Grant, people may remember you from our interview in NZP back in June but please jog our memories with a reminder of who you are and what you do with Macrophy...
I'm a 39 year old amateur photographer, originally from Scotland. I moved to New Zealand in 2004 and picked up my first DSLR camera back in 2012. I quickly developed a passion for shooting things up close, so in 2013 I purchased a Nikon 105mm macro lens and have been loving shooting macro ever since. I literally spent hundreds of hours at Christchurch Botanic Gardens perfecting what I love doing. I'm drawn to take pictures of flowers where I can see dark, moody and dreamy elements. Something that stands out from the others nearby - A loner, a flower that screams dark beauty. I decided a year or so ago, that I wanted to help others take macro shots, especially flower photography, as many people struggle and give up, so I came up with the name Macrophy and started to run Macro Workshops here in Christchurch.
What has happened since we did the Summer interview with you, any breakthroughs or exciting news to share with us?
Since we spoke last, I won the Sigma Amateur Photographer Of The Year competition for 'Macro' which I was very chuffed at winning. I didn't expect to place this year, but won the category! Also, I have started to run basic Photoshop editing classes here in Christchurch where I give my students all the instructions in using Photoshop to achieve the exact edits that I do on my images.
How have you grown your business up over the years?
Basically, I've posted lots of my images on social media and built up a decent following of people, especially locally here in New Zealand. Then, I started to put the word out there that I wanted to teach others, and from there I had quite an overwhelming response from people who were frustrated with macro and wanted to learn how to achieve what I do.
What makes a good macro shot in your eyes?
Any close up photograph that makes you say 'wow'. One that captures you immediately as you see details that most people wouldn't normally notice. One that shows you that there is so much beauty when you look at things up close.
All of your photos are hand-held, can you share technical tips with us for getting great, sharp, macro shots?
Yes, all my shots are handheld and taken in natural light so no flash, ever. Sharpness is mostly achieved by using a fast enough shutter speed so that there's no blur due to your hands shaking or the subject moving due to wind. The faster the shutter speed, the more you will need to compensate with your ISO and aperture to achieve enough light in your shot, so often, it's a balancing act based on the conditions at the time.
The weather must play a vital role in your work – Do you plan shoots according to the weather or are you happy to 'go with the flow'? Are there particular times of day you do/don't take photos?
Wind is the main problem for me - If my subject is being blown all over the place, then it's game over, so I usually go out to shoot as long as the weather is quite calm. An early summer morning is the best time as its usually calm but also the light isn't too harsh. I often go out between 6.30am and 8.30am during high summer. It's a beautiful, still time to be out in nature. As the sun gets higher the light becomes quite harsh on the subject, so your shots tend to not be as good.
What are the tricks to creating dark, moody, and dreamy macro shots like yours?
I often underexpose shots on purpose which makes less work in editing afterwards. I'd also say, be clever about what's in the background - lots of space in the background without too much light is perfect. Also, some basic Photoshop editing skills go a long way.
What advice would you give to other photographers on how to develop “the eye" for seeing a macro universe?
I think the main thing is just to slow down, don't be in any hurry to take shots. Take lots of time just looking at subjects and visualise what it is you want to achieve with the subject before taking the picture. Many people click away taking heaps of shots but no thought has gone into what it is they are trying to achieve, this is very visible in the final work.
What do you feel when taking a shot? Does taking macro photos bring you closer to nature? How do you feel after you've taken photographs?
I often shoot early morning when it's just me and nature and no-one else around, it's very relaxing, peaceful and satisfying for me to be in this environment. The bees go about their business all around me and take no notice of me at all. It's a wonderful connection to nature at a beautiful time of day.
What's in your camera bag?
Nothing! I don't even take a camera bag when I go out to shoot. I literally have my camera around my neck with my 105mm macro lens and that's all. Its all you ever need to capture great macro shots.