“Evening Backyard Walk” by Sue Thompson
If you haven't yet been inspired by Sue Thompson's work, then you haven't been a part of our Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group. Sue is a perennial of the Flickr Group, and we've spotlighted her work a few times here at Shutter Photo. From a statistical point of view, Sue has contributed the most photos to the group, and could very well have left the most comments. I will admit a bit of a biased opinion: I love so much of Sue's works that I could probably spotlight something here every week. But to be fair, I try to avoid that. But when Sue started brandishing her brand new D-SLR, the quality of her work skipped up several notches – not because of the camera, mind you, but because she clearly outgrew her old point-and-shoot camera. Sue used her old camera to the absolute threshold of its abilities. And now that she has a better camera with better lenses, we can see what she can really do. And so I introduce you to one of her recent works, Evening Backyard Walk, shown here.
This is a classic macro shot of a flower. Focusing is so close – almost to the point of abstraction – that we can see detail reflected and distorted through the lens created by each water drop. A shot like this is possibly influenced by the works of Georgia O'Keeffe. O'Keeffe worked in paints, but many photographers are inspired by the close-crops of her flower paintings. Her work transcends the medium into the world of photography quite often.
When dealing with such a close shot, even with a focal length of 55mm, you're dealing with such a narrow depth of field. If you imagine this flower at natural size, you can visualize just how small this depth of field is. We're talking milimeters, no more. And that is why it's important to focus manually, as Sue did in this case. Manual focus is the key to close-up and macro photography. I know very little about Sue's old camera, but I can imagine she's quite happy to have a smooth focusing ring on her lens with all the close-up and macro photography that she shoots.
Here's where the shiny new camera really shows it's mark: The light. Her old camera, A Canon Powershot S5, was a pretty decent point and shoot. But it had a relatively small fixed lens. The maximum aperture was nowhere close to the capabilities of her new camera and lens. This is a big deal with Macro, because light is scarce when dealing with such a small area of focus. Having a nice wide-open lens gets the light in there to help you get your shot. And judging by the EXIF information, it would appear as though this shot could have been taken hand-held at those speeds.
The last thing I want to discuss about Sue's work today is simply practice. As I mentioned, Sue recently changed cameras, but I don't feel that the quality of her work, even the early shots with her new camera, have suffered in any way. She shot macro so many times and so often (literally hundreds upon hundreds of shots each month), that the equipment doesn't matter. I am inspired by Sue's work mostly because of the consistency of her growth and the fact that equipment really truly does matter little. I would put up much of her work against someone with better equipment – better lenses, better filters, fancy tripods and accessories – yet I believe that Sue would create a better photo. Why? Because she has an inner vision and a skill that only comes with practice. The work she was able to do with her Powershot S5 was proof of that concept. Her recent upgrade to a Rebel XSi has simply made her job easier with a better technical quality. But technical quality is only a fraction of the finished product. The bulk of it is composition and vision – and that is clearly not a stumbling block for our dear friend. And the best part: She does it with the innocence of a child. She admitted to me once that she doesn't often think each composition through before snapping the shutter. But as I've preached many times before: The rules aren’t a guide to creating great photos, they are simply a way for the uninspired to understand art.
So pop on over to Evening Backyard Walk on Flickr, leave a few comments and then head on over to her photo stream to browse some more. You will quickly learn why we here at Shutter Photo love Sue's work so much.