David Johndrow — Macro photography

We are happy to fea­ture another inter­view and more pho­tog­ra­phy from Adore Noir Mag­a­zine. Adore Noir is pub­lished online from Van­cou­ver, B.C. Canada and is ded­i­cated to fine art black and white pho­tog­ra­phy. This inter­view fea­tures David Johndrow, an Amer­i­can fine art pho­tog­ra­pher from Austin, Texas.

Mantis by david Johndrow

Man­tis by David Johndrow


AN: Please intro­duce your­self. Where do you live and work?

DJ: My name is David Johndrow and I live and work in Austin, Texas.

AN: How did you get into photography?

DJ: I stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy while get­ting a film degree at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas. The first time I saw an image of some­thing that I shot appear in the devel­oper tray I was hooked and decided I wanted to do pho­tog­ra­phy full time. I started doing com­mer­cial work after graduating—mostly doing por­trait work. I sup­ple­mented my income by work­ing as a cus­tom printer in photo labs. I’m glad I had that expe­ri­ence because it forced me to put in a lot of hours in the dark­room. As I got bet­ter at mak­ing prints that were stronger, I also got bet­ter at visu­al­iz­ing my own work. I learned a lot from work­ing with other peo­ples pho­tographs, both good and bad.

Orb weaver spider by David Johndrow

Orb weaver spi­der by David Johndrow


AN: Tell us about your pas­sion for macro.

DJ: My use of macro came out of com­bin­ing my obses­sion with gar­den­ing with my inter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy. For a long time I had no inter­est in shoot­ing pho­tos in my gar­den. It was mostly because I didn’t want to do what other pho­tog­ra­phers have done so well before. But as I spent more and more time out­doors, I started to notice the most sub­limely beau­ti­ful things going on a very small scale and they looked amaz­ing in the nat­ural light of their own habi­tat. So, I began exper­i­ment­ing with ways to get up close and still be hand-held. I wanted to be quick and mobile. So I put exten­sion tubes on my reg­u­lar Has­sel­blad lens and dis­cov­ered that although this set-up pre­sented some restric­tions (lim­ited abil­ity to focus, lower light gath­er­ing power), I liked what I saw. In fact, the forced sim­plic­ity of the set-up allowed me to focus more on the image than on the tech­ni­cal aspects of shoot­ing the pic­ture. I used the lens wide open out of neces­sity because the film I use is rel­a­tively slow for the shade light I like. For­tu­nately, it turned out that the shal­low focus worked great at iso­lat­ing the details of the things I was shoot­ing. Sud­denly I would get lost look­ing through the camera—like enter­ing another world. Ordi­nary things took on an aura of grandeur and impor­tance. I decided I would treat the sub­jects in nature as for­mal por­traits and try and make them look iconic and, at the same time, retain their wildness.

AN: What is your inspiration?

DJ: Pho­to­graph­i­cally, my biggest influ­ence is Irv­ing Penn. I love how he can make any­thing look ele­gant , from fash­ion mod­els to tribal peo­ple to found objects. I love his high con­trast print­ing style and how graph­i­cally strong his com­po­si­tions are. I also like Edward Weston and Karl Bloss­feld. Bloss­feld was really good at show­ing the archi­tec­ture of nature. Another influ­ence on my art is the botan­i­cal artist Ernst Haeckel. I have repro­duc­tions of some of his draw­ings up in my dark­room to inspire me. He really shows the beau­ti­fully intri­cate designs of nature at all scales. Some­thing about his art is won­der­fully weird and psy­che­delic. Besides these pho­to­graphic and artis­tic influ­ences, I also need to men­tion my love of Lau­rens Van der Post’s sto­ries of the bush­men of the Kala­hari and how they revered the small things in nature the most.

Stinkbug by David Johndrow

Stinkbug by David Johndrow


AN: What do you wish to con­vey to your viewers?

DJ: I hope that when peo­ple look at my pho­tographs, they get a new per­spec­tive on the things that are all around us that we some­times take for granted. We tend to get dis­as­so­ci­ated from nature and for­get what a mir­a­cle it is. I am always amazed at the new things I dis­cover out in my gar­den. Things seem to appear to me as if by magic. I try to cap­ture some of that magic to share with oth­ers. It’s a real chal­lenge to depict some­thing that has been pho­tographed so many times. What I’m learn­ing is that the ways of expe­ri­enc­ing nature are infi­nite. I hope peo­ple who see my pho­tographs come away with a greater appre­ci­a­tion of the beauty of com­mon things.

AN: Can you tell us about your post pro­cess­ing techniques?

DJ: I like to print my images on sil­ver gelatin, platinum/palladium or gumoil. I let the image dic­tate what medium I will use to express it. Although I orig­i­nally cap­ture all of my images on film, I some­times make enlarged inter-negatives, either with my enlarger or dig­i­tally, depend­ing on the image, so that I can make con­tact prints. By using alter­na­tive processes I am able to have a wider range of expres­sion in my print­ing and a greater chance of the “happy acci­dents” that I think make pho­tographs unique. I strive for extreme sim­plic­ity in my images. Pho­tog­ra­phy, by its nature, is a reduc­tion of infor­ma­tion. By remov­ing what is nonessen­tial, images get clearer and more pow­er­ful. This is also the rea­son why I love work­ing in black and white.

AN: Do you have any projects on the go?

DJ: I am now exper­i­ment­ing with sim­ple pho­tograms, bypass­ing the cam­era alto­gether. I’ve got­ten so into it that I’ve amassed a large col­lec­tion of objects that I can print just using sun­light. Of course I still work in my gar­den with my cam­era close by and keep my eyes open for the next mys­tery to present itself.

Toad by David Johndrow

Toad by David Johndrow


This inter­view and accom­pa­ny­ing images was reprinted with per­mis­sion from Adore Noir.
Adore Noir is a sub­scrip­tion based online pho­tog­ra­phy mag­a­zine spe­cial­iz­ing in awe­some fine art black and white photography.

Three Basic Rules of Close-Up Photography by Kristen Smith

So you want to get close, huh? ‚Close-up pho­tog­ra­phy is mag­i­cal and can be done with almost any lens, even your nor­mal zoom lens (all of these shots were taken with the Zuiko Dig­i­tal 12-60mm zoom, not a macro lens). ‚Sure, seri­ous macro pho­tog­ra­phy requires spe­cial­ized equip­ment, but you can get good results right away using what you have if you remem­ber a few guidelines.

First ‚œ get close! ‚So many times I see ‚Ëœclose-up‚„ pic­tures that include way too much in the frame. ‚Like a flower image that shows other flow­ers, leaves, a fence, the dirt etc. ‚That‚„s not a close-up. ‚The rea­son good close-up and macro pho­tos are so mag­i­cal is that they show us a world we might not ordi­nar­ily notice. ‚Here‚„s what to do, find out how close your lens will focus and then try and stick to that as much as pos­si­ble. ‚My ZD 12-60mm lets me get a cou­ple inches from my sub­ject and does a good enough job that I can some­times leave my macro lens at home.

Ice Crys­tals by Kris­ten Smith

Sec­ond ‚œ iso­late! ‚Close-up pho­tographs are much more effec­tive when the sub­ject is clearly sep­a­rated from the rest of the scene. ‚You can do this in two ways, first by choos­ing a sub­ject that doesn‚„t have any­thing near enough to be in the frame with it. ‚So pick that flower or mush­room that doesn‚„t have any friends. The sec­ond way you can iso­late your sub­ject is by open­ing your lens to a large aper­ture. ‚Doing this lim­its your depth of field and cre­ates an out of focus back­ground also known as bokeh. ‚Of course sharp focus on your main sub­ject is crit­i­cal, so be care­ful. ‚Watch the shut­ter speeds and use a tri­pod if necessary.

Chicory Blos­som by Kris­ten Smith

Third ‚œ sur­prise! ‚Show me some­thing dif­fer­ent. ‚Oh gee, another flower pic­ture. ‚Yay. ‚How about a bug? ‚Yawn. ‚A leaf? ‚Zzzzz. ‚Sorry, I‚„m not really dump­ing on any of these things, but haven‚„t we all seen a mil­lion of them? ‚I‚„m just as guilty of it. ‚After a while they‚„re all the same and it takes an effort to bring some­thing dif­fer­ent to the world of close-up pho­tog­ra­phy. ‚Find it. ‚What­ever it takes, find some­thing unusual about an every­day object or some­thing you hardly ever see pho­tographed. ‚Try new angles, per­spec­tives, jux­ta­po­si­tions, play with depth of field, back­ground, color com­bi­na­tions; any­thing to help your image break free of sameness.

Bro­ken Cork by Kris­ten Smith

So that should get you started. ‚Get close, iso­late and sur­prise me! ‚Feel free to post com­ments with links to your best close-up pho­tos or share them on the‚forum.

My Web­site = www.wickeddarkphotography.com and I’m based in New Hamp­shire, USA

Macro photography on the cheap — Photography podcast #37

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #37 focuses on cheap macro pho­tog­ra­phy setups. In this pod­cast we talk about using revers­ing rings, exten­sion tubes, close-up lenses and cheap macro lenses in order to achieve good macro results for lit­tle cash.‚Special thanks to ‚Yves Janse who sug­gested this podcast.

The fol­low­ing images describe the dif­fer­ent inex­pen­sive tech­niques used to cre­ate macro photographs

macro photography

1 — Shows my shot with a zoom lens only
2 — Shows shot with cheap close-up lens #1
3 — Shows shot with cheap close-up lens #2
4 — Shows shot with cheap close-up lens #4
5 — Shows what close-up lenses look like
6 — Shows what exten­sion tubes look like
7 -‚Shows what a lens mounted back­wards using a revers­ing ring looks like
8 — Photo by Yves janse (Thanks Yves) show­ing how you can stack close up lenses and tubes
9 — Shows a Plamp for hold­ing macro subjects

Links men­tioned in this pod­cast:
Revers­ing rings on Ebay
Close up lenses on Ebay
Exten­sion tubes on Ebay
Phoenix AF lens review (A cheap ded­i­cated macro lens)
Plamp clamp for hold­ing macro subjects

Thanks as always for the com­ments by‚Al, Tim and Yves Janse who also sug­gested this. We LOVE com­ments and sug­ges­tions so please send more.