As you know, I had my first opportunity to try my hand at macro photography a while ago. A couple of days ago I had my second outing into the wild and the results were better this time around. Unlike last time, I could focus completely on my macro shots this time, no family pictures in between. That meant that one of the problems I had before, remembering to change the settings, went away. Setup was the same as last time, 85mm macro lens and SB-400 flash, everything hand held. If anyone is interested but too lazy to check the exif data, the settings were as follows: Flash in TTL mode, shutter at 1/200 (fastest sync speed on my camera), f16, iso 200. I always shoot everything in manual and when shooting macro I also do the focusing manually. I simply set the focus to the closest distant to achieve 1:1 and then move the camera until I get the desired focus.
For those of you not familiar with the terminology, 1:1 means that it’s shot at life size. What that means is that an object that’s 1 cm long will be registered as 1 cm on the camera’s sensor. My camera’s sensor is around 2.4×1.6 cm, which means that an object that big will fill the frame of the final shot completely. By knowing this you can easily calculate the size of any given object in the frame. Does the bug fill half the frame? Then it’s around 1.2 cm in real life. Yeah, it’s a bit confusing but luckily you don’t really have to care about it unless you have a geeky streak in you, which I do.
Let’s start talking about the shots, the reason we’re here. The above one is probably my favourite so far. For some reason spiders seems to be very photogenic, maybe it’s the eyes that look like they’re staring right at you, maybe it’s the hair that makes them look soft and cuddly. For the full effect of these pictures, I recommend clicking through to my flickr and viewing the larger versions, it’s definitely worth it for the details. This particular spider was the last thing I shot. I had seen a couple of other spiders but they kept running around, eventually getting lost under all the leaves. I stalked this guy for a while before getting the shot and, even though I couldn’t get a shot from the front, I’m really happy with it. The light is consistently better this time around, due to the fact that I remembered to put the diffuser on my flash from the start (it’s a Sto-fen diffuser). Focus was still the biggest challenge but in this shot it was spot on. It’s so important to get the eye in focus, it completely makes or breaks the shot. Several times I got shots of bugs where I liked the composition but later when I checked it in the computer the eye was out of focus.
Speaking of composition, I think I fared better in that regard as well. The shot to the left is another of my favourites from this session. I don’t really know what these bugs are called in English but I ran into plenty of them so I wasn’t really interested in shooting them. Then I saw this guy, bigger than the usual ones and crawling on an old tree stub. The background really makes this shot more interesting and I like the way he’s moving across the frame as well.
People must have thought I was acting funny, walking around hunched down, staring at the ground. I took these shots in a small patch of trees in an area where people often walk their dogs and the dogs certainly thought I must have been smoking something inappropriate since all three I met decided I needed a good barking at. Can’t really blame them though, normal people usually don’t crawl around in the bushes, pointing a big lens and flash at the ground. I have to say though, I’m definitely getting a taste for this, there’s just something special about being able to capture a completely different world in such detail, a world we normally don’t give a second thought. It’s difficult but the results make it worth the time spent, especially when you load your shots on your computer and get to see them on a larger scale.
There were missed opportunities too. The most notable one was a fairly large beetle that I hunted for a while. He had gotten himself into ant territory and was running like crazy to get away from them so I had no chance to get him in frame. After a while I got distracted by a ladybug and lost him. There’s definitely a lot going on under our feet if we just stop and take a moment to look closer. For the fly to the left I was actually lying down on the ground to get close enough (another thing I remembered this time was to use my old pants that I saved just for this purpose). That also allowed me to get support by resting my elbows on the ground. Flies are probably the most skittish critters I’ve shot so far but with some patience it’s possible to get close. Ants and spiders are also tricky since they’re fast moving, requiring some patience to wait until they decide to stop.
Overall I’m very happy with my results and there will definitely be more hunts into the wild very soon. Hopefully I can also keep finding new types of bugs and improve my technique along the way.