Botanic Garden, Zurich

Towards the end of a successful photography course for the IBM Hobby Club, there was a session on the principles of macro photography. I decided to teach the theoretical aspects of this specific type of extreme close-up photography in IBM’s cafeteria because it was rainig heavily on that day. However, as we were preparing our photography gear for the practical part of the session by making it weather-proof, the weather cleared up. At the end, we could take our macro pictures without using the rain covers.     

The  Botanic Garden of Zurich lends itself to macro photography because you can easily find a lot of great subjects to shoot from very close up. In contrast to the studio shootings of flowers and stuffed butterflies– which we also tried out –, the outdoor shooting gives you more experience with the wide variety of ways to take macro shots. I prefer to shoot outdoors because it is very challenging and – as it is with all challenges – it is also extremely rewarding if you succeed in overcoming the hurdles. While shooting pictures in the wild, we have to face problems such as the wind that causes grass blades to move, the sun that casts shadows on the subject or insects that suddenly decide to move and fly away. To capture a living being is especially difficult because its movements forces us to choose a short exposure time, which often conflicts with the light settings. As these issues with outdoor macro photography show, nature is essentially uncontrollable. We have thus to bear in mind that whenever we turn a natural setting into our working environment, a lot can - and a lot does - go wrong.

During our outdoor session in the Botanic Garden, one group was taking pictures outside while the other was sweating in one of the three glasshouses. We thought that taking pictures inside these large glass halls would be easier than shooting pictures outside, but our assumptions proved to be wrong. For example, just in the same way as outdoors, we had to deal with wind inside the glasshouse, namely the wind that was coming from the humidifier. However, coming to grips with this problem was rewarding because of the extraordinarily rich variety of colourful tropical subjects inside these glass halls: It spans from exotic flowers to insects and small rain drops. It is therefore not surprising that after only 90 minutes, everyone had a whole collection of macro pictures. To compare our pictures and discuss unresolved questions, we took a coffee break in the cafeteria of the Botanic Garden.   

After the break, we tried to learn from our mistakes and improve our pictures. Most of the course participants looked for the perfect macro subject until the Botanic Garden closed and the staff had to show us the way to the exit. For Jens and me, the hunt for pictures was not over after leaving the garden. On the contrary, we came across bees that were drinking water. They were so preoccupied with their business that they did not realize that we were taking lots and lots of pictures of them.

This hunt for the unique macro shot was another pleasant afternoon with you, IBM folk. Thank you and I hope to see you soon again in Rüschlikon in a new photography course.