on the ground in my summer dresses! But I am fascinated by the little details in our daily lives, as well as in the small world beneath our feet. The tiny creatures and worlds we pass by completely unnoticed. The similarities and the stark contrasts to the big world we live in day to day.
When did you first learn this technique? Or, when did you first realize you liked this topic?
Over the course of my life my fascination with science and macro has grown into a bit of a comfort thing. I shoot macro daily as a way to decompress and for me it’s just really therapeutic. My parents bought this camera when I was about 8, a DSCF707 or something and that was it, my fate was sealed, I’ve been hooked ever since.
It wasn’t until just 3 years ago when my husband bought me my first DSLR that I started to really take it seriously enough to learn any kind of technique or anything about gear. I don’t have any formal training, apparently it’s all trial and error over here, emphasis on error!
What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to achieve this technique?
It’s not about the gear, the first thing I’d say to anyone looking to get into macro work would be to just go and get what you can afford, even if it’s just a set of glass diopters, and play around. It’s not about what macro lens you have, whether you have a ring flash, or if you shoot handheld, it’s about the things you see! About how you capture those things for others, it’s about your point of view.
Someone told me mid way through 2015, about 6 months after I got my camera, when doing macro, make sure everything in the frame is there intentionally. It took me several months but eventually the mindfulness that was intended to be taught there sunk in.
It’s not as easy to do that with photos of people, especially with documentary and storytelling photography so it’s not something we always think when we take a shot. But with Macro it’s simpler in it’s way, you can fill the space with only the things you want there without distraction.
Cheat! Bring a spray bottle, bring tweezers, bring a dropper! For the space those things take up in your kit you’ll be grateful to have them.
Think small! Perhaps this seems pretty self explanatory but to someone who doesn’t even have a macro lens it can be hard to imagine just how close you can get. The immaculate and miniscule details in this world can be utterly small. But don’t be afraid to pull back either, just because you can get past a 1:1 ratio on every shot doesn’t mean you need to. Some things need a bit of context.
This last bit won’t surprise you, I tell it to everyone, and it’s good advice in life as well as in any kind of photography.
Get weird, break the rules and don’t be afraid to be confusing.
As an artist I have to constantly remind myself of this, I know the rules and I know what will be more popular maybe but the images that speak to my heart, the ones I am really proud of, are almost always the weirdest of the lot. And not just mine either, some of the people I truly admire make the most abstract images but they just swell with feeling.
What were the challenges for you in the beginning?
Well I don’t have any formal training, I didn’t know what my lenses would do in different lighting conditions and learning that was a long and sometimes painful process. I don’t learn by reading, I learn by doing. So I just kept shooting and I am still figuring it out.
I didn’t have photoshop, I used Gimp for a long time so advice from other photographers was more often than not “get PS”, and I had no “real” gear. I wanted a ring flash, and an expensive macro lens and pixel peeking was a real problem (protip: don’t do that). Lord save me if there was a little ISO grain, and I REALLY struggled with Autofocus. I can’t stand it and I now own only one lens with AF and its my freelensing lens!
Well I turfed a lot of my preconceived notions.
I don’t have a lot of time so that was and is always hard; to compensate I bring my camera everywhere and I can’t just leave with one lens. I have my son with me 120% of the time and he likes to stomp on the things I am inspecting.
The long and the short of it is that I hardly ever do macro “properly” to this day, all hand held, natural light, and vintage manual lenses. But I overcame each challenge as they presented themselves, or I embraced them. Over time I learned that it’s just not all about perfectly crisp focus and following the rules, it’s about creation. That may have been my biggest challenge to date.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
My name is Jade Lyf, I call myself a Storytelling, Documentary, and Fine Art Photographer and I live on the incredibly beautiful Vancouver Island in BC Canada. I’ve lived all over the PNW, in several central states and Ontario, but PNW has and will always have my heart. I am a devoted wife and mother, I have a 3 year old son. I never graduated Highschool. I am an Introvert and I have social anxiety I go through bouts of -real- self doubt. I don’t give myself enough credit and I compare my work with other peoples even though I KNOW I shouldn’t. When I was 16 the most important person in my life died suddenly and that process shaped me.
I am brave, I am intelligent, I can build and fix things and I learn quickly. I know what manual labour is like, and I daydream about being a scientist. I am obsessed with details of all varieties. I am willing to change my mind given reason. When I am not out shooting I am home with my family, reading, or watching bad TV. I am a person, this is how I see.
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