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Gear Inspiration

Can Macro Photography Make You Feel Better About the World? My Summer with the Fujifilm XF80mm F2.8

· 8.March.2021

I’m not a real touchy-feely person. For many years I’ve viewed emotions as something to be pushed aside. Bottle them up. Push them down where no one will see them. Move on. This mindset almost broke me years ago, and I’ve been digging my way out of that mental attitude ever since. When the insanity of last year hit, I knew that I needed to deal with my emotions instead of ignore them, and I turned to friends and family. I also fell in love with macro photography.

I had owned a macro lens many years before, the Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro. I bought it to use at weddings, mostly for detail shots of rings and cakes. When I switched systems to Fujifilm, one of the lenses I didn’t initially replace was that macro lens.

However, I found a good deal in 2019 on the Fuji 80mm Macro, and thought: what the heck. At the very least, I could use it as a portrait lens.

Before last year, it mostly sat on my shelf. However, during the stress of Covid, I found myself taking the lens off the shelf and actually getting outside to use it more. I became fascinated with making a digital painting with these small worlds that I wasn’t used to paying as much detail to.

When I go out and photograph landscapes, I’m so in tune to the bigger picture that I often find myself ignoring the smaller details. The macro lens helped me to shift perspective and hone in on details.

This shift helped me to slow down and see the hidden beauty just minutes from my home. Here is a photograph of a spot next to the road a few blocks away. Without this lens, I’d probably completely ignore it as I went out the door and tried to find some dirt roads in Nebraska worth photographing.

Another shot here, taken as the sun was turning in for the night with tiny rays of light making it through millions of miles into my back yard.

Or these photos, taken at our local Botanical Gardens in Omaha. I spent so much time walking through the colors all around me, the butterflies and bees fluttering all around me, that I would lose track of time.

What I found is that no matter how much stress I was under, when I was done taking macro photographs, I felt better. This happened every time I went out and focused on these small worlds.

I had to learn better breathing methods so I wouldn’t sway my camera as much since every little movement shifts the plane of focus. These moments made me more aware of my inner peace, asking me to bring my mind and body into sync.

I had to learn how to embrace more grain that I might be comfortable with to keep my shutter speed higher than I might normally use (in order to stop down to f/5.6 or smaller to get more depth).

I took thousands upon thousands of macro shots this summer. An unexpected benefit I’ve found is that sitting down to edit them can also ease my stress, bringing me back to the moment of creation.

The XF80mm macro is an absolutely impressive lens. I’ve found it to be extremely sharp, and when it’s paired with the Fuji X-T4, the continuous focus is incredibly accurate (some of these are shot with the X-Pro3, which is great but not quite as impressive). I became confident on the camera’s ability to focus quickly, and the camera and lens combination would even take into consideration each of my little hand/arm movements and maintain accurate focus.

The year 2020 will be an interesting one for the history books and how the events of the year impacted our lives. For me, at least a part of me will be able to smile every time I see these photos, bringing me moments of joy that bring hope and beauty to my life.

Jerred Zegelis

Jerred Zegelis

I've been a teacher and photographer for more than 18 years and I want my
students to find their voice just as I have found mine through photography. I believe my photos capture slivers of hope, joy and truth in this world.

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