Magnolia Breakfast

Magnolia Breakfast

In a recent post I suggested that one way to get inspired to take pictures is to simply look at more pictures, and one of the best ways to do that is by signing up for an account at Instagram, Flickr, or some other type of online photo-sharing-slash-viewing service. My cousin Beth, for instance, takes all kinds of amazing images with little more than an iPhone and an Olloclip:

Looking at her photos and many others on Instagram has helped inspire me to find new and creative ways of using my own camera, and even though I don’t have any gear capable of taking true macro shots I enjoy looking at her pictures to get ideas for my own photography. Case in point: this week’s image which you see at the top of the page of a fly resting on a magnolia seed pod. As I was biking across campus on my way to work recently I noticed several of these pods on the ground and though I’d stop and see if I could get a few good shots. Seeing these¬†brown hulls with red seeds poking out is kind of a unique experience that only happens during a short window of time each autumn, and I wanted to capture their surreal beauty with (what else?) my go-to D200 + 50mm lens combo.

Trouble is, this lens has a minimum focusing distance of about 1.5 feet, which means macro shots are out of the question. But when I saw a fly perched atop this seed pod I wanted to try getting a shot of it despite not being able to get very close. The problem then became one of framing: how should I position the subject in my picture so as to have maximum visual impact, and also make sure the fly stood out from the brown background? I didn’t have much time to work with since a) I was on my way to work and b) the fly was likely to take flight any second, so I laid on the ground and scooted as close as I dared without disturbing the insect, opened up the aperture to f/1.8 to get as thin of depth of field as possible, and fired off a couple shots.

The result, while being inspired by Beth’s picture, is different in several ways: the fly is one aspect of a bigger overall composition and almost serves as a secondary focal point to the seed pod itself: many viewers might first notice the seeds and only¬†then realize there’s a fly on top. There’s also some foreground and background elements to give the picture a greater sense of context, and the green grass helps add a bit of color to what would otherwise be a rather dichromatic image. All that being said, I do think a set of Kenko extension tubes would be pretty cool :)


  1. very inspiring image based on the equipment. I use a 100mm macro lens on my dslr.

    • Having a macro lens like that would be aaaawesome :) Do you have any place online where you share pics you’ve taken?

  2. Simon —
    Interesting photo today. When I first looked at it, I was trying to figure out what the red (seeds) were. My focus was on them given their bright color contrasted with the muted brown and green around them. Then, and only then, did I see the fly! There he is perched on the seed pod! Using an aperture of f1.8 really blurred out the background and part of the foreground. I will say that almost every week you surprise me by the bokeh which can be achieved without going to f1.4 or f1.2 aperture. Thank you for continuing your teaching.
    On another note, please know that prayers were said here for the people killed and injured as a result of the car crash last weekend during the homecoming parade. God is with them.

    • Thank you for your comments David, and for your thoughts and prayers too. It’s been a rough couple of days here in Stillwater but we’re learning to adjust and get back to normal…

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