Macro photography and animal photography are technical subjects, but technology is nothing without emotion. The photo remains empty without emotion, even if you have a full image. Award-winning nature photographer Petar Sabol knows all about this. His work is a wonderful example of how you can apply emotions in the world of macro photography. His photos are technically perfect and remain visually exciting. They fascinate and transcend science.
“Everything can be a problem, so you have much to take into account. The light, the focus, the shutter speed and the depth of field ... this becomes very technical, especially in macro photography. And you have to pay attention to the surroundings as well. Your subjects can fly away or the wind makes flowers and plants move. Yet you must be above all that, to give space to your artistic vision. That space comes to me when I am relaxed, then I feel connected to the subject. Only then can I convey the feeling in the photo, the artistic expression. But I'm not perfect, because it doesn't always work.”
The artistic expression is reflected in the photo below. Petar took this incredible picture of a kingfisher in a dive. According to him this was no coincidence, it took some effort. It took months to capture a fraction of a second.
“Shout; that is what I did after taking this photo! For me, this was a great moment, the culmination of a long process. Before I took this action photo I immersed myself in the kingfisher by photographing it on branches. Then I came up with the idea of doing it differently. I asked myself what the kingfisher would look like under water. The Sony α77 was the fastest camera at the time, 12 frames per second. Enough for that perfect moment. Nowadays the α9 gives us 20 fps. Sony gives us speed so that we can take the perfect picture.”
To make this photo, Petar used an underwater bag to place his camera 50 centimetres below the surface. Just deep enough to feel the immersion in the river, but shallow enough to retain powerful light. In addition, the condition was that it should be sunny, so that the vibrant, natural colours were visible.
“I applied all the elements of the kingfisher photo manually: the focus, the shutter speed and the aperture. I even influenced the place where the bird would go diving. That is where I sprinkled fish feed to lure the bird's prey. Then it was a matter of trial and error. I could not move my camera, I had to respond purely to my subject. You then have no idea what you are recording. Fortunately I had enough passion to keep going, I could imagine what the final result would be like. Was I sometimes frustrated? Certainly! Sometimes the focus was perfect, but the kingfisher just fell out of sight. Sometimes the kingfisher was perfectly in the image, but just not sharp. I really needed perseverance.”
Light creates a natural world and plays an important role in photos. Petar's dedication to light is visible in all his work. His photos are flooded with light, revealing the smallest details of insects and birds. Petar adds drama that brings the overall environment and subjects to life. Petar mainly photographs in the early morning or at sunrise. He then uses the sun as a background. He highlights details from the shadows and vivid colours produced by the Sony cameras with full-frame housing where necessary.
Petar puts his subjects in the spotlight, as it were, by using the light beams. This look is the result of many experiments. Petar calls this ‘photonic bliss’. He creates this effect by using a standard starburst filter, but in the way that you would not expect.
“I often use these filters for a sparkle on important parts of the photo. Especially when animals are exposed from behind and covered with morning dew. With the composition I discovered that with an arrangement from one angle and the sun on the side I get a beautiful beam of light at the corner of the frame. It looks beautiful and it fascinates me. Others probably think that this effect was done with Photoshop or a filter, but it's all thanks to the hardware.”
Experiments with dedication. And that with a great result. Petar can be found in nature where he researches insects and animals that he photographs. And you can clearly see this in his photos; created with the thoughtfulness of studio work, but all made outdoors.
“It's all about the knowledge of your subjects and the connection you have with nature. If I want to take photos in the forest, I investigate the night before where my subjects are mainly located. I study the behaviour of insects when they are active. When the sun goes down, they calm down and look for a place to sleep. I mark their sleeping place. That way I can easily find them the next morning. They are still sleepy because the sun has not yet warmed them up. That way you can easily photograph them. I am already on my way to work before dawn, I don't want to waste my time.”
With these subjects, Petar is also able to apply macro techniques such as focus stacking. Due to the lack of movement, he moves the focus to the entire animal more easily. He always did this manually, but recently he started using an electronic focus rail for his lenses. Petar uses focus stacking if the circumstances are right. But he also always makes a number of shots with a smaller aperture. He carefully positions his camera and photographs subjects from the side for a greater focus range.
“I have discovered many benefits of the camera, both for macro photography and for focus stacking. You can adjust the fully detailed screens for photos in the field in all sorts of ways. The EFFs are unimaginable. Before you take your photo, you can already see exactly what your photo will look like. The changes in exposure and white balance are perfectly clear. It's a great experience to work that way. This is because you take a picture without thinking about what you still have to adjust during the post-processing. Focus peaking is also very useful. This allows me to capture everything with great clarity.”
Award-winning and world-renowned nature photographerPetar Sabol has been a photographer since 2007 and he specializes in nature photography, especially in macro. He takes you into a world of animals that are invisible to the naked eye. Natural light is his most important ingredient for the composition. Because he idealises the beauty of nature, he trusts his positive attitude towards the wonders of nature.
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