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First outing trying to shoot macro with purpose...

M38A1

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So I've have this Nikon 105mm f/2.8 macro lens for a bunch of years and never really thought much of it. It's a great prime 105mm lens is about all I've thought of it. With that lens mounted to either a crop or FF body, I just had such a stand-off distance between me and 'bugs', a huge crop was always necessary and it just didn't work for me. I did the research and even Rusty chimed in with some good pointers about shooting it. But it never came around. Specs said 12" minimum focus distance so I got out a tape measure and every way I tried, it was 18". So I tried the crop body (12"+50% would be 18") and same thing, 17-18" away. Specs also say it's a 1:1 ratio which I really didn't understand. So when you're that far away, even medium to large bugs need a huge crop. No bueno.

Fast forward to a week ago and I dropped in to see what a good friend of mine was doing on her Happiness Hour zoom thing every Wednesday night. I met Linda at ROT years ago when she came up to me and said "nice lens". The friendship started there, and she is a truly gifted photographer. In addition to that, she has cultivated a huge photographer network to both teach/participate in these Wednesday evening get-togethers, and has worked tirelessly with David Valdez (Bush 1 chief white house photographer who lives in Georgetown) to build the Georgetown Photo Festival.

So watching last week, she opens the zoom up and people start filtering in. She chats us all up, asks questions and requests we all put in our websites/IG accounts on the side bar. After hearing some banter back and forth, one gal - Mika - was talking about her macro bug shots so I stalked her website. Man, I found my teacher and she's local! The zoom meeting went well with the presentation speaker and afterwards I sent Mika an email asking if she'd be up for teaching me how to shoot macro. "Sure" was the reply.

With that, we agreed this morning would be great. Yesterday I had lunch with Rusty (Woodbutcher) and told him of this and he expressed interest so was going to join us today. And another mutual friend of Mika and Rusty was also invited. So the four of us met at Berry Springs park in Georgetown to 'shoot small stuff'. Right off the bat there was a nice area of bluebonnets and a few other flower types. I had my 105mm mounted to the FullFrame body and popped off a few shots with the same results. Exposure was awesome as the day was super sunny, but man those bees were TinyTinyTiny in the overall image. Here's one of the first shots with zero crop.
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And here's with a fairly substantial crop just to get the bee in there so you know what you're looking at.
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I showed Mika on the back of the screen and she asked what my minimum focal distance and lens ratio was. Told her 12" and 1:1. She asked how I was shooting the lens and I told her continuous mode auto focus, floating ISO, 1/250, f/8. She said "hey, try turning off your auto-focus and manually focus". Um.... ok. Well, no real change so she asked to look at the lens and said "spin the focus barrel to that 1:1 mark and focus with your feet". Well, I framed an image of another bee and had to move in closer, and closer and closer and closer..... DOH! Now the end of my lens is 2-3" from the subject and fills the frame! (insert lightbulb going off in my head). That one little trick yielded this one of the same bees in the same area with very little crop to remove distractions. I still can't figure out if that's the bees tongue/proboscis on it's head pushing pollen around. That sure wasn't in any of the flowers I saw... Now mind you, the end of my camera lens is only 2-3" from the subject so stealth isn't really an option. And with that razor thin DOF and any wind, you can see I need more work on trying to shoot this.
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So with that we're off to the races so to speak...

Here's a couple dragonflies:
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While we were wandering around the little pond I noticed this guy. Not sure what type he is, but Rusty and I both thought he was dead with that cloudy eye. That or he was just getting ready to shed. We made some noise and he slithered away so it wasn't dead.
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Then we found a different spot and I captured these two. The first is an assassin bug and the next is a mating pair of dragonflies.
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So what I came away from this experience is know what your gear is capable of doing by finding out capable people to teach you! Next up will be continuing to find small stuff and see what I can create. Then I'll probably try to migrate into using flash with this type of shooting.

Hope you enjoyed my morning outing with Rusty and a couple new friends.

.
 
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I love macro shooting...

Would you mind explaining the "spin the focus barrel to that 1:1 mark and focus with your feet" thing? Not sure I get that part.

Confession - I've pretty much given up on my DSLR since getting a new cellphone. The camera on my Moto G Stylus does a great job for me and always seems handy.
 

M38A1

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I love macro shooting...

Would you mind explaining the "spin the focus barrel to that 1:1 mark and focus with your feet" thing? Not sure I get that part.

Confession - I've pretty much given up on my DSLR since getting a new cellphone. The camera on my Moto G Stylus does a great job for me and always seems handy.
lol.... Sure.
When you turn autofocus off you're now in manual focus mode. Spinning the lens barrel (which sets the glass elements to some fixed position) makes a focal point of 'somewhere' depending on where you spin it too. In this case there's a mark called 1:1 which is on the super close end of distance as opposed to the infinite side. That means the only way to bring an object into focus is to physically move the camera in or out/back and forth until the object is in focus. Since the 1:1 literally means a 1:1 image ratio, you find yourself really close to the subject and that's the setting I never understood but now do. (that 12" is the sensor to subject distance) To focus, you're "focusing with your feet" by moving the lens closer or farther out in relation to the subject! :-)

I joke about 'framing with your feet' when I use a fixed length lens like a 50mm and there's no zoom capability. I have to frame it by moving in/out with my feet.

Follow me for more professional photography tips! lolololol.....

Regarding ditching the DSLR vs cellphone, cellphone cameras have real come a long way and the camera you have with you is better than no camera at all. Kind of like pew-pews.....
 

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I always shoot manual focus when shooting macro with the 105 lens. I always get REAL close to my subjects. My flash has a white foam board tube that directs the light to an area about 3" X 3" directly in front of the lens. The big thing is that your focal distance will be REALLY thin. I generally look for three points on the subject that I want in focus and move the camera until that happens. Remember, three points in space define a place, your focal plane in this case. Then I move the camera around to manipulate what is on or near that plane. Keep in mind, that the act of breathing, and even your heart beating, can affect what is in focus. It is a LOT like shooting guns. I focus on my breathing, pay attention to my heart beat, and the timing of the shot. I shoot with the flash almost exclusively, even on bright sunny days. I set the exposure to get the amount of background light I want without a flash, and then use the flash just to expose the subject. Basically, I am using the flash burst as my shutter speed instead of the actual shutter speed. This helps tremendously with eliminating motion blur. I also always use my D7200. Each pixel on the sensor is smaller than those on the D750, so I get better resolution images and cropping doesn't degrade the image as quickly. If you are using the D800, I doubt it will be an issue for you.

Here is what my setup looks like,


Post for my technique,


Here is my general thread on my macro journey,

 
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M38A1

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Thanks Scott for the update/links... I went out and met Rusty today back at Berry Springs Park with the 105mm. Just need to get those images offloaded and see what I have this time around.
 

M38A1

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So Round 2 was this afternoon and not any improvement. I was fiddling with shade/shadows, higher shutter speeds, greater f/stops and honestly, it was windy which makes focusing difficult. Yet in spite of that I was able to come away with a few more 'learning' shots. Like I learned when I get three inches from a red wasp the hair on the back of my arms stands up. :photo:

Here's a few from today. Too high of an ISO for sure, but most were shot in shade and f/32 or more. yeah, more.

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Are those cropped images?

Keep in mind that going to a tighter and tighter F-stop doesn't necessarily mean a sharper image or better depth of field. There is a technical discussion of it somewhere on the internet, but at some point you start to hit diminishing returns going to a smaller aperture opening. Something about diffusion? I can't remember.

I generally try to stay around f/16, give or take a bit either way. Shutter speed is usually maxed out to whatever the camera will do with a flash. I did a lot of shooting without the flash at first, but now I rarely, if ever, shoot without it. This is especially true if I am using the 105 mm lens. If I am using the 75-200, then I will shoot without it and generally I am using the extension tubes. But the subject has to be VERY well lit on the side where I am shooting. Even then it is easy to get unwanted shadows on the subject and the colors will look muted/dull.

If you are shooting without a tri-pod, which I always do, it REALLY helps to get at least one knee firmly on the ground to stabilize your body and cut down on movement. Sometimes I even lay on the ground so I can get both elbows down and hold the camera against my forehead to make a tri-pod. Even if I am holding the camera with one hand and holding something else out of the way with the other hand (blade of grass or something), I still try to brace the camera against my head to help hold it stead. I eventually started wearing some cheap ($20) dirt bike knee/shin pads when I go out to shoot. At our age, that keeps the knees from getting to tender :-P
 

M38A1

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Minimal crops and the red wasp is no crop on one of them. yeah, kind of amazing.

As for a steady platform, I figured out that's key to a good focus. You 'ain't kidding on the heart rate and breathing either. As mentioned, like shooting pewpews, get your three points triangulated, control your breathing and then fire off that pray&spray to see what sticks. lol... Actually, I can hold it pretty good but I'd bet my face is turning blue. I've also purchased the shout-out for dirt and grass stains on the knees. :-)
 

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Having the super fast burst mode in your camera is a BIG help. What I do is start with the focal plane a bit deeper than I might want and then burst as I pull back out away from the subject. So I will watch my breathing and heart beat's affect on my movement and time it to do what I just mentioned. The only real down side to this is you get a LOT of images to cull :-P
 
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Great work.
Impressive you can capture those freehand. The couple of photog classes I took the instructor was big on tripod shooting and remote triggers. With macro work, even moreso. She showed tricks like using clamps to stabilize subjects (plants) in the breeze.
Of course, this was back with 35mm film and before image stabilization was prevalent.
 

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Great work.
Impressive you can capture those freehand. The couple of photog classes I took the instructor was big on tripod shooting and remote triggers. With macro work, even moreso. She showed tricks like using clamps to stabilize subjects (plants) in the breeze.
Of course, this was back with 35mm film and before image stabilization was prevalent.

I can understand that when dealing with film where shots are limited and expensive to produce relative to digital. But it REALLY cuts down on the opportunities for capturing images. Bugs rarely sit still for you. I have had to chase them all over the place to get shots and it would have been impossible with a tripod. Just getting the tripod physically into places would be a nightmare, even ignoring the time it would take. At best, I might use a very short monopod, maybe 8-12" long for when I am laying down. It is also rare that I find any interesting bugs head high. Most are waist high and lower, especially lower.
 
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