This week I had a chance to take out the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO Macro OS lens in the field to see how the lens performs photographing one of my favorite macro subjects, bees. When I am shooting close-ups I treat the subjects the same way that I treat any other subject in nature. The only difference is the close up proximity to your subjects so macro photography really is the same as any other type of nature photography. This means you should try to photograph low for the best face to face point of view of the subjects. Use the same guidelines as any other wildlife image like allowing for lead room in front of the subject, keeping it out of the center of the image and look for a pleasing head angle and good eye contact. This will give you successful natural looking images.
Before you start photographing learn take a few minutes to carefully observe your subjects. The goal should always be to avoid interfering with your subject’s natural behavior if you want to capture natural looking images. When photographing try to move very slowly with a fluid motion and avoid any sudden or jerky movements and be always be aware of where your shadow will fall. Insects see motion and have different zones of sensitivity. When I was photographing these bees for example I had to move very slowly toward my subject and once I was close I had to be especially careful raising my camera to eye level. The lens was set to maximum magnification ratio of 1:1 then I move the camera and lens until the bee is sharp.
Bees and most other insects can be very sensitive to your clothing so always wear subdued muted colors when working in the field, dark greens and browns work best and always avoid whites and bright colors.
I prefer macro lenses in the 150mm or longer for the greatest working distance and the cleaner backgrounds the smaller angle of view will give you. Teleconverters work very well with the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO Macro OS with almost no noticeable drop in image quality and I will not hesitate to use them when additional extra focal length is needed. I keep these in a photography belt back that I always wear when photographing. This latest model 150 macro lens has about 5 inches more working distance than the older model and this additional distance really helps in the field especially with challenging subjects like these.
Always plan your photography sessions to be in the field during the best part of the day. Plan to shoot in the morning when the temperatures are still cool, the winds are lighter and the light is not harsh. The cooler temperatures found in the morning make insects much less active and much easier to work with. I use flash to give me the sharpness I want even in breezy conditions.
Open undeveloped areas usually give you the best numbers of subjects and diversity especially near water. Botanical gardens and parks can be very productive and the most reliable bet in highly developed areas, all of the bee images in this article where made in a botanical garden in Los Angeles.
Next time you are out in the field with your macro equipment keep these tips in mind to enhance your chances of creating some successful close-up imagery.