Macro or Micro?

A picture is worth 1,000 words…or so they say.  And then I’ve been thinking about words and the meanings and shades of meaning they carry with them.

Today’s #sdawpphotovoices prompt was macro.  I love using my macro lens to zoom in on tiny details, those that are almost too small to see without the lens.  It’s definitely challenging to use the macro lens.  You must get close…nearly touching the object to be photographed.  And then you have to get the focal length just right, bringing the object into focus.  And…you have to hold very still to get a crisp, detailed shot.

I always think about macro photography as small and detailed.  You move in close, discovering the smallest of details.

succulent flower

But as I was thinking about the word macro, I realized that macro means large…it’s micro that means small!  I get that the macro lens makes what is small look large by magnifying it…but should it actually be called the micro lens?  Isn’t it kind of like a microscope?

Using the internet, I went looking for some information about where the macro in macro photography came from.  I learned a lot and it’s always interesting to find out that unexpected word meanings come from some historical reference…in this case using macro to distinguish it from photo-micrographs.

I also learned that macro comes from the size of the actual photograph in reference to the size of the object photographed.  And that relationship of the object to the completed photographs is one of the things I like best about using my macro lens.

I really love the way the macro lens changes the use of space in the photograph.  Negative space appears as I angle the lens to lean in close and focus.

macro flowers

I love the way these blossoms line up behind each other with the one in the foreground in focus.  I think you would be surprised to know that these flowers are barely noticeable in the pot where they live.

succulent in a pot

The macro lens even seems to have an impact on the color my eye is able to see.  At first glance these blossoms look white.  But with the macro lens, the pigments are enhanced and the pinkness emerges.

pink flower-macro

There is a magical quality to these macro photos that takes tiny and makes it big.  So, while macro means very large in scale, scope, or capability in a general definition, my understanding of macro as it relates to photography is more nuanced.  Yes–there is a largeness in scale involved…but also a sense of the small, and that is where the magic lives.

So, a picture may be worth 1,000 words…and the words create new meanings for the pictures too.  What words fascinate or perplex you?  How can an image change your understanding of the word?  Or better yet, how do words and images work together to create new understandings for you?

2 thoughts on “Macro or Micro?

    1. kd0602 Post author

      Okay, Terry…say more! I had to google to see what you might be talking about and found this provocative suggestions of individual (micro), conversing (meso), organizational (mundo), and global (macro). Now, to think about how that relates to photos…


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