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Up for Discussion – Macro: Close and Intimate

For this weeks Up for Discussion I have asked Victor Rakmil to do a post on Macro photography.  Victor does a lot of macro and is quite knowledgeable on how to do this, with and without a macro lens.  I have been known to email him for help when I have been stumped.  So I hope you enjoy Victor’s post on Macro: Close and Intimate.

People are attracted to detail. Photograph a large scene of people and an intimate scene of the same people and while the participants might buy both, they will linger longer over the intimate detail. Street photography and concert photography tend to be focused in on a detailed moment in time.

Macro photography and close-up photography take detail to another level.

Spiders suddenly become interesting.

Spider

Flies more terrifying.

Frightening Fly

We see suspense, if not humor;

Suspense

and we see the cycle of life.

Dragon Flies copy

Sometimes when we see something we have never seen before we have to look at it harder and longer than, for example, a landscape photograph to understand what is up and what is down; it is like a puzzle unfolding. Looking closer teaches us about the world around us.

Stinkbug Nymph with caterpillar

There are those who use macrophotography techniques to document things and others who use the techniques to be creative photographers, tell a story, or create a pleasing image. Either way nothing beats capturing something that can only be seen and shared with our photographic tools.

Macrophotography has its own rules and challenges; every workable result is a victory over narrow depth of field and poor lighting. There is always satisfaction in beating the odds with a pleasing result.

Macrophotography, like astrophotography, underwater photography and other niches requires some additional gear, although not as much as some and has its own learning curve. I would hazard a guess that there are more people shooting macrophotography than stars and fish, simply because of the accessibility. I may be wrong but the growth of interest in macrophotography is increasing not shrinking.

Japanese Beetle

I began macrophotography two and a half years ago with an old macro lens, some extension tubes and a flash with a softbox. Since then I have added a bit more gear, tried a few things but nothing beats my original set up for walking about and chancing on things. I have met a lot of interesting people through macrophotography from scientists to shooters like myself. Macrophotography is great for indoor fun on rainy days as you do not need a lot of room to shoot indoors, but I refuse to take insects inside, kill them or freeze them, I like them alive, natural and in context. But as I noted there are a lot of thing to be photographed up close.

People starting out to do macrophotography have several options. First, a word about what the difference between macro and close-up really is. Some lenses, like wide angles, can focus very close to your subject (inches/centimeters). Longer lenses tend to have a minimal working distance to subject that is significantly larger than with wide-angle lenses; e.g. standing back five feet with a longer lens as opposed to a few inches away with a wide-angle lens.  For some, close focusing with your existing lenses may be all you need. Macro is defined as beginning at the point where you are shooting things the size of your camera’s sensor. So if your sensor is a centimeter or an inch long and your subject is that size and fills your screen you are at 1:1, if you take a detail of that subject and it fills the sensor you may be at 2:1 (2x life) or greater. Few of us with store bought gear will successfully get past 5x life. In fact photographers like me take pictures seldom get to 1:1, we do shoot closer than our lens would permit and we crop.

Garass bug

There are a number of ways to get closer. Most close-up filters tend to degrade image quality. The Raynox 150 and 250 are inexpensive and high quality. The next cheapest way to get close up is to reverse a lens on the front of your camera or onto the front of your existing lenses. This solution may affect autofocus and metering is manual. It is certainly more awkward but many great photographers like this reverse lens technique. You need older lenses where the fstop can be set on the lenses.

The next thing to try and much more popular are extension tubes. These are empty tubes you place between your camera and your lens; the better ones like Kenko maintain control over focus and metering. The tubes come in a package of three 12, 24, and 36mm long. The two shortest are the most useful. You lose the ability to focus at infinity (Your focus range is limited), a bit of light, but you can now focus extremely close. The shorter the lens you use with these tubes, the closer you will have to get to your subject

Macro lenses are expensive but worthwhile and they can be combined with extension tubes. My usual kit is a 105mm and 24mm of tubes. Shorter macro lenses are not practical for me, as I do not like to close to (within millimeters) of the animals I shoot.

Whichever solution you choose, if the subject is not moving use a tripod. In all cases the closer you get, the narrower the depth of field and the more light you need to get a decent shot (somewhere above f11 is the limit before diffraction occurs and image quality suffers) so you may need a flash, and straight flash is very harsh so you will want to diffuse that light. Ring flashes are harder to diffuse than other types of flashes.

Ambush Bugs

Beyond the suggestions above and moving past into significant magnification with bellows and microscopes, we face the danger that our audience will need to be told what they are looking at because most things will look foreign.

If you take one thing away from this post I would like it to be that it’s that what people call macro photography is really close up photography and it maybe possible to step into this with what you already have. The last photograph was taken with a Nikon 70-200 VRII lens at 200mm, ISO 100, 1/250th of second at f5.6 with a D7000 (16megapixels) cropped by about 100%. No flash was used. The Nikon 70-200 has a minimal focus distance of 1.4 meters, about 4.5 feet.

Dragon Fly with Zoom

I hope this brief introduction helps. It’s a wonderful form of the art but as I have said the odds are seldom in our favor and a lot of patience is needed (or at least acceptance that fewer shots than we are used to will work out as planned).

For more on macrophotography you can read my longer explanations at: http://rakmilphotography.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/how-i-go-about…er-of-examples/

And

http://rakmilphotography.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/how-i-go-about…er-of-examples/

While my photography goes beyond macro, I will be posting more material on my blog and on my website http://www.rakmilphotography.com

I am interested in how others see close-up and macrophotography and what they like to look at and/or photograph.

Here is a gallery for you and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Victor for my being my guest blogger today.

57 Comments
  1. avian101 #

    Excellent work by Victor! 🙂

    July 1, 2014
  2. Very informative. I have a macro lens but the extension tubes sound like something I may be looking into soon.

    July 1, 2014
  3. I’m keen of macrophotography. I think macrophotography enables people to become more attentive to nature, to become so close to invisible world of insects. I love taking macro pics and searching type and name of the bugs, butterflies anf others in Internr tafter that. But I haven’t got any macro lenses. I use only macro rings for standart lenses.

    July 1, 2014
  4. Love these pictures and his information. I’ve gone to his site and looked at all that are posted. Can’t drink in enough of this photographer’s work. Thanks for introducing me to him.

    July 1, 2014
  5. I do wish there was an affordable point and shoot which would give such good macro results. I need a camera which thinks for me.

    July 1, 2014
  6. Jen #

    Macrophotography really allows (and helps) people see the incredible details of their world—I do like playing around with it (and probably ought to do more). The extension tubes sound interesting and I’ll have to take a look at them. Thanks for sharing, Victor!

    July 1, 2014
    • Part of the fun is sharing! Thanks for looking.

      July 1, 2014
  7. KristerP #

    Very interesting, I really have a tough time with macro as I never use synthetic lighting. I have tried it out a few times and the first thing I started to do was to hate the wind 😀

    Anyways thank you very much Victor the nice shots and for taking your time to write this (and I will surely dwell further into the subject on your blog).

    July 1, 2014
  8. Reblogged this on Click And Color and commented:
    Macro photography is one of my passions…a great post with some delightful images!

    July 1, 2014
  9. Wow, I am in love. I have such love for macro photographs. I try, my best with what I have, at macro images, I can never get close enough! They are so intriguing to me! Great information and looking forward to following another incredibly talented photographer.

    July 1, 2014
    • Thank you. Never getting close enough is the curse of the microphotographer 🙂

      July 1, 2014
  10. Leanne,
    These photographs are wonderful. Thank you for sharing. I also wanted to let you know that I plan on posting my poem, “Day Dreaming,” to go along with your challenge photograph. I will put your name on the photo as it is yours. I hope that is ok with you. If there is a problem, please let me know. I do so always enjoy your blog.
    Bonnie DiMichele
    http://www.mymemorymill.wordpress.com

    July 1, 2014
    • Victor’s photos are amazing. That is great Bonnie, put the link on the post in the comments, people have been going through and reading them. No, that isn’t a problem at all.

      July 1, 2014
  11. Thank you, Victor, for sharing your insights here. I knew nothing about macrophotography, except that I enjoy it when I see it.

    July 1, 2014
  12. Great post, and beautiful photographs. I’m already a huge fan of Victors, and macro photography, but I’ve learned quite a lot here. I’m now off to research some of these extension tubes. 🙂

    July 1, 2014
  13. Fabulous … thank you so much for sharing. I’m very lucky, I have a macro lens which I just love. 🙂

    July 1, 2014
  14. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez #

    The links are not taking me to the WordPress pages you gave:

    http://rakmilphotography.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/how-i-go-about…er-of-examples/
    http://rakmilphotography.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/how-i-go-about…er-of-examples/

    😉 Is it just me?

    July 1, 2014
  15. Thank you for sharing Victor. I will have to looking into acquiring some extension tubes.

    July 1, 2014
  16. I have tried the reverse lens method and don’t care for it. The Kenko Ext tubes are the way to go along with a flash bracket and the Gary Fong Cloud Diffuser works pretty good in some situations as well.

    Thank you Victor for the great photos/info and thanks Leanne for hosting the post 🙂

    July 1, 2014
    • Thanks. I should try the Fong solution.

      July 1, 2014
  17. Very informative

    July 1, 2014
  18. poppytump #

    SUCH a sense of satisfaction and victory 😉 when a butterfly, bug or other insect detail is captured and then seen in full glory on the screen back home .. just one will do it for me . No macro lens so I have to get close or crop and hope for the best 🙂
    Fabulous macrophotography Victor !

    July 1, 2014
    • Thanks. There is indeed great pleasure is succeeding its a bit tricky at times.

      July 1, 2014
  19. Ed #

    I love macro! While I’m not as good as Victor I do manage some good shots at times, There is something intimate about macro shots that just keep me shooting, my Sigma 105mm has served me well for the last few years but upgrading to a Nikon D7000 has enabled me to crop better while not loosing image quality. Excellent article Leanne and thanks to Victor for the great advise..:-)

    July 1, 2014
  20. This is absolutely beautiful, must have taken some time to get these photos.

    July 1, 2014
    • Time passes quickly she you are having fun, but in reality you have a few seconds to take most of these as the insects are on the move or do not wish to be in plaint sight for long. Occasionally the insects are sedentary and you get more time to adjust.

      July 1, 2014
      • Time pass quickly when you are having fun…

        July 1, 2014
  21. nzsnapper #

    Lovely images and useful information.

    July 1, 2014
  22. Great macro’s Leanne, I use a macro adapter rather than a macro lens, £50 v £350+ there was only one winner there. Admittedly probably not as good as the lens but I’m more than happy with the results…http://www.jcollettphotography.com/galleries/insects/

    July 1, 2014
  23. Victor, these are some great photos! I’m thinking about getting some extension tubes and experiment with my macro lens as I want to get photos that are more than just 1:1 without cropping.

    July 1, 2014
    • Enjoy as you get greater magnification the challenges increase and success is all the more sweet!

      July 1, 2014
  24. Thanks for the informative article Victor – you do need to adjust how you look for potential images when shooting close in – as with all photography, practice makes perfect.

    July 1, 2014
    • Thanks. Finding subjects is part of the fun and challenge. Look on the edge of paths, ponds, roads, at the base of plants and under leaves.

      July 1, 2014
  25. excellent…!

    July 1, 2014
  26. Really informative……thanks heaps : ))

    July 1, 2014
    • Thanks. When I started out I could not find useful advice. There is much more now.

      July 2, 2014
  27. I just adore Victor’s images! I just ordered a new macro lens and will be picking it up from my camera store on Thursday. I’m excited to try it out. Thank you for the great info.

    July 2, 2014
    • Good luck Laura and thanks for the accolade.

      July 2, 2014
      • Thanks and you’re welcome. 🙂

        July 2, 2014
  28. Wow! These shots are so amazing! I LOVE macro photography!

    July 2, 2014
    • Much appreciated. I was never sure when i began posting insects if people would be interested. I guess we all like to discover new things.

      July 2, 2014
      • Insects are my favorite thing to photograph with my macro lens, so I especially enjoyed yours! They are so neat. Do you use a tripod?

        July 2, 2014
      • Tripods and flash when necessary and only when necessary which means sometimes I need them and don’t have them.If my subject is static like the ambush bugs a tripod makes lots of sense. I have a small travel carbon fibre tripod but there are specialized macro tripods made out of wood.

        July 2, 2014
  29. Amazing images and great advice, even for beginners!

    July 3, 2014
  30. Those are amazing images. I think you are right about macro photography becoming more popular. Most of us amateurs have never studied insects in such detail because we couldn’t see them well. Using this kind of photography helps even the non-scientific of us to become more knowledgeable. 🙂

    July 6, 2014
    • I think you are probably spot on Marsha, people are fascinated by it all. It is also nice to see the world up close like that. Thank you Marsha. 😀

      July 6, 2014

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