A different kind of macro

Most macro photos are characterised by a subject (usually something small in real world) being large in the frame and an out of focus background. Sometimes, the background is completely blurred, sometimes it has some detail, but all the focus is aimed at the subject. I’ve made many macro photos like this, mainly of dragonflies. Even though I like making images like that, I also want something different. As you most likely know, I like to tell a story with my images. Tell something about the ecology of the subject, not only show how beautiful it is.

A typical macro image: the small sporangia of a moss large in the frame, with a blurred background.

With a normal macro lens (mine has a focal length of 100mm), you can’t really do any different. Even if you close down the aperture completely (which will cost a lot of light), the best you can do is get a little detail in the background. Alternative would be to make a picture with a wide angle lens. They usually have quite a short close focus distance, which will allow you to get the subject recognisable in the frame and you will have a larger depth of field, showing more of the background. However, you can’t get close enough to the subject to get is large in the frame.

Picture with a wide angle macro lens: still large sporangia, but also a recognisable background

So it was time for a new lens (again). Laowa is a small Chinese manufacturer of special lenses. One of these lenses is a wide angle macro lens. It’s a 15mm f/4 lens, like many wide angle lenses, but has a short focus distance of just a few mm’s of the front lens. This way, you can still reach the 1:1 magnification (which is the official definition of macro photography), but have the possibility to make use of the background in the image. It’s a fully manual lens (manual focus and aperture) which makes it. together with the short focussing distance, definitely not an easy lens to work with. However, it has a lot of possibilities to create different images. Last week I went out to practice a little on mosses and their sporangia. I still see a lot of ways to improve the image, but I’m already happy with the results.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.


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