Charles Krebs gets up close and personal with the small things in life.
What the heck is that?
This is a common reaction when nature photographer Charles Krebs shows off one of his recent macro-lens creations. "I like to spark amazement in people," he says. "There are all these common things in front of you every day that have such great detail, and most people never see them."
In some cases, he captures these tiny dramas in the field. For instance, the iridescent beetle, at lower left, was taken in Olympic National Park, Wash., as the bug crawled along a log. Others, such as the butterfly wing, at right, are collected specimens, photographed in Krebs’ Issaquah, Wash., studio. The pseudo-psychedelic shot of a common Gerbera daisy at lower right was shot through a piece of glass that had been misted with fine water droplets, providing thousands of tiny lenses that refracted the image.
The Polymephus moth caterpillar, at top, tends to elicit much head-scratching from Krebs’ first-time viewers. "It’s great to see the reactions on some people’s faces when they see some of these photos," he says. "They say ‘What in the world?…’ The last thing they would normally do is pick up a caterpillar and look at its legs up close."
For such close-ups, Krebs likes to use a 105mm or 70-180mm Nikon macro lens, or a specially designed 35mm Canon photomicrographic lens with a bellows.
While the macro images are an absorbing aspect of Krebs’ work, he’s not always crawling around the forest on his hands and knees. Most of his photography is from a much wider perspective, encompassing landscapes and animals in their natural environment. "I generalize in everything, but it’s mostly outdoors," he says.
Krebs, born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., moved to the Seattle area in 1979 to begin a professional nature photography career. His highly sought after photos have been published in such magazines as Outdoor, Smithsonian, Audubon and the now-defunct Washington magazine./p>
Though he liked experimenting with photography while attending Notre Dame in the late 1960s, his college studies took him in other directions: aerospace engineering and business administration. It wasn’t until much later—after he had met his Seattle-born wife Barbara and had four kids—that he decided to go into nature photography full-time.
"A lot of people thought it was a stupid thing to do," Krebs says. "But I always had a childhood interest in biology and nature. I just found myself drawn to it again years later."
For the last decade or so, the Issaquah, Wash., resident has spent most of his time making a quiet living on stock nature photography. Though he often makes trips up and down the West Coast, from Alaska to Arizona, he likes to stay closer to home these days, shooting the landscape around the Puget Sound area.
"I’ve become a little bit of a hermit, I guess," he admits. "Maybe that’s why I like doing those extreme close-ups."