I’m happy to feature my friend and fellow professional nature photographer Erez Marom on the blog. Erez’ specialty is macro but he also enjoys landscapes. Erez is actually doing a Costa Rica workshop in July 2012 through my company Foto Verde Tours. This trip will focus on macro but will also have lots of other great opportunities. Erez will be sharing his techniques with you throughout the trip, and of course you’ll be taken care of by Foto Verde Tours staff at some of my favorite photography locations, including a couple of secret spots that I only share with Foto Verde Tours clients. There are still a few spots open but the signups are starting to come in quickly. So, if you’re interested, please check out the trip here on the Foto Verde Tours website. Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed, Erez!
I am a nature photographer, although I do occasionally shoot other things. I concentrate on the fields of macro and landscape, both of which represent to me the diversity and beauty of our natural world. When shooting macro I do my best to connect the subject to its natural environment, but also to stimulate emotion. Lots of macro subjects can be really funny and curious in their appearance and behavior, and bringing these emotions to the viewer can really give the extra touch an ‘ordinary’ wildlife shot would lack. I’m usually noted for my extensive use of natural (available) light. I feel that this gives my images their characteristic, very natural-looking quality.
When shooting landscape, my main concern is conveying what I felt when shooting the image. This can be a sense of wonder, power, beauty among others, but essentially, it’s the emotion that counts. There is a lot of beautiful scenery in the world, but each photographer has his own say, his own intimate view of a place, and this leads to the "feel" of his images. Macro or landscape, a successful shot is one that successfully conveys to the viewer the photographer’s feeling, thoughts and emotions when shooting it, and does that in a way that causes the viewer to develop a sense of wonder and curiosity about the image.
If I’ll restrict myself to macro, on my recent trip to Costa Rica and Panama I’ve fallen in love with frogs, especially red eyed tree frogs and strawberry poison dart frogs. I just can’t resist those slimy packs of joy. The colors, the look in their eyes, their timid behavior, all make them perfect macro subjects.
Back home I absolutely love shooting robber flies. These magnificent hunters are the perfect combination of beauty and viciousness. All they do is hunt other insects and look for a mate, but they keep fascinating me through the years. It’s always fun to see them feeding or doing their courtship dances – sometimes a male even waits for the female to find prey before copulating – so he doesn’t become her next meal! Talk about a brutal world…
Since I love frogs, Costa Rica and Panama are definite favorites. The abundance of macro subjects is just mind boggling. Seems like they are there, all over the place, no matter where you go. As for landscape, I’ve recently been on a trip to Iceland, and I’ve never had such an amazing landscape experience in my life. Iceland is the perfect place for out-of-this-world icy views, and there are places there which offer limitless photographic opportunities. The glacier lagoon and black beach closeby, for example, are places I could spend months shooting. But there’s so much more – volcanoes, blue ice caves, rocky spires, Iceland has it all. I’ll definitely go back there next year to shoot and guide several Israeli and international workshops.
Like everybody else, I’m waiting for the Canon 5D Mark III for my landscape work, but since my 7D drowned in a waterfall in Costa Rica last year, I’ve been using a 60D – which has been very surprising, in the good sense. I use the following lenses: Tamron 180mm macro (my main macro lens), Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens for extreme macros, Canon 85/1.8, Canon 10-22mm, Canon 70-200 f/4, Tamron 17-50 f/2.8, and recently on my Iceland trip a Samyang 14/2.8 for night photography.
For macro I use a rather peculiar combination: A tiny Slik Sprint Mini tripod with a monster Manfrotto 410 junior geared head. It’s a bit top-heavy to say the least, but it suits my needs perfectly. For landscape I use a big Manfrotto 055 or a parallel Benro model.
I also use a large variety of Lee and Singh Ray filters for landscape photography.
I can’t really give an exact answer, but if I had to choose, I’d say the Canon MP-E 65mm. This lens just gives you what no other lens can – the ability to shoot at extreme magnifications, and reveal all those amazing details found in macro subjects. The hexagons in a dragonfly’s eye, the mouthparts of a praying mantis, you can really get up close and personal with this unique lens, and for me as a macro photographer it gives the opportunity to capture microscopic detail that can be extremely fascinating and otherwise unseen.
I usually use the minimal equipment necessary and therefore I don’t use too many gadgets. My most useful gadget isn’t store-bought but rather handmade: by attaching a plastic clip to a small tripod I can place subjects wherever I need to with great comfort. This little thing gives you a huge amount of control over your wildlife macro shots, since some subjects are impossible to shoot exactly where you find them.
Another "gadget" I use for macro is a simple pair of scissors – sometimes the subjects is obscured by a twig which needs to be removed, or you need to move an insect without causing it to startle and fly away – scissors enable you to do that, and they come very cheap!
All my images are post-processed, since you need to put some work in an image to make it look better and have your signature look. However I do not go as far as ‘inventing’ things that weren’t there. I’ll sometimes crop a bit, remove spots and strengthen colors or local contrast, but that’s about it. I’m a strong believer in being loyal to what you have seen and having your image represent that.
I use Photoshop CS5 extensively on all my images. I’ll start with RAW processing for CA removal and slight cropping if necessary, and for highlight control and white balance correction. Once those are done, I’ll move to Photoshop and apply a gradual contrast enhancement process using luminosity masks, to compensate for lack of contrast in some of the lighting condition I shoot in. Sometimes I apply some delicate saturation enhancement as well. Then, to get the image web-ready, I use a special sharpening process to have it look good at a smaller size. Whatever post processing I apply, I always save the full, lossless TIFF file, so I can always go back and further process any image.
I’m no Photoshop wizard – but I always try to open my eyes and read about new techniques. My post processing abilities have improves significantly since I’ve started doing more research and better understanding what each function actually does. I read some useful blogs and texts by photographers I admire and try to implement what I read.
The best tip is not to be afraid of Photoshop – it’s the most powerful way to get your images to look as good as they should. The better you get at PP – the better your images will look, and that’s what it’s all about after all. If some technique proves too hard to master – leave it and revisit it later, but don’t despair. Oh – and don’t over sharpen! It just looks bad
As a relatively new photographer born into the digital age, my favorite photographers are all alive and active, still producing mind-blowing images. In the field of macro I admire the work of Igor Siwanowicz, as well as some of my Israeli friends: Nadav Bagim (Aimishboy), Shy Cohen and various others. In landscape photography I really love the work of Xavier Jamonet, Marc Adamus and Michael Anderson. All these photographers represent, in my eyes, perfect combinations of unique style and strong capability.
I don’t sell stock, and print sales are hardly something to count on for almost any photographer in my experience. I make most of my money from teaching photography and from guiding photo workshops and tours. There are many people striving to improve their images, and I offer them dedicated guidance, personal treatment and great fun while learning – a very good deal!
I visit all my favorite photographers’ websites regularly for enjoyment and inspiration. Hougaard Malan’s blog has some fantastic PP tips, and I’ve benefited much from reading it.
I think people tend to produce less natural images as times goes by. Perhaps that is due to the search for something new and original, but I feel you can produce original work without needing to enhance the image unnaturally. Take HDRs for example. While it’s a perfectly valid and useful technique, it’s often massively abused and put out of all proportion. I’m against making PP what the image is about. An image is about emotion, about aesthetics, about composition. Conveying something to the viewer can be done with just these aspects in mind – there’s no need for anything else.
I have a website where most of my work is published, but very soon it will be replaced by a better-looking one that will suit my needs better. I publish my images on deviantArt and on 500px, but the best way to keep up with my work, photo workshops and publications is through my Facebook page.
Red-eyed tree frogs are nocturnal, so most pictures of it are either of captive animals, or shot using artificial light, both of which I try to refrain from. To achieve this natural light shot in the wild, I had to have the combination of a little resourcefulness and a whole lot of luck.
The shot was taken in the rain forest near Boca Del Drago, north-west Panama. The first time I visited Drago beach was actually to shoot starfish in the nearby "star beach. When it was time to go back to the hostel, the taxi driver with whom we had scheduled a pick-up never showed (naturally!), so we had to ask a local to drive us back. While waiting for him to get his car, we talked to another local and inquired him about the identity of a loud group eating their dinner in a nearby building. The second he answered "biology students", I knew I’d hit the jackpot.
A few days later I returned, determined to see what information I can get from those students. It turned out that the house was a biological station belonging to an institution called ITEC, and the students were mostly Americans on a 2-month stay there. They were extremely knowledgeable about the amphibians in the area, and when I told them I was especially interested in the red-eyed tree frog, they knew exactly where to find it. I spent a long time shooting these amazing creatures, and this is one of my favorite shots.
(Ed. note: On Erez’ Costa Rica trip in July, you will have plenty of opportunities to photograph wild red-eyed tree frogs during the day!)
Canon EOS 7D
Tamron 180mm f/3.5 macro lens
1/13sec at f/13, ISO200
Red eyed tree frog embryos. The female frog lays the eggs above a water source, and when the tadpoles hatch, they fall into the water. Developing from tiny green dots into fully formed tadpoles takes just 6-7 days in this species. At 3 days old the external gills are easily seen, as are the pumping hearts inside their tiny, semi-transparent bodies.
Canon EOS 7D
Tamron 180mm f/3.5 macro lens
1sec at f/11, ISO100
A dragonfly hovering in midair. Shot at 1/1250sec, the wings are still blurry, showing the amazing speed at which this incredible hunter operates. Taking such an image isn’t easy, but familiarity with one’s equipment can definitely help. My technique for taking in-flight insect images is keeping both eyes open, one looking through the viewfinder to compose, one searching for the flying insect which often exits the frame. It took tens of shots to get this one, but it was worth it. Macro action shots are among my favorites, and I always strive to show different aspects of my subjects’ behavior in the wild.
Canon EOS 40D
Tamron 180mm f/3.5 macro lens
1/1250sec at f/8, ISO1600
This is a portrait of an ant that had strayed into my parents’ house. Keeping the eyes out of focus enabled me to draw the viewers’ attention to the real subject in my eyes – these menacing jaws.
Canon EOS 40D
Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 macro
Canon MT-24EX macro twin lite
1/250sec at f/10, ISO100
A robber fly with wonderful coloring. I shot this little guy under pouring rain, early in the morning. In such cold weather these insects have no energy to move, not to mention fly away, and so I could shoot a focus-stack made of 14 different images, for enhanced DOF and maximal quality. If you look carefully, you’ll see the reflection of my umbrella in the tiny water droplets on its eyes
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro lens
focus-stacked from 14 images shot at 1.3sec, f/9, ISO200