Archive for the ‘Macro’ Category

The “Cramming” or “Shoot-Through” Technique by David Cobb

Monday, February 8th, 2016

The spring wildflowers have started to pop in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon, so I thought I’d take the time to explore a technique I often use for photographing spring wildflowers called “shoot-through” or “cramming.” I had used this technique for a number of years before I learned macro photographer Michael Brown coined the phrase “cram-it.” It’s fun, and it takes a bit of practice, so if you’re willing to give it a try here’s how to do it.


I often use a telephoto for this procedure, and employ this method when I want to eliminate distracting elements or when I want a wash of color throughout my image. I use a fairly wide-open aperture setting and find f2.8–f5.6 works best. I place my lens against a number of blossoms while selective focusing on a background flower. The front images are blurred and help obscure a number of distractions like twigs or branches. They also create a more ‘painterly’ feel to the photograph.

 Tulips Red & Yellow

I loved the color of these tulips on top of a rock, but couldn’t photograph them without including distracting parts of a nearby house. My solution was to lay my lens right in front of a bundle of red and orange flowers and then “shoot through” them. This added a nice wash of color across the stems, and also eliminated the distracting staircase and window of the house.

 Water Lilies

In a recent photo of water lilies taken on the Big Island of Hawaii, I was going for more of a Monet feel for the image. For this shot I used my Canon 70-200 telephoto lens, my Kenko Pro 1.4x teleconverter, and my Canon 500D close-up filter. I placed my lens right in front of a clump of grass and “shot through” it. The shallow depth-of-field gave me the softness I liked, but “cramming” with the grass lends an even softer look and captured the Monet feel I was after.


I’ve posted a couple of other examples of this technique below. You can find this tip and 99 others contained in my e-book 100 Tips to Improve Your Flower and Garden Photography.

Summer Wildflowers

Yellow Crocus

Photographic Cross-Training by David Cobb

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Photographic Cross-Training

By David Cobb

Old Sign Modern Art

I like variety. When I shoot a variety of images it keeps me on my toes, keeps things fresh, and lets me be creative. If I only photographed landscapes I’d be bored. By changing things up and photographing not just landscapes, but also events, macro, details, people, wildlife, buildings, interiors, food, and in black-and-white I don’t get tired of photographing any one thing. Some might say by doing many things you never get good at one of them. I disagree. I think in photography improving one facet of your camerawork can only help another facet; it’s kind of like photographic cross-training. My detail images help my compositional skills as I photograph landscapes. By photographing small flowers with my macro lens, it’s not too much of a stretch to photograph food. Photographing people lets me be more creative and interact with my subject, (plus putting a person in a scene increases sales potential in an over-saturated landscape market). If I photograph an event, it makes me think quicker on my feet and that helps me set up and get the shot faster when working my landscapes and landscape photography—and lets me apply those skills to my macro and detail images.

Chairs & Tables BW

Fern Curl

Josef Koudelka is one of my photographic heroes, and he stated that he was first and foremost a photographer. Koudelka photographed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, but he wasn’t a photo journalist; he photographed and travelled with gypsies for years, but he wasn’t a portrait or street photographer; he spent years photographing Roman ruins, but he wasn’t a historical photographer; the time spent photographing industrial waste and the workings of man didn’t make him an environmental photographer–he was simply just a photographer who resisted any codes or labels. And he succeeded in all areas.

Glacier Peak

I’m posting some photos I’ve shot over the past few months, as an example of the variety of images I’ve taken in my photographic cross-training.

Wacky Racers Suzy Doran Tonopah NV BW Painterly Reflections Lavender Field Home

Badlands of Central Oregon

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

By Adrian Klein

I stand there watching the sunset feeling as remote as one can be. No other people except my friend and I, enjoy the sounds and smells of nature. That is the beauty of the Badlands in Central Oregon for those that don’t want to involve a big backpack or hiking trip covering a large distance or elevation to escape. You feel very removed from it all yet only miles up the path and miles up the road is a bustling town.

Only hours earlier my friend and I were sitting in the sun at one of Bend’s newer breweries. No shortage of good ones to visit yet that is a different blog post. After finishing up our meal and IPA we set out on the highway. It was a short drive. About 20 miles and we were at the trailhead for Oregon Badlands Wilderness.

Wildflowers in the Badlands appear to be growing from the ends of this dead bush.

It’s May and as you step out of the car you quickly realize why this is no place to visit in summer. With the high expected of 70 degrees Fahrenheit it’s a cooker in my book when the sun pokes through the clouds. It’s the weekend yet the trailhead has all of three cars, including ours. This is my second time here and neither time was busy.

The Badlands is high desert. There is no water source when you are out there unless you consider putting out a bucket to catch rain drops that infrequent the area. The lack of water is made up by very easy hiking even with a full backpack. The elevation is basically flat. Our 3 mile hike maybe gained a hundred feet. Well in all reality lost 100 ft too so let’s just call it even.

Badlands Light Storm

Storm light brings on a nice glow at the end of the day at the Badlands Wilderness.

The few trails throughout the wilderness are easy to follow. That said a GPS and map would be helpful if you venture too far off trail. Everything looks the same and I could see getting lost while off trail as an easy achievement whether intended or not. Here is a map for more details.

Now to the photography aspect, this is a blog relating to photography after all.


  • Spring – The wildflowers are out usually in April and May and the temps are comfortable.
  • Summer – Avoid unless you like very hot dry conditions, without a water source, and no flowers. This place would not appeal to me for photography in summer.
  • Fall – The temps are back to comfortable and Rabbitbrush will add some nice color to your images.
  • Winter – Going when a light layer of show has fallen appears to be the right choice. I plan to try it this winter.

Overall you have options every season except summer. My personal opinion of course.

Badlands Flower

Fragile and delicate sand lilies on the desert floor. Taken with iPhone 5S

Points of Interest:

  • Views – If you want to get up “high” your only options are a few large rock formations such as Flatiron Rock that will get you up just high enough to see over the trees and out to the mountain ranges.
  • Flowers – As mentioned the spring season will bring a variety of flowers. My photos only show a few types that you will see.
  • Trees – One of the highlights of this place is the endless assortment of knotted and gnarled juniper trees. Not as cool as the timeless bristle cone trees yet I saw many that remind me of them.
  • Rocks – Some of the rock formations were rather interesting. I saw a number of cool colors/textures that would make for possible triptych photos as well as the more common anchor for your foreground when taking landscapes.
  • Weather – Going in spring increases your chance of more dramatic skies. All seasons except summer has a decent shot to experience something except dull gray or crystal blue. We were fortunate enough on our trip to get some thunder and lightning rolling in around sunset.
Twist and Burn

A close up of a juniper tree that appears to have met it’s final day with the strike of a lightning bolt.

In summary if you are looking for an under-visited desert with compositions that take a little time to find (but are worth the time finding) then this is a place worth taking a trip to. We chose backpacking to be close to where we wanted to take the photos yet hiking in early or later in the day is certainly an option as long as you are well equipped to find your way.

The sunset view from the top of Flatiron Rock in the Badlands.

Wide-Angle Macro Photography by David Cobb

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013


Wide-Angle Macro Photography

By David Cobb

In the traditional sense, macro photography is anything taken at a 1:1 ratio. But I don’t much like traditions in photography, so that’s why I often use a wide-angle lens for impact. By using a wide-angle lens I’m making my foreground the primary subject, not just an anchor element for my landscape composition. At the same time, I’m including my background element (my scene or vista) as secondary -much of the time it’s even out of focus. I use this technique for the purpose of showing my subject in its environment—and because I find it fun and challenging.

Amanita muscaria in woods.

 Washington Lily

In a recent blog I touched on using a Kenko Pro 2x with a wide-angle lens, so I won’t go into that today; but another way to create a macro lens out of your wide-angle lens is to use a Kenko 12mm extension tube. By adding a little bit more space between your camera and lens, you’re able to get super close and tight for a macro shot. If weight is a concern (backpacking with a camera anybody?) and you need to drop that macro lens from the pack, take along a 12mm extension tube and you’ve got yourself a close-up lens.

Change your perspective, get low, and give it a try – you might find it fun and challenging too.

Balsamroot Blooms

It’s in the Details by David Cobb

Friday, July 20th, 2012

It’s in the Details

By David Cobb

“A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts.”


I recently returned from the Black Hills of South Dakota with photographer Christian Heeb, and he kept calling me a detail photographer. One day while observing me with a macro lens he mentioned that, “Here I was in the expanse of the Badlands and I spent my time leaning over a dead frog encased in dry, cracked mud.” I’m a details photographer.

Another day we walked a valley with flowers and rock spires in the Black Hills. Instead of the larger landscape, I chose a bundle of Black-eyed Susans to capture some detail. For me, it’s not all about the wide-angle lens—I often choose the zoom or macro lenses to capture the smaller and more intimate scenes. These lenses are useful in telling a piece of the location’s story.

For instance, this beautiful Lakota woman looks fabulous in her red dress, surrounded by the flowering Horse Mint. But look closer. Another part of the story is her fine bead work, her silver ring, her hands—the details. So, I got in closer with a zoom lens to help tell that part of the story.

With landscapes too, I often leave that wide-angle lens behind to pick out scenes of light and form. This helps to get me out of that “wide-angle rut” I so often see in newer landscape photographers. There was an expansive scene to be shot at Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills, but this morning I preferred the one with a zoom to capture the details of light on the cliff-face and rock. This image not only provided more interest and drama to the scene, but the nearby trees also helped give a sense of scale.

With a macro lens, I look for the details in flowers or smaller life along the ground. Often I add a Canon 500D diopter (close-up filter) and extension tubes to get as close as possible. This not only lets me capture the play of light on a small scale, but offers me countless opportunities for composition and detail. I work on these Yellow Salsify seedpods every year, and never tire of it because of the millions of compositions to be created with a shallow depth-of-field.

Capturing the details helps provide another point of view while also improving your photography, by forcing you to think and compose out of your comfort zone. Next time you see that expansive scene, stop and consider what the smaller scenes may bring. Because for me, the details help capture the big picture.