Defamiliarizing the Everyday – Front-garden Macro

Anyone familiar with Russian Formalist literary theory (yes, I really sell my blog to my readers, don’t I!) will know the concept of Ostanenie, usually translated as ‘estrangement’, or ‘defamiliarization’, whereby one of art’s greatest abilities is to enhance audiences’ perceptions of their own culture and surroundings by presenting them with what they already know in unusual and arresting ways. Without being too pseudy, this is what I feel about why I like macro photography, and often I sense that some of my most satisfying work comes from making images on this basis.


Here are two shots I took just a few minutes ago in my front garden, using mundane items from autumn and presenting them in intriguing ways.


The backdrop is the slate surface of a rock garden. against this context, the Sycamore Seed seems somehow enhanced, and strangely unfamiliar, and larger than life.


The textures and detail in the leaf allow you momentarily to forget what it really is and think about it in different ways.


Both shots taken with D800E and 200f4micro, shot at ISO 100, 1 second at f/16, using spot metering off the darkest tonal areas at about -2EV to maintain a moody atmosphere.  The second shot was cropped for composition, but the first is pretty much full frame.  Neither shots needed too much editing beyond some levels and curves and sharpening.


This last detail is important: if I can used matrix metering and gone for 0EV, the rocks would have become far too bright. In the shots here, there are virtually no tones beyond midtones, but no blacks are underexposed.


A circular polarizer was used to carefully control the amount of reflected light from the damp subjects, to get the effect I wanted.


Winged Seed



Textures of Leaf and Stone



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: