Tag Archives: macro photography

Mustard macros: spot on!

When you are looking for a little bit of nourishing comfort food, nothing is finer with vegetarian sausages, buttery mash, some steamed green vegetables and really thick gravy, than a dollop of English mustard on the side.  Even living in tropical Brunei, it is a little home-cooked taste of England that we still treat ourselves with every few weeks.  If we draw the curtains, put all the side lights on to create a soft glow, and crank up the air conditioning, we could almost pretend it is a chilly autumnal evening! Almost. Well, close enough.

Closer than the days when we are invited to the Officers’ Mess for a Sunday roast. Thirty or forty adults and children, all dressed up and sat out on the shaded veranda in the midday heat, sweating profusely but grimly determined to enjoy their roast beef, yorkshire puddings and all the trimmings (English mustard included, of course!).  And if they are not feeling uncomfortably weighed down and warm by then, there is always a hearty apple crumble and custard to follow.  Truly, ‘mad dogs and English men’ doesn’t even begin to cover it!

 

So that was the first thought that ran through my head when I saw that this week’s one word colour from Jennifer Nichole Wells was mustard.  Sauce jars aren’t in my usual photographic subject area though!  Still, I knew pretty much immediately which photos would fit the bill, and they seemed to have to go as a pair, mottled as they both were.  I think these two mustard macros knock the spots off Colman’s! Yeah, okay lame word play, but I just had to do it…forgive me?!

 

Of course you just can’t think of the colour without thinking off the condiment!  So a little dab of mustard on the side of the plate, courtesy of Nigel Slater:

“Almost anything is edible with a dab of French mustard on it.”

(Nigel Slater,  The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater).

Nigel Slater is an English food writer – ‘a cook who writes’ as he humbly calls himself.  He is an all-time food hero of mine  because of his approach to seasonality, honesty of flavours and simplicity in his cooking style. Not to mention that everything he makes always looks delicious and beautifully presented, even when it is just a simple supper.  My food photography skills are dreadful, so looking at his photographs is a genuine inspiration.  And if it means I have to go make (and eat!) something in order to practice my photography skills, well I guess that is just the price I have to pay!

 

 

Moorland macro moments.

All this recent talk of weather and seasons is making me feel all nostalgic for the gloomy, brooding heaths and moorlands of England, where there was just the slightest tang of the approaching Autumn in the air when I visited.

As I walked, there was a fine mist over the hills, and a drizzling rain.  Everything was shrouded in thick grey cloud and dimmed.  That feeling you get when you walk into a room, flip on the light and wait for the energy-saving lightbulb to really reach full brightness.

The raw, untamed wildness of the heaths and moors is timeless, and it had me thinking of some of my favourite vintage classics.  Characters in novels I’ve read so often that they are like well-known friends talking about their own love for the place.

‘I wish I were out of doors! I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free […] I’m sure I should be myself were I once among the heather on those hills.’

(Wuthering Heights; Emily Bronte)

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But the grand scale of the moors in all their gloomy desolation did not lessen the beauty close to hand.  Nature’s bounty was jewel-bright all around me.  Flowers and fruit in profusion everywhere.  Absolute macro photography heaven.

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‘The longer one stays here the more does the spirit of the moor sink into one’s soul, its vastness, and also its grim charm.’

(The Hound of the Baskervilles; Arthur Conan Doyle)

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‘There’s naught as nice as th’ smell o’ good clean earth, except th’ smell o’ fresh growin’ things when th’ rain falls on ’em.’

(The Secret Garden; Frances Hodgson Burnett)

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‘If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.’

(The Secret Garden; Frances Hodgson Burnett)

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‘I touched the heath: it was dry, and yet warm with the heat of the summer day. I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star twinkled just above the chasm ridge. The dew fell, but with propitious softness; no breeze whispered. Nature seemed to me benign and good; I thought she loved me […] To-night, at least, I would be her guest, as I was her child: my mother would lodge me without money and without price.’

(Jane Eyre; Charlotte Bronte)

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It was only a very brief stop, but I really connected with the vast, pared back beauty of the place.  The landscape was awe-inspiring.  I know I’ll be back there at some point to explore more thoroughly.

Flowers by the wayside.

“Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”
― A.A Milne

This time a year a go I was hugely, breathlessly, stretched-to-popping pregnant.  But happily back in England, frantically taking every possible opportunity to get out with my camera.

Who knows what people must have thought when they saw me waddling around to find the ideal spot and then lying down (with a great deal of effort!) on the grass in the park to take photos of the buttercups and daisies.  I certainly got some funny looks!

I didn’t care though; I was like a kid in a sweet shop.  And I didn’t want to waste a single chance to enjoy the great outdoors as I was only intending to be back in the UK for long enough to give birth and recover for a couple of weeks (not quite what happened in the end, but that’s another story!).

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Perhaps that seems particularly odd behaviour for someone living in the ‘wilds of Borneo’? Well, the nature here is incredible, and I am in wildlife enthusiast heaven.  But photography can be challenging at times.

It is seriously hot and sticky for one thing.  All the time.  Longer than 30 minutes and you are usually cooked and uncomfortable and not really having much fun at all.

Also, most things – flora and fauna – are unfamiliar to a girl more used to the rolling English countryside than wild jungle landscapes.  I am learning my way round slowly, but I’m still cautious.  Can I touch this without getting a physical reaction to sap or pollen? Will this harmless looking bug suddenly fly/bite/squirt me in the eye with something unpleasant?  Will that patch of dense jungle ferns be providing shelter to a new litter of feral kittens (usually in our neighbourhood) or a deadly and pretty hostile snake (also often in our neighbourhood)?

All that aside, the flowers here are just so beautiful.  Some of them are really enormous and flashy.  The stereo-typical tropical hot-house flowers.  But then there are some really dainty, tiny little things, that you’ll only spot if you are walking and stop to peer closely at the mass of green before you.

Those are the kind that really jumped out at me this week.  Some people might think of them as weeds, but I just loved their colours and textures.  How have I not noticed the pink fizzballs before?  They are only the size of a baby’s fingernail, but so striking.  Although don’t ask me what they are.  I haven’t got a clue!

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When we first got to Brunei I’d tried – in my newly arrived, ‘how much pain can an insect bite really be?’ enthusiasm – to carry on as usual, getting out and taking photos.  The first time I fully lay down on the grass for an eye level flower shot was the last! Fire ants and mosquitoes make a very unpleasant combination!  And you’d be surprised how many bites you can get in under five minutes!

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My finely honed in-Brunei photography approach has evolved to include a kind of crouching, forward leaning, minimal-skin-in-contact-with-the-ground posture.  Effective for getting those flower photos, if rather inelegant and ungainly! It wasn’t physically possible when I had a huge pregnancy belly.  I did try! Think spectacularly inelegant and ungainly…before losing balance and toppling sideways.

I have been trying to make up for lost time on the flower photography recently.  And I drench myself liberally in insect repellent these days!  I’m not sure how effective that last step is, but if it stops even one mosquito then it is worth it!  There’s no way I’m giving up on flowers while I’m out here.  Even if they are just pretty weeds!

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