“…mysterious and little known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions.”
E.O. Wilson (Biophilia)
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© Adrian Thysse and Splendour Awaits, 2014.
Image use is permitted for non-profit, educational use only. Sharing of images and other content is permitted only with full credit and links back to Splendour Awaits.
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DISCLAIMERI am a photographer, not an biologist. I do my best to have professionals assist in identifying the subjects of my photographs. However, positive identifications can not always be done unless the specimen is viewed under a microscope. If you do find an error, or have doubts about the identification provided, please let me know in the comments or by email.
Tag Archives: Digital single-lens reflex camera
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)
I 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.
Two repeat workshops are happening at the lovely Ellis Bird Farm in August!
- Tuesday, August 5, 9AM to 4PM: Introduction to Photography with the Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR)
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.
- Tuesday, August 19, 9AM to 4PM: Close-up and Macro Photography with the DSLR
- AM Equipment and Accessories, Understanding exposure.
- PM Techniques with Natural Light and Flash, Composition and Practice.
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.
How many paths to macro photography?
Let me count the ways…
- the impulse shooter: “Wow. Quick, grab a picture of that beautiful/weird/yucky bug! ” BugGuide receives many examples this kind of image every day.
- 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)
- 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 Droege, Alex Surcică)
- 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 Hutton, John Hallmén)
- 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.
Tucked away in the press release for the new T5 entry level DSLR (11 Feb 2014) was the announcement of Canon’s Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II. My very first response when viewing it was, “Does that mean a better Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX will be released soon?” And the second was, “What’s with the fat heavy-weight cord? Why isn’t this unit wireless and more compact?”
With macro photography more popular now than ever, will Canon ever grow their macro system up?
Regardless, what does the new MR-14EX II have to offer? From the Canon website:
Redesigned as a perfect complement to contemporary digital SLR setups, it is the most advanced macro flash Canon has ever produced. It has a maximum Guide No. of 34.4 ft./10.5m at ISO 100 and a twin-tube design where both flash tubes can be directed to fire independently or together. Sophisticated white LED focusing lamps and two forms of modeling lights make for easy and accurate previewing of lighting effects. Infinitely adjustable in any lighting condition with its illuminated dot-matrix LCD, the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II has 12 custom functions and supports E-TTL wireless autoflash when linked with one or more Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes. All this in a refined, compact design with shorter recycling times than its predecessor makes the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II a reliable, customizable choice.
It is hard to say if this is a macro flash worth investing in. Until I see more details on it, I can see no justification for switching over if you already have the older model. Because it is still a ring flash with the limitations of a ring flash (circular highlights, lack of adaptability, lens compatibility, and the cord…), you will still have a creative advantage with other off-camera flash set-ups. However, if you need a flash for shadowless lighting (within a certain range) while producing consistent, repeatable results (i.e for science or technology imaging), or if you have just entered the Canon system, this may be the flash for you.
(Images from the Canon Press Kit)
What is close-up and macro photography really good for?
- getting closer to nature…real close! Macro photography is a great way to explore insects, fungi, mosses, lichens in their habitat.
- contributing to science through citizen science projects such as eButterfly and the Lost Ladybug Project.
- documenting the biological sciences: lichenologists, entomologists, mycologists, bryologists etc.–what better to augment your research than photographs?
- knowledge and learning–there is so much to learn about techniques, identification, natural history…macro strengthens the brain!
- meeting fascinating people–there are many communities out there that share your passion. Check out your local nature club and specialist societies.
- exercise–walking, kneeling, crouching, bending, crawling and even some running are all part of the macro photographer’s workout.
- enhancing dexterity–handling equipment, changing lenses, manipulating subjects, DIY projects…all can help maintain dexterity.
- an infinite amount of subjects–there is really no limitations for the macro photographer.
- a winter pastime… macro can be practiced indoors and out, no matter where you are.
- expanding your hobbies! Macro is a great way to share images of your collections, crafts and art online.
- unlimited avenues of artistic expression. From realism to abstract–unlimited.
- exploring a single subject: discover the universe in a flower (or a marble, or an insect…)
- staying close to home…you don’t have to travel to do macro photography.
- rediscovering awe and wonder: macro photography has the power to awaken the child in all of us.
There are many paths to achieving macro with a camera, and limitless opportunities to practice it. If you want to learn more, explore the web, visit the library for a book and/or take a workshop! There is no end to the engagement you can find once you begin to enter small worlds with macro photography!