Natural Beauty

Whether in the studio or outdoors, Oliver Wright likes getting up close to animals – even those that some people would rather keep at a safe distance. And his images are impressive. When peering through the lens, a new world opens up for Oliver. During a test that lasted ten days, he focused his view through the Makro-Planar T* 2/100. Oliver Wright is enthusiastic about the results.

EOS 1D X, Makro-Planar T* 2/100, f/14, 1/200 sec, ISO 200, Flash with diffuser from left and right
Regal jumping spider (Phidippus regius)
Full resolution on Flickr

For a photo shoot you often need exceptional models and props – and to acquire them, some photographers rely on an agency or props from a theater. Oliver Wright also does this — but not in the usual way.

“I wanted to get as much as possible out of the Makro-Planar T* 2/100. After all, I only had a very short time to test it.  So I borrowed some interesting ‘models’ from an acquaintance, a passionate insect breeder: a jumping spider, an emperor scorpion and an African flower mantis, among others.”

“The jumping spider is one of my favorite animals. What really fascinates me about it as a photographer is that they have highly developed eyesight. With their eight eyes they can cover a field of view of almost 360 degrees. I really like this picture I took with the Makro-Planar T* 2/100. The animal, of the Phidippus regius species, is only around 15 millimeters long. In order to increase the magnification power, I inserted three extension rings. I set the lens sharp at the minimal working distance. For macro images I always photograph with a free hand. This enabled me to react more easily to the spider’s movement. The ‘floor’ is a regular, shiny ceramic tile. Together with the flash directed from the left and right through a diffuser, I achieved the wonderful reflection which duplicates the spider.”

EOS 1D X, Makro-Planar T* 2/100, f/16, 1/200 sec, ISO 100, Flash with diffuser from left and right
Emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator)
Full resolution on Flickr

The photo shoot with his two other ‘models’ took place in a similar fashion – but with more distance between them, particularly advisable in the case of the emperor scorpion. Here, the manual work with the smooth focusing operation of the Makro-Planar T* 2/100, and its large rotation angle, paid off entirely. “I’m a big fan of manual focus. In addition to macro and nature photography I also do landscape photography and I’ve been using the Distagon T* 2,8/15 and Distagon T* 2,8/21 a long time for that. In that sense, working with the Makro-Planar T* 2/100 was nothing new for me.”

Like so many photographers, Wright values the slowness of manual focusing, which lets you come to rest and focus entirely on creative composition. With the emperor scorpion, which is a long motif, the focus was on the animal’s head. The pincers and stingers vanish in the blur, emphasizing their threatening character.

EOS 1D X, Makro-Planar T* 2/100, f/14, 1/125 sec, ISO 100, Flash with diffuser from left and right
African spiny flower mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii)
Full resolution on Flickr

When photographing the African spiny flower mantis, which stands sideways in the image, almost the entire animal is in focus. This accentuates its delicate and translucent character. “When you take pictures with ZEISS lenses, the camera doesn’t think,” continues Wright with a wink. “These are lenses for photographers who think themselves.”

EOS 1D X, Makro-Planar T* 2/100, f/2.8, 1/3200 sec, ISO 800
Banded demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)
Full resolution on Flickr

Oliver Wright often has to react fast, because his repertoire also includes large animals that live outdoors. But during his excursions with the Makro-Planar T* 2/100 in the English landscape around Leeds, Wright’s aim was to indulge in slowness. As in the studio, Wright photographs out in the field without a tripod.

EOS 1D X, Makro-Planar T* 2/100, f/3.2, 1/320 sec, ISO 200
Two marbled whites (Melanargia galathea) on the blossom of a pyramidal orchid , stitching from six individual images
Full resolution on Flickr

“One feature that I like in general about ZEISS lenses, and in particular about the Makro-Planar T* 2/100, is the excellent and beautiful background. This harmonious bokeh works best with natural light. All three motifs shown here were photographed in front of a meadow without a macro flash. With the banded demoiselle I paid close attention to making sure the blades of grass would still be recognizable in the bokeh. With the two marbled whites, on the other hand, you don’t see the grass anymore – only a soft background with its sea of green tones. But to achieve this effect, I had to apply a trick. The animals are at a certain distance from each other, so at aperture f/3.2, both are on different focal planes. I therefore decided for a stitching made of six individual images.”

EOS 1D X, Makro-Planar T* 2/100, f/4, 1/250 sec, ISO 800
Large dark green fritillary (Argynnis aglaja)
Full resolution on Flickr

With this large dark green fritillary, the same effect could be achieved with just one image, and at f/4. Here, the blurry green background appears in combination with the out-of-focus area around the blossom in the foreground. It’s easy to see these were hard work days for Oliver Wright, during which time he achieved results with the Makro-Planar T* 2/100 that even surprised him. His conclusion? “An absolutely high-quality lens which completely met my expectations and that I regret having to hand back.”

About Oliver Wright

Oliver Wright lives and photographs in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. Although he is at home in many photographic disciplines, his focus and passion are nature and landscapes. Wright has been taking pictures for a long time, but his first career was in project management.  Around two years ago, he decided to make his hobby his career – with success.  His work has been in the British Wildlife Photography Awards and has appeared in BBC Wildlife Magazine.

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  1. GVB

    Zeiss makes some great optics. It's ashamed to have to constrain them to the limitations of digital imaging's "acceptable mediocrity" current state of the art. Film produces far better image quality and best shows the full greatness of Zeiss optics.

    1. JV

      "It’s ashamed to have to constrain them to the limitations of digital imaging’s “acceptable mediocrity” current state of the art."

      The digital medium is by no means a standard of 'acceptable mediocrity' by now, and unlike film, it is a medium bound to progress and improve even further.
      Besides, nothing keeps you from using contemporary Zeiss lenses on film cameras.


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