Posts tagged “Macro

Jumping Spider with Lunch (Three Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

This little jumping spider made my day. The only other jumping spider I have seen this year was on the arm of my shirt, and he did not hang around too long. This spider had found a grub, and was taking it somewhere when I caught up with it. Jumping spiders and spiders in general may not be to everyone’s taste, but most are completely harmless and won’t overreact if you take photos.

Damselfly (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

Damselflies are small, and pose a few issues for photographers besides getting close enough to shoot. Their eyes are liquid filled, making it hard to focus on their face (sharpening in post processing helps a bit). They collect all kinds of dust that reflects back light (I use the same technique I use on dust removal to get rid of most of these distractions). Finally they are skittish but they like to have their back to the sun, so if you want a portrait approach from the shadows; secondly they believe leaves are great protection and are more likely to stay in place when hiding behind one as you see here.

Bees (Three Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

There are times when all you have to do is wait and the bees will come to you. I use a flash, but they seem pre-occupied and unaffected by my presence . The difficult part is that often the detail of the bee is lost in the dense black of its colouring, this includes the eyes and sometimes you just have to accept that. By the way this is one of my few bees in flight photos.

Mourning Cloak Butterflies (Three Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

For the past few years I have posted photographs of mourning cloaks, very often taken on the same two dark wood trees. This trees are not tall but they leak sap. When that happens you could set off fireworks and the butterflies wouldn’t budge. These are the earliest butterflies in the spring and they last into summer, but as you can see they have some wear and tear on their wings indicating age. I have tried in every photograph to capture the checker board eyes. That is easier with my macro kit but unfortunately I did not have it with me for these shots.

Bees (three Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

I am so looking forward to shooting more of these this summer. I haven’t posted these before but they are from one of the best years we had for insects so I had a few left over to process. Bees for the most part are benign, they won’t bother you. The bright light of a flash does not sway them from their task. Unless harassed most species will let you get close enough for a shot. The other thing to remember is you are going to have to significantly crop your images even if you use a micro lens and extension tubes. Bees’ eyes are reflective so they can catch the sun or your flash. They take their time on good flowers and bushes so that helps a lot.

Butterfly (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

In an earlier post I wrote about framing, here is another example. Basically only the subject is in focus. I prefer the black and white but it works in colour as well. The same effect can be done in post processing by fading around the subject, but it’s never as good as done in camera.

Dragonfly (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

Dragonflies come in many colours and for the past few years the largest ones have been hard to shoot. The variety here are quite common and are often in “swarms” not a nice word for a spectacular Christmas tree effect. When you see the swarms you know there is an abundance of food which for us humans might mean less mosquitos:). The wings of these insects are amazing and show up well in B&W.

Damselflies (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

I seldom process insects in Black and White,however, I am noticing a few advantages. The eyes of damselflies are hard to focus on as they fluid filled, this matters less in black and white. The wings also stand out a bit better. What is lost of course is the wonderful blue of damselflies and their stripes, while prominent in black and white, don’t have that racing strip look. Everything has trade-offs.

A Lot Going on (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

Besides the dragonflies mating we have wood that shows the tunnels of beetles coming into adulthood, color and other elements that hint of fall. Sometimes busy photos are not so bad especially if they have depth. It’s finding complex scenes that you hope will work that is the challenge. Artists often go out on a limb, so to speak, to show something new or something they think has potential. Why not photographers?

Downward Gaze (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

I have written before about how easy it can be to take grasshopper photographs, (they jump once and the key is to  find where they land after that). I have done a lot of photographs in both black and white and colour, and there will be more I am sure. One reason for this is that I want to learn more about black and white, the other is that the same photograph in colour and black and white are very different. There are many occasions where a photograph does now work either way or looks better in one of the other. It’s a learning experience for me.

A Male Midge (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

The midge is one of the smallest creatures I can shoot hand-held. That marvelous mane of bristling hair reminds me of some theater costumes. Midges for the most part are an annoyance, collecting in clouds you don’t see until it’s too late. Once you find some bushes that they like you can revisit those bushes and find them in pairs or alone. They are seldom disturbed by the camera or the flash.

Fly (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

Flies in your house are a problem, in the wild the family of flies (Diptera) can be more interesting, discounting of course those that bite. Flies like this one cleaning its appendages, are easier to catch as they are less inclined to fly away. I find it interesting that while many of the diptera family are pests of one sort or another, an almost equally large variety are essential to the environment. Hopefully this is one of the latter. As their eyesare made up of many facets some reflect that light and I have removed that brightness in this photo.

Some Flowers and Second Article on Exposure (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

These are some random flower shots I took with my macro lens testing the metering on my camera.

Cameras read reflected light from the scene you are shooting. In the days of manual only cameras, you had a handheld exposure meter that could measure reflected and incident lighting. Incident lighting is taken from the subject’s point of view and measures the light hitting the subject. Reflected light captures all light coming at the lens, not just the subject. Clearly, incident lighting is more exact for the subject and reflected lighting more realistic for the entire scene. That is why DSLRs have spot, centre-weighted and a whole frame exposure mode.These modes enable us to narrow the area being measured. Secondly, modern DSLRs do not have the capability of capturing as wide a range of light as say print film had, but that is improving with every new model. Just as higher ISOs are increasingly noise free. When you take in the variables of ISO, aperture and shutter speed and you take into account the limitations of the camera you can see why exposure can be tricky.

Straight Down (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

I don’t believe these photos break any rules. But often when I see dragonflies on the ground the background or other things makes the photo unworkable. Here I was able to crop into a nice composition that works in colour and B&W. Lightroom’s latest version has a much improved auto function in the basics tab and rather than over brightening things it gets most settings bang on, a bit too much clarity and saturation but that is easily fixed. The increasing sophistication of the software trending toward the one button fixes everything is something worth watching. For those who hate editing this may be a solution and for those who like editing this may create a better starting point for creative touches.

A Milkweed Beetle and a Note on the Rule of Thirds (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

People who have read my blog for while will know I do not consider the rule of thirds anywhere near a law, though it is helpful. For those unfamiliar with the rule here is a link (Rule of Thirds). Recently I read about a couple who returned their wedding photos with a number of complaints including the lack of the use of this rule. So why don’t I think its law or even a rule? Because composition is part of the art of photography, if one rule of composition fit all it would not be an art. Why is it useful?Because it makeIs you think about composition. There are many other general ideas for composition you can read about, negative space, the golden spiral etc. It’s the word rulethat misleads. It’s your composition that should lead the audience‘s eye to your subject and if the rule helps thats great. One of the photos of the beetle in this post follows the rule the other does not.

Milkweed Bug and Aperture (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on 

As you get closer to a subject like this milkweed bug, the depth of field shrinks for any given aperture. At F 11 I would expect to get a farmhouse a mile away in focus from front to back. This milkweed bug was taken at F11 and as you can see it’s not all in focus. Had I used F 16, slightly more would be in focus but due to a phenomenon called diffraction I would get a soft result (a complicated explanation and calculator for when it is most likely to happen can be found at My rule of thumb is max out my F stop at F14 and rarely go to F 16. You will also see here what is called selective focus, our subject is mostly in focus and not much else. More importantly you should be aware that the size of the camera sensor affects depth of field (multiply the Fstop by the crop factor e.g. a Nikon DX  crop factoris 1.5.) So on a full frame camera like the Nikon D800 thephotos here would have less depth of field at the same aperture. Macro and close up photography benefit from smaller sensor cameras.

Chairs on Hold and Some Final Words on Macro (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

I have found close-up photography, specifically of insects, endlessly fascinating and challenging. Macro/close-up photography is almost always about detail, seeing things in a way they could not otherwise have been seen and while that is true for other types of photography, see the photos in this post, with close up photography you are sure to surprise your audience.

I hope my comments and suggestions have helped you understand the basics and the pros and cons of trying various options. I can do no better than to tell you what works for me. I suppose at some point in the future someone will create some gear that will make all of this simpler but until then the options I have mentioned are what is available.

A Goose on Ice and More on Macro (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

A goose on ice sounds like a delicacy or at least a vodka.  But actually the geese we see in the early winter seem to enjoy the ice and handle it well. The lighting and pose is what caught my eye.

Macro: The Diffusion of Light

One of the more debated elements of close-up macro photography is how to diffuse the light, soften it and make it more natural. The larger the light source and the closer the subject to the light the softer the light is (again I will spare you the science).  A long explanation of diffusion can be found here: The easiest solution to this (in the field and indoors) is to place a a diffuser over your flash. You can make your own or buy one.I use the Lastolite EZybox (Manfrotto). The diffuser makes a huge difference in getting great light, once on the camera you just have to experiment with the power of the flash and the aperture. High-end flashes usually have a place where you attach an external battery pack. With a Godox pack, for instance, you can shoot 40 shots at high speed without stopping and the battery will still last for several days, in my case months, without the battery needing recharging, (the plastic holders that are sold to hold eight rechargeable batteries break too easily in my experience).

Red Squirrel And Pine Cone Plus More on Macro (Three Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

This squirrel having a great time with a pine cone was shot at 3200 ISO, I was gentle on the noise reduction not to soften the photos further, but at that ISO you gamble on both noise and softness.

Macro: Combating the Diminishing Light

There are three ways to fix the fact that up close we often have less light than we need to photograph subjects.We can up our ISO, and as discussed above this can lead to noise and a soft result. We could reflect light onto the subject with a reflector of some sort, but unless you have an assistant or a stand this could be cumbersome. Or we can use artificial light (Flash). Most cameras limit the shutter speed at which flash will synch with the shutter to about 1/250th of a second. However, a very low-level of light from a flashgun will freeze motion. Here is how this can be done. Assuming a flash on your camera and that the flash and camera work in manual mode, set the flash to 1/8th power or less, your shutter speed to the maximum synch speed it will allow for flash, probably 1/250th of a second. Now your only variable is aperture. Assuming we want a large depth of field use F 14, if it’s too much or too little light adjust the flash power up or down (or adjust the F stop but beware of diffraction over F16). These are my settings with a Nikon SB-900. I have not used ring flashes, but I have used dedicated macro flash gear and I find that gear expensive and cumbersome. You will find a considerable material on do-it-yourself reflectors on-line. There is only one small gotcha in the scenario suggested above and that is the nature of the light created (next post).

Macro: Lady Bugs and The Perfidies of Aperture

To view more of my photography please click on

The two photographs show different kinds of lady bugs, in the shot of two insects the one on the right is a young lady bug (an “instar” e.g. an earlier stage of growth). There is a world to learn about when it comes to entomology. You can join  to help with identification and if you send them your photos of insects you cannot identify, the entomologists will help. There are some other great guides to insects.Arthur V. Evans, Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America was my first guide and still a wonderful help.

Macro: There are two things in short supply in close-up and macro photography, depth of field and light. The closer we get to something, the narrower the depth of field at any given F stop and the less light reflected off our subject. If you get close enough into the true 1:1 macro range, depth of field becomes wafer thin even at F 16. If extreme macro photography is your thing then I suggest this site:

If we stand a little further back  and are prepared to crop images like many if not most pros do, then we can avoid extreme solutions. Some say its best to shoot insects side on, that is supposed to get you maximum depth of field but is not the most practical solution. Moving back and cropping in post production is, the use of extension tubes is (see yesterday’s post). The point is to be prepared for the lack of depth of field. Using F stops above F 14 can lead to some softness (diffraction of which more in another post). There is a lot of science behind the comments here but I will spare you. Next I will propose solutions for the lighting problem.

In an earlier post I mentioned that aperture should be multiplied by the crop factor, and that as a result crop factor cameras give some advantage in macro photography. Mike Simms commented on this issue: “but the speed/light gathering properties of the aperture remain the same. In other words if your settings on a full-frame camera were say F2.8 at 1/2000sec at ISO 100, that does not mean that the exposure would become an F5.6 at 1/1000thsec at ISO 100 on an M43 sensor with its x2 crop factor. On the M43 your exposure settings would be identical to the full frame camera, only the depth of field would act like F5.6.”

Macro: Extension Tubes and a Special Note on Winter Photography (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

Macro: A 105mm macro lens will get you close, but it may not get you a safe working distance from your subject while getting you close. This is where extension tubes come in. They allow you to focus closer from farther away with any lens. Extension tubes go between the camera and the lens, they may have the connections that maintain the electronic links with the camera or they may not. Kenko makes a good set, but there are others. While you lose a bit of light, an extension tube  allows you to focus closer from farther away. I often use a 12mm extension tube that gets me optically close to the bee but not close enough to offend the bee.

The duck has nothing to do with macro or extension tubes and everything to do with handling difficult lighting situations. Ice and snow show up as bright blue in winter photography unless under-exposed by a couple of stops. The catch is how this affects your subject, it may not look great under exposed, and hence the choice, to do it in camera or in post production. In post, assuming flexible software you can selectively remove the blue. And in case you are wondering, the blue is a result of how the light meter reads the color white (similar things can happen with wedding gowns). In these photos I wanted the ice to show as ice and the steel grey look worked for me.

Macro: Getting Closer (Two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

There are times when we need to be closer to our subject, yet have enough working space between ourselves and the subject (how close to the bee do you want to get). There are a number of different means to do this.

You could use a telephoto lens as was done in the photos in this post (but the usefulness of the technique depends on the size of what you want to capture up close and the megapixels at which your camera shoots).

You can turn your lens around and attach it to your camera backwards; you lose any auto controls over the lens, and you need a special adapter. This works surprisingly well and many people like the reverse lens technique. For one thing it’s cheap.

Thirdly, a slightly more expensive route is to use close up filters. Most of these tend not to give good quality results. There are exceptions, Canon makes a good filter, and Raynox filters do an even better job. The drawback with filters is that you lose some of the focusing flexibility you get with more expensive solutions (you tend to get stuck at a single distance from any subject).

The best solution would be a macro lens. This can be expensive. I would go for quality not cost, at least one of the better made macro lenses (Nikon’s latest 105mm) focuses too fast, not giving you time to set up other parameters before it starts focusing elsewhere. Older lenses may have benefits in this regard. The most used length of lens is the 105mm, though 100mm will do just fine. Just make sure the lens will actually do macro, e.g. go to 1:1 or closer. Even if we may never get that close it speaks to good optical elements. The lens should also permit an aperture of F16 if not F22. The subject of my next post is extension tubes and working distance.

Macro: Some Flowers and a Few Words on Lenses (Three Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

These leaves are a kind of photograph, call it almost abstract, that I hope makes the point that creativity can mean breaking rules, including that not everything needs to be sharp.

Macro and close up photography: a lot of what I have said applies to all photography and this post will be about some everyday myths. Manufacturers often tell you that a cropped sensor camera magnifies the lens, that a 60mm is identical to a 120mm lens. The truth is the angle of view is the same, the magnification is not. The 60mm lens remains a 60 mm lens in terms of magnification. In addition to thinking about how far a lens will enable you to see (telephoto) or how wide the view is (wide-angle lens), think about how close you can shoot. Some wide angles can focus on subjects so close the front glass almost touches the subject, while some telephoto lenses require you to be meters or many feet away. So yes you can use both for close up/macro photography, and I do. Knowing the capabilities of your lens or lenses will come in very handy over time.

Macro: A Downie Woodpecker and Some Comments on Cameras (two Photographs)

To view more of my photography please click on

This bird was none too cooperative in posing for me, it seemed pre-occupied by something else.

It may seem I have strayed over the last few posts from my original topic of macro and close-up photography. With the basics out-of-the-way the next step is to talk about how to get close. In one of the first posts in this series I spoke about the advantages of high megapixel cameras (though too many megapixels will fill your drives in no time). I like the 20-24 megapixel range it seems to work well enough and permits serious cropping. The camera needs to be able to go into manual mode, use detachable lenses and the lenses need to able to be focused manually. You also need control over shutter speed, aperture and white balance. A modest frame rate (the number of shots you can take in sequence is a good to have). I think I have described most modern cameras. In my post on the “rule of reciprocity” I distinguished between full frame and cropped sensor cameras. The distinction is important in close-up and macro photography as the crop factor applies to the aperture (F stop) as well. On a cropped sensor multiply the f-stop by the crop factor (Nikon 1.5) and our wonderfully fast f 2.8 lens is suddenly a f4 lens, and you never even noticed. In my next post I will talk about depth of field and macro and close-up photography.