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Thread: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

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    Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    I take a lot of pictures while on week long backpacking trips. Some of these include flowers, which probably are more close focus than macro. I used a Coolpix 5700 in the past, which had what I considered a very close focus, but I plan to take a D7000 this year with the 18-105mm lens. To keep weight down I would like to avoid taking another lens so I am considering a Kenko Auto Extension Tube, or maybe cropping the picture would be the best way to get what I want? Any thoughts?

    This was handheld and maybe a tripod would have helped DOF, but I would like the option of the flower filling the frame and maybe a bit more DOF.Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Practice on controlling the light would be very helpful here. Wandering shadows detract from the beauty of the flower. This does look really nice though.
    Tim

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Thank you Tim. I had not thought of that but I agree. Maybe that is why I always liked taking this type picture on overcast days. Interested in any techniques you would use here?

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Technique depends on whether you are specifically going out to shoot flowers or whether flowers are just grab shots during a general photo trek. I am just not keen on flower photography but, I have a friend who is very involved in that activity.

    When he specifically shoots flowers on a sunny day; he will usually bring some sort of diffuser or shade to eliminate harsh shadows and will use a pair of flashes to provide the light for his photos. In actuality, he is bringing his studio out into the field. He will also bring a small background stand along with several different colored cloth backgrounds which will be thrown out of focus. He uses a metal rod or two that he sinks into the ground; to which he attaches the stem of the flower (I don't remember what he uses to attach the flower to the rod). This minimizes the flower from swaying in the breeze. Finally, he brings a small spray bottle filled with water to spray water droplets on his subjects. I seem to remember that he was experimenting with a glycerine-water mixtue for the water droplets but, I am not sure what came of this experiment.

    Although the resulting images can be spectacular, IMO, it is not worth the effort. I kind of classify flower images in the category of sunsets... Not my cup of tea but, lots of folks like shooting them!
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 25th February 2012 at 03:11 PM.

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    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Things I consider essential for flower photography (macro or closeup):

    1) A tripod - I don't go out without it. It's absolutely essential for control. However very few tripods work well for closeup/macro work. I've shot flowers that were 1/4" (6mm) in diameter and 2" (50 mm) off the ground.

    2) A kneeling pad - available at gardening stored. Keeps the knees from aching and keeps your pants clean.

    3) A macro lens or extension tubes - I use both. Get close to minimize cropping. I use the Kenko ones.

    4) Diffuser to eliminate glare and shadows.
    http://www.digitaljuice.com/products...FW0GRQodLVmgaw
    The ad is confusing and somewhat intimidating. I sometimes use the reflector function, but mostly use the diffuser.
    I always hand hold the disc.

    5) A Plamp to control flower movement on breezy days
    http://www.tripodhead.com/products/plamp-main.cfm
    http://www.tripodhead.com/products/plamp-main.cfm

    6) Focus stacking software. This enables one to put the background well out of focus while getting the flower of interest in crisp focus.
    http://zerenesystems.com/cms/stacker

    7) Much patience.
    I can't offer a source for this.

    Many of the images on my site were stacked using multiple images focused at varying distances.



    Glenn

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    Things I consider essential for flower photography (macro or closeup):

    1) A tripod - I don't go out without it. It's absolutely essential for control. However very few tripods work well for closeup/macro work. I've shot flowers that were 1/4" (6mm) in diameter and 2" (50 mm) off the ground.


    Glenn
    While I'm no macro (or even flower) photographer, I can recommend the Benbo Trekker as a suitable tripod for work outside, including subjects at ground level.
    It's not conventional as tripods go, but is a wonderful tripod, you will either love it or hate it.
    My Trekker was bought more than a few years ago, second hand and will be the last tripod I ever buy.
    Read this review for an honest opinion
    http://www.photographybay.com/2009/1...od-kit-review/
    AND TRY AND GET A Mk1

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Hi Glenn,

    Do you use flash? It is not on your list. I note from your site that you are shooting your stacks with a low aperture. I presume this negates the need for flash as you have a bit more light to play with and the stack will make up the depth of field.

    For fast moving things a stack may not be possible and you have to increase the aperture a lot. Here a flash would help.

    Thanks,

    Alex

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    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Quote Originally Posted by herbert View Post
    Hi Glenn,

    Do you use flash? It is not on your list. I note from your site that you are shooting your stacks with a low aperture. I presume this negates the need for flash as you have a bit more light to play with and the stack will make up the depth of field.

    For fast moving things a stack may not be possible and you have to increase the aperture a lot. Here a flash would help.

    Thanks,

    Alex
    Alex:

    Sorry for getting back to you so late. Too many other things going on.

    Yes, you've pretty well nailed it. No, I don't use flash - all I have is the built-in on my 30D. To be honest I did use it once in the late evening, and it worked very well - the lily was about three feet away from everything else and the background came out black - quite striking for a red flower.

    Most of my images were shot in daylight (hence the diffuser - a very useful tool). To eliminate the BG I use f/stops in the neighbourhood of f/3.5 with a 100 macro lens. So in order to get any DOF at all, I must focus stack. I'm using the demo version of Zerene Stacker (someone here recommended it and it's the best I've tried - the others were Helicon and CombinezM). Once I get my recently acquired photo computer set up, I will purchase a Zerene license.

    A stack definitely requires a very still subject, hence the Plamp - but even this doesn't help on really windy days.

    Glenn

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Quote Originally Posted by gerryquiff View Post
    While I'm no macro (or even flower) photographer, I can recommend the Benbo Trekker as a suitable tripod for work outside, including subjects at ground level.
    It's not conventional as tripods go, but is a wonderful tripod, you will either love it or hate it.
    My Trekker was bought more than a few years ago, second hand and will be the last tripod I ever buy.
    Read this review for an honest opinion
    http://www.photographybay.com/2009/1...od-kit-review/
    AND TRY AND GET A Mk1
    Gerry:

    I'm using a Gitzo Explorer - the "column" (it isn't a centre column) will angle downward as far a vertical which will put the camera on the ground without splaying the legs. It's about the only one that will do that.

    What's crazy on the Gitzo site is that they don't show a pic of what it will actually do - I found it at the local camera shop on sale - it had been in stock for several years so the price was reduced quite a bit.

    http://www.adorama.com/alc/article/T...ipod-AdoramaTV

    This is also the tripod head I have.

    Unfortunately at 4:00 minutes he talks about the "horizontal" column and splaying the legs - I just point the column down and with the off centre ball head the camera can be positioned in the normal position - not upside down. It's too bad that he sold it short - it's better than he knows.

    Glenn

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Thanks Glenn. I am going to run this years flower macro campaign using a flash, small softbox and shoot handheld. I'll have a tripod too. In a few tests I have done I found it very useful to mount the camera on a tripod with remote shutter cable release. I then take a lot of images and move the off camera flash around the flower for each one. The difference of a few degrees can really change the shot. However for most of my stuff I will favour the run and gun shooting of tripod less mode.

    I can see that a diffuser will be a great help on bright days. I will have to get one those.

    If I run into severe DOF issues then I can resort to stacking. However I think it will not be necessary for my shots since I will be aiming for a reproduction ratio of 0.2 - 0.4. The drop from a 1.0x macro gives you quite a bit more depth (2 mm rather than 0.5).

    Thanks for the tips.

    Alex

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Quote Originally Posted by herbert View Post
    Thanks Glenn. I am going to run this years flower macro campaign using a flash, small softbox and shoot handheld. I'll have a tripod too. In a few tests I have done I found it very useful to mount the camera on a tripod with remote shutter cable release. I then take a lot of images and move the off camera flash around the flower for each one. The difference of a few degrees can really change the shot. However for most of my stuff I will favour the run and gun shooting of tripod less mode.

    I can see that a diffuser will be a great help on bright days. I will have to get one those.

    If I run into severe DOF issues then I can resort to stacking. However I think it will not be necessary for my shots since I will be aiming for a reproduction ratio of 0.2 - 0.4. The drop from a 1.0x macro gives you quite a bit more depth (2 mm rather than 0.5).

    Thanks for the tips.

    Alex
    Alex;

    A softbox would be nice for sure.

    Hand held? Maybe my age is telling on me.

    Remote shutter release? Absolutely, even with live view. If I forget to bring my remote along, I'll use the ten second delay plus live view to reduce camera vibrations.

    A flash fired from different angle is a good tool - I'm a "natural" light shooter and rely on the sun. Another feature of the diffuser is that it has four reflector faces in addition to the diffuser (hence the name 5'n'1). When the sun is low, I sometimes use the gold reflector side to reflect skylight back onto a flower - works nice for orange/red flowers as the light just at sunset is warm and this with a gold reflector surface imparts a very rich colour to the flower. The other nice thing about the reflector is that it is a large surface, and being not perfectly flat it tends to diffuse the reflected light.

    As for stacking, Zerene Stacker is really easy to use, and there are a few other members on this forum that use it - they've helped me quite a bit. It can be used on free trial for 30 days.

    Of course, this one is free:
    http://hadleyweb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/CZM/News.htm

    Glenn

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    Gerry:

    I'm using a Gitzo Explorer - the "column" (it isn't a centre column) will angle downward as far a vertical which will put the camera on the ground without splaying the legs. It's about the only one that will do that.

    What's crazy on the Gitzo site is that they don't show a pic of what it will actually do - I found it at the local camera shop on sale - it had been in stock for several years so the price was reduced quite a bit.

    http://www.adorama.com/alc/article/T...ipod-AdoramaTV

    This is also the tripod head I have.

    Unfortunately at 4:00 minutes he talks about the "horizontal" column and splaying the legs - I just point the column down and with the off centre ball head the camera can be positioned in the normal position - not upside down. It's too bad that he sold it short - it's better than he knows.

    Glenn
    Hi Glenn, I've seen the Gitzo mentioned and recently saw one on sale, and recognised the design.
    I hadn't actully been shopping for a tripod when I got my Trekker, and was taken aback at it's low cost in the shop. It was described by the shop keeper as fiddly, and bagpipes for a camera (which I found funny) I've had a couple of strange reactions from photographers as I've used it, but I love it.
    I'm guessing the Gitzo will be the same to some.

    Gerry

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Quote Originally Posted by gerryquiff View Post
    Hi Glenn, I've seen the Gitzo mentioned and recently saw one on sale, and recognised the design.
    I hadn't actully been shopping for a tripod when I got my Trekker, and was taken aback at it's low cost in the shop. It was described by the shop keeper as fiddly, and bagpipes for a camera (which I found funny) I've had a couple of strange reactions from photographers as I've used it, but I love it.
    I'm guessing the Gitzo will be the same to some.

    Gerry
    Fiddly? Yes, if fiddly means it has more adjustments than most other tripods, then it's fiddly.

    The legs don't have preset "click stops" as most others do. They can be placed at any angle and locked securely. The fiddly part comes into play because to spread the legs, the locks must be unlocked; on other tripods, one just pulls the legs out (and they can be just pushed back in). The ability to lock the legs at any angle is an advantage in many cases; and once locked the legs can't be moved inward or outward - this is more stable than legs that can be pushed in.

    There was a thread a while back about "how heavy should a tripod be". Stiffness is the prime consideration with tripods - they seldom fail in strength - they just wobble or vibrate. When the legs on the Explorer are locked at the upper joint, this joint is stiff (can't be moved) whereas on standard tripods, the upper joint is not locked in both direction (inward and outward). IOW, you can pull the leg out and it stops, but when you push it in, it moves - this reduces stability.

    The column (which can act like a "normal" column), but can be angled upward, downward, and swung around a vertical axis by 360 degrees requires more fiddling, but this provides more adjustment than most tripods.

    One can't have it both ways.

    The only mistake I made was getting a four section version - the three section legs are thicker/stiffer.

    Glenn

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Hi Glenn,

    Having been out last weekend in bright conditions I have just ordered a 5-in-1 diffuser. I had to get my VAL to stand in front of the sun since the contrast was so high. This then made the light too flat. A diffuser is going to be a real help.

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    Hand held? Maybe my age is telling on me.
    If you know what you want then a tripod is the thing to use. At current I find it a better learning experience to shoot 150 different flower photos handheld and then assess my work later on the PC. I am gradually building my eye. Plus I have the hybrid IS on my 100mm macro which helps for a few stops of help against shaking.

    However a tripod does have it's advantages. I was shooting a flower at eye-level hand-held yesterday in a glass house. A pair of passers by thought it OK to just duck under my lens and nip by. They did not touch me but brushed the plant in the process which took 1 minute to stop moving. It was so ridiculous it was funny. A tripod would have stopped them and they would have had to take the laborious 5 extra steps around the back of me.

    Do you use a focus rail for your stacks? I have wondered about this or whether using the focus ring will still do an OK job since the angle of view will change slightly from focus breathing.

    Alex

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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Quote Originally Posted by herbert View Post
    Hi Glenn,
    However a tripod does have it's advantages. I was shooting a flower at eye-level hand-held yesterday in a glass house. A pair of passers by thought it OK to just duck under my lens and nip by. They did not touch me but brushed the plant in the process which took 1 minute to stop moving. It was so ridiculous it was funny. A tripod would have stopped them and they would have had to take the laborious 5 extra steps around the back of me.

    Alex
    I generally take a monopod attach it and point it in front of me, for the purpose of blocking the space in front. People tend to look at it, believe its fragile and avoid me.

  16. #16
    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: Advice for Macro or Close Focus?

    Quote Originally Posted by herbert View Post
    Hi Glenn,

    Having been out last weekend in bright conditions I have just ordered a 5-in-1 diffuser. I had to get my VAL to stand in front of the sun since the contrast was so high. This then made the light too flat. A diffuser is going to be a real help.

    If you know what you want then a tripod is the thing to use. At current I find it a better learning experience to shoot 150 different flower photos handheld and then assess my work later on the PC. I am gradually building my eye. Plus I have the hybrid IS on my 100mm macro which helps for a few stops of help against shaking.

    However a tripod does have it's advantages. I was shooting a flower at eye-level hand-held yesterday in a glass house. A pair of passers by thought it OK to just duck under my lens and nip by. They did not touch me but brushed the plant in the process which took 1 minute to stop moving. It was so ridiculous it was funny. A tripod would have stopped them and they would have had to take the laborious 5 extra steps around the back of me.

    Do you use a focus rail for your stacks? I have wondered about this or whether using the focus ring will still do an OK job since the angle of view will change slightly from focus breathing.

    Alex
    Alex:

    No, I don't use a focus rail. They aren't cheap, and I think they are heavy (and perhaps a bit awkward - don't really know). As for focus breathing, I think that Zerene Stacker seems to take care of this better than the stacker I used previously.

    I don't know if there is any technique that will eliminate the change of perspective that comes with changes in focus distance or a focus rail (perhaps because the variation with perspective with focus distance in a lens is too complex?). I'm putting this out for others to comment on.

    One thing that has occurred to me is that the longer the focal length of the lens, the less change of perspective there is likely to be when focus stacking. Problem is that the long ones are much more costly.


    OK, I can't resist telling this little anecdote:

    Several years ago while setting up my tripod for a flower shot, a lady came by with her DSLR, and she was snapping away - probably took ten different shots while I was preparing to do one.

    She asked me if I always used a tripod (yes) I commented that I got better sharpness in my images with the tripod. She didn't seem to be convinced at all by my reasoning.

    A year later at the same location (one of the better botanical type gardens here) we happened to meet, and she was sporting a tripod. I must have looked at her inquisitively because she volunteered that she'd been using it for a while and found that her images were sharper. :

    I didn't laugh, but restrained myself and said something like "way to go".

    Glenn

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