My name is Heather Larkin, and I am a professional photographer in Athens, Georgia. When I am not shooting Fairyography portrait sessions, I enjoy taking macro photos. They’re usually nature macro photos of things like jumping spiders and flowers, but I decided to make good use of a morning in New York City and go macro hunting on the streets instead of a garden.
For my gritty sojourn through Manhattan, I used the SIGMA 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro | Art lens. I usually use the 70mm F2.8 DG Macro | Art, but I didn’t bring it with me on this trip. I admit, I struggle to decide on a favorite between the two.
The sights (and smells) of the city
I decided to take a leisurely stroll (is there such a thing in downtown?) and just took pictures of whatever caught my eye. When I ventured out of my hotel room, it was a somewhat cool morning, but the heat arrived faster than I’d like. It was dry, and there had been no rain or street cleaners. I quickly discovered that I didn’t want to be anywhere close to any bar that had been well-visited the night before. Yuck. There were a good number of people out, but I quickly got over my shy nature and just stopped anywhere I wanted for a picture as long as I wasn’t in the way of anyone trying to get somewhere fast.
As always, I used the heck out of the focus limiter switch. I don’t think I could shoot macro without it. Being able to tell the lens itself how far it should focus makes close-up photography much easier.
The area of the city I was in is just covered in iron fencing and cool architecture. There were also loads of construction sites, giving me plenty of opportunities for fun compositions. I love how I don’t have to get as close with this lens, but I can still see all the tiny details I want to see.
One of the things I found myself doing a lot of is angling myself to get just a tiny sliver of the frame in focus, and letting the rest fall off into bokeh. From door pulls to glass, construction fencing to wires, I feel like it all looks pretty neat under the right lighting and angles.
I expected to find more broken down things like rusty metal and chipping paint, but the city is extremely well taken care of in that respect! That doesn’t mean it was clean, though. Literally everything was covered in a fine layer of dust or grit. I was in shorts due to the heat, but I had to brush the grit off of my knees after every shot. Thank goodness the 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro | Art is dust and splash resistant!
There were a lot of repetitive elements and subjects on the street. I could walk five blocks and see the same fire hydrant on each one of them. The challenge turned from “find neat textures” into “find something unique”! Garbage ended up being quite the find, actually. Construction trash in a dumpster, a bright orange straw that had been trampled enough to unwrap it, a broken bike that had been left to rust, it was all unique enough to catch my eye.
Since I normally photograph flowers and I enjoy watching birds, I was naturally drawn to every fence or carving that looked like a plant or animal. I think I found every bird or dragon or flower in a five-block radius of my hotel. I really had no idea there were so many! I thought the buildings would just be plain and boring (they certainly are where I live) without any effort into making them pretty. To the contrary, I found so many beautiful things on my walk!
Experimenting in low light
I stopped into a library to cool off and get some lunch (they had a little café inside) and the stained glass windows and book spines made for quite interesting photos. Thank goodness this lens is light! At one point I literally flipped over upside down to catch a view of a particular book spine and had to take that picture one-handed. It could have been quite painful if I had a beast of a lens on the camera, but thankfully the 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro | Art only weighs 1.6 pounds. I’m also happy that it does so well in low light. The library was lit with only a few LED lights and was quite dark, but this lens can handle it well without hunting too much for focus.
I also went to the American Museum of Natural History. I started in the dinosaur rooms of course, but ended my trip looking at the gemstones. I took full advantage of the fact that the front element of the 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro | Art does not extend when it’s focusing. With internal focusing, I was able to lightly rest the front of the lens on the display glass and get pictures of things inside. And since there’s no front element moving back and forth, the lens is also noticeably quiet. Good advantages for staying unobtrusive in the middle of the museum.
Making the most of any situation with macro
Seeing the detail and beauty in the everyday (or even the downright ugly) is an important part of slowing down, and I think it helps build a photographer’s eye. Try going to find something ugly yourself and make it interesting, or even pretty!
And what about the lens? The 105mm focal length means this macro lens not only takes great close-up photos, but it can also be used for portraits. Simply put, the SIGMA 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro | Art worked perfectly for me inside, outside, upside down (how many 80’s kids get that reference?), and it would make a great addition to any photographer’s lens collection.
Want more macro? Take a look at this video I made for SIGMA if you would like to learn more about macro photography, how I shoot and what I look for when exploring my surroundings.