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Macro Photography: part 2

This time i will talk about how to use your gear to get better results. In part one i talked about the options you have to get into Macro range with different accessories. I did some quick shots just to show you the magnification you can get with each accessories.

All the photos below were taken with the lens set at it’s minimum focusing distance and at f/5.6 with no PP, not a test for IQ.

K-01+Extension tube of 25mm+TC 1.4X+A-50mm/2.

K-01+TC 1.4X+Extension tube of 25mm+A-50mm/2.

K-01+Extension tube of 25mm+A-50mm/2.

K-01+A-50mm/2 with Reversing ring.

K-01+Clubman 24mm with Reversing ring.

As you can see, some combos give about the same magnification. The IQ will vary depending on the lens, you will have to do some test to determine which one is the best, here i can say that the A-50mm/2 is not that good when used with those accessories.

Handholding your camera

If needed you can shoot handheld and it’s where a stabilized lens or a camera with a stabilized sensor will help you. Sure it will not be as effective as in normal shooting distances but it can help.

I often handhold my camera when i’m photographing frogs so that i can have a ground level perspective,  i brace the lens or hood on the ground or my gloves or i use a ziploc bag filled with sand to get the sharpest shot possible. The Shake Reduction (SR) in my Pentax cameras is useful here, with some practice i’m able to get some sharp shot with a shutter speed as low as 1/6 sec., with a low success rate though, but i usually try to have a shutter speed of at least 1/20 sec. I don’t have any experience yet with in-lens IS, i ordered a Tamron 90mm Macro VC for my Canon kit and will soon be able to compare it to my Pentax cameras SR.

Here is one taken handheld with my camera braced on cattails stem, the photo is sharp even printed at 11X14 inches.

Pentax K20D with DFA 100mm Macro WR, 1/20 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 1000

When photographing at ground level i focus manually at about the size i want my subject to be in the frame and then move the camera back and forth to fine tune the focus instead of using the focusing ring, that way it’s easier to nail the focus. I’m often laying flat on my belly to make my photos when handholding my camera for ground level photograhy.


You will need a good tripod and/or flash to obtain sharp photos most of the time. A tripod help you get sharp photos, also it lets you use any f-stop or shutter speed and as a bonus you can fine tune your composition more easily than when handholding your camera. I prefer a tripod that can go very low or there is also tripod with the center column that can be positioned where you want.

A remote release or cable release is very useful to release the shutter to prevent vibrations. You can also use the 2 seconds delay with or without the release cable, i always use the 2 second delay because the mirror locks-up and the shutter is release after 2 seconds, some cameras even have a true mirror lock-up.

Last summer i found a new way to use my tripod for vertical shots at ground level, click below to watch the video.


The resulting photo.

K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR.

Digital cameras have advantages that will help you get sharper photos easier than it was when shooting film. High ISO image quality is so good now that shooting handheld with the help of IS gives you a higher keeper rate and also getting photos that were impossible before. The other thing is Live view, it’s so good now that getting critically exact focus is now so easy especially with cameras that have focus peaking like the Pentax and Sony cameras.

A tripod and focus peaking in LV helped me get a sharp shot and composing my shot while having all the DOF i needed.

 Pentax K-01 with SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4, tripod.

Practice often to get your technique better, especially when handholding your camera. Next article will be about finding your subjects, composition and more.


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