Monday, December 03, 2012

My Quest To Take Commendable Images Part 2

A continuation from my previous post on taking commendable images, I hope those images gives you a perspective of what I saw through the viewfinder. On the other extreme where I learn to take photography of small insects or objects, otherwise known as "macro" (or micro to some manufacturers), it requires a whole different perspective and patience level to make the image work. My current set up for Macro is seriously limited by the lense i have. Here is what I typically use on an hour trip out at the park to get some practice. Be informed though, that my idea of photography is very much using whatever I have in my drybox. I often believe I should try to maximise what I have, instead of over-depending on gears (that requires a lot of money).
The Gears
Camera Body : Nikon D3 or Nikon D90 : I prefer the D3 due to the bigger sensor and better sensitivity that even when cropped, there is minimal noise. The D90 is good too, but would be great if a dedicated Macro lense is available.
Nikon D90 on the 35-80mm and Macro lense filter attached
Lense : I am using an old 35-80mm plastic kit lense
Basic 35-80mm lense 
Ideally, for Macro, you will need a proper/dedicated macro lense. A macro lense allows you to go closer than normal lense at a higher "zoom" level. The reproduction too, will be almost "life size". This meant, if your lense is a 1:1, your image taken (at life size) at closest focusing will be able to fill up the whole camera sensor. Dedicated Macro lense will allow a more comfortable "distance" between the subject and you. For equipment lacked Joe with Camera like me, we use a Macro Filter - something with a glass element attached to the front of the lense. It tricks the camera to think that the focus point is now closer. That also meant I would have to move closer, often time, within inches from the subject to get the desired magnification. In the absence of this lense, I substitute with a Macro filter. It is a screw-in type that fits a specific lense diameter. Mine fits a 52mm lense.
upclose of an upclose filter
Flash - light source is actually the most important item (apart from having a camera, that is) and it actually more important that having a dedicated Macro lense. You see, when you are shooting Macro, the depth of field must be high aka the F-stop must be small. Meaning, the whole idea of a "fast aperture lense" at F2.8 (or bigger) does not and will not be advantageous - unless all you want is only ONE part of the subject to be in focus (as the other portion will be blurred - or bokeh). Typically, shooting a Macro will require you to take at F8 and higher - aka the aperture will be small, or smaller. For this, my tool of choice (or rather what i have) is my Nikon SB600.
The Speedlight with attached Diffuser
Diffuser - Harsh flash light will " burn" the subject out, giving you very harsh results. You will need some sort of material to diffuse the (flash) light. For that, a simple white semi-transparent material would do (will cover this more separately). As I have a Lambency diffuser laying around, I thought why not make use of this, since it is there. You can also use this to cook instant noodle if you need to.
Lambency Diffuser
Putting It All Together
I do my weekly "hunting" at the local park. My usual place would be where there is a lot of undergrowth where there will be increased chances of finding insects and creatures. I would say that many times, I managed to find something, or rather, look hard enough (with bare eyes) and find something. Always set the camera up before starting to look. Opportunity doesn't come often and you wouldn't want to miss anything.
Nikon D3 on 35-80, Macro Filter, SB600 and Lambency Diffuser. We Ready To Macro.
To help you out, my starting camera setting is always at M(anual) mode using F16 and at 1/250s. ISO typically at 100 or 200 max. Flash will be set to TTL (or through the lense aka allow the camera smart firmware to decide what/how much lights to fire).Once in a while, I would use a remote flash firing with another set of device. That will be covered separately.
Basic lense setup. This is like putting a Kancil on a Merc Engine.
The Results
My macro shots are often cropped from the original. Reason for this is the reproduction rate is not at 1:1 or life size. At best, it is about 30% life size. But with a larger sensor from the full-frame camera, I can crop the photo and see the details. In actuality, this is not considered as "macro", as anyone can "crop" any photo and make this happen. But this is what I have, and at this point of time, I am pretty happy with it. Enjoy some of these captures.
Daisy. 80mm. F16. 1/320. ISO100. No crop.
80mm. F16. 1/200. ISO200. No crop.
The top two photos shows "no crop" situation. Details can't be seen as clear or "close up". But once the images are cropped closer, it starts starting at your face.
Nikon D3. 80mm+closeup filter. ISO200. 1/250s. F16. 100% crop. This spider was about 6mm in diameter, which explained the larger cropping for details. 
How big is 6mm? Here, the spider above landed on my watch and I was prepared.
Nikon D3. 80mm + closeup filter. ISO200. 1/250. F16. No crop.
One of the many joy of macro is to find rare things. While they cost almost nothing to anyone, it is a wealth of information to some that wants to learn. Like for example, have you seen a 
Terrestrial flatworm (Platyhelminthes)
Nikon D3+35-80Kitlens on macro filter. 80mm. F16. 1/250
Nikon D3+35-80Kitlens on macro filter. 80mm. F16. 1/250. SB600 with Lambency diffuser, 1/16 power off camera. 50% crop
Of course, occasionally, there are some Symbiosis show in nature, like how this red ant (Kerengga) was "interacting" with this small looking...worm
Nikon D3+35-80mm With macro filter. ISO200. F16. 1/250s. SB600 on Lambency diffuser i-TTL mode. 100% crop
Or something morbid like a Wolf Spider, dead and hanging on it's own web?
Nikon D3. 80mm+Macro filter. ISO200. F16. 1/250s. SB600 with Lambency diffuser TTL mode. No crop.
Or a feeding by one spider, sucking an ant dry, slowly? I observed this action for a full 45minutes. The Spider allowed me to do so and I had close to 40 images, of which, only a handful can be used (the disadvantage of using a macro filter). The sequence of photos (in lower resolution) below shows how the Spider ambushed the ant by the head, suck it dry, flip it around and finish the whole abdominal juice...slowly. Awesome.
It's either me or you Buddy.
Now, to finish the tummy. Noticed the head of the ant significantly smaller?
The above were captured using the Nikon D3. 80mm with macro filter. ISO200. F16. 1/250s. SB600 with Lambency diffuser in TTL mode. All images cropped as the spider and ants was small! Before I finish off the post for today, here, a proof, that even in the insect world, while these spiders are known to be hunter, could not resist a free meal.
NIkon D3. 80mm with macro filter. F16. 1/250s. ISO200. SB600 with Lambency Diffuser TTL mode. Cropped 50%.
Happy hunting! Stay tune for more Macro coming from me, soon!


  1. For the spider shot with dark background, did you place a black cardboard behind the spider

    1. NO i did not, it was actually against a bright background. I believe the shutter speed was too fast as I was scrambling to take the photo and no time to fine tune the setting. :) But the results was good.

  2. Wow, those pictures you took are unreal! Look very professional!

  3. The flash on your camera is so huge! But considering how awesome those pictures look, I can;'t even say anything about it...