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Thread: Ant macro (failure ?)

  1. #1
    Stagecoach's Avatar
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    Ant macro (failure ?)

    Having been bitten by some pesky ants today I decided to get my own back and 'cool' one off a bit in the fridge for a photo exercise in the evening. Whilst I set up for max magnification and adjusted lighting for exposure he was placed in the freezer for 5 minutes and then the fridge for another 5 with the hope of slowing him down.

    On opening his container and searching for him within bits of his habitat there he was at the bottom laying on his side, lifeless ! I blew warm air on him for a short time and slight movement could be seen so he was deposited on his pre arranged stage quickly where he slowly came back to his previous self.

    105 macro, 3 x extension tubes, focus rail, 2 x SBR 200s in manual fitted to lens front. 1/60s, f22, ISO 640. The images have not been cropped.

    Ant macro (failure ?)


    Ant macro (failure ?)

    For the effort I put into these I have to admit I'm somewhat disappointed in the results and am going to try and improve my technique with these mini models.

    The lighting has caused highlights/blowouts as can be seen although I used additional diffusers to the standard Nikon ones for the flashes. In addition, although my fous plane may have not been exactly where I wanted it on the eye I feel the image lacks the sharpness within the narrow DOF that it should have. Or am I being too critical as this subject was only 4 to 5mm long overall.

    Any advive and comments will be much appreciated. I have some colonies of slightly larger black ants that are real biters that I intend to practice on next

    And yes, he was placed back outside within his own enviroment

  2. #2
    Digital's Avatar
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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Grahame, not an expert on macro photography and/or semi-lifeless ants. However these pics look good to me.

    Bruce

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Simon

    Since my journey into macro started many years ago I too have questioned the ethics of cooling small critters to aid in photographing them. Many of the posters on the sites I have used over the years have mentioned doing this and on occasions the ethics have also been questioned by some.

    In my opinion there will never be a right or wrong view to this in the same way as similar sentiments can be voiced about flower photography where one can question if it’s acceptable to cut a bloom to photograph it indoors or is it only acceptable to produce a photo of a bloom attached to a living plant. Most will say if there’s an abundance of them it’s acceptable if it’s rare, no.

    I do not profess to be a nature photographer but choose my subjects in all fields based on interest or challenge and the ant image posted was one of challenge rather than wishing to portray an animal in its natural environment.

    I will agree with you in that getting ‘the shot’ in the wild is more of a challenge but unfortunately this is not always possible due to such things as time, weather and location.

    The ant was the first small critter I have subdued by cooling and my view of whether I undertake this practice again will be decided upon the subject and purpose for the image.

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    My, Simon, this is a big subject. Noting your occupation as Ecologist and Nature Photographer I would expect you to have firm and well thought through views, whereas personally I would take a much broader view.

    However, to continue, could I suggest posting something in the Community Lounge? Might get quite lively.

    Grahame, FWIW I think these shots are a pretty good attempt (though I am no macro expert), and I don't think you committed any mortal sin.

    Dave

    P.S. Grahame, we were typing at the same time!

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Hi Grahame

    you have got quite a setup. The 1st pix is alright. While the 2nd is a wee bit off as the focus was on the antennae and could add a bit more light. Put your flash in manual mode if you have not. I believe the sweet spot for that lens is F11. I do not go beyond F16 when shooting macros.

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks for commenting.

    If I had of had more time before he got too lively I would have taken far more shots with varying focus points to try and nail it so I can accept that the off focus problem was simply caused by me.

    I had kept both flashes in manual as I find this the easiest and quickest way to make exposure adjustments and for these shots had reduced the right hand flash to half the power of the left one, seen as the difference in highlights at each end. I need to improve light diffusion to get rid of the highlights I think as it's stopping me from upping the lighting amount.

    I often use f22 on this lens to get the increased DOF and with much larger subjects I have not found it a problem. Is it that the greater magnification I am aiming for requires getting closer to the sweet spot of f11 as the difference in IQ becomes significantly more noticeable with very small subjects ?

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Stagecoach View Post

    Getting ‘the shot’ in the wild is more of a challenge but unfortunately this is not always possible due to such things as time, weather and location.
    I agree and, once you put him back (alive) to its environment, I dont think you would go to hell because of this, even if I believed in such a thing (hell). There are people who dont kill an ant, but do terrible things...

    To me, it is a very nice macro, Grahame. Although I am just a beginner in Macro, it looks good to me.

    PS.: Did you use focus stack?
    Last edited by Otavio; 9th July 2013 at 10:09 AM.

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Hi Otavio,

    I checked on him today but have to admit I could not recognise him within the colony of 10,000 of his mates in my rotting palm trunks.

    I did not use focus stacking for this shot, it is something I rarely do now. Some years ago I experimented with stacking macro but once perfected asked myself the question what exactly am I gaining ? Did I need to have every leg, petal and whatever in sharp focus as one petal or the other wing is the same as the other ones.

    Whilst I can now appreciate the skill in stacking having done it my view is that for the majority of images it is done on it does not give the image a greater impact. There are of course times when it is necessary for a technical record rather than a pleasing image.

  9. #9
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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Hi Grahame

    There are several things I do when shooting macro

    1. When I want a 1:1 magnification. The barrel is zoom in all the way and I only move the camera to focus.
    2. If I want a greater magnification I use a diopter. I stopped using the ET as it is too heavy unless I am shooting a dead bug.
    3. I make sure that I am stable. This I use a broom stick, yes a broom stick to support my camera. My left hand on the broom stick like holding a cue stick and finger holding/supporting the lens while the right hand is on the camera body.
    4. I make sure I don't breathe as I shoot.
    5. My settings can be between the settings below depending on what I want to achieve
    f/8 - f/16 | 1/80 - 1/200 | ISO 100 | manual mode | fill-in flash - flash on | flash diffused |
    When I shoot with natural light, a tripod would be used
    Then it's either f/7.1 or f/8 | ISO 100 | mirror up (I use the Sony SLT so no need) | aperture mode | reflector used when possible |
    To answer your question:
    The reason why the IQ is noticeable in smaller bugs is because everything is real small and the slightest difference is magnified. In f/22 the degradation of the light or is it the glass is magnified. When shooting shiny bugs as they reflect light. I photoshop the highlights to acceptable levels.

    You should google and see how other macro photographers are diffusing their lights. There are pro and cons depending on the type of diffuser you are planning to use. But do experiment with different diffusers. From my personal experience, sharpness of the subject would not be an issue as you continue to practice shooting bugs, it's the diffusion of light that would make the difference to the photo.

    Hope the above helps. Also, the focus like shooting people should be on the eyes.

    Steven

  10. #10

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Firstly, Grahame, chilling insects is no different to them being outside on a chilly night. They slow down then fully recover. I usually chill in a refrigerator for as long as it takes until I am able to photograph them. Then, if necessary, 2 minutes in a freezer.

    Most serious entomologists recommend actually killing the specimens with various chemicals before photographing them for identification. But I find this produces an unnatural result which is actually more difficult to photograph and successfully identify than chilling them.

    But, everything I photograph is identified and recorded for research purposes. There are many internet organisations requiring regular records.

    Most of my insect photography is done 'in the wild' but occasionally this isn't possible, for example moths or other insects which need close examination for identification.

    With regard to photography. You need to set up everything in advance because you may only have a few seconds before your model flies out of the window. I use a shallow holding tray into which I place some natural elements like leaves or bark.

    Set up the tripod and do some test shots.

    If you use flash, you will frequently get hot spots. Adding a diffuser, or a polarizer, makes little difference if you use ETTL flash metering which will simply increase to compensate for any diffuser etc. The important part is setting your flash output compensation correctly.

    My normal set up is to manually set the camera to suit the scene then allow the flash to auto find its own level. Often with a bit of flash output compensation.

    To reduce flash use, or avoid it altogether, I use some form of 'studio lighting'. But this can result in some longer shutter speeds or higher Iso depending on your light power. If shooting without flash I usually set my camera to Aperture priority with suitable F number and Iso.

    You don't want too much heat so I use 4 low energy cool daylight quality bulbs which each have an equivalent of 150 watt. But even this is often insufficient so some flash may be needed.

    In many cases, small areas of hot spots can be cloned over. Yes, it is allowed to enhance digital photography. But this is a technique which needs some practice. Gradually build up the effect with low opacity settings and don't try to make it look over perfect. Just let it blend in together.

    But slight highlights can look fine as they are. This will depend on the actual image.
    Last edited by Geoff F; 9th July 2013 at 07:46 PM.

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Grahame, looking at your shots I would have to say they are not bad at all and recommend you follow Geoff's guidance as a starting point. Lighting is important but I'd also add your original photos may not bring out the subject as much as you would like due to the colour of the background. A more complementary colour, green perhaps, would offer a better degree of separation and make the ant stand out more.

    And don't worry about cooling them off in the fridge. No damage done for a few minutes. Just remember "cold blooded". It doesn't work all that well with puppies and babies. It's the same as me when I used to purposely go out after frogs and snakes at sunrise in the fall at a creek. It's colder outside than in my fridge and the critters do just fine.

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew1 View Post
    It doesn't work all that well with puppies and babies.
    So it is back to the old method of nailing their feet to the floor!

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Nailing! How last century and how messy. All that blood and stuff. Superglue, my friend

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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Steven, Geoff and Andrew,

    Thanks guys for your useful comments and advice the help is much appreciated.

    I have been shooting macro for some time and have felt confident with taking larger animal subjects such as frogs, spiders, stick insects generally in their own habitat and problems I have encountered I have generally known the solutions to.

    I'm now aiming to tackle the smallest subjects possible with my existing equipment as in my location there is a wealth of these and it is something I can do in the dark wet evenings inside.

    So from all the advice given I will now make myself a shallow bug tray in which I can put some natural habitat material in and devise a good diffused lighting system for the purpose of minimising hotspots.

    Grahame

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    Stagecoach's Avatar
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    Re: Ant macro (failure ?)

    Oh no, I see another poll coming up. Nails or Superglue ? Reading the news this morning the police have the best solution, taser guns.

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