"Macro Art In Nature"

Explorations in the artistic world of macro photography.

Photographing Grass, “The Focal Cram”. How I Approach This Subject.

And just how do I approach photographing grass in the field?
It is very easy to do, … and so I created this computer rendering for you to look at which is very close to what I was viewing the other day while out in the field.
This rendering helps to somewhat show the distances between certain areas that I was photographing. (About 20 feet)
I did not spend a great deal of time with this rendering, so of course the grasses, tree, shrubs, etc., are not all that accurate for its texture, size, and so on, … but it is very accurate to the overall layout that I was seeing.
The rendering was created with “Vue 6 Esprit”.

You can click on the image below for a larger view along with the numbered areas.

You can look at the image to see where I have the camera/lens placement.
I simply put down a small tarp to sit on in front of that first layer/row of grass, put out my gear on the tarp, put the small cooler down, got down to ground level to study my surroundings, and then decided to start shooting.
For the images below, I either used the Canon 100-400mm or the older 75-300mm lens, … depending on which lens my youngest son swiped to go off in his hunt for insects.
For these types of images, I prefer the sun to be behind the subject area but still sort of high in the sky, as I am shooting through the grassy areas and that grass will already give me plenty of diffusion.
I normally shoot with the lens wide open, adjusting the setting of the lens for detail when my tastebuds change, … but usually it is only a slight change.
Also, because of shooting wide open and the usual amount of light that is available, I will almost always hand hold the camera which gives me so much freedom while searching for the all important compositions.

Now, the first image below.
This image was created while shooting through the existing grass in area #1, and the subject area is the grassy area located between #2 and #3.
The camera/lens position is low to the ground, shooting through existing grass for diffusion, and allowing a small area in #1 to be more open in front of the lens, which allows more details in the white seed that has been caught up in the blades of grass.
Low to the ground, shooting through the blades of grass for some diffusion, overhead but slightly behind backlighting, gave me a interesting scene to play with.
The very thin blades of grass in the background, along with some golden areas of light from above, is always a hit with me!

© 2008 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited.
Grass #1

The second image was created by shooting through the grass of area #1, focusing in on the front edge of area #3, and slightly backing off on the focus to create a look with less detail.

© 2008 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited.
Grass #2

The third image was created simply by moving the camera to the right side of area #1 in a area with less grass to shoot through, pointing the lens in the area of #4, and focusing at the front edge of the grass line. It looks very similar to Grass #2, particularly with the light.

© 2008 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited.
Grass #3

The fourth image was created by raising the camera above area #1, pointing the lens in between the areas of #6 and #7 to get a touch of shadow and highlight areas, and then backing off on the focus ever so slightly.

© 2008 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited.
Grass #4

The fifth image was created right from ground level and by shooting up through the grassy area of #1, pointed upwards through the areas of #4 and #5 for even more diffusion, and into the shrub area of #8 with its overhanging branches.
There were absolutely no details that could have been achieved within this image.
The image was flipped horizontally, because my tastebuds wanted it that way!

© 2008 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited.
Shrub #1

Then, … when you think that the day is done, … and you have seen everything there is to see, … that is when you see something that has been there all along, … about 4 feet away.

© 2008 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited.
“Argiope Spider”

The idea of shooting through foliage with a wide open lens in order to obtain that blurred/soft look for your subject is nothing new, … but something that has been ignored by many for awhile.
You can also do this with a smaller lens, and using my now famous “Cram It” method, (you may laugh now), or use a longer focal length like the two lenses mentioned above to do the “Focal Cram”. Another one of my old terms! : )
Finally, I think that the choice of areas to shoot is very important.
Choose areas like you see above in the rendered image with open areas, some shadow and highlighted areas, areas of thick vegetation, some thin areas of vegetation, etc.
You must give yourself a chance!
Give yourself a chance to find the light and interesting subjects and compositions all in one place.
Planning ahead is a good thing!

Okay, ….. enough of my mouth.
Hope that this particular post can give someone some ideas to try.
It is sort of hard to explain it within e-mails, so I thought I would come up with something like this.

Everyone take care,

Michael Brown – Photographer

“Macro Art In Nature” – Website

October 8, 2008 - 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, paintings, Photo Blog, photoblog, photography, photoshop, Wildlife | , , , , ,


  1. They’re all wonderful, but I especially like Grass #1 and Shrub #1. The tonality and etherial mode of each is great. Your description of the methodology clearly explains your artistic intent.

    Comment by Paul Grecian | October 8, 2008 | Reply

  2. Beautiful. Most informative posting too. These are such elegant images as is your style.

    Comment by Laurie | October 8, 2008 | Reply

  3. Excellent mini photo essay Michael. I’m sure you’ll be able to reply to all those emails with a simple link now :)

    Comment by Philippe Carrier | October 9, 2008 | Reply

  4. Fantastic post man. This really gives a lot of insight into how to approach a scene and look at all the possibilities. I have actually been thinking about how to communicate something like this to show others, and you have come up with an excellent way. (figures! :-)) I think you have also demonstrated how you can get a lot of unique images in a relatively small area.

    Very inspirational post. Well done Michael. If I do something like this, I will have to refer to it as the “Michael Brown photograph by numbers method”.

    Comment by Mark | October 9, 2008 | Reply

  5. thanks for taking the time to explain technique in a way that is simple and effective. Many have emulated your style, but you’re still ‘da man’ Great images as always my friend. (If you keep this up, you’ll have to start a facebook ‘fan club’) ;)

    Comment by Cindy | October 10, 2008 | Reply

  6. Thanks for taking the time and patience to explain how you work the scene, this is a very effective manner in which to shoot your subject.

    The images are beautiful as always, thanks again for sharing !!

    Comment by Bernie Kasper | October 11, 2008 | Reply

  7. Wow, you have most beautiful pictures even though they look like art. Also, thank you for taking your time to explain how you do the photo shoot. I am beginner photographer, so I can learn something from you. I have two projects in my art gallery now, but they are good enough for beginner.

    Comment by Shery | October 13, 2008 | Reply

  8. Gorgeous images. Thanks so much for the explanation. I am going to try it!

    Comment by Anita Bower | October 13, 2008 | Reply

  9. I’ve enjoyed your work for years and always like when you give us a behind the scenes explanation of how you got your shot. My question would be what were the distances between the three layers of area mentioned? It looks to be several feet each.

    micki – formally of shutterbug underexposed

    Comment by michelleharbour | October 22, 2008 | Reply

  10. […] Photographing Grass, “The Focal Cram”. How I Approach This Subject. […]

    Pingback by Närbilder från jordens skapelse « J a n n e A r l e k l i n t | October 23, 2008 | Reply

  11. This image is stunning! Big thanks for taking time to share your talent. I’m in awe each time I visit.

    Comment by joey | October 28, 2008 | Reply

  12. This was a great discovery! Very unique talents you have. Look forward to visiting more….


    Comment by ashley - flower painting artist | October 29, 2008 | Reply

  13. Thanks again everyone! :)

    Micki, in the frontal areas, the distance between the row of grasses may be 2-3ft, while in the back areas, … about 4ft.

    Comment by macroartinnature | November 8, 2008 | Reply

  14. Very cool effect, I really like the lighting.

    Comment by evan j | November 13, 2008 | Reply

  15. Was just referred to your site by Anita. Love your images..your approach..your way of seeing things. I – too – love to take photographs thru the grass. Thank-you for sharing your technique.

    Comment by Marcie | May 8, 2009 | Reply

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