We've reached that time of year, the frosty heart of winter, when the sun rises low on the horizon spilling splendid light across the dew blessed landscape. In the field behind my home is an abandoned apple and apricot orchard.

The bare trees are now covered in the webs of tiny spiders, who busy themselves daily with spinning the most intricate designs. On these cold dew blanketed mornings, the stunning little dew-dropped webs take centre stage as the sun rises behind them, lighting them up for all the world to enjoy.

For me, it means it is time to pull out my macro lens. My macro lens is a bit of a treat. It's a modified Canon 35-80mm kit lens. With the front element removed (smashed out!) the lens becomes a very crude macro lens, with very strong magnification. One must get frightfully close to magnify a subject, and focus is obtained by physically moving the camera as you would move a magnifying lens.

In order to obtain a decent amount of focus, and to get any light into the lens, I usually am pushed to shoot b/w f/13 and f/16, which in turn means I need to crank up my ISO settings to obtain a fast enough shutter speed to get a sharp shot. I've thought about getting some artificial lighting in, but apart from my aversion to artificial lighting, I think I'd be hard pushed to make it work, as there's not a lot of room between myself and my subject while I'm playing with this lens, and I already struggle with the shadow my lens casts when I get too close.

I've also thought about getting a *real* macro lens, but after having a play with a friend's recently, I think I'll stick with my own little challenge.

The *real* macro left me feeling worlds away from my subject and I felt excluded from the action. There's a certain closeness that one gets from... well... being close (!) that isn't replicated by a *real* macro lens. With my own, despite its many challenges, I am literally right in on the action. I confess, I found the *real* macro lens to be... how can I say? Perhaps a little boring?

I guess that's to be expected when I've spent so long trying to master my modified hack! But I love my hacky macro, and I love what it can produce, and I think most of all I love how hard I have to work for every shot. And on the rare occasion I get lucky with a good one, I feel like I've earned at least a little of it!

A link to my macro album to see what else my lens can get close to: www.ipernity.com/doc/blackpaw/album/334521