MACRO MAN – On the field with Yogendra Joshi
We decided to meet at Pashan Lake just outside the city which also happens to be a paradise for macro subjects. The aim was to catch the man in action to understand more deeply, the process of making intriguing macro pictures of insects; and boy!!! We were more than charmed by witnessing the dedication shown by a man towards his passion. It was a pleasure to be a part of making macro pictures with Yogendra. During that one hour we asked him all that it takes to create astonishing outcomes drawn out of sole passion towards photography. Truly Inspirational!!
Gaurav : You are now recognized in the field of Macro Photography. This is a difficult form to specialize and even more difficult to continue for over 5 years. How did you choose Macro Photography and how did you get motivation to continue ?
Yogendra : I feel, I did not choose Macro Photography, it chose me and frankly have tried to get away from it a few times and could not. In 2009 I got my first DSLR and first 6 months were wild attempts to try, understand and attempt every type of photography. Light painting, landscapes, portraits, birds, you name it (except events and weddings). In early 2010, I attended a session by Anvay Nakade in the foothills of Sinhagad valley where he introduced the world of Macro Photography. I was naturally drawn to it. My first shot was with a hand-held reverse kit lens but later on started doing experiments with various other “alternative” equipment. My experiments are still going on. I do agree that Macro Photography is a difficult skill to acquire and nurture, but then why do simple things. While everyone around me was either doing landscapes, birding or getting serious into wedding photography, I needed something unique which would satisfy me.
My main source of motivation was the encouragement from family and friends. It became a type of meditation for me to go out early in the morning on weekend and look for insects. I still feel completely at-peace when I am searching for insects or trying to photograph them in best possible way.
Gaurav : What makes Macro Photography so hard ? What is your advice to simplify it ?
Yogendra : Macro Photography is not easy. Looking at Insect Macro Photography (which is my main specialization you can say), the difficulty is on several levels. Firstly, finding the insects, then getting close to them, ensuring that they don’t fly or run away while you are trying to take the photos, getting the right magnification, the right amount and direction of light, battling extremely thin “depth of field” and lastly what I call “magic” angle.
By “Magic Angle” I mean getting into perfect angle with your subject (mostly insect but applies to all tiny objects) so that the available depth of field, usually 1-2 mm, can be used in most effective ways. If you are taking a shot of an insect sideways, then ensure that your camera is perfectly parallel to the eye as well as the tail so that you can get perfectly crisp shot of the whole body in single shot even with such shallow DoF. Visibility many times becomes your enemy as you try to increase the aperture to increase depth of field, the scene starts getting darker and sometimes your eyes pain after 15-20 mins of looking through the view finder.
It takes effort, practice and patience to get through the initial period. Once you do that and start getting good results and enjoying the process then nothing can stop you.
Gaurav : How do you manage to get so many stunning pictures of insects ? How do they allow you to get so close ?
Yogendra : Different insects have different habits so you have to either read or better keep experimenting. With repeated failures you will finally find how and where to find certain insects. For example you can find some insects on bushes around water bodies early in the morning like lakes or river bank. It works out even better in winter when the dew drops make the insects (even butterflies) too heavy to fly away from you.
With some insects you need to be cautious not to let your shadow fall on them else they will get away from you really fast. With damselflies and dragonflies, many will come back to the same branch or rock within 2-5 minutes if you have patience to wait.
Gaurav : How important is the equipment ? Is Macro Photography very expensive hobby considering the lens costs ?
Yogendra : This is the most common misconception I have been fighting for past 6 years. Macro Photography “can” become expensive but it’s not necessary. Yes a dedicated macro lens can be costly (Rs. 40-60 thousand) and can give great results and definitely offer value for the money you put in.
But if you are really interested in Macro Photography and don’t want to spend so much, you can start with virtually zero incremental cost once you have an entry level DSLR and get good results.
You can also buy a reverse ring or manual extensive tubes which are really inexpensive (under Rs. 500) and can use these with kit lens or small prime lens like a 50mm. I have taken plenty of exhibition shots which these.
If you have a telephoto lens, you can add a diopter (like Raynox) which is not too expensive as well. Canon 550D or Canon 1000D Camera body + Sigma 70-300 Lens + Raynox DCR 250 has been my most successful equipment over the years. I also love my manual extension tubes and bellows with a manual 50mm lens.
In my experience, natural light is never enough for live insects (except when they are absolutely still which is rarely the case) so I always prefer to use flash. You can use a pop-up flash or an external flash mounted on the camera also, both would need a diffuser which you can make yourself or buy online. I enjoy making my own light diffusers for Macro Photography.
Here is one of the diffusers I have been using
Gaurav : Do you have to travel faraway places to shoot your insects? How do you manage to take out time for Macro Photography from your busy office schedule ? Also how about the effort to post processes the photos ? Does it take lot of time to post process ?
Yogendra : Insects are everywhere. Any place or any vegetation, flowers or just plain garbage, you will find insects. Some spots are within 10 km from my house. Pashan Lake and ARAI have been my most favourite places, but frankly you can just walk anywhere in bushes and you will find insects. I have been doing macro photography almost alternate weekends or at least once a month. I mostly spend couple of hours in the morning and get few good shots which are sufficient for next 1-2 weeks. I have been posting 1 photo per week day for 5-6 years now. Keeping my post processing to bare minimum (mostly under 2 minutes and maximum 5 minutes for complex things like stacking). That pushes me to get most of the things right in the camera.
Gaurav : What are your photography interest areas beyond Macro Photography ?
Yogendra : I equally enjoy birding and landscapes. I have been lucky to have few photos in both these categories exhibited over last few years. I need to travel to many countries for my work and my camera is always with me.
I also love doing indoor photography, especially involving my kids to blow bubbles or drop things in water or any such “funny” stuff. That gives us some nice moments to remember and some interesting shots too.
Gaurav : In your opinion, what makes a good Macro Photograph ? And what is your advice to achieve the same ?
Yogendra : Sometimes I have seen people giving too much importance to magnification and details in macro photography, but the truth is the photo has to work as art first. For that, the composition, background and lighting play extremely important role. Once you have nailed the composition, magnification and sharp details are important too, but “pleasing to the eye” would take a front seat compared to just magnification and details.
Gaurav : What’s your next project ?
Yogendra : I am currently working hard on handheld stacking shots of live insects with 5-10 shots in quick bursts, each having slightly different area in focus and making the final image extremely detailed. I do aspire to get my hands on some preserved insect specimen and do some studio shots in coming future.. Let’s see if the lady-fortune smiles at me.
One more project in my mind is to create a comprehensive Macro Photography 101 tutorial series where I can share my experience in small incremental steps to anyone who picks up the camera.
Gaurav : We have heard that your son has been bitten by the photography bug recently and is doing great stuff for a 10 year old, would you like to tell us more ?
Yogendra : Couple of years back, when my son Soham was 8 years old, I started teaching Macro Photography. He had seen me do this for a few years and showed keen interest. I was surprised with the speed at which he picked up the basic skills and later also started taking photographs independently. He was honored with a full page story about him in Sanctuary Asia Cubs magazine in Nov 2015. He is continuing his liking for Macro Photography and I am pretty sure he will do better than me soon. That will be a very happy moment for me.
Gaurav : Tell us about your achievements, we are sure you must be having quite a few in your kitty ?
Yogendra : I was fortunate to get good recognition from my Macro Photography. The prestigious Sanctuary Asia has published a permanent online gallery for my pictures and my budget-macro techniques. In March 2016 Wild Sojourns, an online magazine, published an 8 page story about my photography.
These are cherished moments for me. I hope to have more such moments by spreading the love for Macro Photography and bringing it within the reach of every photographer, even the ones just getting started.
That was Yogendra Joshi revealing everything about his passion, we salute him for his no holds barred attitude and wish him the very best for his future projects. If you wish to know more about Yogendra Joshi, visit his website and facebook profile. You can also watch out for his upcoming macro photography workshops that he conducts frequently. Stay tuned for more intriguing encounters and subscribe with us for the best in the photography world.