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Shooting macro with the 105mm and 2xTC

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On my recent trip to Lembeh, I had a chance to hone my super macro skills. My previous two dive trips, much time was spent with the 105mm, 2xteleconverter and woody's diopter. I find the results really exciting as small details that aren't normally seen, reveal themselves. The eye of a blennie, for instance, goes from being a nice sharp image to an almost pixelated view as the structure of their eye becomes visible.

 

The basic problem shooting this set-up is subject acquisition. Just finding the tiny critter in the frame can be frustrating. Especially when it's moving a bit. Pygmy Seahorses always seem to be turning and bowing down. And of course, the gentle rocking of the sea can move your body as well. The result of which, is lots of screaming and cursing into your reg.

 

Deco can be a problem as well. These tiny creatures are usually found at 70' (23 meters) or deeper. 10 minutes can pass in a heartbeat with nothing accomplished beyond getting in position and spending a ton of time working the grid trying to find the Pygmy. So it helps to have as much work done topside before descending. Strobes are set in position tight to the port, aperture pre-set at f25 shutter 1/125. LH strobe 2 clicks from full, RH strobe 3 clicks.The last thing you want to do is bring the housing away to check exposure and then re-start the process of finding the Pygmy.

 

Install the 2x tc on the lens. Set the 105mm to manual focus and rack it all the way out. We want maximum frame filling images here.

 

Now the fun begins, once the Pygmy is located, it's time to get the eye in focus and snap the shutter. No attempt is made at composition. Why? Because by the time the eye is sharp, something moves and it goes out of focus or you lose the subject completely. They field of view is so tiny, that even a 1/4" of movement, on your part or the subjects, can move it out of the frame.

 

So, see a sharp eye snap the shutter. After you've got some nice clean shots in the can, go back and add composing to the mix. You may get one good shot before hitting deco... :unsure:

 

My original plan was to add the Woody's diopter as well but it was just too challenging already. Plus, the Pygmies were pretty much filling the frame as it was.

 

Ok, enough talk. Here's a Denise Pygmy, Full frame:

 

DSC_0335_barbi2-un_croppedDB.jpg

 

And a Barbiganti. (bit of a crop) I call this one the Bartender :

 

DSC_032pygmy_bar-01600.jpg

 

 

Love to hear any feedback, good or bad.

 

Rand

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Rand, these are great! THanks for sharing your technique - I too know how hard it is. The pygmey that I shot in bali was at 100 feet, giving me about 12 minutes to get a shot. I barely made it.

 

I love the expression on the H. denise's face - with the lower jaw slightly open. I like the slight downward angle too.

 

Cheers

James

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Awesome work. I love that kind of photography simply for the reason you describe....it's challenging. I love that second one...it's beautifully composed. How much of a crop was it?

 

Joe

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Thanks for the inspiration :unsure: I have basically been shooting WA, but was thinking about doing some macro in Bali in a couple of weeks. Reading your description and techniques have me all amped up to try some myself! I would love to have some shots like those.

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Great job Rand. Looks like all that cursing has paid off. :unsure:

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Excellent, Rand. I was really hoping that you would share your images and thoughts on this technique. That bartender shot is awesome!

 

My few experiments with supermacro techniques have tended to left me a bit disappointed with image quality. Particularly CA and highlight fringing in the corners of the image - a result of pushing the optics a bit too far. I tend to use stacked dioptres, which I suspect is my problem. Do you think that the X2 Tele is a better solution for maintaining optical performance.

 

The difficulty in discussing these optical problems is that they aren't really noticeable at screen resolution - and every photographer has different tollerances to them - depending on their output.

 

Anyway, great images. I think you'll be winning even more competitions with these!

 

Alex

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Hey Rand -

 

Great pygmies! "The Bartender" is awesome...definately a slightly different composition than what is typically seen...this would be hanging on my wall.

 

Did you get any amphipods with the 105 and TC ? Now those are tiny littl' buggers..and they hop around like fleas!

 

M.

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I use a 105 plus Tokina 2x converter which I heard is the best for af. But I don´t use AF anyway. Focus is very hard to achieve and the af is not very reliable for supermacro. So you dial in the aperture at f32 which is the most useable for lifesize and double life size, set the focus and move back and forth till you get the optimum. When there´s a current as in my picture with the pygmy seahorse You waste the whole film for one shot. Without current it´s not hard. The tiny depth of field produces stunning results as does the tele effect (210mm on 24x36). On my travel to Sipadan this was the "most successfull film" regarding pictures useable for the portfolio. And because of the tele You can do pictures of shy animals normally hard to achieve eg. eye of a remora or blue spotted stingray. Have a look.

 

http://abelic.net

 

post-3942-1139920570_thumb.jpg

 

post-3942-1139920804_thumb.jpg

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Great work Rand.

 

I know you and I talked at length about this technique. So much so that I got the woody's diopter and had Aquatica build me a mount for it. I used the 1.4x and wondered if it made enough of a difference.

 

My 2 cents that I can add to this thread and Rand's tips is that the racking out of the lens in MF is the key.

 

I ran my set-up in autofocus (Part because the port extention to house the teleconverter does not allow MF with the 1.4) and was happy with the results and the lens was still quick and accurate. That said I found I could not get tight for the supermacro effect without the focus not hitting right and then acquiring the subject.

 

The other thing I like about this macro technique is it makes you think and work. I find sometimes macro can be easier than WA and you tend to go into sleep mode shooting it. You cannot do that with this technique.

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Very well done Rand!

 

I like both very much but " the bartender" , have a lot of personality.

 

I used same combination from my days on film and i can add that is a great thing to use a dive light to be more precise in the manual focus and also to discover some colors and textures. I used fixed on top of the housing , one white led light by day ( Tektite ) and 1 Ikelite with a red gel filter at night ( it helps to not attrack worms and plancton also it easy to approach shy subjects ) But i didn't try on digital yet , but i think with fast shutter speeds the red light will not appear on the exposure.

 

I highly recommend to try this technique with the 105 plus 2xtc ( i have the Kenko ) and some diopter ( from +2 to +4 ) and/or the macromate .

 

One piece of advise , you will approach the twilight zone!!! you can turn in to a Zen diver and be above of the stressing situations of every day life or you can start to look for a psiquiatric.

 

El buzo

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I was there in Nov, with my D2x and 105 in a Subal housing, and would like to get clarification on a couple of points. Sounds like you set the lens to manual, crank it out and leave it there. Is that correct? Else did you use a port extension to offset the TC so that MF gears would align?

 

Photographed the same seahorses [well, prob not the same ones], and it's no piece of cake to do.

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Thanks for the comments and compliments.

 

Joe, it's cropped about 35%. The top had too much negative space. Probably not the best example to use as I've got plenty that aren't cropped but I just loved that shot too much not to share it. (edited for accuracy)

 

Alex, I'm not sure how to answer your optics question. The photo Pictopia did of the Golden Roughead (Yes, that Golden roughead :o ) was very sharp and I didn't notice any CA or fringing. But, I'm not an expert on that. What I have noticed is when you do get it right, they can be incredibly sharp. I've read some negatives about the 2xtc but it may be that until you get it right, the results are less than spectacular. (Feel free to e-mail me for examples of crap shots, I've got a lot of them :D )

 

Arnon, the subject to port distance is about 5" or so. I didn't really look at it but it's enough that you don't have to get too close to the Fan or risk hitting the Pygmy.

 

Kilili, Yes, rack out the lense all the way and then turn back just a hair. I use it in manual only. My port extension does allow the focus ring on the 105mm to be adjusted but, I don't use it as it's too easy to cheat back. And then you might as well not use the Kenko 2xtc.

 

Starbuck, is this an amphipod? I've no idea other than it did jump up in the water column in a flea like manner and then settle back on the starfish:

 

star_amphipod600.jpg

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Hi Kilili, I use a 105 with 2x TC all the time, also in the Subal housing. If you buy a port ring to offset the TC size, it will automatically line up with your focus gears. You do lose the ability to switch between manual and auto focus. But thats not really a problem. Pick one of the two, and imho with the 105+2x you should use manual focus.

 

What I do most of the time now is actually leave on auto focus, but on my D2x reprogram the shutter release to only release and not focus. I also reprogram the lock button on the back to do focus. I use autofocus to create the composition i want, then I just move the whole rig to get the precise focus and release the shutter. Basically its a bit of a mix between auto and manual focus. I just dont use the focus gears to create the composition I want, but i use autofocus. Imho its unwise to do precise focus by manually moving your focus gears, because what you're doing then is actually changing your composition/size, but YMMV. I prefer this so I _can_ actually change to full autofocus underwater if I wanted to..

 

Cor

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Thanks much. I doubt I would have ever thought of doing that. The 105 drives me nuts saometimes. Wish it acted more like the 60.

 

What I do most of the time now is actually leave on auto focus, but on my D2x reprogram the shutter release to only release and not focus. I also reprogram the lock button on the back to do focus. I use autofocus to create the composition i want, then I just move the whole rig to get the precise focus and release the shutter. Basically its a bit of a mix between auto and manual focus. I just dont use the focus gears to create the composition I want, but i use autofocus. Imho its unwise to do precise focus by manually moving your focus gears, because what you're doing then is actually changing your composition/size, but YMMV. I prefer this so I _can_ actually change to full autofocus underwater if I wanted to..

 

Cor

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Hey Rand-

 

Amphipods are small crustaceans between 1 and 10 mm maybe bigger...im not an expert.. the dive guides kept pointing to these on our dives.. to my naked eye they looked like small fleas jumping around on tunicates... these guys were about 3 mm big... it wasn't until I looked at the pictures did I realize how cool some of these critters can look... I think your critter is an amphipod...different than these that I shot...

 

M.

 

post-2309-1139960882_thumb.jpg

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Starbuck, Ok. I've lusted after those ever since I saw a photo by Berkley White of several in a row. I'd love to see some although up to now, no, I haven't seen any.

 

Do they have them in Indonesia?

 

Rand

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Has anyone tried out the various supermacro combinations on land with a friendly cooperating stationary object? The reason that I'm asking is that a 2x TC just magnifies the image it doesn't add any detail. The only time you would actually see smaller features is if resolution was limited by the pixel size of the sensor. Blowing up the image 2x is equivalent to having 2x smaller pixels. So to benefit from the TC you can't close the diaphragm too much because as soon as you get into diffraction limited resolution the TC isn't helping anymore. Alex's way to use diopters is a different story as here you actually improve the image resolution (because you get closer to the subject, unlike a TC) but again you only gain if your pixels are small enough to capture the extra detail. Either way, whether you shoot with TC and the diaphragm wider open or with diopter and the diaphragm further closed, DOF is going to be pityfull and life is going to be tough. TC seems to have the advantage that you can at least stay further away from your subject and by hugging the diffraction-limit boundary you at least know you get the best results with the least pain, that's why shooting some boring stamps may pay off.

 

Finally, my congratulations to all macro-shooters. The pictures are fantastic and there is one upside to the difficulties, you get more bragging rights :D

 

Bart

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WOW.. love the bartender.. from my experience is to take pygmys at night and never touch the fan, cos they tend to have some flowers on their bodies. Cld i use the supermacro setup for sea& sea?

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Rand -

 

Those were from Indonesia. You would never see them (like the pygmies) unless someone pointed them out or you knew to look for them....they were actually all over the place...like an infestation in some areas... The Berkley White photo was acutally hanging in one of our cabins on the ship. It took about 2 dives to acutally get 1 or two decent photos of these guys.

 

This picture was taken with d2x, 2xtc and an external Inon wet diopter.

 

M.

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Michael, if you don't mind, I'd like to save that photo and show it to the dive guides. I'm returning in a couple months and since I've gotten the Pygmy bug cured, I'd love to try for some nice shots of these guys next.

 

Rand

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Rand and others -

 

Don't think amphipods are limited only to the warmer waters of the South Pacific and Indonesian area.

 

I've had the chance twice now to spot amphipods in colder waters at the Channel Islands. The first photo is full-frame at San Miguel, the second a cropped photo from Anacapa (I think you were out of the country when I found this one, Rand, size is roughly 6mm). Both photos with the standard 100mm...think of the >1:1 possibilities.

 

_MG_9492.jpg _MG_2124c2w.jpg

 

Another Wetpixel member, Will Chen, has spotted tiny shrimp on the local hydrocorals and octocorals...

 

Feel free to visit :D

 

~Matt Segal

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Outstanding images Rand...

 

I too love the supermacro... you are making me want to spend money i don't have....

 

:D

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One point I made on the front page of WP is that the D2X is well suited to this type of photography because of the DOF advantages of a smaller sensor for a given subject size in a frame.

 

I like the fact that you are playing to the strengths of your camera and pushing a technique forward. Oh, and I really appreciate you sharing your views.

 

Alex

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