Nature does not stop during this time of Covid-19. I was self-isolating and working in my garden when a monarch butterfly flew by me and laid eggs on a nearby milkweed plant. The eggs were so small that it was hard to show them of my husband and my neighbor.
My husband, Gary Clark, decided to write about monarch butterflies for his weekly Nature column in the Houston Chronicle. I provide the photos for his articles so that meant I needed to take a picture of the extremely tiny monarch eggs.
Plan 1 —
I started the process of photographing the monarch egg by bringing the pot with milkweed inside.
For my first try, I used a 70-200mm lens with a Movo reversing adapter. This allows you to put your lens on backwards and shoot through the end of the lens that usually attaches to the camera.
Reversing the lens allows you to focus close and get higher magnification.
In this photo you see a flash on the left, flower pot with the milkweed, an artifical background held in place with a Wimberley plamp, milkweed held in place with another Wimberley plamp, and the camera lens.
The egg is not big enough and focusing is hard so I have to try something different.
Plan 2 —
I leave the Wimberley plamps in place and the flash in place.
I change the lens to a Canon 24-105mm lens. This is not a “high magnification” lens but I’m going to make it one.
I add a 12mm extension tube and a Canon 500D close-up lens. This is a filter and not a lens. It goes on the front of the lens and allows you to focus super close.
Plan 3 — The egg is not as big as I want. I can see the ridges on the egg but I want to get closer.
I contact Camera Lens Rental and order the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens.
This is not your ordinary macro lens. It’s a speciality lens that will photograph from 1:1 life size to 5-times life size.
1:1 life size means the subject is the same size in life as it is on a full-frame sensor.
5-times life size means the subject is five times as big on a full-frame sensor as it is in real life.
Depth-of-field is super narrow even at f/16. A focusing rail in needed to ensure the subject is in focus. (Note: One more thing to buy.)
The photo above is what I had in mind when I started this project. I just needed the right equipment to capture my vision.
Final equipment list for one monarch egg: Canon 5D Mark IV, MeFoto Globetrotter tripod, Neewer Pro 4 Way Focusing Rail Slider, Canon MP-E 65mm lens, two light stands, three Wimberley plamps, two Canon 220 mini flashes, one Canon ST-R2 Speedlight transmitter.
Thanks to the folks at Camera Lens Rental for getting the lens to me so fast and for being open in the Covid-19 lock-down.