macro monday | SOFT | No. 1 Cradle

Macro Succulent | Neely Wang

Often when I read about macro photography and taking close-up images in books and online, the macro tips involve shooting at narrow apertures with extreme depth of field in order to capture as much detail as possible. Seeing the tiny hairs on a spider’s head is fascinating to me, but the macro I truly love is that which is taken with a wide open aperture and little depth of field. I love how the majority of the image is a beautiful soft blur and just a small part is sharp and in focus.

I know my style breaks the rules of macro a bit, but sometimes breaking the rules makes things a little more interesting and a lot more fun. I decided to start an 8-week macro monday series of images that focuses on the idea of “soft.” Each of these images was taken at the Cottage Gardens of Petaluma in Petaluma, California, which is one of my favorite nurseries with the nicest staff and some of the prettiest of plants — especially succulents! 

This first image in the SOFT series is a tiny drop of water nestled in the leaves of a succulent plant. It reminds me of a little infant being held and protected by its mother, cradled in her arms.

Also, as suggested by a fellow blogger, if anybody would like to share a SOFT macro image of their own, please do so in the comment section with a link to your image. I look forward to seeing your images!


  1. I love this, Neely. It may have broken the rules of macro photography, but you did an amazing job with the photo. I also love macro, though I haven’t done any in a while. I am hoping to get started again soon.

  2. That’s absolutely stunning! The softness brings more focus to the water droplet, and blends all the colours together really nicely. What size of macro lens do you use if you don’t mind my asking? :)

    • Thank you so much, Sarah! I love your observation of the image and subject :). I actually use a 50mm f/1.4 on a crop sensor with extension tubes. Although I one day want to get the newer canon 100mm macro f/2.8L, this setup works really well for now especially due to the clarity of the 50mm f/1.4 (my current favorite lens!) — hope that helps! Do you shoot macro much?

      • Thanks for the advice! And so far, I only own the Canon T3i which has an 18-55mm interchangeable lens. It’s a great camera, but so far I haven’t gotten any special lenses or tubes for extra close-up. However close-up shots are my favorites. I hope to get a bigger macro lens someday though. :)

        • You’re welcome, Sarah! If you ever do decide you want to add to your lenses, I’d recommend the 50mm f/1.8. Although it doesn’t get in so close like a macro, it does give that buttery bokeh/blurred effect that you just can’t get with a kit lens, and it’s very affordable.

    • Thanks, Craftinggirl! I think I’m starting to love that hazy muted look more and more — I’m trying to understand my subject more and express through my camera settings, composition and processing the feeling I think it evokes… or at least what I’m trying to express through the image. Does that make sense? :)

  3. I too prefer macro with soft edges and cripsness to highlight the area of your focus. Like all art, it’s very subjective but I’m with you all the way!

    • Yes, I agree — all art is subjective and what appeals to or speaks to one person may be totally different for another person. I’m trying to let more of the subject matter speak to me rather than what I “prefer” — always a learning process! Thanks for sharing, Tina!

  4. Beautiful photograph. I agree with you about macro photography as well. I love seeing softness with just that one spot in focus creating a strong focal point. I do find that art is for breaking rules and experimenting otherwise it is really a formula to follow instead of finding a point of view and a way to express it. It is, after all, the point of view that makes a photo really interesting in my opinion.

    • Thank you so much, Emilia! And thank you for sharing your insights! I totally agree that “point of view” is what makes a photo really interesting — one person can see something and take a shot that is totally different than another person. This is also what makes it more fun! :)

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