The Intimate world of Macro Photography

Andrew Beck All Authors, Andrew 3 Comments

Despite being based in a herpetological lab during my Master studies at Wits, I didn’t ever really dive into the world of macro photography. I wish i had thinking back to all the incredible reptiles that I had access to back then but such is life.

One of my personal photographic goals for this year was to try and document the smaller things on safari. Why would I want to do such a thing you ask?

Well, its not always about the large charismatic species and more of ten than not, stopping to take a photograph of something small and unusual can end up producing a great image. Having great subject matter is fantastic, but there is something very rewarding about creating a great image with average content.

Take these salt crystals captured with a Canon G16 for example.

Andrew Beck Macro Photography Wild Eye-2

As part of my mission I’ve been carrying the Canon 180mm macro lens along with me on my travels in the hope of finding these little gems. During a short break to the Kruger Park last week i was able to spend some time around a small pond where I found all sorts of interesting subjects.

As I sat there shifting my tripod, changing the angle of the light source and moving around my subject trying out different compositions I thought to myself, photography has to be one of the most intimate genres of wildlife photography out there.

Random I know but stick with me.

Given the ability of macro lenses to achieve focus at close distances we are pretty much up close and personal with our subjects. Macro subjects are in essence usually very small when compared to the size of the usual suspects we encounter in wildlife photography, this means that we can move around them and even engage with them, coaxing them into positions where they provide just the right pose.

Interacting and engaging with what I am going to call “the usual suspects” is possible but should always be done in an ethical manner and under the guidance of a qualified professional. On a photographic safari though, this is not always possible given the group size and dynamics of the reserve. With Macro photography you’re pretty free in this regard – unless you’re capturing images of a black mamba.

Because we are free to move around and engage with our subjects we essentially have access to an unlimited number of compositions and lighting setups. Here are two images which show how changing the direction and position of the light source can be used to create different images.

Andrew Beck Macro Photography Wild Eye-4

Andrew Beck Macro Photography Wild Eye-5

This is a great way to learn about the different types of light and how the direction of light effects your image. I am sure that you will agree that this is much easier to do with a reed frog than it is to do with a leopard up a tree. Here’s another example.

Andrew Beck Macro Photography Wild Eye-2

Andrew Beck Macro Photography Wild Eye-3

Because we have the freedom to move around and our subjects are often pretty happy to stay exactly where they are, we can essentially construct that perfect composition. Here I adjusted my position to ensure that the three reeds in frame were running parallel to one another to create repetition within the scene.

Andrew Beck Wild Eye Kruger National Park-3


So, we are up close and personal, we have the freedom to move around our subjects and interact with the subjects in a safe manner (assuming they are not venomous and dangerous), and we are able to adjust the position of the light source to achieve our creative vision.

This is pretty intimate when you think of it from a wildlife photography perspective where we are often photographing subjects which are, at best, a couple of meters away from the vehicle and more often than not between 40m and 100m away!

My question to you is this:

How can wildlife photography, of the usual suspects, become as intimate as macro-photography?

I have my own ideas on the subject which I’ll share in the new week but would love to hear your thoughts on how wildlife photography can either be intimate, or be made more intimate.


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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

Comments 3

  1. Craig

    Macro wildlife photography is intimate, in my opinion, because it is so up close and personal to a subject, it can not help but capture some of the personality of the subject basically because of its isolation to much of anything else in the frame. I would suggest that to get the same from photographing any subject from a little more distance would be to study the behaviour of your subject, then try to capture something about the animals personality, something that tells a story about the animal, but in isolation to it surroundings so the viewers focus is purely on the subject.

    1. Post
      Andrew Beck

      Hi Craig

      I’m glad to see you share my sentiments. I also love the suggestions you have made on ways to make photographing wildlife from a distance that little bit more intimate, both from an experience and story telling perspective. I’ll expand on these and some other ideas in a follow up pst next week though!

      Thanks for taking the time to read the post and leave a comment!

  2. Carol Bell

    Andrew I love macro as find it fascinating when seeing tiny detail in the photo that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Watching and learning the behaviour is also fascinating (especially spiders)… am now getting into “stink bugs” as there are so many different types out now…..and some look like lace. Your input is going to stick in my mind re taking photos of “my bugs” in different light conditions…. and I hope to make it more personal. Looking forward to the next episode.

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