Close Up Photography, an Emotional Approach to Nature Photography

Author: Phil McDermott

From wide open spaces to rugged mountains, rolling meadows to dramatic coastlines they all play an important part in the nature of landscape. However, with such a view it is often hard to appreciate the beauty because there is nowhere for the eye to settle and concentrate on.

Why not take a fresh approach to nature photography and concentrate on part of the view and take time to consider color, shape and texture to really appreciate the finer features of the scene.

Enter the world of close up photography that lies just beyond the familiar but so rich in detail and beauty. If we look through our close up lens with an open mind, imagination and childlike curiosity there are many close up photography opportunities for us to consider.

As nature photographers we can take this concept further, for example that distant bright yellow patch becomes on closer inspection a riotous stand of broom flowers. Closer still we see clearly the intricate detail in each flower and seedpod that we can record in our close up photography.

Now go really close, look at the seedpod with its gossamer covering of fine hairs and we start to appreciate how things fit together. Whilst this is not a scientific approach it provides a raw and basic understanding, offers enlightenment and lets us become an integral part of nature. So by going close up and concentrating on a small part of the whole we have simplified our close up photography subject, made it basic, powerful and memorable,.

There is no need to go far, finding close up nature photography opportunities should be seen as a journey of the soul, inner vision and contemplation rather than visiting a far off place. Often the deeper we look into our close up photography subjects the more rewarding they become. Without hesitation they reveal their treasures allowing us time to admire their quality. With this awareness the nature photographer with a passion for close up photography is indeed privileged.

Appreciating that all these parts form an important relationship with each other makes it is easier to understand that the whole is made up of many unique parts and like pieces of a jigsaw they combine together to create a complete picture. Indeed, only by appreciating the significance of the smallest parts of our surroundings can we can start to make sense of nature as a whole and incorporate this awareness into our close up photography.

Emotion and drama and be found in often overlooked close up photography cameos, like a delicate flower growing defiantly in a boulder crevice, its tenuous grip on life dependent on the sustenance from the crevice debris. Yet it lives on year after year, testimony to its determination and resilience. It is this inter-action that is so enduring and compelling that makes these interesting subjects perfect for nature photography.

As a close up photographer getting close up to nature allows a greater understanding and appreciation of the beauty of the natural world. For example a cold clear winter day with breathtaking crispness can be ideal for close up photography, in these conditions there are magical patterns in snow, frost and shimmering icicles. Ice patterns make perfect winter close up photography subjects; they literally capture a moment frozen in time. Depending on the prevailing weather conditions some have smooth curves whilst others show harsh jagged lines providing creative close up photography opportunities.

Early morning in spring and summer can be a wonderful time to find close up photography subjects. Flowers and grasses covered with dew or fine rain make fascinating close up photography studies, the fine hairs hold onto droplets of water almost defy gravity. In the right conditions there may be insects that after a night’s inactivity have become encrusted with minute droplets. Butterflies make excellent close up photography subjects and look stunning covered in dew as they sparkle like a myriad of jewels.

Light quality plays an important role in our close up photography, if it is too harsh the increase in contrast will actually block out the very close up detail we are trying to photograph. It is far better to have diffused light that occurs with high thin cloud cover. It provides a much softer quality of light and allows the detail, texture and nuances to be clearly seen and recorded in our close up photography. Color also influences our interpretation of the subject, vibrant colors like red and yellow for example suggest dominance and power, whereas muted tones like grey and browns convey basic, earthy and tranquil feelings.

So, if we approach our close up photography with childlike wonder and a renewed vision the natural world is undoubtedly a beautiful place. To fully appreciate it requires a little time and an inquisitive mind, it will reward you with the knowledge that even the simplest of things can bring satisfaction, contentment, harmony and inner peace.


About the Author:

Phil McDermott, Scotland Commercial Photographer and Close up Photography Workshops.


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27 thoughts on “Close Up Photography, an Emotional Approach to Nature Photography”

  1. Take your photgraphy even further after exploring the classes here - sign up for the Photography Masterclass Click Here!
  2. Hi! I’m a budding photographer in her preteens. I’m in love with photography, but my parents are shying away from pursuing it because of the pricey, ‘tools.’ (camera, tripod, lenses,etc.) Right now I use my ipod touch 4G, but I’m not satisfied with the quality. I have been looking at cameras and tips for a while now, and I have completed lesson 1. How can I convince my parents to let me buy one, even if it’s with my own money? What camera would you reccommend? (Preferably under 150…) Also, what is a good camp/ course to help me understand photography? I look forward to hearing back from you!

    1. It’s great to hear your enthusiasm and passion for photography.

      As for convincing your parents to invest in a camera, right now I’d suggest taking a ton of photos and continually just showing them what you’ve created with just your phone – don’t try to convince them they need to help you get better equipment, just keep showing your passion and sharing your success with them. One of the things a parent is concerned about is not the investment but rather that the investment will become wasted – many people want to pursue things like photography, then never actually do anything with it. If you continue to show passion using just what you have, pretty shortly I suspect they’ll figure out this is truly something you want to continue doing.

      It wouldn’t hurt to also occasionally buy a photography magazine just to learn about techniques and start learning about the equipment – and if it happens to be left sitting out….

      As for a camera, I’d suggest continuing to save up. If you’re truly meant to be doing photography I’d suggest waiting until you can get a camera that has interchangeable lenses and you can easily do fully manual exposures. Most cameras in the $150 price range are point and shoot cameras that will in the end limit you more than help you learn. A P&S camera is handy to have, and I’ve used them myself, but you’ll learn more from a basic dSLR or mirrorless camera. Unfortunately you’ll need at least $400 to get into a more serious camera.

    2. HI!!! im a teen myself, so idk much about cams, but i LOVE photography, and I’m still learning, and yeah its tuff convincing parents to let u buy a new cam.. lol 🙁 what i suggest is maybe start a viewbug account, and when you’ve got more success, then u can show ur parents that its actually working!!! 🙂 the cam i have right now is a Canon Powershot SX130, and I’m pretty happy with it, since it takes pretty sharp pix and i can go really closeup to the subject… it costs around $250, but u can buy a refurbished or used one for under $150… I would be glad to help with anything else! My Pleasure! #LittleBelieberThings
      P.S. this is my view bug link so if u get an account, feel free to get in touch with me!!! 🙂

    3. Hi Angel, I’m also a teen that loves photography. I got a point – and – shoot camera for a gift a few years ago, and I used it a lot to just learn the basics of photography, not settings so much because that camera didn’t have many. But after a while I figured out the basics and wanted to up grade, so just a few weeks ago I bought myself a Canon EOS Rebel t6. It cost a quite a bit of money, but I have no regrets in spending the money. Make sure that you are serious about photography before you buy a expensive camera, because it is a lot of money to spend on just a passing whim. And make sure you show your parents as many good pictures as you can on your iPod. And don’t stop when you get your camera either! 😀

  3. I have a Canon EOS 1100D Rebel T3 camera. I love to take pictures of wildlife. I would like to know what is the best zoom/telephoto lens to use to accomplish this,

    1. The lenses I see a lot of wildlife photographers using are: 70-200mm f2.8, 300mm f2.8 or f4, 400mm f4 or f5.6 (the faster the better). If you’re on a budget you could go for one of those 18 to 300 but they get really slow (around f6) at the 300mm end and they aren’t as crisp.

      I’d suggest if you’re on a budget, start with the basic 70-200 f4 Canon. Its a very sharp lens and with your camera actually is the equivalent of a 300mm lens at the long end.

  4. Hi I am trying to find my nich in close up abstracts in color and b&w. Getting the fine details of a oak leaf that sort of photo. I currently am using a Sony A37 with 50mm and a 50-200mm. Is there a better lense I could use for this type of Photography? Thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom….Rickey

    1. Sorry – unfortunately I’m not able to keep up on all the different cameras, lenses and other assorted gear at. I would check out for more information on gear.

    1. Although it’s expensive, I use Adobe Photoshop for the most detailed editing – it is the king.

      On a budget there are a few other choices. I would start with Adobe Lightroom – it does a lot of the ‘heavy lifting’ as well as helps organize the images in our studio. You can do an amazing amount of the editing with Lightroom now.

      Photoshop Elements is the stripped down version of Photoshop – and works very well for many people, but again I find Lightroom more usable for most of the edits I do.

      I know people use Corel Paintshop Pro – I haven’t used it myself so can’t really comment but it might be worth looking at (it is Windows only.)

      1. There are several freeware versions of photo manipulation software that will work as well. Google’s Picasa is the easiest for most novice users as it requires minimal steps. With some reading most novices can teach themselves to use Another program on the same level but with a few different options is Irfanview. Gimp is much more complex but offers most of the same manipulation options as Adobe Photoshop. There are several You Tube videos that explain how to use all of the aforementioned software. One piece of advice would be: After making changes to the original photo never select “Save” to save the changes as you may want or need the original photo. Instead select “Save As” and change the name of the altered photo. (Ex – originally save to computer as: DSC0110.jpg. “Save As” DSC0110A.jpg)

  5. Just bought the Nikon D3200 and I’m interested in Nature and Landscapes & about to start learning about all the different parts to photography, what Lenses should I be buying as I only have the 18-55mm…Thanks,

    1. For nature and landscape I’d suggest getting either a macro lens to get up and close for details, or a wide lens such as a 10-20mm.

  6. Im into photography, close photography for exact, I have GE X500 brand camera, 16 mp, 15x optical zoom, 27 mm wide angle…i just want to ask what’s this 27-405 mm, and GE 15x Wide aspheric ED Lens 4.9-73.5mm 1:3.0-5.2 printed around the side of the lens? and is this camera ok? i want to have splendid photos but the problem is im just a student, i cant buy a better camera like dlsr. and can i join contest using this camera?

  7. Hi! photography is kinda like my hobby, but i like it so much, the problem is that i’ve been saving for a bridge camera, but i saw a lot of comments saying that “bridge cameras are not dslr” now, should i stick to buying a bridge camera or just save up more for a dslr?

  8. Recently i got enthusiastic with photography and on the go i have taken a nikon D3000. I want to take beautiful photos and become a very good photographer.
    My only request to you is that if you could help me with the setting of my camera under diffrent conditions of photography

  9. hi i’m new in photography. i want to buy a camera within $240. which one will be the best?
    i’m quite interested about NICON L830.
    is it will be ok if i buy this?
    is there anyone who have faced any problem with that camera?

  10. I recently got a Canon Rebel T3i (previously I had the Rebel 35mm) and I am having problems taking pictures of deer in woods and birds on tree limbs. My subject is out of focus and the branch or leaves are in focus instead.
    How can I fix this problem??
    Thank you

    1. The P900 is a fine camera that will certainly let you take your photography further than a simple point-and-shoot type camera. Having a changeable lens like on a dSLR or mirrorless camera alows a bit more flexibility, so you will eventually find some limitations especially when you want to do limited depth of field kinds of photography. But, otherwise it seems like a pretty decent purchase.

  11. Hello! sir . Im a begineer and I love photography. All I wanted to know if I want to click Light travelling so at what shutterspeed and ISO do I click all these images ? . Btw your lessons are great inspiring and motivational. Thankyou! Are you on Instagram or any other social platform where I can see your pics and take feedback as well from my pics tho.

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