Adventures In Photographic Media: The Macro and the 50mm

The Macro

A week ago, I decided I would get Megan a macro lens for her camera. I was broke when her birthday came around, and so, late, decided to atleast try and get her something now. So, I began researching what lenses to get on the internet.

Reading reviews from folks about technical stuff about barrel distortion, vignetting, etc. In fits of information overload, I vowed to give up photography twice during this. Photography is the replacement theme park for the moneyed classes, and it’s seems ridiculous at times. Other times, it seems amazing.


…I got the lens, and had to test it…

… Ok, so that is beautiful! I never knew I had a plant like that in my backyard. I didn’t even know a plant could look like that. Especially not the one sitting three feet from where I have smoked for the past 6 months.

So I take a few more photos…

…wow! That is actually kind of awesome as well!

I keep going on…

…and on…

…and on…

…and on…

…and on and on…

So, the photo above is of some plant stuff laying on my porch. It’s just sitting there, remnant of my sweeping attempts. And here, it looks like food. It’s looks like shitake mushrooms with a vinaigrette and some kind of plant thing to eat.

This worries me a little bit.

There is possibility (A), that all these beautiful things are around me all day, and the only time I stop to pay attention to them is when I aim something expensive at them.

There is also (B) the possibility, that the only reason they look beautiful is because, through framing effect and other associations of agency from this medium (photography, 3:2 crop, saturated colors) I’ve been trained to believe that something presented as such is worthy of looking at, and the reason that I think the above is food, is simply because most people who focus expensive things at plant matter are doing it on a dish in a restaraunt.

Additionally (!), I have built a wall in my mind between porch sweeping material, and food. They both grow, they both have some edible part I’m sure, but something tells me one is ok and the other is not. Is that an Evolutionary Bias? Or is that Consumerism?

At first, I was thinking this lens was kind of a silly thing, but these photos have raised a lot of questions for me.

The 50

And here we get to the 50. One of the downsides of kit cameras is that they come with f 3.5 lenses. That means higher aperture, and not much light.

There are a couple ways to get more light into a camera, one is to slow the shutter speed. But then you need a tripod. The other is to go up on film sensitivity, or ISO. That doesn’t really let more light in, it just makes the thing you are capturing your image on, more sensitive. The downside of this is it shows more grain, with film, or your sensor takes a poop and it does it’s digital grain thing, which is just noise, the same as if, in audio, you just cranked the preamp gain up on a quiet source, the inherent noise in the channel will increase along with the thing you are trying to amplifiy.

The most effective way is to get more light through the lens, either by brightening up the source, or going with a lower aperture lens. The downside, is that as it lets more light in, the brighter light swamps the others, so distance becomes an issue, in that what you focus on is in focus, and the rest is not so much, sometimes annoyingly.

As Megan spends a decent amount of time focusing things that are dark, I figured a low f lens would be good.

…so now shooting in what little light trickles through our windows is ample enough for photos.

And again, I’m overwhelmed by the beauty here. Human Beings can be beautiful. But also, I am taken back by the beauty of our surroundings. The beauty of light in this room, the beauty of the skin, the beauty of the fabric. And again, I can’t help but wonder why is it that I have to aim a camera over here to notice it at this level?

Is it because of our exposure to so many photographic images, be it in magazines or in movies, that we have discounted what we see with our eyes in lieu of those in the photographic frame? Or is it that the lower aperture of the lens is calming to us, perhaps reminiscent of the aperture our eyes carried as young human beings, as fresh born children?

I’m not really sure.

But it makes me happy to make these images, and also cautious. Cautious that making images like this further our distance from appreciating the images we capture through our eyes, daily.

Let me explain further…

This is a shirt Megan wears. It was purchased relatively cheaply, and was undoubtebly run out of the factory with little thought of it as anything other than a commodity garment. Yet, when the camera is aimed at it, it looks like something very special. Something worthy of the photograph.

Perhaps it looks special because generally, the only items we have traditionally seen photographed like this where either important items, or items owned by important people, thus justifying the expense of making the image with such high quality equipment.


Chair, Bottle Top, Floor. All things I come across daily. None ever seeming as important as they seem right here.

They seem timeless.

Is it a coincidence that they are black and white images? I don’t think so.

Closing Thoughts

Regardless of why I feel them to be important here, one thing is for sure, that the things we photograph, really do re-frame reality for us, at least when we look back on them. And also, if we get used to seeing more of daily life in the lens of high quality photographic equipment, the high quality image of these things may begin to seem ordinary.

But if that occurs, what will happen to what we see naturally out of our eyes? Will an onslaught of high resolution images dull our senses from appreciating the depth of real life?

And… what about Instagram? With people sharing photos of the commonplace things they do among one another, photographically over-saturated, over-contrasted, and so far removed from reality, does this push us to expect such images? Do we begin to equate that photographic style with the mundane activities of the day? Do we begin to equate it’s aesthetic with the social network or social networks in general? I believe we may.

All in all, there is a lot to think about here.

And it may explain why, for the past year, I’ve been shooting mundane photos for my blog; either on blackberry or point-and-shoot, a little blurry, black and white, and not heavy in contrast. I’ve known images do effect the way we perceive things, and perhaps I’ve been trying to stall the clock on the oversaturation of oversaturated, hyper-realistic images permeating our lives, atleast when you view my blog.

About The Site

Llamatism is a collection of things, a cabinet of curiosities, and reports from explorations on things, by Gary Llama.

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