As the moderator of the Fred Miranda Macro Forum Mr. Tom Hicks has been a huge influence on a number of macro and closeup shooters, yours truly included. I often marvel at Tom's compositions and his use of any light source and I cherry picked the best of what I saw him doing and rolled it into my own photography. Next to Mark Plonsky I consider Tom to be one of my mentors, and I probably hold the record for the most posts at Fred's that start with "Questions for Tom". He's so talented with a wide range of macro hardware and techniques that I think if there is anyone on the planet who could cut the end off of a Coke bottle and shoot macro with it he could! So it's my great pleasure to present to you No Cropping Zone's next Master of Macro Tom Hicks!
NCZ: Who influenced you early on when you first got into macro?
Tom: My greatest influence in to the world of macro was Mark Plonsky. His was the first work that exhibited the quality level that I wanted to achieve. It also amazed me that he was able to get all that detail with the simplest of tools. Mark and I try to touch base every so often, but it has been awhile . Hope all is good my friend!
NCZ: What is it about macro that has you hooked?
Tom: Macro Photography has always held my attention. It's the smallest of details in the subject that you shoot that I find so gripping, the things that we normally don't have the opportunity to see in our every day lives. Things that we all take for granted.
NCZ: What is your favorite subject to shoot and why?
Tom: Bugs are my favorite subject but more specific, Robber Flies. I never new they existed until I got into Macro. The first image I saw of one was posted on Fred Miranda.com by my European friend and photographer Monique Bogaerts. A very fine Nature photographer in her own right, and one I have the utmost respect for. With over 4000 different species of Robber Flies there is certainly no shortage of subject matter. They are the Raptors of the insect world, and upon close study, hunt their prey just like our feathered friends do.
NCZ: If you could only have one lens what would you choose and why (assuming that you also have access to any light source you want as well)?
Tom: If I could have only one lens for Macro it would be one on the 180 to 200mm range and have a tripod foot. I learned at the very beginning that working distance is your friend. I also prefer the narrower angle of view because it can help to isolate your subject from distracting background clutter and also provide you with nice bokeh.
NCZ: What lens do you recommend for someone who's just getting into macro?
Tom: For the beginner a lens in the 90mm to 100mm range would be the best choice, both from a cost stand point and a selection standpoint.
NCZ: Do you spend a lot of time in post processing or do you like to "get it right" with the camera?
Tom: I prefer to spend as little time on the computer as possible therefore I do everything I can to get it right in camera, especially the crop. All I want to have to do is sharpen the image, and maybe add some contrast. If one will slow down and pay attention to all the things needed to get it right in camera it makes the whole process go much smoother.
NCZ: Is there any advice that you’d like to pass on to the people reading this interview? Parting thoughts?
Tom: Parting thoughts. For those thinking of taking on macro photography; find someone's work that you admire and study it, get the best equipment you can afford, keep it simple, if shooting bugs then study your subject. Shoot both natural light and flash and find out which you prefer. Practice, practice, and more practice. Learn from your mistakes and spend some time figuring things out for yourself, if that fails - then ask .
NCZ: I'd like the thank Mr. Hicks for taking time out for this interview, and for putting up with all my stupid questions when I was a newbie!