Monday, July 23, 2012

Blame It On Lack Of Research

     So I talked about giving-in to macro photography on my last blog and took some pictures of a bottle's bottom... with a lot of blah blah blah.  I also kept mentioning that I don't get much interest out of it despite putting a lot of effort in every shot.  I also talk about using extension tubes.  There's the problem!  I used them without reading much on how to use them.

     I see great images using extension tubes all the time.  But I kept wondering, "How on earth did they get such framing and focus on such focal lengths?"  I always had a hard time using my nifty fifty with my extension tubes, 'cause I had to get so close to the subject; less than a centimeter more and my lens would touch it.  This is why I almost always use my telephoto zoom lens when doing macro.  But what I keep reading but never payed attention to, whenever extension tubes were mentioned, is how each ring causes magnification.  Yes, I have three (or more) rings on my extension tube.  Yes, I noticed they have different lengths.  No, I never even thought I could use them separately.  THAT was the problem.

     Despite knowing this, I still didn't search a more in-depth article on how to use extension tubes.  Instead, I just took the longest ring out and experiment ahead with my camera.  Like my dad always say, "Experience is the best teacher." so I was to get some experience.

     Although I had to work until midnight everyday this week, I took my camera to work and took some random shots. Just to get my photography fix.  My superior found a (living) beetle/bug, took it and told me (with full excitement) I should take pictures of his find instead of the vague stuff I usually shoot.  I was currently taking pictures of our industrial lights.

The Danbo Factory
It was the shadows that attracted me here.  But looking at this image, it reminded me the time I was envious of those Flickr images of Danbo.  I realized I could easily make my own.

No Flare
With the human eyes, we could already see some flares caused by these strong lights.  I took this picture pointing my camera directly towards the light to show my co-worker how good my lens (Samyang 85mm) was made. No flares unless I overexpose the image.

     Fortunately, it was 11:50 pm.  After work, I took the bug home, put it on a paper cup, and started shooting.  "I might as well start shooting with flash too." I thought.  The good thin about taking pictures of small things is that I can use any background I want.  I could get long strips of white paper but I was too lazy (again) to go outside for that.  So I used a small towel instead.  White is white and it helped me reflecting more light to the bug... beetle... subject... thingy.

On the very first image above, I named it "Energize" and on this one, I ran out of good titles.  It's the same image but with a slightly different treatment.  To me, Fluffy is better.

Well, Bryan Peterson did say, "... try shooting in portrait after landscape orientation."  And since I'm experimenting on flash, I might as well do it-- without much thought.

What You Looking At?
This bug kept still for a long time as I took pictures of it.  There are times I feel like it's staring at me.

I'm not really sure if they're horns but they surely remind me of bull's horn.  That sexy curve that often immediately catches my attention (I like curves).

Made in China
The subject started getting skittish (after posing for a long long time) and walked to my ladle.  Although I don't like setting up things to photograph, I really wanted to take a picture of it with this marking.  But the bug keeps walking and despite the many shots I took, I could only show this as the rest of them are just crap.

     I can not express how stupid I felt by the time I looked at my LCD preview screen.  By simply taking off one ring from my extension tube, I got much better and way more manageable depth of field and distance to the subject.  With better DOF, more parts of the subject is in-focus.  With better distance, I could have more flexibility with lighting.  I do not know why I haven't figured this thing out, when it's obvious that the tube has 3 rings.

     Better late than never, I guess.  And I'm glad I get to discover this.  It's nice to learn new stuff from time to time.  It's gradual which keeps me excited whenever just when I need it.  I guess, there's a big chance you'll see me taking more close-up pictures from now on.

Update: The night after...

     I took a break while I was writing this blog and took a break to take more pictures.  You see, while I was showing my co-worker how flare resistant my lens was, the lens reflected the light above it in a number of layers and in different colors.  I was surprised of this effect so I tried to capture it on image.

Flowers of its Eye
My kit lens (18-55mm) reflecting light from my little flashlight.  It's unfortunate that I couldn't make all those reflections true to its shape instead of bokeh.

     Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy as I thought (what else should I expect?).  Perhaps I needed properly setting up and better lighting.  But I'm definitely going to re-shoot this thing until I'm satisfied.

     Meanwhile, I got curious with how reversing the lens would look like.  I don't have a reversing ring but I don't think I'll buy one unless I find it really cheap.  But since my Samyang 85mm is my fastest lens, I took it off my camera, place it in front a canon lens cap (55mm), used my phone to light it, and clicked away.

The Reverse Effect
I can see why reversing the lens would help macro shooting.  It clearly gives a very nice magnification  not a lot of lenses are able to.

     And how could I forget my little point-and-shoot?  I never used the "close up" feature that I almost forgot about it.

The Setup
55mm Canon lens cap in between Samyang 85mm and my monitor.  Then my phone leaning on the lens to illuminate the cap.  I tried using my flashlight again, hoping the reflections look better.  This was taken by my very humble, very old, very beat-up, yet very reliable, point and shoot camera.

     So, yes.  Macro shooting is quite fun and it does challenge me to be a bit creative.  If I have something to complain about, it's the need to set up gear.  I'm not really a fan of still-life photography, where one has to arrange the subject(s) and lighting and all that stuff.  But I guess I could still take macro shots without it, or learn to do the setting up thing.  But until then, I'll just keep shooting.

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