"Macro Art In Nature"

Explorations in the artistic world of macro photography.

Using The “Cradle” Method In Photography.

© 2003/2007 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited.

Sometimes I will see a image that has so much power to it, a image with plenty of impact, but a portion of it leaves me wondering if a simple method of using something that is already available would have given the image even more of an appeal. The method of using a “frame within a frame” has been used for years. Some may call it a “anchor”, and sometimes I may even call it a “cradle”.04azaleastamens5wpblog.jpg I sort of like the term “cradle”, as it is something that I am using in nature to cradle, or to caress the main subject and to draw the viewer’s attention to it. You can’t use this method with every image and with some, it may be a bit harder to use the cradle method depending on the type of photography you are doing. But with macro, … it often seems to be so readily available, and is something that you can use as well to gain a bit more impact with your images.

There are a number of things that a individual can use or do to come up with a cradle for their subject. There can be lines and structure to frame or cradle your subject. There can be light that wraps or cradles the subject. And, with many of my subjects and one that I find myself constantly striving for, is to cradle the subject with a blurred area. I want to make my subject feel at home, like it belongs right where I am now seeing it!

The first image here is a of a spent stamen within a azalea flower. Using just the right depth and composition, I was able to give the stamen a soft platform or cradle in which to rest. Moving it down to the bottom and off to the left just a bit, I was able to somewhat frame the subject with the fresh stamens above, giving the stamen some stability. To me, the stamen seems to be wrapped and secure, even though its time has ended.

03aphidandclematis1wpblog.jpgThe second image is of a aphid, sitting within the golden threads of a clematis bloom. Not as much softness is to be found here, as I needed the depth for the little aphid to have at least some hint of detail. But, there is a sense of the aphid having a cradle, a place to rest, and the threads above him acting as a frame and somewhat anchoring him in place. I wanted to create a piece that was showing him and the world in which he lives. It is his small world of gold!

The third image is the backside of a dogwood bloom, bathed in a very bright light. I wanted something just a touch on the side of being soft, yet wrapped in a high-key light. I used the natural light that was available, a mirror that would help to wash the whites out a bit, but then held up a small diffuser to cut down on the light in the center where most of the color was located. Using this method gave me that high-key light surrounding the color and actually helping in enhancing the composition. A art buyer wanted a ever so slight hint of “diffused glow” in photoshop to soften up and brighten the surrounding white areas, and the final result is what you see here. Almost as I had seen it originally.

The final image is surely a favorite technique, and often a technique that I will try to work with before I will try anything else while out in the field. As many of you have read in the past, … I truly enjoy shooting these small landscape type macros while sticking the lens right into some existing foliage, letting those blurs occur right before me and helping me to frame my subjects that I want a touch more details with. With this image, I am pretty much flat on the ground, using a very low perspective,
04dogwoodbloom14wpblog.jpg shooting slightly down hill, and working the lens in and out of the foliage. If there is some foliage right in front of the lens, then so be it. I am shooting with a shallow DOF, so it is not to much of a problem. You can see that this image has some blurring on the left hand side and leads down to the bottom, then it crosses over at the bottom and leads your eyes back up to the top of the frame on the right. The flowers and stems are somewhat centered, but cradled by the surrounding blur. Up top, the bright blurred area is actually some very slinder stems from some type of grass, and it is as if you can see right through them in the early morning light. With that shallow depth of field, it looks like rays of sunlight instead of very bright and blurred grasses. This in a way connects to the surrounding blurred areas, giving the overall image some stability.

Now these images are not everyone’s cup of tea I am sure, but you can use these methods in your own style/type of shooting, whether it be landscapes, portraits, street shooting, journalism, sports, ….. whatever!

05blueflowermorning8wpblog.jpgThe absolute bottom line to everything that I have said above, is to simply have fun with it. Create something new, something different, and when you see that one piece on your monitor that inspires you even more, … then I hope you can stick your chest out like a rooster and belt out a good one for me! If I can help to bring a smile upon your face, ….. then I have done something good today! :)

Now, ….. go out and create!

January 29, 2007 - Posted by | abstract, art, blog, botanical, canon, composition, Digital, DSLR, fauna, Fine Art Nature Photography, flora, flowers, hiking, horticulture, insects, landscapes, life, macro, Macro Photographer, nature, Nature Photographer, outdoors, Photo Blog, photoblog, photography, photoshop, Wildlife | , , , , ,


  1. Hi mike,
    Nearly a year ago when I first discovered your blog, I recommended you to start writing a book on Macro Art in Nature. Technically you are doing it here by sharing your thoughts an ideas and also by giving wonderful tips. Oh Man put it together as a book, it’s about the time. Finding a good publisher may be dificult for an ordinary guy like me but in your case I am sure you can find good publisher easily. I’ll be among of the first people who are standing in the line to buy your book, I promise.

    Comment by Arash | January 29, 2007

  2. […] Art in Nature has posted a good composition tip in the post titled “Using the ‘Cradle’ Method in Photography“.  This article talks about framing subjects to gain the most effect from them.  Although […]

    Pingback by Epic Edits Weblog » Blog Archive » Layers, Shake, and Cradles | January 30, 2007

  3. Excellent images and a wonderful explanation of the technique. I’ll be first in line to buy your book!

    Comment by Paul | January 30, 2007

  4. Dude. Maybe I should know this, but I don’t and am too lazy to look.

    What camera do you use?

    Comment by shawna | January 30, 2007

  5. Thanks guys for the comments!

    Arash, Paul, … the book idea is still being kicked around, but it has to be something that is different than the norm, which is what is seen way to often today. :)

    Charlie, … just noticed that your earlier message was in the “moderation” section of my dashboard. I simply did not see it. Whoops!
    I am still getting use to the layout of WordPress and where everything is located. I better keep a better check on it.
    Anway, … will get back with you soon, … and thanks!

    Hey Shawna!
    All of the images here in the journal were created with the digital Rebel 300D.
    I have since upgraded to the newer Rebel and the Canon 5D for the new work that I am creating.
    Go get you a Rebel. You want regret it! :)

    Thanks again gang,

    Comment by macroartinnature | January 31, 2007

  6. wonderful, simply wonderful! the soft pastel colors grabbed me right away.. (I’m color starved lately). Ok, lets hear about reflectors soon.. I’m waiting ;)
    another fine set of images Mike, you really have a great eye.. and thanks for sharing your techniques, many don’t!

    Comment by Cindy | February 3, 2007

  7. I have found you on VFXY, and have spent hours reading and looking.

    I have recently been trying some macros. This puts a whole new vision for macros. Its a wonderful concept. Beautiful work.

    Now if I could only get my S3 IS to behave like a Rebel! Soon, soon, though. I need that control over DOF.

    All the best with the publication. I am sure it will be a big hit. Your work is enchanting.

    I like your word press blog, too. something I need to learn, too.

    Comment by maggie | February 9, 2007

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

  • Meta

  • %d bloggers like this: