Fun With a Macro Lens

Photo: Nikon

Photography is one of those hobbies of mine that comes and goes. I always love it, but I don’t always have time for it. So my efforts in the photography arena come in spurts.

I took photography in high school and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, this was around 1989 or 1990, so we used real film cameras, developed our own film, spent many hours in the darkroom, etc. It was fun, but I had no idea what I was doing. I was a high school student, and the expense of film and paper didn’t lend itself well to experimentation.

Enter digital photography. Well, enter modern digital photography. (The early stuff was so low res I couldn’t stand it.) Now you can take as many photos as you want without additional cost. Delete the bad ones, and make room for more. What freedom!

This lens makes it easy to capture a toddler’s personality. Photos: Jenny Bristol

I have a hand-me-down Nikon D40x digital SLR which I love. I still have much learning ahead of me, but it has helped me identify different kinds of photography that I enjoy taking and seeing.

I first heard about macro lenses–oh, I don’t know when. But from the very beginning, I knew I wanted one. Close-up shots are great fun to take and to look at, to see small things large, to see all the minute detail. Beauty in the every day.

Photos: Jenny Bristol

I finally received a macro lens for my birthday last year, a Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G with a minimum focus distance of a little over 6 inches. I proceeded to take photos of everything I could. I took close-up nature shots, texture shots, shots of my cats, and plenty of photos of random piles of stuff. But macro lenses are good for more than close-up shots. They actually do a very good job taking a photo of just about anything. I’m especially a fan of the lens for portraits.

It’s easy to do different kinds of portraits, of your favorite people or your favorite toys. Photos: Jenny Bristol

One of my particular challenges when taking photos is good composition. The macro lens allows me to cheat. Focus on the subject, and everything in front of or behind the subject is out of focus. Easy peasy. Still not always great for those “artsy” shots, but very helpful for hiding a cluttered room or other people’s faces from what you really want to capture.

Textures. Photos: Jenny Bristol
Easily isolate text on a page. Photos: Jenny Bristol

I also have a great deal of fun capturing textures. The steeper the angle of whatever you’re photographing, the less of it will be in focus. Great for isolating a detail or a bit of text on a page.

You can see salt crystals or individual stitches. Note how the stitches are in focus but the table, less than 1/4″ lower, is out of focus. Photos: Jenny Bristol

Macro lenses can also be a great option for a food or craft photographer. You can get really close to the food or craft to see details, such as grains of salt or small stitches. Or to really show the detail in a piece of art.

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Watercolor details, or strands of hair. Photos: Jenny Bristol
My cats. Photos: Jenny Bristol

I often use my macro lens when taking photos of the cats. It’s hard to get a perfect pose out of them (they are so uncooperative), so I often focus on just one part of their body. A paw. A face. If they hold still long enough, it usually works out.

Though I know that photography is a bit of both an art and a science, I tend to stick with the automatic settings and just play around. Like I said, I have a lot to learn, and what I learned in my high school photography class (where automatic settings weren’t allowed) was long ago. But I’m out there having fun, and that’s what counts.

I long for an extensive set of tiny figures to create elaborate sets like the Miniature Calendar person does. Perhaps in the future. In the meantime, back to taking close-up and portrait photos of random things!

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Jenny Bristol: Jenny Bristol is an Editor at GeekDad and a founding Director at GeekMom. She is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, losing herself in history, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.
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