The Art of Thinking

The Art of Thinking

Finding meaning in macro photography

The Dance of Radiant Light by Minghui Yuan

The Art of Thinking

We all want to take photographs that have meaning, but understanding how to effectively communicate this through photography can be tricky. Macro photography offers many opportunities to say something different about the natural world and it’s this unique interpretation that is important. To help us engage with this topic, we spoke with multiple IGPOTY award winner, Minghui Yuan about his relationship with the genre.

What do you like about macro photography?

I love macro photography. I like to discover the microscopic world around us, because the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but at looking at things with a different perspective. I try to show the beauty and dignity of extraordinary species, analogous to ordinary people in the pursuit of survival and life.

How would you describe your approach?

In my work, macro photography seems to be the most profound tool to translate my visual language. It is a physical extension of my imagination. However, macro photography allows me to see beyond my imagination, breaking through the natural limitations of the eye, whilst shooting in a natural way.

What do you look for and why?

Macro photography depends entirely on your imagination and shooting techniques. To understand your subjects you must have an understanding of habitats, the environment and ecological knowledge. Through this we can better deploy equipment to get the best results.

Over or under exposure can affect the colour of the photograph whilst impacting emotional quality. I often use aperture priority mode and average metering, and combine this with exposure compensation to adjust the brightness.

For me, I want to discover more about the human experience through studying other natural forms of association. I look for botanical shapes, patterns, colours and textures. I always try to find the joy of life, through expressions of love and hope. I also look for relationships between plants, including solitude and companionship. Plants depend on each other, so it’s important to try to understand this relationship.

The microscopic world is a strange and mysterious place, where it’s easy to get lost in our own fantasies. When shooting in nature, I need to feel "the dignity of life" and "the joy of life" through what I’m seeing via the camera lens. All life has equal value so I like to use multi-level viewing angles to observe different layers of life.

What key elements make a good macro image for you?

The key elements of a good macro image consist of the relationship between fantasy and reality, simple patterns and colours used to original effect, and imaginative composition.

What equipment do you use and why?

I usually use a Nikon SLR camera body and a macro lens. The fixed focal length macro lens is my most used lens when shooting macro. This makes for more efficient shooting as you begin to understand the best distances involved for certain shots. The most important aspect is to find the optimum focal plane of your subject. The focus should grab the subject at the most crucial point; the reasoning for having something on the focal plane should be a central part of your image. It has to tell a decisive story.

A telephoto macro lens can also be useful for making interesting blurred backgrounds and proper use of backgrounds can make all the difference.

What's your advice to other photographers entering the Macro Art Photo Project?

The Macro Art Photo Project is a piece of creative performance, but it is also the art of thinking. My interpretation of this is that there is a fine balance between the conscious creative mind and the subconscious. Too much conscious processing and the power of natural observation can be suppressed. Sometimes a new perspective or new approach can just happen, without too much introspection and you’ll never know unless you start shooting.

Find your own meaning. Enter Competition 12 now.