I must admit my predilection for macro shots. Perhaps because I’m short, I tend to focus on small objects that are close to the ground, which means I take lots of extreme closeup pictures of flowers, insects, and other tiny things. Even in my nature journal, I have an obvious preference for drawing the small pieces and parts of the natural landscape versus the whole landscape itself. At a loss for how to depict an entire forest, I’ll draw instead a single leaf from a single tree.
Macro shots are interesting because they focus (literally) on small details you might otherwise miss. It’s not uncommon to see dragonflies zooming around, but how often do you get to stare a dragonfly in the eye? What I like about macro shots is the way they force you to notice and admire the small, easily overlooked details in even the most mundane things. Looking closely at even common objects reminds you that you can find the whole world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower. Macro shots force us to look closely at the world around us, and looking closely often leads to admiration as we realize how complex and intricate even the smallest natural details are.
But there’s a downside to macro shots. When you zoom in to look closely at any given thing, you necessarily lose the context of that thing: as the saying goes, you miss the forest for the trees. Looking at the two photos of dragonflies I use to illustrate today’s post, you have no real way of telling where I shot these pictures. Is the green foliage in the first shot from a marsh I visited, or is the white background in the second shot a clear expanse of sky? Truth be told, I took all three of today’s photos in our backyard, with the first photo showing a dragonfly perching on a dessicated stem in a patch of perennials and the second photo showing the same dragonfly outlined against a segment of sidewalk. Only in this third photo of a colorful garden spider can you tell for sure that the “wild” setting for this particular photo shoot was a suburban backyard, given the telling evidence of a garage door. Macro shots allow you to look closely at small details, but you’ll necessarily miss the bigger picture. When you seek the whole world in a grain of sand, you can miss the reality of the entire seashore.