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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Macro Talk 
Thread started 12 Jul 2011 (Tuesday) 06:02
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The Tripod and the Macro Nature Photographer

 
John ­ Koerner
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Jul 12, 2011 06:02 |  #1
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I just finished making a blog post (external link) on this subject, which is an often-debated matter for us macro photographers, which is whether to use a tripod or not. It is my opinion that using a flash destroys the beautiful natural lighting of macro photography, while using "super-high ISO" ruins the photographer's ability to get any kind of acceptable larger print. For this reason, it is my view that using a tripod, LiveView(mirror lockup), a remote switch, and lowering your shutter speed is the preferred method of getting the 3 key elements to a macro nature shot: 1) natural lighting, 2) no hand-shake, and 3) no high-ISO noise.

Well, as I mentioned, last night I just finished a blog post (external link) on this very subject, that I thought might be of interest to some of the readers here, where my girlfriend photographed me using a tripod out in the field, capturing many fine images such as this one, all on a tripod:


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If you would like to hear the perspective on this subject (using a tripod versus not using one) from person who is out in the field, virtually every day of his life, taking macro shots ... and who has taken thousands of images both hand-held and (now) only with a tripod ... and who will never hand-hold in the field again ... click here (external link). Here is perhaps the single most important quote:

"My hope in creating this blog post today is to show how using a tripod out in nature does NOT have to “cramp your style” or be a problem, but where it in fact will always give you better results. To those who say that using a tripod will cause a macro photographer to “miss a lot of opportunities,” my response is … so what? Out in the swamp area, there are several hundred acres of untouched wilderness, and the fact is wherever I am, means there are tens of thousands of square feet where I am not, which means I am missing millions of opportunities at every moment! A serious macro-photographer simply has to have the maturity to “let it go” if a particular opportunity passes … and to realize that another opportunity is just around the corner. Worse (and as someone who has hand-held thousands of times), I can say that I have “missed” no telling how many shots by the very act of hand-holding and not having my focus/composition right, due to shaky hands, than I have ever missed opportunities by trying to set-up my tripod and have something to 'fly away.' "

I hope most of you do take the time to read the whole article (external link), though, and I thank you in advance for doing so!

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Cheers!

Jack


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dmwphoto
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Jul 12, 2011 06:10 |  #2

all valid and good read too.


Dave Watts
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John ­ Koerner
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Jul 12, 2011 06:16 |  #3
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Thanks Dave, I am glad you enoyed it :)

Jack




  
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Kevin ­ Hall
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Jul 12, 2011 07:44 |  #4

You are absolutely correct that using a tripod is not impossible and I'll give you that often it will be the best tool for the job. In my opinion, as long as you are using the tripod, you will discover that adding a set of geared macro rails will increase the speed and precision that you can acquire focal plane and composition - get it just right.

Having said that, a tripod is just another tool for your box. There is a time and place for every tool and while I could pound nails with a heavy pipe wrench, a hammer usually gets the job done better. Likewise, a tripod is not always the best tool for the job - so why limit yourself to it when you could be more flexible when the situation calls for a different tool.

If you really believe that flash kills natural light then you may not have learned how to blend it with ambient yet - a little bit of fill, blended with ambient, gets the job done without harm to the natural light. Sometimes it is the best tool for the job, but not always.

If you like the 180L for your close-up work, you might also like the 300 f4L IS. It's a nice compliment to the 180 for larger subjects.


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John ­ Koerner
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Jul 12, 2011 08:53 |  #5
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Kevin Hall wrote in post #12744528 (external link)
You are absolutely correct that using a tripod is not impossible and I'll give you that often it will be the best tool for the job. In my opinion, as long as you are using the tripod, you will discover that adding a set of geared macro rails will increase the speed and precision that you can acquire focal plane and composition - get it just right.

Hey Kevin, thank you for your input and insights. I agree with you 100% on the macro rail; however, I only use this with my MP-E 65mm lens, whereas I simply focus with my 180mm.

Kevin Hall wrote in post #12744528 (external link)
Having said that, a tripod is just another tool for your box. There is a time and place for every tool and while I could pound nails with a heavy pipe wrench, a hammer usually gets the job done better. Likewise, a tripod is not always the best tool for the job - so why limit yourself to it when you could be more flexible when the situation calls for a different tool.

Good point! I use my 100mm sometimes, as it is more flexible, however more-and-more I am finding that (because of the extra reach of the 180mm), hand-holding my 100mm is basically "a lazy shortcut" to just setting up my 180mm on a tripod.

The only "different macro tool" I ever really need is my MP-E 65mm, which does things that my 180mm cannot. Yet, here again, I use a tripod, a macro rail, and a remote switch when working with the MP-E 65 :)

Kevin Hall wrote in post #12744528 (external link)
If you really believe that flash kills natural light then you may not have learned how to blend it with ambient yet - a little bit of fill, blended with ambient, gets the job done without harm to the natural light. Sometimes it is the best tool for the job, but not always.

Good point Kevin! I am sure there are many techniques that I still have to learn, and I am always willing to listen to any alternative ideas with an open mind ... and I know from experience that you're absolutely right in that sometimes the use of "fill flash" makes a shot, whereas without it the shot is not as compelling. This can be very true with certain butterflies, for example, whose full coloration cannot be seen ... unless "activated" with a subtle use of flash.

Kevin Hall wrote in post #12744528 (external link)
If you like the 180L for your close-up work, you might also like the 300 f4L IS. It's a nice compliment to the 180 for larger subjects.

I have considered getting a longer lens for this purpose, actually, when I saw another photographer post some amazing images taken with the 600mm f/4. The "reach" the man was able to get ... and the bokeh and isolation of the subjects ... were simply amazing.

Cheers!

Jack


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Martin ­ G.
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Jul 12, 2011 17:10 as a reply to  @ John Koerner's post |  #6

Hi John,

always interesting to read other people's thoughts and techniques.

I am the complete oposite of you, I am an anti-tripod type of guy! All my field macro shots are handheld.

You seem to imply that people who shoot flash just hop around shuttering away and value quantity over quality. I do not really agree with this. Maybe beginners tend to do that. I personnally value quality over quantity, generally, I aim at one really good shot per field session. Of course, I end up posting more then one shot in the end if they are acceptable, you can't have brilliant shots all the time!

Flash macro-photography is extremely hard to master, I would go as far as saying it is the hardest techique in macro. It takes tons of patience and it is certainly not as easy as simply pressing the shutter. I am not implying I am a master at it either, I will be always experimenting. But I think photographers like Kurt (orionmystery) have clearly demonstrated that you can take brilliant shots with flash if you know what you are doing. There is no denying that NL shots with tripods are gorgeous, I am not saying the contrary, but I think equally as amazing shots can be taking with the proper use of fill flash and I do not agree to say "tripod" is the absolute only way to go. Although I am happy that as a photgrapher you found your niche and technique that works best for you.

I totally agree with your statement that as a macro shooter you have to be prepared to miss some shots. I think the same way and I do not use a tripod. I often will move my subjects, I rather get the insect in the position that I want and risk having no picture then having shots that I will not use anyway. I take a lot of time positioning myself in the angle I want and will often miss shots in the process, I am fine with this.

I like the rough feel of flash macro photography. When I come back from my sessions in the field, I am absolutely filthy, covered in mud, dirt or whatever. I am ready to lay down even if poop if that is what it takes to get the shot I want! I love to shoot low to the ground, that is my particular style.

I use Liveview all the time handheld, just like you mention, it allows proper composition and I use the magnification fonction to assure I have the focus at the exact spot I want it. I rarely miss a shot seriously. I always take several for assurance and because I focus stack a lot.

Take care

Martin


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John ­ Koerner
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Jul 12, 2011 19:41 |  #7
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Martin G. wrote in post #12747533 (external link)
Hi John,
always interesting to read other people's thoughts and techniques.

Hey Martin, I agree with you, it is through the discussion of our differences that we each learn from each other :)

Martin G. wrote in post #12747533 (external link)
Hi John,
I am the complete oposite of you, I am an anti-tripod type of guy! All my field macro shots are handheld.

That is how all of mine used to be, hand-held, but I personally enjoy working off a tripod and a longer lens much more now. But then, to each his own :)

Martin G. wrote in post #12747533 (external link)
Hi John,
You seem to imply that people who shoot flash just hop around shuttering away and value quantity over quality. I do not really agree with this. Maybe beginners tend to do that. I personnally value quality over quantity, generally, I aim at one really good shot per field session. Of course, I end up posting more then one shot in the end if they are acceptable, you can't have brilliant shots all the time!

Well, what I tried to imply was that using a flash "changes the natural light," and it is my belief that working in optimal natural light (without a flash) is preferable to working in less-than-optimal light (with a flash). With the exception of high-magnification shots with my MP-E 65mm, which do require the use of flash, my own preference with 1:1 (or less) macro shots is to use a tripod and optimal natural light. I do not think flash shots can compare to natural-light bokeh shots, but again this is only my own preference.

I aim for at least one really good shot every time I set up my tripod, and several really good shots per field trip, and if I don't think I can get a really good shot, then I won't bother with the shot at all. And therein lies the difference: it is easier to "snap away" when you're hand-holding, and if it doesn't turn out, it's no big deal. However, a person is far less inclined to bother with setting-up his tripod, and positioning his equipment, if he isn't pretty darned sure of getting a good shot to begin with ... which saves a lot of wasted time (and shots) in-and-of-itself. By the very fact a person takes the time to set-up his tripod, he is thinking he has a serious shot, and so right away his odds of getting one are vastly improved ... on top of which he's using "best practice" and not taking hand-held shortcuts.

Martin G. wrote in post #12747533 (external link)
Hi John,
Flash macro-photography is extremely hard to master, I would go as far as saying it is the hardest techique in macro. It takes tons of patience and it is certainly not as easy as simply pressing the shutter. I am not implying I am a master at it either, I will be always experimenting. But I think photographers like Kurt (orionmystery) have clearly demonstrated that you can take brilliant shots with flash if you know what you are doing.

I agree with you that mastering flash lighting is not easy, and I am far from being a master of flash macro photography by a longshot. Regarding Kurt, I have nothing but the highest respect for him, and his "Orionmystery" blog articles and constant teachings are an inspiration to me as well. In fact, I use Kurt's diffusion techniques on my MT-24 EX flash. But we are talking apples and oranges here, as I think Kurt primarily uses the MP-E 65mm, which requires the use of ringlight flash at higher magnifications. Certainly, it would be impossible to use the MP-E 65, handheld, in natural light!

Regarding the subject of "brilliant photographs," these are subject to interpretation. There are superb "ultra-high magnification" macro shots, that show tremendous detail, and there are "artistic bokeh" macro shots, that do not show as close a detail, but that show beautiful shapes, colors, and a creamy bokeh background. Flash photography with the MP-E 65 tends to produce the former, whilst natural light photography with a longer macro lens tends to produce the latter.

Martin G. wrote in post #12747533 (external link)
Hi John,
There is no denying that NL shots with tripods are gorgeous, I am not saying the contrary, but I think equally as amazing shots can be taking with the proper use of fill flash and I do not agree to say "tripod" is the absolute only way to go. Although I am happy that as a photgrapher you found your niche and technique that works best for you.

I think we basically agree, Martin. I think we both agree that there is a difference between "amazing" and "beautiful." I have seen "amazing" ultra-close macro shots that, though well-executed, I wouldn't exactly call "beautiful." Shocking and interesting, yes, but beautiful? No. I think the most "artistic and beautiful" macro shots, come from natural light macro shots, with ultra-creamy bokeh backgrounds--but that is just my opinion. I too take ultra-close flash shots, and I enjoy them for what they are, but for me my natural light shots are almost invariably my favorites :)

Martin G. wrote in post #12747533 (external link)
Hi John,
I totally agree with your statement that as a macro shooter you have to be prepared to miss some shots. I think the same way and I do not use a tripod. I often will move my subjects, I rather get the insect in the position that I want and risk having no picture then having shots that I will not use anyway. I take a lot of time positioning myself in the angle I want and will often miss shots in the process, I am fine with this.

We agree here completely.

Martin G. wrote in post #12747533 (external link)
Hi John,
I like the rough feel of flash macro photography. When I come back from my sessions in the field, I am absolutely filthy, covered in mud, dirt or whatever. I am ready to lay down even if poop if that is what it takes to get the shot I want! I love to shoot low to the ground, that is my particular style.

We are in agreement here as well ... and we are both cut from the same cloth ... for in point of fact I was laying in the puppy poop, from my hosed-out puppy pens, when I took these two shots of a Red Admiral butterfly ... who was actually drinking the poop out of the soil :D

IMAGE: http://www.johnkoerner.org/ButterflyCollection/redadmiral.jpg

IMAGE: http://www.johnkoerner.org/ButterflyCollection/redadmiral1.jpg

Both of these shots were taken hand-held, with a pop-up flash for fill, for documentations purposes, but I do not in any way consider them to be "nice macro shots" ... just documentation shots. I would never have bothered to set my tripod up for shots like these, because they are just on dirt. However, had this butterfly been up off the ground, where I really could have isolated him and produced a beautiful bokeh, then I would have used my longer lens, no flash, and it would have been taken with a tripod in natural light :)

Martin G. wrote in post #12747533 (external link)
Hi John,
I use Liveview all the time handheld, just like you mention, it allows proper composition and I use the magnification fonction to assure I have the focus at the exact spot I want it. I rarely miss a shot seriously. I always take several for assurance and because I focus stack a lot.
Take care
Martin

I have used LiveView by hand many times, and got some pretty good shots with my 100mmL IS, but I sure don't think hardly any of them compare to the best shots I have taken with my 180mm on a tripod ... but, again, this is only my subjective opinion :D

I really do appreciate your taking the time to read my blog, Martin, and I really do appreciate you taking the time to give your views. I totally understand where you're coming from, and I hope you understand where I am coming from, and I welcome hearing any more insights you have to share ... including seeing some of your best images and the techniques and strategies you used to capture them!

Cheers!

Jack

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Martin ­ G.
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Jul 12, 2011 20:58 as a reply to  @ John Koerner's post |  #8

Hello John,

thanks for the further input!

One thing I did not clearly explain is that macro shooting is the natural extension of my childhood passion for going in the field to "hunt" bugs. I like to get very close to the animal and somehow, you might think it is crazy, but it is like if I am in communion with the insect. For me, I cannot reach this pleasure by standing behind a tripod with a long focal lenght lens and a cable release. It is the whole experience that I seek... even though the final outcome is of course the picture. For me it is the difference between being an outside spectator or truly being in the action. I do not shoot flash by lazyness of not wanting to set up a tripod, I shoot flash because it like it that way. I welcome and enjoy the challenge to try to get as natural as possible lighting. Of course, that is the catch... the reason I try to get as natural light as possible with the flash is that natural light is the desirable outcome... so, yes I agree that in optimal conditions, NL will give the best results.

I think I now understand your vision and also understand that we both seek something completely different with our photography. That is the beauty of photography, it is very subjective!

99% of my shots are with the MP-E and I see where we are at oposites on this subect. I generally find most of 1:1 or lower magnification shots to be generally a bit boring. No matter how nice the effect of NL is, these shot would never be among my favourite shots.

I generally enjoy shooting protraits of bugs. I do not like magnification for the sake of magnification. You often see crucial parts of the animal cut off in pictures that some people post, I could not care less for such a picture. But I like to compose the shot as much as possible to have a nice portrait of the "face". I guess I like the MP-E because it shows you things you do not normally see, it just brings things to a whole different level. It gives a personality to the insect that a full body shot of the animal does not achieve (or rarely does), sure the background is nice but the shot lacks "impact". If I am just going to reproduce what my eyes see, then I cannot be bothered by the process (a bit like you when you are not sure you will get the picture you seek, you do not bother setting up your tripod, I am not bothered trying to approach the insect, getting into contorsions to try to frame the shot, etc.) unless it is a truly exceptional looking insect. Of course, for tiny insects, I settle with full body, but again, details that cannot be seen are shown.

It may seem at first glance that I am looking for the WOW factor only, but I do try to get the WOW and the artistic side of it (again, I do not care for magnification for the same of magnification). I probably fail miserably in the eye of many, but it is a work in progress! he he

I think very nice bokeh can be achieved with the MPE and flash, but we may not agree on what is nice bokeh.

All the best and looking forward to see your next pictures!

Martin

PS: English is not my first language, so I apologize for any weird sentence constructions and mistakes.


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Jul 13, 2011 01:04 |  #9

Some excellent points in the discussion.
I can appreciate the arguments but I think as Martin comments it's all about your preferred style of shooting in both the method of taking the shot and the resulting photo. Neither the non tripod or the tripod only style is correct - just different methods often producing different results.
I'm more like martin and prefer the hunting, get close to the subject method often using flash but not always. This means you can take shots that are simply not available to the natural light photographer either because there is inherent motion in the scene which would require very high shutter speeds to stop or because the subject would be hidden (ie inside or on the underside of leaves etc).

Just to make a point- I took a sequence of shots yesterday using the MPE-65 handheld of this beautiful hoverfly feeding on a buddlia flower. They were basically natural light with a tiny bit of fill flash ISO1600. I think the result is quite presentable ?

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John ­ Koerner
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Jul 13, 2011 06:50 as a reply to  @ LordV's post |  #10
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Martin G. wrote in post #12748578 (external link)
Hello John,
thanks for the further input!
One thing I did not clearly explain is that macro shooting is the natural extension of my childhood passion for going in the field to "hunt" bugs. I like to get very close to the animal and somehow, you might think it is crazy, but it is like if I am in communion with the insect. For me, I cannot reach this pleasure by standing behind a tripod with a long focal lenght lens and a cable release. It is the whole experience that I seek... even though the final outcome is of course the picture. For me it is the difference between being an outside spectator or truly being in the action.

Thank you as well, for giving a wonderful discussion of your passion, Martin, and believe me I share it with you!

In keeping with this, when I hand-held alot, I too was getting into all sorts of contorted positions ... lying down, sometimes with one ear in the dirt, an elbow and knee placed in ant-piles, etc., just to get the shot. Lotsa dirt, lotsa bites! And I agree, there is a certain sense of satisfaction being "down and dirty" to get your macro shot, so I agree with you 100% and have experienced this feeling myself many times :)

However, the flipside to this "down and dirty, up-close" positioning of onself is that "Sometimes you can have your face so close to the tree that you cannot see the forest." ... and so, oftentimes, shooting "macro from a distance" allows the photographer to capture more perspective of his subject in relation to the environment, and not just the subject itself :D

Martin G. wrote in post #12748578 (external link)
Hello John,
I do not shoot flash by lazyness of not wanting to set up a tripod, I shoot flash because it like it that way. I welcome and enjoy the challenge to try to get as natural as possible lighting. Of course, that is the catch... the reason I try to get as natural light as possible with the flash is that natural light is the desirable outcome... so, yes I agree that in optimal conditions, NL will give the best results.

I think we all agree that optimal, natural light simply gives the best results. Therefore, where you and I differ a bit is that you are forever experimenting with the use of flash ... in order to mimic and achieve a natural light "look" in conditions that might not be optimal ... while I pretty much just make it my business only to be out in the field, and pull out my camera and tripod, under the best lighting conditions. So, perhaps "I" am the lazy one :eek:

But I honestly see macro photography the same as landscape photography, in that the time of day you shoot will make or break your shot. I do realize that flash enables the macro photographer to have options that a landscape photographer does not have, but in the end (since optimal natural light is best), I just try to make all of my photographic efforts count under such optimal conditions, wherever possible, as I feel doing so will "make" my shot have its best chance of success also.

Martin G. wrote in post #12748578 (external link)
Hello John,
I think I now understand your vision and also understand that we both seek something completely different with our photography. That is the beauty of photography, it is very subjective!
99% of my shots are with the MP-E and I see where we are at oposites on this subect. I generally find most of 1:1 or lower magnification shots to be generally a bit boring. No matter how nice the effect of NL is, these shot would never be among my favourite shots.

I agree, the beauty of photography is you get to see the perspectives of other people, as well as they get to see your own, each being able to appreciate, learn from, and feed off of the other's perspective.

Where we disagree is the position that 1:1 (or lower) magnifications are "boring"; if they are well-executed, it is my opinion that these tend to be the most "artistic" of the macro images. For example, a 3:1 ultra-close flash shot of a butterfly's face will not have the same beauty and artistic presentation of a 1:2 natural light shot of that same butterfly sitting atop a gorgeous flower. In similar fashion, many lower-magnification macro images are "more beautiful" than high-magnification images.

However, ultra-close shots (2:1 and beyond) most definitely do have their place, over and above the "wow" factor, as such shots allow us to see elements and details of a subject that we could never see with out naked eye! These shots allow us to see the intricate complexity of smaller animals (and fungi/plants) and appreciate them on an intimate level. For example, in the reverse, nobody cares what a little gray housefly looks like on a green leaf ... but if you take a 4:1 shot of his face up-close, most people will be stopped in their tracks and say, "Wow!"

So it works both ways :)

I personally favor the more "artistic" of macro shots, but I certainly enjoy and hold higher-magnification shots in high esteem as well. I truly believe each has equal value, just for different reasons.

Martin G. wrote in post #12748578 (external link)
Hello John,
I generally enjoy shooting protraits of bugs. I do not like magnification for the sake of magnification. You often see crucial parts of the animal cut off in pictures that some people post, I could not care less for such a picture. But I like to compose the shot as much as possible to have a nice portrait of the "face". I guess I like the MP-E because it shows you things you do not normally see, it just brings things to a whole different level. It gives a personality to the insect that a full body shot of the animal does not achieve (or rarely does), sure the background is nice but the shot lacks "impact". If I am just going to reproduce what my eyes see, then I cannot be bothered by the process (a bit like you when you are not sure you will get the picture you seek, you do not bother setting up your tripod, I am not bothered trying to approach the insect, getting into contorsions to try to frame the shot, etc.) unless it is a truly exceptional looking insect. Of course, for tiny insects, I settle with full body, but again, details that cannot be seen are shown.

I agree with you 100%, and I absolutely enjoy this kind of photography too, now that I have an MP-E 65mm myself. The ability to get so close and to see elements of insects and spiders that you can't see with your eyes (as the MP-E 65 allows you to do) is addicting :)

Martin G. wrote in post #12748578 (external link)
Hello John,
It may seem at first glance that I am looking for the WOW factor only, but I do try to get the WOW and the artistic side of it (again, I do not care for magnification for the same of magnification). I probably fail miserably in the eye of many, but it is a work in progress! he he

I have seen Kurt (and another fellow I know on FB, named Ruedi) take several ultra-close MP-E shots that were both fantastically-intricate and that had excellent coloration and bokeh, so I know this is possible! I have also seen some fantastic photos of yours as well :)

However, most of the flash-taken MP-E shots that I see are fantastically-intricate shots of the subject, and yet they utterly devoid of any sort of background bokeh or interest, and I regret to say that includes the majority of my own flash shots with the MP-E 65mm :(

Martin G. wrote in post #12748578 (external link)
Hello John,
I think very nice bokeh can be achieved with the MPE and flash, but we may not agree on what is nice bokeh.

I would be grateful if you would show me such a shot of your own--and reveal your settings that allowed you to obtain it!

Martin G. wrote in post #12748578 (external link)
Hello John,
All the best and looking forward to see your next pictures!
Martin
PS: English is not my first language, so I apologize for any weird sentence constructions and mistakes.

I wish you the best too, Martin, and I look forward to seeing your own images!

Jack

PS: I am assuming, since you're from Canada, that you speak French ... so all I can say is "your English" is 1000x better than "my French" :lol:
Cheers!

.




  
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dmwphoto
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Jul 13, 2011 07:15 |  #11

Great point on time of day and use of the best light. Macro photography can be enjoyed in so many ways. The use of early morning light, a good tripod down at ground level, a silver reflector to help channel the "sweet light" all made this image a true joy of an experience. It was shot in a high meadow in West Virginia on a cool summer morning.

IMAGE: http://dmwphoto.smugmug.com/Nature/Macro-Photography/D2X4166/27843777_reAVw-L.jpg

Dave Watts
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dmwphoto
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Jul 13, 2011 07:31 |  #12

On that same morning in West Virginia I also got these with my macro set ups.

IMAGE: http://dmwphoto.smugmug.com/Nature/Macro-Photography/rosebudorchid/27044129_76WzR-L.jpg

IMAGE: http://dmwphoto.smugmug.com/Nature/Macro-Photography/D2X4100/27860779_FMbrp-L.jpg

Dave Watts
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John ­ Koerner
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Jul 13, 2011 07:42 |  #13
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LordV wrote in post #12749717 (external link)
Some excellent points in the discussion.
I can appreciate the arguments but I think as Martin comments it's all about your preferred style of shooting in both the method of taking the shot and the resulting photo. Neither the non tripod or the tripod only style is correct - just different methods often producing different results.

Thank you Brian, and I do appreciate your experienced and valuable input.

I don't think it's a matter of being "correct" or "incorrect"; what I believe is that there are two facts that can be used to improve anyone's macro photography: Fact 1: there is simply less movement when photos are taken with a tripod and remote switch than any hand-held shot, and Fact 2: early-morning lighting invariably produces the best light, and therefore the creamiest and most aesthetically-pleasing color tone to the bokehs.

These same facts are why landscape photographers always use tripods, and they always take their shots either in the morning (or at sunset), so that their photos turn out best. And, while there is no "bokeh" to landscape photography, the optimal light issue is still critical to their own photographic success. I think we can all agree on these 2 basic facts of photography.

Where there is disagreement between us, as macro-photographers, is in the use of flash as a "substitute" for natural lighting ... and that many people feel a tripod is a "hindrance" (rather than best practice) to macro photography. It is my own belief that tripod use is not a hindrance to getting any really good potential shot, and while many people feel flash is an "equal substitute" for optimal natural lighting, I feel it is not (except in the rarest and most expert of instances).

LordV wrote in post #12749717 (external link)
I'm more like martin and prefer the hunting, get close to the subject method often using flash but not always. This means you can take shots that are simply not available to the natural light photographer either because there is inherent motion in the scene which would require very high shutter speeds to stop or because the subject would be hidden (ie inside or on the underside of leaves etc).

As I relayed to Martin, these are excellent points of your own, Brian, and I cannot disagree with them. I likewise agree there are many field conditions where my 100mmL and IS will enable me to land shots that I could never get with my 180mm on a tripod. However, as I said in my blog, I am perfectly fine with this ... because the flipside to this is that 99x out of 100 those shots I would be able to get with my 100mm handheld will never be as clear, or as nice, as the planned, deliberate shots I was able to take my time with and get with my 180mm on the end of a tripod, using a remote switch ;)

LordV wrote in post #12749717 (external link)
Some excellent points in the discussion.
Just to make a point- I took a sequence of shots yesterday using the MPE-65 handheld of this beautiful hoverfly feeding on a buddlia flower. They were basically natural light with a tiny bit of fill flash ISO1600. I think the result is quite presentable ?
Brian v.

That was a very nice image, Brian. Your focus was excellent, and the bokeh was very creamy. However, I do believe that the color of the light was a bit warmed by the flash for my own taste, which subtle change of coloration (to flower, background, and subject) alters the reality a bit IMO. I honestly think you would have gotten better results if that same shot would have been taken from a tripod, using optimal, natural light rather than flash-light.

For example, here is a tripod photo I took with my own MP-E 65 in natural, early-morning light of an assassin bug:

IMAGE NOT FOUND
IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!
HTTP response: 404 | MIME changed to 'text/html' | Byte size: ZERO


I realize we all have different tastes, but the cooler lighting and more natural coloration of the assassin bug (and the whole scene) are simply more pleasing to my eyes, than had I taken this same shot of the assassin bug "with a flash."

As another example, here is a FLASH shot I took with my MP-E 65, also on a tripod, of a very tiny (maybe 2mm) Araneus spider:

IMAGE NOT FOUND
IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!
HTTP response: 404 | MIME changed to 'text/html' | Byte size: ZERO


I used 3 diffusers on my MT-24 Twinlight Flash, which rendered the coloration of the spider "naturally," but the use of flash itself completely removed any potential for a background bokeh, rendering the entire background "black" instead. I only took this photo to get an ID of the spider, from an expert to whom I submitted the image, so I was not interested in any kind of "artistic merit" here at all.

However, had I taken this same shot with a lower shutter speed, and used natural light instead of flash, I would have had a completely different "background bokeh" effect. So, IMO, the shot works for its intended purpose (to help an expert give me an ID of the spider), and yet there is nothing "artistic" about it IMO, precisely because I used a flash and removed any chance for a natural bokeh.

Cheers!

Jack

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rick_reno
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Jul 13, 2011 08:59 |  #14

Jack, good article. thanks for taking the time to write and share that article. It's excellent




  
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Kevin ­ Hall
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Jul 13, 2011 10:10 |  #15

Black or dark backgrounds can be examples of flash overpowering the ambient light. It can also be a result of shooting a lit subject (natural light or flash) against a background in shadow.

Two things can be done to overcome this: select a lower output from your flash so that you are getting a ratio of 1:2 or 1:4 where 1 part equals your flash output to 2 part ambient or 4 parts ambient. Slowing down your shutter speed to collect more light can also help. The other thing is to use another speedlight to illuminate your background - this is especially useful in dark areas like under forest canopy.

To achieve different quality of light from flash you can gel them, use a myriad of various light modifiers and softboxes, and even fine tune the color temperature of your white balance either while you are shooting or later on if you are making exposures in RAW.


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