Extreme Macro Photography

Blue Milkweed bloom measuring an inch across with thrips inside.

The image above was captured with a MOVO EXT-C5 Reverse Auto-focus macro lens adapter. The adapter lets you attach your lens to your camera backwards. This turns any lens into a super heavy-duty macro lens.

Here’s the MOVO EXT-C5 with a Canon 24mm lens in the middle. Notice that the part of the 24mm lens that usually connects with the camera is now facing away from the camera.

While the MOVO EXT was fun to play with there are drawbacks. Depth-of-field is extremely narrow even at f/22. Camera shake ruins most images even when the camera is mounted on a sturdy tripod.

An alternative is adding an extension tube and/or close-up filter to your existing lens.

Canon 500D Close-up lens is no longer available unless you buy them used. I’m currently using the Marumi DHG Achromat Macro +3 that gives the same quality. Then add a 24mm Extension Tube or a 12mm Extension Tube for added magnification.

I’ve used the items above for years when I wanted to photograph something up-close. I find the extension tubes, close-up lens, or combination a lot easier to use than the MOVO EXT.

Chrysanthemum reflecting in a small glass bead. Extension tube and close-up lens.
Same set-up with the MOVO EXT. Despite a lot of effort I could not get the main glass bead in focus.

Here’s a link to my old blog with a better explanation about a close-up lens.

Texture Slider in Adobe

In May of this year, Adobe gave us the Texture slider. You can find this in Adobe’s Lightroom Classic or Adobe Camera Raw.

The Texture slider enhances or reduces texture in a photo. Texture would be bird feathers, animal fur, tree bark, alligator skin, stucco, etc. The Texture slider does not enhance details in our nice blurry backgrounds. The Texture slider is a game changer on certain photos.

I’ve been a real champion of the Clarity slider since that tool was introduced by Adobe. Almost all my processing began with Clarity slider to 20, Vibrance to 20, and Saturation to 20. “Go to CVS first” was the line we used in class.

The Clarity slider, though, worked on details and textures throughout the image. Minor details in the blurry background were often enhanced.

Texture slider only works on textures. It’s a pretty smart tool that can really bring out key details in our photos.

The Texture slider is also available under the Adjustment Brush tool. This allows us to enhance or reduce the texture in one area of a photo.

Pretty neat tool. Give it a try. I’m sure you will like it and find many uses for the Texture slider.

Green violetear or Lesser violetear with the Texture slider blown up to 100%
Same photo as above with the Clarity slider blown up to 100%. Notice how the
background at top right has more detail. Not as soft as the image processed with
the Texture slider.
Same as above with no Clarify or Texture slider. Nice soft background thanks to
a shallow f/stop. We don’t want to mess with that background during processing.

Texture on the left image. Clarity on the right image.

SD or CF Cards

Wayne sent me an email asking if his next card should be a SD or a CF. Good question!

Here’s my reply:

I visited the Sandisk site to see what they are currently offering.

–CF Cards by Sandisk: 256 GB with 160 MB/s. 128 GB with 120 MB/s

–SD cards by Sandisk: 256 GB with 150 MB/s. 128 GB with 300 MB/s (That’s fast!!)

— CFast 2.0 by Sandisk: 512 BG with 450 MB/s (Wow doggie!!)

Background Information — In the beginning of the digital photography age we had Compact Flash cards, Standard Definition cards, and some other cards that have fallen by the wayside.

Compact Flash cards, or CF cards, were for the big, new digital cameras, like the 10D and D100 made by Canon and Nikon. Standard Definition cards, or SD cards, were for the tiny point-and-shoot cameras. Tiny cameras needed tiny cards.

Then camera like the Canon Rebel came out with SD slots. Eventually, the larger digital SLR cameras came out with SD slot and a CF slot. The Canon 6D is a larger digital SLR and it only takes the smaller SD cards.

What we have today is a choice. SD cards are just as fast as CF cards. Then CFast 2.0 are on the market with reasonable prices.

Canon wrote on their site that they are not abandoning the CF cards because so many pros use them.  Good to know.

How fast of a card do you need? Do the math. Photo size x burst rate is the basic formula. 24MB raw file x 7 frames per second = 168 MB per second. That’s your starting point.

Ask also “how often do you hold the button down for 7 fps?” If the answer is often, then get a fast card. If the answer is never, then speed is not an issue when buying cards.

Sequence of an aplomado falcon in flight. We need fast card and fast “frames per second” to capture the action.

One last thing if you’re still with me. Buffer is also an issue. Look through your viewfinder on your camera. Push the shutter button half-way down. Look at the number is the bottom right corner or along the right side. The number might be 3 or 6 or 19 or 56. That number is how many photos the camera’s buffer (internal memory) can hold before the dreaded BUSY signal pops up and the camera stops firing. The buffer is based on the size of the photos you’re taking such as RAW or fine JPG. Bigger the photos the less photos that will fit in the buffer.

The buffer will hold 3 photos on this camera.

Bird Photography: Flash & No Flash

It always amazes me how much impact the flash can have on photos of birds in the forest.

Palm tanager; with a flash Costa Rica; Sarapiqui
Palm tanager; with no flash; Costa Rica; Sarapiqui

Both were photographed with the following settings: Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/400 sec shutter speed, ISO 800, Canon 580 flash, 100-400mm lens.

The flash is set to TTL and high-speed.

HDR or Use the Shadow & Highlight Slider

I used to hear photographers say they didn’t like the look of HDR (high dynamic range) photos.  Software progressed and it got to where an HDR photo was perfectly natural.  We got a photo that looked like what we saw with our eyes versus a cartoonish image.

Things continue to progress in the photo processing world.  Today, the Shadow and Highlight sliders in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom are doing what HDR used to do.

Below you see two images taken in the historic district of Sibiu, Romania.  One is HDR — a blend of seven images using Nik by DxO.  The other is straight out of the camera with the highlights properly exposed.  Can you see any difference?

Sibiu, Romania, historic center.
This is the HDR image.  Seven exposures blended together in Nik HDR Efex Pro by DxO.

Sibiu, Romania, historic center.
This image was captured in the camera.  The exposure was set for the bright area at the top or 2-stops under-exposed.  

Sibiu, Romania, historic center.
Here’s the above image before processing.  Two-stops under-exposed so the highlight were fine but the shadows appear to be worthless.

Sibiu blog postKAC
This is a screen grab of the image being processed.  Notice that the Highlight slider is moved to the left to tone down the tower and sky.  The Shadow slider is moved all the way to the right to bring out the details in the shadows.    I’m using HDR less and less thanks to these great tools in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom.

HDR made from seven images                      processing as above

 

HDR made from seven images                      processing as above

Give this concept a try next time you find yourself photographing a contrasty scene.  Get the highlights perfectly exposed.  Then bring out the shadows later with the Shadow slider in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom.

Have you tried this already?  Success?

 

Infrared Filter in Ireland

I had the pleasure of using the Singh-Ray Filter 830 Infrared Filter during my recent photo tour to Ireland.  It was great to get to play with the filter and use it in a variety of settings.

(Please see my previous posts on Singh-Ray Infrared Filters.  Canon users need to use the 830.  Nikon users can use either but Canon cameras need the 830.)

All the images below are 240 second exposures, ISO 400-800, and f/stop of f/9 to f/22.  In my experimentation, I’ve learned that you start with one exposure as above.  Take the photo and then check the histogram.  More exposure is needed if the histogram doesn’t hit the right side.  Less exposure is needed if the histogram spikes up the right side.  Be prepared for some trial and error.

Carrickahowley Castle KAC2738
Infrared filter, of Grace O’Malley’s Castle; Carrickahowley Castle;  County Mayo, Ireland.  240 second, f/9, ISO 800.

In

Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic Coast, Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland
Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland.  Atlantic coast.   Exposure as above.

Infrared Ireland KAC0899
Murrisk Abbey in County Mayo, Ireland.  One of my favorite images from the trip.  The green trees are white as snow.  Same exposure as above.

 

Infrared Ireland KAC0900
Famine Memorial, County Mayo, Ireland.  The ship seems to be sailing off into a bleak and snowy environment.  Same exposure as above.

Please read my previous posts on using this filter.  It is a great tool and could be just what you need to add a bit of creativity to your photography.

Singh-Ray Infrared filters.

High ISO Is Amazing

At sunset in July we were cruising down the Rio Piquiri in the Pantanal of Brazil.  Junior, the boat driver, killed the motor and pointed to a pair of jaguars sitting on the riverbank.

Jaguar, Pantanal, Matto Grosso, Brazil, juvenile, males
Jaguar photographed at 51,200 ISO with the aid of a flashlight.  Canon 1Dx, f/8, 1/160th shutter speed.

There were 10 people in the boat and all were squirming to get their cameras and find the jaguars. The boat was bobbing in the water.  There was a lot of movement to try to photograph something after sunset.

I pushed the ISO button on my camera and rolled the dial all the way to 51,200.   I could only get a 50th of a second shutter speed.  No way the photos were going to work with a shutter speed like that!

Raul, our guide, had been bragging about this high-powered flashlight that he’d received as a gift from a previous guest.  His little flashlight was nearly a spotlight.

“Raul, point that flashlight at the jaguars!” I yelled.  It was magic! The light was enough light to give us shutter speeds in the 1/160th or 1/200th of a second range.

A modern high-power flashlight and modern cameras with high ISO gave us the ability to photograph a jaguar in the dark.  I love it!