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Macro Love

by Tara

Flowers make me happy. I don't care if it is cliché, they just do! When we got our first camera I was thrilled when I realized I could finally capture the beauty I see in them. When we get home I'm going to grow a massive garden so Tyler and I can photograph flowers and bugs to our hearts' content.

Tara + Blue Bell Forest Lupine & Ladybug

When our full frame SLR arrived (a Nikon D700), I was really bummed to learn that none of the lenses we had could focus close enough to photograph a flower. Tyler tried to comfort me by saying we could crop the photos to make them look closeup. We gave it a shot, but it didn't work well. Even if it had, to me, it just wouldn't be the same. I didn't enjoy the process at all, and it felt like cheating.

Poppy & Train

For the past day or two, Tyler has been obsessively reading and downloading information about photography. I haven't thought too much of it; his deep, borderline obsessive drive to constantly be learning something new is more or less par for the course (his typical concentration scowl from a day in France shown below).

Tyler Working

What I did not know, was that he was working on something for me! He discovered a way for us to use our current gear to take macro photos! Apparently, if we reverse either of our prime lenses (a lens with a fixed focal length, or more simply, a lens that doesn't zoom) they both become usable macro lenses.

Very pleased, Tyler presented his findings to me last night as a gift. Suddenly I was able to do my favorite thing again, and get way, way closer than I ever could before. I was surprised, touched, and very eager to give the idea a shot. Thank you Tyler!

Tara's First Macro Shots (Reversed 50mm Prime)

Until we get a special "lens reversal ring" which will allow us to attach a lens backwards on our camera, holding the two pieces together is a little fiddly. Nevertheless, the possibilities are incredible. Teeny tiny flowers fill the frame. From those miniature daisies I was taking photos of above, I was able to capture this:

Center of a Tiny Daisy

Here are some of my first attempts. Some are out of focus, but I really love how they glow. Since the lens isn't physically attached to the camera when held like this, I have to do everything manually. It is tricky, but the process is really engaging and rewarding. As an added benefit, I'm really beginning to understand how you can control depth of field (how much of the photo is in focus) because everything is greatly exaggerated in macro.

Tiny Daisy Withering Flower Luminous Withering Flower

Along with my excitement about growing a huge garden some day, I also cannot wait to keep bees. I love how, depending on the light and the level of focus, these bees can seem almost sweetly cartoony…

Pretty Springtime Bee

…or freakishly real.

Freaky Bee

I am so thrilled with this new setup! These flowers were tiny. Everything we were photographing was about the size of this baby orange flower—note how teeny it is in comparison to Tyler's fingers.

Tiny Orange Flower Tiny Orange Flower

Though Tyler found out how to do this essentially for me, I wasn't the only one to reap the benefits. Here are some of his first attempts at macro bug shots, starting with this fuzzy, rainbow-colored beauty:

Fuzzy Rainbow Bug

This almost microscopic green bug was seriously no bigger than the eye of the needle. It was so small, we had a lot of trouble finding it again if we looked away!

Tiny Green Bug

Dwarfed in size by something as minuscule as a mosquito, this little creature lives in a completely different world than we do. Tyler said it felt astonishingly intimate to capture its face, looking up at him through the light, as if seeing an alien landing or a giant finding its way into his little world. Eerie!

Tiny Green Bug in Awe

When we weren't taking pictures of extraordinarily small things, we had a normal riding day.

Hotel View

We did the usual winding around town until we found a grocery store, loading up for the upcoming mountain pass. Stopping at a little park, we sat on a bench and ate an entire box of cereal with a whole carton of milk. Then, we set off into the gorgeous day to climb.

Greek Road

It was a relatively easy mountain pass, never too steep to make it uncomfortable. We made it to the top, some 800 meters, and coasted our way into flat, flat Thessaly.

Descending into Thessaly

We stopped for lunch on a dirt road overlooking the busy highway that was under construction.

Dirt Road Lunch Break

And then we hit the road again, enjoying our great weather and flat roads. These two things, especially the great weather, really do wonders for our spirits!

Towards the end of the day, we rode through an invisible cloud of a delicious savory aroma. Pizza! We both came to a quick stop and agreed we had to find it, buy it, and devour it as quickly as possible. Looking around, we realized that the only place in the near vicinity was a gas station that looked to have a cafe. We wheeled our bikes over to investigate, only to find that they didn't serve food.

We were a little disappointed by this teasing phantom aroma, until I realized something. Well, we had flour and water, and we had tomato paste and oregano and basil and garlic and cheese… and so we decided to make pizza and bake it in our little oven.

We found a great free-camp in a field, hidden by a small patch of woods on one side and a pile of green brush on the other.

Tara Us

Tyler set up camp, while I made pizza. Instead of making dough, we used bread slices which was obviously much more convenient and a lot less messy.

Sleeping Bag & Helmets Bread Pizzas!

For the sauce, I used one little tube of tomato paste, two cloves of garlic, some salt, pepper, chili flakes, oregano, basil, and a little sugar. A drizzle of olive oil and the sauce was done. I have no idea what kind of cheese we had because the label was in Greek. Tyler took the role of baker and inserted the slices into our oven to cook.

Oven Flames

It was so good! We both agreed we have to make bread pizzas a lot more often.

Free Camp Sunset

Tomorrow we should make it to Kalampaka, where we'll explore the Meteora!

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Magnificent photos!
You are making me so jealous and desirous of an SLR :-) but I already know our propensity to be lazy with photo taking when cycling so I am telling myself to just admire your photos!
And it's almost time for bluebells again ...
Posted by oanh on March 22nd, 2010 at 5:30 AM
I was just thinking of you, wondering what you were up to! Great to hear from you. It's hard to believe it is spring again and that we met almost a YEAR ago! Crazy!

Anyway, thank you for your kind words about our photos. We love taking them, and get lazy about the actual cycling part of touring sometimes. :-)

Are your tour plans still in the works? Hope you and Nic are doing well!
Posted by Tara on March 24th, 2010 at 3:07 PM
Fabulous up close photos! I can't wait to see more as you get the lens to attach to the camera in backwards position. The other day I walked through the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum nature photography exhibit and thought of you and your ever increasing skill and understanding of taking great photos.
~Julia H.
Posted by Julia on March 26th, 2010 at 9:20 PM
We're well! Our tour plans are still chugging along. Matter of fact, we went to pick out a bicycle (each) this weekend...

We'll be letting you know when we set off and where we're blogging :-D

We're planning some time in Greece probably around the same time (or a bit earlier in the year) than you have been there, so your stories have been very helpful, especially in knowning we won't freeze!

take care and happy cycling!
Posted by oanh on March 29th, 2010 at 2:30 PM
Thanks Jules! :D

Oanh - Great to have your update! Okay good, please do let us know when you set off! You take care too. :-)

Re: Greece - Go to Crete! It is so friendly and beautiful, and significantly warmer, especially in the wintertime.
Posted by Tara on March 30th, 2010 at 4:44 AM