Sunday, December 9, 2018

HumBug: Macro Mania

Posted By and on Sun, Dec 9, 2018 at 1:51 PM

click to enlarge The setup. Canon 6D mk II, MPE 65 1-5X lens, mounted on StackRail controlled by an old spare Windows 7 computer. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • The setup. Canon 6D mk II, MPE 65 1-5X lens, mounted on StackRail controlled by an old spare Windows 7 computer.

From time to time, someone asks how I got this or that shot and what gear I used. Like most technical people, I suffer from gadgetitis, and have an array of cameras and accessories for various tasks.

The more or less formal dividing line for “true macro” is a 1:1 magnification, meaning that a 1-centimeter object will project to a 1-centimeter portion of the image receptor.

After a lot of research prior to buying my first interchangeable lens camera and knowing I'd be shooting mostly insects, I chose Canon because it was the only company with its MPE 65 mm 1-5X lens. It can't be used for anything else. It can take a photo of an individual eyelash but the end of your nose would fill the entire frame. No family portraits unless they're really small.

click to enlarge Life size image of the beetles. They're both a little more than 1 centimeter long. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Life size image of the beetles. They're both a little more than 1 centimeter long.
One challenge of macro photography is the extremely shallow depth of field (DOF). The part of the image that is actually in sharp focus is very thin. In the last few years, focus stacking technology changed all that. The photographer takes a series of photos focusing at different levels along the subject, then, using a stacking program, combines them to yield a single frame, all in focus. This can be almost impossibly tedious but recently computer controlled rails have taken over the painstaking job of advancing the camera as little as 2 microns at a time. Needless to say the subject must not move from one frame to the next so the models are seldom living creatures.
click to enlarge Female dung beetle very close up. Yep, she's got a little on her face. About 1:3.5 magnification. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Female dung beetle very close up. Yep, she's got a little on her face. About 1:3.5 magnification.
Visiting my nephew at his Oregon farm, he told me that I'd missed seeing hordes of little dung beetles consuming nearly all the droppings from his cattle in a very brief time. I never did see any alive but managed to find a few dead specimens, the perfect subjects for the Canon lens, StackRail and Helicon Focus software.
click to enlarge Male dung beetle showing his impressive horn. About 1:3.5 magnification. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Male dung beetle showing his impressive horn. About 1:3.5 magnification.
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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Bio:
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal.

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