Brian Lee is a man who appreciates the small things.
For the better part of a decade, Lee, a Portland resident, has delved into the fascinating world of macro photography. Utilizing specialized camera equipment, he captures the intricacies of the natural world which go unseen with the naked eye.
“Insects, frogs, reptiles, amphibians,” Lee says, rattling off a few of his favorite subjects to shoot.
“Some people have the air conditioned studies with swimsuit models, and I have bugs and snakes,” he quips.
For Lee, age 58, there’s a Zen-like quality to macro photography.
“I like going out in the woods or out in the fields around here and just walking for three or four hours; walking very slowly, and looking very carefully,” he says.
“There’s lot of very cool stuff you can find in your backyard.”
Lee has roamed far and wide with his cameras in tow, from local woods and fields all the way to the rainforests of South America.
Searching the Internet several years back, Lee happened upon The Biodiversity Group, out of Arizona, which offers macro photography workshops in the Amazon. He signed up.
“Five years ago I made my first trip down there, and I’ve gone every year since. I’m addicted,” says Lee, who has been to Ecuador, Peru and Honduras with the conservation group.
“We go down for a week, week and a half and just trudge through the underbrush looking for things that most people run the other way when they see.”
For the most part, however, Lee has avoided scary run-ins out in the wild. “I’ve been stung by ants and had weird little rashes,” he says. “But I’ve never encountered anything where I thought, ‘I’m in trouble now.’”
Well, maybe once. Lee recalled a story about his first trip to the Ecuadorian Amazon when a large toad sprayed his hand with a bright fluorescent substance.
“The predator came out in him,” the photographer explains. “My hand starts getting numb, and then it continues to get even more numb. But after a certain point it leveled off; my hand was a little tingly and numb for about an hour.”
Lee has long been interested in photography, but it wasn’t until digital cameras became popular that he got serious about the craft.
“I’ve always had a camera since I was a little kid. I did a little bit of dark room work back in the 80s. I kind of drifted away until digital came along,” Lee says. “Then I was really able to do the processing at home with no chemicals.”
“Thank god for digital, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be doing this,” he says. “I do everything: I print, cut my mattes, everything, right here in my living room.”
Lee certainly has a knack for macro photography.
In 2013, Wired magazine featured one of his photos, and he has sold many of his shots to individuals. Profits help fund his trips to South America.
“I can probably make a lot more money selling pictures of lighthouses,” Lee says, “but this is what I love, and this is what I want to do.”
See more of Lee’s photography at brianleephotography.zenfolio.com.