Making Mountains Out of Molehills with Macro Photography


As part of Macro Week at B&H Explora, I challenged myself to make landscape photographs “in macro.” I really did not have much of an idea what I was getting myself into, but it’s important to try new things, even if just for a short experiment. My idea was to approximate a landscape photograph in the close-up detail and scale of a macro image. To attempt this, I was fortunate to have a Nikon D750 DSLR with the Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8D and a Leica Q2 Monochrom, with its Macro Mode setting. The Nikon lens provided a true 1:1 macro perspective, and while the Q2 does not offer a 1:1 macro, its crop modes and beautiful, high-resolution extreme close-up black-and-white images lend themselves to the intimate or otherworldly nature of these hybrids I was trying to make.

Photographs © John Harris

It’s important to remember that macro photography is a wonderful discipline to practice and enjoy, even if you are not taking world-class photos of insects or flowers. It forces you to slow down, concentrate on focus, depth of field, and composition, and can be practiced with a range of cameras and lenses, including point-and-shoots and smartphones. The Leica Q2 aside, it’s certainly not necessary to spend a lot of money to obtain quality macro lenses and gear, as my secondhand Nikon 105mm f/2.8D demonstrates.

The problem I had to overcome with this idea was more conceptual than practical: Are macro landscapes just (hopefully) interesting close-ups of land and plants and rocks, or should there be an attempt to mimic typical landscape views, but in macro scale? I tried both, looking for what spoke to me as a photographer and remembering that landscape shots do not have to be majestic vistas; they can be details of the land and its features or a composition completely your own. Challenge your genre, I say.

Of course, I also tried to accentuate details, as is common in macro and close-up photography, and the 47MP Leica Q2 Monochrom enables this with its impressive resolution and tone.

As I looked for light and angles on my subjects, I made many attempts to mimic a forest scene or a mountain view, with varying degrees of success. One of the joys of macro photography is that everything is fair game. Common items in your home and garden and on the street can be lit and shaped into abstract compositions and, with a touch of imagination, become a world unto themselves.

Ultimately, while this experiment may not have created the exact results I was looking for, I was able to use the basic features around my New York City neighborhood and simple camera techniques to create landscape photographs all my own.

Please use the Comments section, below, to share your thoughts on macro photography. For a discussion on microphotography, check out this week’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast.