Macro photography: a closer look around the cottage

Here are some of the most exciting images (click a photo to view larger images in a carousel) so far showing off what kind of nature photography the new macro lens can do. I shot all of them within a few steps of the cottage door.

My partner and I returned from another short stay at the lake, our third trip to look after spring maintenance including staining the deck and dock and laying additional flagstones around the wood stove for insurance purposes. The water lines sprung several new leaks so I’ve decided to replace the ones under the cottage, a project that will have to wait until July when bug season eases off. As well, this past weekend I ran my annual route for the international Breeding Bird Survey.

The mosquitoes have been fierce this spring. There are so many that even when we wear mesh jackets, enough insects manage to bite through the neck fold that insanity quickly sets in. We had enough of them while spreading stain, and consequently spent little additional time outdoors. I took my camera on both previous trips but didn’t use it because I didn’t feel like rambling in the woods.

But Saturday was a glorious day so we tried walking along the road. I managed to get some shots of a spider in a flowerpot and a clump of orange hawkweed blooming on the shoulder. The road crosses a swampy area. There the mosquitoes soon became unbearable and we had to turn back.

But when I pulled the images up on my laptop, a warm feeling came over me. I bought the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens in March using pocket money I’d saved for almost a year. It’s a mid-price lens, the best I could afford.

It lacks image stabilization so a tripod is essential for clear close-up shots. I have a good Manfrotto tripod with enough weight to reduce the risk of tipping my expensive camera equipment. The legs fold outward to allow shooting from ground level.

The reason I wanted a good macro lens was to explore the world of small, another layer of the environment revealing things we encounter every day but can’t see with the unaided eye. I’d love to explore Canada’s far north or a coral sea, but until I have the opportunity, unseen complex environments lie close at hand – or at foot, as the case may be.

Saturday provided glowing light conditions. Using the tripod I was able to get close as possible and control depth of field to highlight fine details like the hawkweed stamens. Other cameras and lenses have done macro magic for me, but never like this. An old dream is becoming a reality.

The first two images inspired me to brave the mosquitoes another day.

The exquisite little common woodsorrel (honestly, is there anything common about the perfection of this wildflower?) grows in clumps on our property. I’ve tried to photograph Oxalis montana over the years, but never satisfactorily until now. It’s an important herb of climax forest, common in the understory of trees like our red maples, yellow birches and balsam firs. Often cohabiting with wildflowers such as goldthread, woodsorrel provides forage for deer and chipmunks.

I’m also a fan of clubmosses like Lycopodium dendroideum shown here. It’s one of at least three species that grow on or near our cottage property, spreading across shady, leafy ground. Botanists speculate that clubmosses resembles the first vascular plants that colonized the land. To me it seems similar to Norfolk Island pine, but that comes from an ancient family of conifers, not closely related. This species’ common name is ground-pine, and dendroideum is Latin, meaning tree-like.

It’s a thrill using macro photography to see these familiar neighbours closer than ever.

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