Nature Closeup

Nature photography close-up of a butterfly

Close Up Photography in Nature

You are seeing this butterfly about twice it’s normal size. John took this beautiful image with a 100mm macro (close-up) lens and Kodak 800 Max film. Exposure was f11 at 1/500th, hand-held! See how this self-proclaimed “serious amateur” manages to generate these marvelous, first-rate images.

Nature Closeup - Butterfly

I met John at the local drugstore where he was looking over his latest “take” of nature photos. On one roll of Kodak Max 800 film he had captured an astounding variety of beautiful macro photographs, including a praying mantis, a bee (full-frame), the buckeye butterfly (top of the page) and others. He is totally self-motivated, shooting for the love of photography and constantly challenging himself to improve.

Nature Close Up - Praying Mantis

His favorite “hunting ground” is a small garden maintained by the City of North Wildwood (NJ). He approaches his photography much like those wildlife photographers who stalk grizzlies and tigers. He knows their habits, is patient and quiet, sometimes even building blinds to camouflage himself in order to capture his subjects.

Nature Closeup - baby chicks

If you wish to become an accomplished wildlife photographer, this is an excellent training lesson for you. It can be done simply, with a minimum of equipment, and the cost is low. John uses an older Minolta X7000 SLR camera with two lenses – a 100mm macro and a 500mm mirror.

He does not use special filters, ring lights, reflectors or flashes. He keeps it simple, insisting that “more shots are messed up due to camera shake than anything else”. All of his shots are hand-held.

For this shot, John built a “blind”, completely covering his bedroom window except for a small hole to poke the lens through. He pressed his 100mm macro (adding a 2X tele-extender) against the glass (to avoid camera shake) and made a few exposures.

Nature Closeup - dragonfly

John captured this dragonfly with his 500mm mirror lens, which he usually uses for shooting egrets and other birds of the wetlands.. “It’s kind of tricky because you cannot change the aperture (it is fixed at f8) and the 500mm is hard to hold still. But I was intrigued by the dragonfly’s wings, the markings are different and I wanted to show the detail. Depth of field is so shallow that the wings on the left start to blur.


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  1. Persons like John Kirchner have been the source of inspiration for budding nature photogrphers who have great passion in nature and photography at the same time. John must be amazingly determined and steady person especially with his handiworks. He is successful in bringing up the tiny natural world yet so vast, to the eyes eager to see this world always anew.

  2. hi i was reading about nature photography and i was hoping that you could help we out on what kind of equipment i need how much money would i make and information about nature photography. thank you so much

    1. Kimberly, a good digital camera, macro lens, tripod… You can send me an email with more specific questions and we can get you moving in the right direction 🙂

  3. Hi! I’m just starting out and I have a Kodak 12xis 8.1 meg pix HD. And I’m into horses, wildlife, and just every day picture taking. I was wanting to know if I need a better camera?

    1. The best person to estimate if you need a new digital camera or not is you. I can tell you that there are some better cameras out there, but you would pay more money for features that you may not want to use just yet. I enjoy getting cameras with features I don’t know how to use because it gives me a chance to learn. The courses on this website are designed to help everyone’s photos with any camera get better.

  4. Hi, i have really enjoyed reading bits on your website. I have done my A-level in photography and so i understand most of the fundementals, however i have been thinking about selling my photos but would like to ask you, how do you know if your photos are good enough to sell and how could i go about doing it? Thankyou for your time in reading this and i hope to hear from you soon, kind regards Emily

    1. Emily- You’ll never know until you try. There are many avenues out there for selling your photographs. Stock Photography providers such as istockphoto are always looking for new talented photographers. Build a portfolio and submit some of your work. There are also many ways to sell your photos online. What type of photographs will you sell?

  5. Hi , I’m buying a Nikon D5000 with , Micro Nikkor 105mm lens , AF-S 300mm telephoto and a Fisheye 10.5mm Nikkor, One Macro Ring Flash and one speed light flash for Nikon (THIS LAST item really I’m Lost) , I’m wondering if all this equipment will give me the right results for taking professional pictures in the future? I’m risking good money and I will like to know if I’m going to the right direction.
    I want to become in a professional photographer for weddings and I enjoy very much photography and wildlife , but I don`t have any idea about all this , I’m learning in the process while I´m trying to make some money at the same time .
    Please can you give some directions ?

    1. A speedlight just puts out a stronger, more concentrated flash compared to a continuous light. Also, the speedlight should sync up with your camera to get the iso, aperture and shutter speed when used in a semi automatic mode, such as aperture priority. That macro is supposed to be awesome for close ups, and the telephoto will definitely come in handy, although I would probably go with something a little shorter, like maybe the 70-200 lens. I would also suggest something that is a little wider angle besides the fisheye. I like the effect of fisheye but you’re not going to want to use it every time and you need a wide angle to get the family shots. Carrie Butler uses the 24-70 a LOT and loves it, and she’s thinking of trying to get an even wider angle, like maybe a 16mm, to use once in a while, especially to shoot the dance floor etc.

  6. Your photography is quite breath-taking. You portray the beauty of nature very well. Also, are there any tips you can give me? Thanks.

  7. Hi i am very fortunate to spend the English winter at my home in Central India, i live next to Kanha Tiger Reserve and often walk go on elephant and drive my 4×4 around the jungles near my home, i often see beautiful wildlife including leapords and Tigers, i have a Nikon D700 with a Nikon 200-400mm vr lens, but really do not know how to use it..i really want to learn about the equipment i have and take really good photographs of the amazing animals i come and what would you suggest i do

  8. hi iam interested in learning nature photography..i love hobby is to take snaps regd nature from my terrace..can u plz help me in learning..n also earn money with it..

  9. I’m talking about 1st image(butterfly).You captured it with Kodak 800 film. Doesn’t 800 film make a lot of noise like dots and that image has little noise. How did you do it?
    please give me a answer

    1. If you look in the green you can see a little bit of the film grain effect. I seem to see more of a grain effect in digital ISO than you do in film with ISO of 800. The fact that the picture was much larger and has been shrunken also helps minimize the appearance of a grain effect.

  10. I am 17 year old boy from assam (india) and i want to join a course on Photography. I have a Nokia mobile with 3.2 mp cemera and took various types of closeup pictures with it…..And so i want to learn nature photography…

    1. Nadir, the best way to blur the background with a point and shoot camera like yours is to use the macro mode and do an up close shoot with the background being at least a few feet back from the subject.

  11. i have just started out in nature photography and macro shots are one of my specialties. john and i share the same passion for the micro world and having the joy to bring that sight to the majority that may never see something like the preditorial look of a mantis, or the close up of a butterfly taking a drink of nectar from a flower. these are the passions that i enjoy most. you can also check out some of my macro shots on facebook. let me know what ya think and enjoy the simple pleasures of nature.

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