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Macro Video Question


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#1 BDSC

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 10:05 AM

I have a question for anyone who would like to answer. I currently have a L&M bluefin style housing with a Sony CX520 camcorder. I also have a SubSee +10 magnifier/diopter that will attach to the standard lens.

I am headed to the Philippines at the end of February for two weeks and so this will be the first time I will get a chance to try my hand at some decent macro work. A lot of the time when I do video in the Caribbean around the reefs I can just set the camcorder to autofocus and it does just fine. Of course depending on the shot I will switch to manual focus. But how about for doing Macro work. Do you think autofocus would well in this type of situation? What do most folks do? I will play around with it topside before I go but just wanted an opinion from someone who has some experience doing macro.

Thanks,
BDSC

#2 peterbkk

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 03:30 PM

Auto-focus usually works OK for macro if the subject is well-lit (e.g. video lights), has a strong, clear contrast in color and/or shape and the critical point of focus (e.g. the critter's eye) is in the centre of the frame. In my experience, this works fine 95% of the time.

Otherwise, the best alternative is to zoom in, then fix the focus close-in using the auto-focus lock button, then move the housing slightly backward and forward until the critical point of focus is crisp in the monitor. Once fixed, you can zoom back out to frame the subject, as long as you don't change the lens-to-subject distance. I use a monopod to help hold the housing in place.

I suggest that you practice in a swimming pool (or even in the bath tub) before you go. I borrow one of my daughter's little plastic toys and blutack it to the bottom or wall of the pool and practice my macro lighting and focusing whenever I'm using a new setup.

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#3 RWBrooks

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 03:53 PM

Just be wary of particulates that might confuse the autofocus causing it to adjust when you least want it.

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#4 BDSC

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 05:42 PM

Thanks guys! I'll remember what you have said and practice before I leave. I have plenty of lighting so that shouldn't be a problem. Just got some new video lights from a company called BigBlue. Saw them at DEMA in November and loved them.

#5 liquidguru

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 06:24 PM

All the above advice is excellent. I would also add that a steady platform is essential for good macro work. You can get a tripod attachment fitting from Light and Motion and then attach a simple tripod. I use a gorilla pod that has flexible arms. You can then put a couple of the arms out in front to help steady your shots.

With macro, your depth-of-field will get very small and it is impossible to just hold the camera, unless it's on the bottom, steady enough to get good shots.

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#6 peterbkk

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 08:59 PM

Some way of steadying the camera is important. I personally found a monopod more effective underwater than a tripod because I can use it in any direction depending on the topography. I can extend it to the right length and then push it vertically onto the sand or lean it horizontally against a wall. I use one of these legs, attached to a simple ball head under the housing: (http://reefphoto.com...roducts_id=5303) It folds out of the way when it is not used but quickly extends and twists into the best place for a close macro shot.

The other good reason for the pool practice is that you can work out light positioning and power adjustments to get an interesting light coverage. A lot of people make the mistake of blasting equal light from both sides, creating an unnatural look. OK for scientific photography but not for art. A main light / fill light approach is more interesting. Or even a main light and a rim light...

#7 BDSC

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 07:22 AM

I just ordered the tripod attachment for the housing. It's the one that works without the battery pods as I don't use those lights anymore. I am now looking at what attachment to go with. I may be leaning toward a monopod like Peter suggested. My wife just bought a GoPro 3 and the monopod would work for that as well.

#8 Steve Douglas

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 11:27 AM

Where in the Philippines are you headed?
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#9 BDSC

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 01:18 PM

Going to be in Puerto Galera, Dumaguete, and Moalboal areas.

#10 liquidguru

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 03:31 PM

I just ordered the tripod attachment for the housing. It's the one that works without the battery pods as I don't use those lights anymore. I am now looking at what attachment to go with. I may be leaning toward a monopod like Peter suggested. My wife just bought a GoPro 3 and the monopod would work for that as well.


I shoot a lot of macro (everyday for the last three years :) ). I think that two or three legs works better than one. With a gorilla pod you can stick two legs out in front to give more stability. You can also, for extremely tight shots, stand the housing independently and move away, Here are a few photos to show my rig with arms extended and folded up for transport.


Posted Image


Posted Image


Posted Image


Whatever you decide, have a great trip :)

Cheers,

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#11 peterbkk

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 04:04 PM

Hi Kaj,

You are right. For bottom dwelling critters, a tripod works best. When I am shooting where you are, Lembeh, that's what I do too.

But, I assumed from the OP that the majority of the macro he will be shooting in PH is reef-based critters. On a reef, an addjustable length / angle monopod is more versatile. You can nearly always find somewhere to put the foot. The main challenge is maintaining a predictable and stable focus distance. A monopod can even stick out straight forwards and be placed just under the subject to maintain camera-subject distance. If you place the foot carefully, no damage to the reef is incurred - well, maybe some squished micro-algae...

Regards
Peter

#12 liquidguru

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 04:25 PM

Hi Peter,

I agree. I was actually just thinking about this when I saw your reply. I'm now thinking I may have to bring a monopod with me too :) It's easy enough to change underwater and could help with some of the higher reef critters.

Cheers,

Kaj

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#13 BDSC

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 04:37 PM

Well damn guys, I may just need to buy both now! You two are killing me. I actually have no idea what conditions I will be shooting in as I have never been to the Philippines. That is the very housing I have Kaj. But that's not what either of us were shooting when I met you at Turneffe Island Resort a few years back.

So when you shoot macro Kaj, are you just zooming in thru that lens or do you have another lens like the Subsee I am carrying with me?

And.......I just looked at the Gorillapods. So is the one you have the largest one they sell? They have a lot of different models.

Edited by BDSC, 31 January 2013 - 04:51 PM.


#14 liquidguru

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 04:52 PM

It's a small world!! And you're right, different housing...the housing I had then I flooded in the Blue Hole :)

The port you can see on my housing in the Light and Motion Super Macro dry mount port. That enables me to use the full optical zoom on a subject that's only about 12" in front of me. The downside is that anything further than 12" from my lens is impossible to shoot. Luckily I'm working in Lembeh and pretty much everything, apart from some Giant Frogfish, is small enough and close enough for me not to worry too much about that :) If you have a wet lens that you can take on and off, you will have a lot more versatility.

Edit: I think the gorilla I have is the 2nd largest...it's the 1" diameter I think

Edit 2: Looks like it was the Gorilla Focus. The models have changed a lot since I bought mine 3 years ago

Edited by liquidguru, 31 January 2013 - 04:58 PM.

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#15 BDSC

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 05:09 PM

Thanks. I'll check them out again.

I actually have you on film in the Blue Hole filming me!

Do you also have something like this on top of the gorillapod as a go between for the pod and the housing?

http://joby.com/gorillapod/ballheadx

Edited by BDSC, 31 January 2013 - 05:18 PM.


#16 liquidguru

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 05:35 PM

I wouldn't and don't use one. If the bottom is not completely flat (is it ever?) then it's easy to bend the gorilla to get the camera level. I just screw the pod onto the little L&M adaptor.

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#17 BDSC

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 05:41 PM

Thanks. I'll order my pod tomorrow and forget the other piece.

#18 BDSC

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 12:15 PM

So I have been playing around this weekend with the Subsee attached to my housing. Once in place I had to zoom in maybe a 3rd or so to get past the circle and have nothing but my subject in the shot. I used a variety of small object to play around with and autofocus seems to work quite nicely. There is a definite sweet spot you need to maintain. Don't know if I will be able to try it in a pool before I go as I have three good friends who have pools but it was like 20F this morning. But at least I got a feel for it.

#19 Steve Douglas

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 01:08 PM

The circle you mention is called vignetting and is common with aftermarket lens especially when shooting macro with a shallow depth of field. Good that you found the sweet spot for you video system. Fortunately, with many of the macro critters around Puerto Galera, & Dumaguete getting close to set up a shot is not difficult. Just try to get the 'eye' in focus and the rest should be okay. While at Dumegetti, be sure to get to Apo Island and never miss the night dives where the macro action kicks things up a notch or three. I will be at Anilao, Philippines at the same time as you hoping to finally get my first blu ring octo. The Philippines isn't really 'muck' diving as it is in Lembeh but your buoyancy control down low will still be very important to avoid kicking up any sediment.
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#20 peterbkk

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 03:03 PM

So I have been playing around this weekend with the Subsee attached to my housing.


Were you playing in air or water? It will behave differently in water. If you can't get to a pool, try it in the bath tub or a really big bucket...