Macro photography has always fascinated me. Seeing the fine details of nature and the small world that surrounds us seems, utterly magical. Trying my hand at it has always been on my to-do-list.
My only problem was that I had just upgraded to the Nikon Z7 and there was no dedicated macro lens available yet. After a lot of research I decided to get the FTZ adapter for my mirrorless camera and purchase the Nikon Micro 105mm f/2.8 Lens.
There were a few factors that mattered most when it came to my choice in lens.
1. True to Life Image or 1:1 Ratio
Not all macro lens are made equal. The important thing to note is that the lens in question has the ability to project the object or subject onto the sensor at the exact same size it is in real life. While you can essentially crop an image to achieve the same effect, you will lose quality and print size. And since I am a sucker for fine details and large prints this was the most important factor for me.
2. Low Aperture (or f-stop)
Since I prefer to carry light and prefer to capture the world as I stumble upon it, I do not have light set ups. This makes it important that my lens aperture can open wide enough to capture the natural light that is available. This means I need a low f-stop number like f/2.8.
3. Focal Length
I made the choice to stick to the 105mm because it seemed to be a sweet spot for me. I didn’t want to go with a shorter lens since that would mean getting closer to my subject. Thus, potentially blocking valuable light and/or scaring away tiny timid creatures. My lovely little Z7 also gives me the ability to quickly convert my sensor to DX and giving me a tighter crop. With a click and a tap I can effectively turn my 105mm into a 157mm getting me in a bit closer. Sticking with the 105mm saved me money and kept me from lugging around large camera gear. With the FTZ adapter mounted the lens is as large as I would like on my Mirrorless body.
Witness My First Go With My Macro
After a few shots around my house to get a feel for the lens I quickly jumped in the car and headed to Waimea Valley. I had been itching to get back there and on a whim thought of how spectacular the lush botanical garden would be through my new looking glass. The first thing I realized about Macro Photography is that It Is Difficult.
The first image I took was of a ridiculously large banana leaf. The light was barely filtering through the dense foliage but you could clearly see the large veins running throughout it. I sat here disappointed for the better part of an hour. I discovered right off the bat that without my tripod I was in for a day of holding my breath and training my eye for sniper precision.
Realizing I was at the bottom of a newfound learning curve, I took this time to figure out all I could about my settings. Like how the aperture effected my subject at such close distance and where my sweet spots lied.
I soon got used to the larger setup on my Z7 with the FTZ adapter and 105mm Micro and found myself getting excited for a day shooting macro floral photography.
What is movement Can you feel it through sight Have you ever seen the ocean waves in a still leaf Seeing the leaf through my looking glass I wondered Does the leaf feel my emotion or fill me with it instead.
Finding Design in Nature
The great thing about macro floral photography is how much unexpected beauty there is to find. The fine details of lines, texture, and blending of colors is stunning to behold at such a level.
Since flowers were few and far between at Waimea Valley for during the fall months, I instead spent my time marveling over the intricacies of the stems, leaves, colors and patterns of the local plants.
Yellow has slowly crept in as a favorite color of mine and finding deep autumn yellows in nature on the Hawaiian Islands can be a feat. Armed with my Z7 FTZ 105MM combo I could really take in the depth and detail of the yellow leaf. Filling my sensor with the bold color gave me such a sense of fall, even in my tropical surroundings.
Color is a great place to start when looking for subjects for your macro lens. Even a solid color holds many variations throughout the shadows and highlights. Capturing this allows you to take in the design taking place in the tiny world of nature.
Once I was focused on the lines and movement of the leaves I started noticing it everywhere.
Overlapping textures, lines and waves creates a mysterious and intriguing piece of art. These simple minimalist artworks of macro floral photography are some of my favorite to create mood in a space. And they are so fun to find when out in nature.
Finding My First Flower
As much as I loved going through the foliage, when I found my first flower I was overjoyed. The Crepe Ginger was the perfect specimen for macro flower photography. With its nearly see through white petals and golden center, it sits atop a bright red bract.
I was most interested in the center. Like a flame, proud inside its fragile walls. I spent the better part of the afternoon with two of these beauties. While it may seem easy to aim a camera, get in close, and press the shutter, it most definitely is not. Being this close to your subject, simply breathing knocks off your focus. Every setting must work off each other perfectly to best use the available light.
Quite a few times I had to wait for a line of ants to make its way across, during which point I learned that I need a much higher magnification ratio to get the insect shots I admire so much. In the future I will be adding a 2:1 or possibly 4:1 teleconverter to my arsenal.
After a few hundred tries a quick walk to the Waimea Waterfall to refresh, and a few more tries… I was finally happy with a shot. I will always remember Her Flame and how much this lovely flower taught me about macro floral photography.
Another fun aspect I didn’t quite expect to work so well for flower photography is Black and White.
B + W Macro Floral Photography
When it comes to lines and texture in floral images going Black and White can be magical. It draws the eye to the significant parts of the plant that would be diminished in a color capture. Here you have to rely on your skills of composition, form, and toning to engage with the image. But when done right your eye will want to return over and over to take in the fine details of the subject in the photograph.
Black and white photography has always been special to me. Taking macro floral photography in black and white with the z7 ftz 105mm micro combo was absolutely thrilling. Finding the hidden designs in nature is quickly becoming an obsession of mine.
Overall, I am extremely happy with the ability of the Z7 FTZ 105mm for Macro Floral Photography! I even got a sneak peek of what is possible for animal photography on the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8.
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