Matt Cole first came to my attention when I came across his viral image of the ‘Confused Grasshopper’ a few years ago. I was reminded of his work by the previous Feature Photographer, Erez Marom, who listed Matt as a photographer he admired. Matt’s fine images have reached several publications, including BBC Wildlife, The Photographer and Outdoor Photography. He is a meticulous macro specialist, who occasionally turns his skill to larger things.
Can you tell me something about your background?
I’m 41 years old and live in Leicestershire in the UK and have been photographing ‘seriously’ for around 10 years.
What first led you to take an interest in macro photography?
I’ve always been interested in wildlife and natural history but have always had a special interest in insects. I was the sort of child who carried around jam jars and matchboxes containing interesting creatures that I’d found in my garden. My interest in photography developed during my teenage years and it was only a matter of time (and disposal income!) before the two interests merged.
Is there anyone you would consider a key inspiration?
If I think back to my childhood and try to identify where my interest in the natural world came from and who developed it then I would have to say my parents and David Attenborough. I remember watching the original Life on Earth series when I would only have been 8 or 9 and I think I’ve watched every major David Attenborough series ever since, including the most recent Frozen Planet series. These programmes really were instrumental in generating, or at least feeding, my interest in wildlife.
There are lots of great photographers around and it’s difficult to single any out, but I’m particularly impressed by Solvin Zankl’s work and particularly his wideangle macro. Bence Mate’s work also takes some beating.
Do you have a favourite subject?
I have 3 favourite subjects. The first would be dragonflies. I think these are amazing creatures, such impressive predators and so attractive too but I particularly enjoy watching them emerge from their aquatic larval form into adults. My second favourite would be Black Ants which I find fascinating, particularly their interactions with aphids. Finally, I would have to say Ladybirds. They are so colourful and are normally among the first insects to appear in my garden in spring. I’ve probably taken far too many Ladybird images already, but I often find them difficult to resist.
Is there one particular macro technique that you would like to share with readers?
It’s fairly well known among those of us who take high magnification images, but the trick to taking such images handheld is to hold the subject’s perch in your left hand and then rest the camera lens on that left hand. The subject and the lens then move as one, which considerably reduces camera shake. It only works with lenses with small working distances but it’s a technique I’ve been using since way back in my pre DSLR days using close-up lenses on primitive digital compacts.
Could you tell us if there is a current project that you are pursuing or would like to pursue?
I’ve usually got one or two vague plans in the back of my mind but one particular project I’ve recently embarked on is to join the ‘Meet Your Neighbours’ photo project, created by Niall Benvie and Clay Bolt. The project aims to celebrate local biodiversity by photographing subjects against a white background to focus attention purely on the individual animal or plant. More information can be found on the project’s website (www.meetyourneighbours.net)
And for the equipment fanatics: what equipment do you use and is there one piece of equipment that you could not live without?
For macro photography I tend to use 1 of 4 different lenses: A sigma 150mm macro lens, a great lens for larger subjects such as butterflies and dragonflies. I tend to use this lens with natural light. Secondly, the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens which has a magnification range between 1x and 5x lifesize. I use this lens with a heavily diffused MT-24 twin flash. Thirdly, I use a Canon 60mm macro lens for those situations where I need to go slightly below lifesize but still want to use a short focal length lens with flash. Finally, I like to take ‘wideangle macro’ images using a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens. Images of this type are deceptively difficult but can be a great way of showing an insect in its natural environment. I currently use Canon 7D and 60D bodies. Which item couldn’t I live without? It would have to be the MP-E 65mm macro lens, a truly great lens (once you’ve mastered it!).
What is the single most important bit of advice you could give someone interested in doing high quality photography?
It’s something of a cliché, but practice, practice and more practice. It really is the only way.
- Coming soon to Splendour Awaits… (bugs.adrianthysse.com)