MACRO VS. CLOSE-UP PHOTOGRAPHY

By Vicki Uthe

Something became clear to me recently. I realized the difference between macro and close-up photography and concluded that I’m really more of a close-up photographer than a macro person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the main difference as I understand it: With macro, you need a tripod, a non-moving subject, a lot of patience and you get in SO close to a subject that many times you need a caption to tell you what it is. With close-up, you can shoot it with most lenses, you get very close to your subject with a zoom or by walking closer but can still tell what it is without question and you can do it successfully with a moving subject.

The two images above, shot in Costa Rica in 2012, were taken with the 100 mm Canon macro lens. At the time I was SURE I was shooting macro. I even set the lens for it. Turns out these are really just close-ups. If it were a true macro image a single water drop would nearly fill the frame as would only a few of these frog eggs. (I think they are frog eggs).

I decided to dive into my archive and pull up all images shot with my two macro lenses. The first one was a Canon 100mm, f/2.8. I loved that lens and it worked well for me but in pulling up the images I began to realize I mostly shot close-ups in macro mode or not in macro mode at all but at 100mm. My other lens is the Olympus 60mm, f/2.8 that I got when I switched to the mirrorless micro four-thirds format camera a couple of years ago. Same thing. Most of my images are either close-ups in macro mode or just shooting at 60mm.

I pulled up over 8700 images shot with those two lenses and precious few could be considered truly macro. My minimalist, photograph as you go shooting style does not lend itself to true macro photography. I like to travel light with as little gear as possible.

At the very LEAST a good macro image requires a tripod and a subject that is very still. A macro lens will reduce the depth of field (the space in your image that is in focus) to the width of a credit card. This means that you must be very precise as to what you are focussing on. The slightest breeze or movement will put a flower or insect out of focus.

If you are truly interested in exploring the world of macro photography I have a resource for you. My good friend, Amy Horn, recently wrote a book with Bruce Taubert, a retired wildlife biologist, on this very subject. You can check out their book and order it here: The Art of Macro Photography

The head of this praying mantis is one of the few images I have that could truly be considered macro. It is handheld and my subject was standing very still.

I’m not sure where the line actually is between close-up and macro. This image shows how small the depth of field (the area in focus) is. His eye is about the only thing that is sharp. Always focus on the eyes.

Right? Close-up or Macro? All I know is I should have used a tripod.

I would for sure consider this one just a close-up. And it didn’t jump on me so I was happy about that. Not sure how much closer I would have been willing to get…

This little red frog was pretty tiny sitting on someone’s finger but I would still classify it as a close-up.

I really liked this image to show the shallow depth of field when your lens is in macro mode. This is rusted barbed wire wrapped around more wire. If you look close one strand is in focus while the one right next to it, and a little back, is not. I can not stress enough how crazy shallow the area in focus is with macro shooting. To the point where there is now software that allows you to focus stack. You take many images and continually adjust the focus only to “stack” them later to create an image where the whole subject is in focus. Check it out, it’s in Amy and Bruce’s book. Pretty fascinating.

Well, that’s all I have for macro. In writing this I’ve learned that macro is not my area of focus, so to speak, in photography. It is a fascinating avenue to explore, however, if you are interested.

Happy Shooting!!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Bugs are Beautiful

Author:  Bruce Taubert

For whatever reason I have become obsessed with taking macro and micro photographs of bugs.  Beetles, files, wasps, bees, stink bugs, moths, butterflies, and whatever other bugs in Arizona and around the world.  Bugs are cool!  They have compound eyes, colorful exteriors, antennae, exoskeletons with sharp spines or hairs, scales like a fish, and many endearing body forms.

To take extreme macro/micro images of bugs I have purchased some types of photographic equipment that one would not normally find in a photographer’s bag.  All the cameras I own are adequate to take wonderful macro images, but it is the lenses that lack the magnification power to get the job done.  My first super macro lens purchase was the Canon MP-65 f/2.8 1X-5X zoom lens.  This unique lens does not zoom from wide to telephoto but zooms to different magnifications.  By moving the “non-focusing ring” the lens zooms from 1X to 5X without the need for extension tubes, teleconverters, diopter lenses, or the like.  Very easy to use when it comes to changing the level of magnification.

Cognisys “StackShot” attached to the automatic focusing rail. The camera is the Canon 7D Mark II with a Canon MP-E-65mm f/2.8 1-5X. The diffuser is a tapioca cut. In the set-up there would either be a LED light or two flashes.

When I want to go past the 5X world I must resort to purchasing equipment normally found in the research laboratory and, not in the camera bag.  For 10X magnification I have purchased a Mitutoyo microscope objective.  To allow me to use my digital camera and not a microscope I place a 70-200mm lens on the camera and use an adapter to place the microscope objective on the end of the camera lens. Not difficult to do and the cost of objective is less than the cost of a quality macro lens, and there are more inexpensive options than the Mitutoyo lens I have.

Mitutoyo 10X microscope objective mounted on a Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens attched to a Canon 7D Mark II camera. This set-up gives a 16X magnification.

From here the only other relatively costly item is a focusing rail.  When taking images at large magnifications, it is necessary to use focus stacking.  Focus stacking is a mechanism by which the computer puts several images taken at different focal distances together resulting in a final, single image that has more depth-of-field than possible by any other process.  For smaller magnifications I may only take 10 images for stacking but at higher magnifications I take 200 or more images.  The focusing rail allows me to move the camera in very small increments and makes it easy to take the multiple images necessary for stacking.  To make life easier I purchased an automated focusing rail.

The rest of the equipment is easy and cheap.  I use either an empty tapioca container, plastic cutting board, printing paper, or even a ping pong ball for diffusion.  Camera flashes or LED lights provide the illumination and the bugs are free.

This sinister looking portrait of a wasp face was focused stacked from 44 images taken with the Canon MP-65 lens.

Not only are the images, in my mind, beautiful they represent forms that are unimaginable without having a photograph to view.  With this level of magnification, we can better appreciate the natural patterns of even the most obscure creatures.  Small bugs that are completely unappreciated become things of beauty, hopefully allowing the viewer to better appreciate them.  Even with all the biological experience I have and my love for all things alive (yes Roberta, even Creepy, Crawly Critters) I am forever amazed to see the intricate details these images uncover.

With a little practice and some unique equipment, it is relatively easy to see the smaller things in life.  The learning curve is not steep and the equipment not as expensive or exotic as one might imagine.

used a Canon MP-65 to capture this image of the beautiful scales on a moths wing.

If this type of photography interests, you I teach macro photography workshops through Arizona Highways PhotoScape’s and I have just written a book with Amy Brooks Horn on The Art of Macro Photography.

Bruce Taubert is an Instructor with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

 

Life Lessons learned from Macro Photography

By Lisa Hanhard

I had never been what people would call a patient person. I’d always been very goal oriented and for my first 40 years on this earth I was charging through life. My quest was to aim for my next goal, whether personal, professional or physical until it was achieved. Then I would seek out my next challenge and charge forward again, single minded in my purpose of completing what I set out to do, learn or achieve. That was until I got my first macro lens, a Canon f2.8 100mm L series macro lens. And my life has never again been the same.

The day my life changed, started by taking a jaunt over to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. Armed with my new lens I set out to see what I might discover that day. As I came to the little pond that day I saw the most magnificent creature, a gorgeous red rock skimmer dragonfly posing on a rock, and I was entranced. I stared at that little guy and took probably 200 photos. As I sat at the edge of the water it stared at me and I stared back, shooting photos. Every now and then it would do a little rotation, almost saying to me “you think this side of me is eye-catching, check me out from this angle.” Through the course or 15 minutes I just sat with that dragonfly photographing it from all angles.  When I got home to view my photos I was amazed at the detail and intricacy of this creature. I was astounded that in 40 years of life I had never even noticed a dragonfly before, let alone seen their delicate details. The dragonfly became symbolic to me of all of the breath-taking things in the world that I had never slowed down enough to see. From that day forward I have been peeking into flower buds, looking into trees, and crawling on the ground to see what else I have been missing, and I’ve learned there is so much beauty everywhere if we only take the time to look.

Some things that I have learned on the journey.

Patience – If you clear your mind and relax, beautiful things will happen. The best moments in life do not happen when you are in a hurry. Sit down, and plan to stay for a while.

For example, Dragonflies are very territorial and generally flit back to the same branch or two consistently. If you miss a shot, just sit quietly and chances are they will come right back to you, and even pose for you a few minutes later.

Most of my best dragonfly shots photos have come after missing a shot. It gave me time to prepare my focus and choose the best seat to wait for the dragonflies return.

Solitude can be a very nice thing – Spending some time with nature in total solitude can be very peaceful. Not only will you get some of your best shots, but letting your brain have time to totally shut down is very relaxing.

Beauty has many angles – Make sure to explore as many as you are able. If you don’t like the way something looks, change your perspective.

Life is short. A dragonfly only flies for the final few months of its life. Get out, explore, look for beauty everywhere, and make friends along the way. Arizona Highways Photo Workshops are a great place to do that 🙂

And, next time you see a plant or flower of bush, look closer. You might find a tiny little magical world waiting for you to explore.  Enjoy the journey.

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa Hanhard is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Photographing with Extension Tubes

Author: David Halgrimson

Here is a little info on using extension tubes to get that super close shot.

An extension tube is used on a lens to allow for getting closer to a subject. It is mounted between the camera body and the lens. They come in many sizes, i.e. I have a 13mm, 21mm, 25mm and 31mm. They are hollow, no glass, and simply move the lens closer to the subject.

There are two types that I am aware of, those that have electronics which allows for auto focus and those without electronics. You can guess which is less expensive. Typically, manual focus will be used anyway as focusing becomes very sensitive the closer you get to the subject. The disadvantage of none electronic tubes is no adjustment for aperture unless the aperture can be set on the lens. The cost is very reasonable, a set of three starting around $40 and up unless Canon, Nikon or other brand names are preferred.

Extension tubes can be combined, i.e. a 13mm and a 25mm for a total of 38mm. The larger the mm of extension used the closer the lens can be to the subject. There is some light loss from using extension tubes and this will have to be adjusted for in the camera.

The use of a tripod when using extension tubes is almost a must as focusing becomes very tricky.  Extension tubes are great for flowers, insects and any other small subjects.

I took these photos using the camera with no extension tube and then with 4 different tubes, 13mm, 21mm, 25mm and 31mm, I did not combine any. A Canon 5D mkII and a 24-105mm lens was used and the focus ring was set to the Macro area of the lens and ISO was 100 for all the images here. The camera was on a tripod and was not moved,

© David Halgrimson — This first image was taken with no extension tube attached, the settings were 70mm, f/7.1, 1/800th and about 10 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The second image was taken using a 13mm extension tube, and settings of 67mm, f/7.1, 1/320th and about 9 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The third image was taken using a 21mm extension tube, and settings of 67mm, f/7.1, 1/320th and about 5.5 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The fourth image was taken using a 25mm extension tube, and settings of 70mm, f/7.1, 1/320th and about 4.5 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The fifth image was taken using a 31mm extension tube, and settings of 73mm, f/7.1, 1/100th and about 3.5 inches from the subject.

I started getting shadow on the subject the lager I went with the extension tubes so this is something to keep in mind. Also, focus was getting more difficult and DOF was getting very narrow, I did not try other aperture settings, this is another thing to be aware of. This was not an exact science experiment, I only wanted to show what an extension tube can do for getting those very close shots.

David Halgrimson is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

iPhone or “Real” Camera? Which is better?

Author: Amy Horn

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between an iPhone image and a “real” camera image? Well, here is the test. I was waiting in a Northern Arizona University parking lot for students to arrive for a field trip and I noticed ice. For those that don’t know me, I love capturing images of ice. Instantly, I grabbed my iPhone 7 and built in camera app, placed the phone about 2 inches away from the ice and captured several photos. I still had a few minutes before leaving with the students, so I grabbed my new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MarkII with the 12-100mm lens (sensor equivalent 24—200mm). I zoomed in to 100mm (200mm equivalent) and stood about 12 inches above the ice and shot several images. Both shots were taken with non-macro lenses and here are the comparison images:

Both images are straight out of the camera. You might notice a slight difference in white balance from the different systems auto white balance. Unfortunately, I did not compose the images identically, but, can you tell which image is the iPhone image? Take my iPhoneography/Smart Phone photography class to learn the answer. Not really! The image on the left is from the iPhone and the image on the right is from the Olympus. When I examined these images close up, I have to say the only difference I saw was the white balance! Decide for yourself and compare your smart phone to a “real” camera. Sometimes that mobile phone can be quite a powerful option.

It’s not too late to join Amy in her iPhoneography/Smart Phone Photography class March 25! Follow the link to register.

 

Amy Horn is a lecturer of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. View her current teaching schedule at ahpw.org or horndesigns.com.

Instagram: amyhornphotographer
Facebook: Amy Horn: Horndesigns Photography

Using Live View for Composition

Author: Amy Novotny

Live View is a great tool featured on many new digital cameras and serves many purposes. It can help with focus, with shooting scenes in which the camera is higher or lower than the photographer, and with composition.

With landscapes and macro shots, Live View allows for greater control in manually focusing and creating sharper images. With auto-focus, the camera attempts to focus on a spot but might not be able to narrow down the focus to the specific object desired, especially if the scene contains a lot of different elements or objects.  This can lead to the focus being on a nearby object even if that object is not the desired focus point.  After switching to Live View, the photographer can then zoom in on the specific object that needs to be in focus and manually focus from there.

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This can be used in macro photography as well when images are focus-stacked and the focus needs to be adjusted in slight amounts over multiple images and then be combined into one image that is fully in focus.

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Live View can also help with shooting images in which the photographer cannot have his or her eye at the viewfinder. This can be beneficial if the photographer wants to photograph a scene that requires the camera to be much higher or lower than the photographer has access to. For instance, in the scene below, the Great Horned Owl was perched high in the canyon walls of the slot canyon, Canyon X. It was impossible to move further away from the bird due to being in a narrow slot canyon. Furthermore, having the camera on a tripod on the ground would not allow for the owl to be in the frame, so the camera was raised above the photographer’s head and Live View turned on. The shot was framed and composed in this manner and allowed for a clear image of this bird.

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This tool can be useful in composing images that have a lot of detail in the scene. In the two scenes below, it can be difficult to find a way to isolate aspects of the canyon walls or balance the multitude of sunflowers in the scene. In both cases, Live View was turned on and the camera was swiveled on a tripod until the desired composition was seen. Various angles were attempted and slight adjustments were made to account for all the various shapes in nature. The resulting images were achieved through this method and possibly would not have been seen without Live View.

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This is a great tool to experiment with and can even help capture sharper images that requires less post-processing or cropping.

Amy Novotny is a Volunteer Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Twitter: @amynovotnyaz
Instagram: anovotn

 

 

Spring is time for Cactus Blooms…and a new camera

Author: David Halgrimson

It is spring and everyone is taking and posting images of the beautiful cactus flowers currently in bloom. I guess I just have to join in and share a few of my own but with a little twist to the story.

Cactus 5

I normally shoot Canon and know my equipment quite well. However we photographers are never happy just using the same equipment over and over, where is the challenge in that.

So I bought a new camera, not new new but new to me, a Sony NEC 5N. This is a small mirrorless and viewfinder-less camera with amazing abilities. It does all the major things we look for, shoots RAW, has aperture, shutter, manual as well as all the canned settings, i.e. scene mode, video and much more. It also has interchangeable lenses. The problem is, it works completely different than my Canons so after reading the printed manual, very general, the provided PDF extended manual and a third party full detail manual, I was on my way.

Two things I discovered right off 1) using the LCD monitor to compose, check settings and focus is not too easy in bright sun and 2) using the Control Wheel to select menu items and items within the menus is not easy. Trying to rotate the wheel vs. press the wheel, two separate options, takes finesse and creates much frustration.

But that said, I took it in hand and headed out to walk the neighborhood looking for cactus flowers. I used an 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens, shot in RAW and aperture priority and here are some of the images. Not all are as sharp as I would like but that’s me still learning and not the camera.

David Halgrimson is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.