Tag Archives: Digital single-lens reflex camera

An affordable Speedlite transmitter for Canon.

I don’t usually do sales blurbs, but I have been using the little Canon EOS 90EX for a few days and I think there may be some interested in its potential for macro photography.

Many others may have the same problem I do. My older model EOS T2i and 5D MkII do not have flash with integrated wireless Speedlite transmitter capabilities. The solution for many has been to been to buy after-market wireless transmitters, which do not all provide the same type of control as Canon’s system, or if they do, they also come at some expense. Others use Speedlite models 580 EX, 580 EXII and the macro flashes (Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX and Ring Lite MR-14EX) to act as master flashes, or they purchase the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2. There is a less will known option, made by Canon, that will provide most of the same functions for only $60.00 US.

Remember the Canon EOS M? Released in 2012, it was Canon’s first mirrorless system camera. It did not fare well in initial reviews, but it did leave us with an EOS compatible compact flash, the Speedlite 90 EX, which is listed as:

A compact, high performance flash that delivers superbly lit everyday shots such as portraits and indoor scenes plus creative lighting effects. The ideal companion for the EOS M.

  • Slim, pocketable design
  • Shoot superbly lit portraits and indoor scenes
  • High power in a compact body
  • Explore creative lighting effects
  • Quick, discreet and fully automatic flash shooting
  • Powered by readily available AAA batteries”

Ignoring the usual exaggerations, the kicker line here is “Explore creative lighting effects“. That is Canon-speak for master wireless flash control. The blurb continues…

The Speedlite 90EX opens up countless creative lighting opportunities, thanks to its built-in Wireless master function. As a master flash unit it can wirelessly trigger up to three groups of other flashes, which have a built-in slave function such as the Speedlite 270EX II, from up to 7 meters away indoors.”

Through the camera menu with ETTL II you can also control hi-speed sync., metering modes (evaluative or average), 4 channels, add flash exposure compensation and adjust group A:B flash ratios. On Manual you can also control the output power level of each group, which is great for macro photographers. This means the 270 EXII, 430 EXII, and the 580 EXII can be controlled wirelessly through the camera menu.

So if you miss the benefits of master flash control, and are not yet ready to dish-out for a newer EOS camera, then consider the Speedlite 90EX. Today Canon’s US list price is $149.99but still only $59.49 at B&H!

(Images from Canon website)

Posted in Canon, Equipment, Flash, macro, Winter Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |



Image by Olympus

Continuing from Genesis, more nostalgia…

The Olympus OM2 was the first in a set of tools that allowed me to begin taking true macro photographs. Given to me by my father in the 1980’s, I had no idea of its full macro potential until almost 15 years later. At first my needs were simple, so I used the 50mm lens for a few years before investing in a used Zuiko f4 200mm telephoto lens. Later came a macro lens, and then the fun began.

To remind those too young to know, this was still the era of film cameras, with digital nowhere in sight. I switched from print film to slide film not long after I obtained this camera. Processing was slow, which meant a three-day wait for results if I was shooting Ektachrome or Fujichrome, and full week to wait if I was shooting Kodachrome…a long time when you consider that now, with digital, you can immediately check the results of each frame.

And besides the time, there was the money: unless you were prepared to run your own darkroom, you paid for your mistakes. There was no deleting of images before processing and you paid for all the prints/slides whether they were good or not . Film photographers on a budget shot carefully and spent some time improving exposure skills to avoid waste.

The OM line of SLR cameras were known for their small size and the extensive system developed to back them up. The first was the manual OM1, released in 1972, followed by the OM2 in 1975. The OM2 added an automatic exposure system with an aperture-preferred shutter. While having many improved features, the OM-2 stood out from crowd by having the world’s first OTF direct light metering system, which measured light reflected off the surface of the film (OTF), and was sophisticated enough to give automatic TTL flash control.

Olympus OM System by Wapster

Olympus OM System by Wapster

While many had formulas for using flash with manual cameras, in my experience the results were inconsistent, and wasteful of film. For me, TTL flash control opened the field of the macro photography of insects, because it would reliably expose photographs no matter what lens combinations and flash position I chose. It was brilliant.

But it took some time for me to get to that point. The fact that Olympus had a super-extensive system didn’t mean I could afford any of it! I started cheaply with extension tubes and the regular 50mm f1.8 lens, but I still had to find a true macro lens. Eventually I managed to find the Olympus 50mm f3.5 macro lens second-hand, and later added the well-rated Tamron 90mm macro. My first flashes were manual Vivitar flashes, but by 1995 I acquired the small but worth Olympus T20 TTL flash. In 1996, while on vacation in the Rockies with family, I took an image that was to set me on the slow path to macro bug photography…

Not very good by today's standards, this is a scan from the slide that made me begin to appreciate bug photography. Mt. Revelstoke National Park, 1996.

Not very good by today’s standards, this is a scan from the slide that made me begin to appreciate the potential of bug photography with flash. Mt. Revelstoke National Park, 1996.

Excited by the potential of the system,  I was later to add an OM 1 camera, the Olympus bellows unit, a 28mm wide-angle lens, more T20 flashes, the 65–115mm telescopic auto-tube, and finally that to-die-for marvel, the OM 4 camera.

All these additions were previously owned items. I should have thought more about why all this film-based equipment was entering the market…

Digital happened.

Olympus had fallen.

Posted in Alberta, Nostalgia Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

William and Martijntje Thysse, July 1964, Wawa, Ontario.

The Exa, with William and Martijntje Thysse, July 1964, Wawa, Ontario.

I entered  photography in the 1970’s while living in South Africa. Just a teen, I was lucky to receive as my first camera an old Exa (version 4, manufactured between 1956 and 1959) that my father had outgrown. It came with a 50mm lens, extension tubes and a hand-held light meter. This was the camera my father had used to document the family since the early 1960’s.

Unfortunately, my allowance was meagre and film was not often purchased so I gained little experience from this camera except that it taught me the basic principles of exposure. It was auto-nothing: no auto-aperture, no auto-mirror return, no auto-exposure, no auto-advance…just a fully manual mechanical SLR with a vertical viewfinder that gave an inverted (left to right) image. Working with the hand-held light meter and having to twiddle all the knobs, rings and dials to get the settings right, soon taught me the essentials of exposure. Later, I was also given the oddball Zeiss Ikon ‘Movikon 8, a clockwork 8mm manual movie camera, that helped cement my understanding of exposure.

The Exa was the budget line of the Exakta series of cameras, made by Ihagee Kamerawerk Steenbergen & Co, Dresden, Germany. Even as a budget version, it was still well made, a solid camera strong enough to defend yourself with. It had a few quirks, even for its day, but if all you have experienced is digital SLR’s, the following features should amaze you:

  • It used 35mm film (pronounced ‘fill-um’)
  • It had an interchangeable viewfinders, although we had only the hooded vertical finder (as above), so…
  • …the image was reversed, side to side, when viewed.
  • There was a ‘Sport’ finder, just a rectangular hole in the hood, that allowed for quick, if not accurate framing.
  • You could replace the viewfinder with the ‘Special Prism’ , a pentaprism like on todays DSLR’s.
  • The shutter was a function of the reflex mirror, not independent.
  • Shutter speed range was immense: B, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/150 (that’s it!)
  • The shutter release was on the front, on the left-side of the lens. If you pressed the button where today’s shutter release sits, you would have activated the film rewind.

The lens was likely either an early version of the 50mm f2.8  Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens, a four-element lens that came with either coated or uncoated glass, or the three-element 50mm f2.9 Meyer-Optik Görlitz Trioplan. (I can’t quite make it out from the few pictures we have)

The IHAGEE & EXAKTA PRODUCTS AND HISTORY website has lots of information on the Exacta and Exa cameras, and also has the pdf manual for our version.

pop22_om2I photographed everything I could then, mostly family outings and nature, within the limits of my budget. That Exacta was left behind in South Africa in 1977, when my father commandeered it and traded it in for the latest technology, the Olympus OM2. For a few years my only camera was the Movikon.

Back in Canada, sometime around 1980, my father tired of the OM2, which he thought too small for his hands. He moved to the heftier Canon A1, and I, in turn, inherited the Olympus. That was a camera designed for macro…but that’s another story.

Posted in Camera, Canada, Edmonton, Equipment, General, History, photography, Season, Summer Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Ellis Bird Farm Photography Workshops

Two repeat workshops are happening at the lovely Ellis Bird Farm in August!

For new and prospective owners of a DSLR, this workshop will help you understand your camera and how to use it. We will cover camera functions and handling as well as provide information on lenses, equipment and accessories. Then, we will work on understanding exposure, composition and techniques: all the skills needed to create the photographs you imagine. The afternoon session will include practice sessions on the grounds of the Ellis Bird Farm. If you already have a DSLR and other equipment, please bring it, otherwise some loaner equipment will be available for use.

  • AM Intro to the DSLR, Equipment and Accessories.
  • PM Understanding Exposure. Basic Skills, Composition,Techniques and Practice.
For photographers who already own a DSLR and are familiar with manual exposure, this workshop will introduce you to the fascinating world of close-up and macro photography. We will look at specialized equipment and accessories as well as simple ways to achieve great results, no matter what type of DSLR you own. Then, we will work on techniques to overcome the inherent difficulties of magnified photography. We will do an overview of basic composition and have opportunities to practice macro photography on the beautiful grounds of the Ellis Bird Farm. Some loaner equipment and accessories will be available. As a minimum, please bring your camera and lens, and if you have them, a macro lens, an external flash and tripod.
  • AM Equipment and Accessories, Understanding exposure.
  • PM Techniques with Natural Light and Flash, Composition and Practice.
Posted in Accessories, Alberta, Alberta, Camera, Canada, Equipment, Flash, Lenses, macro, photography, Season, Summer, Workshop Also tagged , , , , , , |

Photography Workshop Update

Alberta Summer Photography Workshops 2014

Click the links for more details!

5 August. Ellis Bird Farm: Introduction to Photography with the Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR)

19 August. Ellis Bird Farm:  Close-up and Macro Photography with the DSLR

9 September. MacEwan University, Open Studies Program Intro to Close-up and Macro Photography (3 Tues., 6:30-9 p.m. and 1 Sat, Sep 20, 10 a.m.-5p.m.) .

Note that  Small Group Macro Workshops and Private Coaching will occur on a bespoke basis only until 30 September when new workshops will be scheduled. If you are interested, contact me and I will schedule your sessions.

Posted in Alberta, Canada, Education, Equipment, macro, photography, Season, Summer, Technique, Workshop Also tagged , , , , , , |

Approaches to Macro Photography

How many paths to macro photography?

Perilampid Parasitic Wasp by Sam Droege, USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.

Perilampid Parasitic Wasp by Sam Droege, USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. (CC BY 2.0)

Let me count the ways…

  1. the impulse shooter:  “Wow. Quick, grab a picture of that beautiful/weird/yucky bug!BugGuide receives many examples this kind of image every day.
  2. the natural approach, photographing the subject in situ, making a distinct effort to find good composition by searching for the best angles and backgrounds without moving the subject. The subject is revealed in its environment, showing natural behaviors. “Nature is enough, naturally.” (e.g. Nicky Bay, Kurt Orion)
  3. the scientific approach, those who stage the technically perfect shot, often in sets that show dorsal, lateral and frontal views with maximum depth of field. The subject is moved and placed on a suitable background and they may be dead, pinned or alive when photographed. Techniques such as focus-stacking or scanning may be used. “Look: correct exposure, fine detail sharpness, accurate colour: just right.”  (Sam DroegeAlex Surcică)
  4. the craftsmen who strive to craft images using a formula, following rules of composition and providing perfect creamy-soft, non-distracting backgrounds and sharpness where it matters. These shots may be staged in some way, by moving the subject to more appropriate locations with less distracting backgrounds, or to make the sky a backdrop.  In some instances, natural sets may be created. Focus-stacking techniques may be used. “Competitions, publishers, documentary production? This is for you!” (e.g. Colin HuttonJohn Hallmén)
  5. the artist, who have no need to follow rules, and perhaps cares little about bug ID or realism, but uses a variety of skills (from traditional darkroom/software manipulation to mixed media) to communicate ideas or emotions in the image: “My compulsion, my expression…you may have to work to appreciate it, or not.” (e.g. Jo Whaley, Rick Lieder)

The arrangement of  the approaches does not indicate a progressive worth or value, and the divisions are not strict: most regular macro photographers work across at least two of these approaches, while others, having a mainstream in one approach, will dabble in all the rest. I mention only a few photographers in the examples, there are many more excellent photographers out there, and most of them work across categories. (Check the side bar for links to more excellent photographers!)

Why try to pigeon-hole approaches to macro photography at all?

A newcomer to macro photography, with shiny new camera and lens, perhaps agog at the diversity of amazing photographs now visible on the web, may wonder, “Where do I begin?”. Being able to categorize different approaches to macro photography can help you to better understand the photographer, and give a starting point for your own development. Decide which approach you would like to start with, and make it your goal to be proficient in that before moving on to another method. Seek out books, web articles and mentors to help you along the way;  your growth as a photographer (and in any other endeavor in life) will be enhanced by clearly understanding your goals.

NB: there is another approach that I have chosen to ignore, the highly staged studio work that involves manipulating the live subject and placing them in unnatural positions, situations and associations as if showing a natural occurrence or natural behavior. They may spritz their subjects with water or glycerine to cover them with droplets, they may use wire or other props to create un-natural limb positions, they may turn the images upside-down and/or and apply a variety of Photoshop techniques to add or subtract elements. They span a zone from the downright deceitful through schmaltz to gaudiness…and these are places I don’t want to go.


Posted in Art, Article, Education, Equipment, General, Insect, Inspiration, macro, photography, Studio, Winter, Workshop Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |