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Lets Look At Macro

Macro or micro photography is all about taking things close up. To different people and companies there is a difference of opinion as to when something is a macro photo.

We often see macro photography ratios in lens information, for example 1:1 or 1:3 this means 1 to 1 or 1 to 3 and relates to the magnification.  With 1:1 the image on the sensor or film is the same size as the real item, while with 1:3 the image on the censor is a third of the size of the original. This is not affected by the format, a 60mm 1:1 macro lens shows the image the same size on the sensor or film, its just that a 35mm or FX sensor covers a wider area than the DX sensor we have in all the current Nikon DSLRís except the D3.

The ratio is the largest magnification we can do with the lens alone, by being little further away or more we can get a larger converge and therefore a reduced magnification/ratio.

Some lenses will focus quite close, for example the Nikon 18-200VR, but Nikon donít call it a macro lens, while a Sigma lens that focused at the same distance would be labelled as a macro lens. Therefore you may not need to get an additional lens in order to get quite close, perhaps 1:2 or 1:3.

You can click on any of the pictures
 below to see a larger version

See Larger Image A Snowdrop

Any lens can have close up lenses added, you can put just a single one or a combination of close up lenses on. Nikon produced some up to a couple of years ago, two we have can be used singularly or added together to produce a third strength, and images taken with them are very clear. We also have a set of close up lenses from another manufacturer and although they work, the images through them is far softer .

Another route to being able to shoot closer with any lens in theory is by using tubes, these are basically apparatus that go between the lens and camera. They have no glass and therefore the make doesn't affect the image quality. Although in theory they should work with any lens, they didnít initially appear to work with at least some DX lenses, you just could not get an image in focus. We have since worked out that they will work as long a you donít put too long/too many tubes on, but how to do this varies from lens to lens. They now work just fine, producing good images. A bellows is just an adjustable version of the tube set, and to fit on the camera we have to put at least one tube on first or the piece of the camera that you hold in your right hand gets in the way of attaching the bellows unit.

Most of us who want to do quite a lot of close up work, rather than adapting an existing zoom or prime lens, will have a macro lens.  We have two the 60mm and 105VR. There are two others also available one at 85mm with a tilt/shift in, and a 200mm. 

With macro, the closer you get the smaller the area that is in focus (depth of field), and as depth of field is greater with a wider angled lens, in theory at least we should have a greater depth of field with the 60mm than any other.  However if we want the same sized image, but donít want to get so close we could choose a longer one, and for many uses the 105mm is useful. Both of the lenses we have will go 1:1.

We can add close up lens, tubes or bellows to either of these lenses to get far closer still, allowing us with the tubes to get close enough to take a portrait of a bee, or with the tube and bellows together, and an adaptor to reverse the lens,  down to looking through the eye of a needle.

We can light items with conventional light for normal macro, and a small reflector is often enough to make this better. As we get closer in we tend to need more light and flash is the best option. You can use any flash units and reflectors, but using the creative lighting system where you control one or more flashes with a commander in your camera or added on is easier and produces better results. Reflectors are of course also widely used, and makes life far easier.  In many cases we can also use a light cube or tent.

Depending on what it is we want to photograph, different flash arrangements will be best, for example for going out in the morning to photograph butterflies a free held flash with a diffuser (running with inbuilt commander or add on) or cable extension to your flash is all that is needed. On the other hand if you feel you need to go very close and want to control the light and fill the shadows then a ring on the front of your lens holding a couple of SB200 units and diffusers would be the answer. The R1 or R1C1 kit would do this, you can of course also use other flash units or get some more SB-200ís to sort out lighting the background and more.  See article explaining flash units to see a description of all the options. We have a variety of flash units including the R1C1 kit, 2 additional SB200ís, 3 SB800ís and 2 SB600ís, you donít need anything like this amount.

Other items you will find useful are a tripod, focusing rack, cable release or remote release, light cubes, backgrounds and reflectors. We also have some small clamps that allow us to hold some small items.

See Larger Image A Snowdrops hidden beauty

 

See Larger Image A small biro, about a third of the
length of a normal pen.

 

See Larger ImageThe ball bearing in the above biro tip

Our position in the universe, does not allow us to see unaided very large things, for example planets, and also not to see very small things that are a part of the everyday world that we live in. Many of the small items that we do see we donít see the detail in. For example we all have seen flies, but have you ever looked at the detail in their wings,  did you spot that bees have 8 eyes, and what about the long eyelashes of a butterfly, what about the detailed parts of plants. We can see all this with our macro kit and more.  There is of course a whole world well below this that we would need a microscope to see. Fitting an adaptor to connect your camera to  a microscope is beyond the area we are looking at today.

See Larger Image Taking a closer look at a crisp.

See Larger Image Smaller jewels are salt the larger ones towards the top are sugar.

See Larger ImageA closer look at a part of the above image.

 

See Also:

 


By: Keith Park Section: Key:
Page Ref: macro Topic: Photographic Techniques  Last Updated: 05/2009
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