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Out off my depth
Posted By: Carpon, 06-30-2015, 12:51 AM

As you might have read I now the proud owner off a SMC Pentax-D FA 100mm F2.8 Macro WR. Bit green in shooting Macro but really like it. I have read and youtube'd almost everything there is to find on the subject and techniques but this left me even more confused. I get the main principal behind the POV, shutter speed, ISO and aperture to obtain DOV, sharpness and motion elimination but the point is I don't have a very steady hand anymore (some nerve damage I have) and find most off my efforts not sharp due to the longer exposer needed if shooting in higher iso or higher aperture (for sharper images with more DOF). Tried higher ISO but lack the (PP) skills to get these pleasing to look at. To make a long story even longer I'm missing something and need you're advice, help and pointers in how to...


1) Get sharper picture's
2) More control of light (is a ring flash helping there)
3) Get my higher ISO pictures acceptable
4) Prevent my background from darkening




Included a 800 grainy shot witch is what I get most off the time, only exposure and WB correction (bit off darkening right lower corner) done in Lightroom, no sharpening done in PS conversion to JPEG.

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07-01-2015, 04:36 AM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by Carpon Quote
4) Prevent my background from darkening
With one flash, especially if it's mounted on camera, this can be tough to do. Here are few options (and examples (with more details on their lighting setups on flickr):

-Use a tripod and expose for the ambient light on the background. This is easiest to work with if your subject isn't getting as much ambient as the background, and you're free to light the subject with your flash as you see fit.


Laurel Sphinx Caterpillar
by Brian Robin, on Flickr


-Arrange the background to be close to the subject and "feather" the light at the background so it's skimming the subject but also lighting the backdrop. This is much easier to do with the flash on a bracket or outright off the camera.


Dragonfly on Canna
by Brian Robin, on Flickr

-Arrange the subject to essentially be on the background, so your entire photo is in the same plane, or fill the frame with the subject (can be hard to do in the macro world!). Bug on a leaf, etc. Obviously limited by the composition and where your subject is willing to sit (or where you find it).


Goldenrod Crab Spider
by Brian Robin, on Flickr

-Get a second flash. One flash (+reflector if needed) for the subject, and a second one aimed at the background. A simple optical trigger will work for the background flash, but having all lights on radio triggers is also handy. Obviously this is more setup time, but it can be worth it. If the background and subject are lit separately by lights you control, you can adjust their relative brightness to your hearts content.


Gypsy Moth Caterpillar
by Brian Robin, on Flickr

QuoteOriginally posted by TER-OR Quote
A tripod is out of the question, and with the GPS on my K5 I cannot mount a flash. If it's sunny I don't really need it. for my research in the field, I'm willing to accept some sub-par images if it allows me to make the identification.
Am I correct in assuming the PC socket still functions with the GPS attached? You'd need to add a bracket to keep it all in one unit and this might lose the portability you're after but might be worth it for gloomy days and tiny targets.

07-01-2015, 05:27 AM   #17
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I never use a tripod. It just gets in the way, takes too long to setup especially when shooting insects. I always use manual settings, ( lenses I use are manual anyway), catch in focus, and a ring flash. I set the lens at the ratio I want and move camera/body together to get the focus point. Flash negates any movement from my nervous hands. I like a black background, isolates the subject.

Last edited by bluestringer; 03-08-2016 at 07:12 PM.
07-01-2015, 05:33 AM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by BrianR Quote
Am I correct in assuming the PC socket still functions with the GPS attached? You'd need to add a bracket to keep it all in one unit and this might lose the portability you're after but might be worth it for gloomy days and tiny targets.
yeah, it should. I picked up a manual Sunpak for that reason. Now I'll need to get an L-bracket to mount the control/power body. I'd love to get one like the old medium format type with the wooden handle. That's starting to get a lot to lug around in the field, but probably well worth trying. Particularly on overcast days as you mention.
07-01-2015, 07:15 AM   #19
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QuoteOriginally posted by TER-OR Quote
yeah, it should. I picked up a manual Sunpak for that reason. Now I'll need to get an L-bracket to mount the control/power body. I'd love to get one like the old medium format type with the wooden handle. That's starting to get a lot to lug around in the field, but probably well worth trying. Particularly on overcast days as you mention.




Vintage Flash Bracket with Wood Handle Left Handed Hot Shoe Mount | eBay

07-01-2015, 09:48 AM   #20
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Thanks, probably worth buying for $20. To rock it old-school if nothing else...
07-02-2015, 12:13 AM   #21
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bruce Clark Quote
The range of advise given is vast and as you would already have noticed there is no one single correct way to do macro. Personally I do most of my work handheld and in natural light.

I have found an excellent tutorial produced by B+H https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf1woH6JOxY This fellow has a way of cutting through a lot of bull and getting down to the fundamentals.I hope you find it as useful as I do.
Great clarifying link, very helpful. Thank you.

---------- Post added 07-02-15 at 07:20 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by BrianR Quote
With one flash, especially if it's mounted on camera, this can be tough to do. Here are few options (and examples (with more details on their lighting setups on flickr):

-Use a tripod and expose for the ambient light on the background. This is easiest to work with if your subject isn't getting as much ambient as the background, and you're free to light the subject with your flash as you see fit.


Laurel Sphinx Caterpillar
by Brian Robin, on Flickr


-Arrange the background to be close to the subject and "feather" the light at the background so it's skimming the subject but also lighting the backdrop. This is much easier to do with the flash on a bracket or outright off the camera.


Dragonfly on Canna
by Brian Robin, on Flickr

-Arrange the subject to essentially be on the background, so your entire photo is in the same plane, or fill the frame with the subject (can be hard to do in the macro world!). Bug on a leaf, etc. Obviously limited by the composition and where your subject is willing to sit (or where you find it).


Goldenrod Crab Spider
by Brian Robin, on Flickr

-Get a second flash. One flash (+reflector if needed) for the subject, and a second one aimed at the background. A simple optical trigger will work for the background flash, but having all lights on radio triggers is also handy. Obviously this is more setup time, but it can be worth it. If the background and subject are lit separately by lights you control, you can adjust their relative brightness to your hearts content.


Gypsy Moth Caterpillar
by Brian Robin, on Flickr



Am I correct in assuming the PC socket still functions with the GPS attached? You'd need to add a bracket to keep it all in one unit and this might lose the portability you're after but might be worth it for gloomy days and tiny targets.
I arranged with my local store to borough a ring flash, this could be in his opinion be used on or off the camera and I can practice both. I find the plain off view and ambient light methods very interesting thank you for taking the time explaining this (with examples) to me, great stuff.

---------- Post added 07-02-15 at 07:35 AM ----------

Another tip I got from my local store was to use a simple shoulder mount support. I played a bit with it in the store felt quiet good but think it works in some cases but can limit you in other. Any experience with that solution anyone, the fact non off you mentioned it kind off says it all.


The model suggested was the""Novoflex pickstock-C".
07-02-2015, 05:21 AM   #22
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QuoteOriginally posted by Carpon Quote
[/COLOR]Another tip I got from my local store was to use a simple shoulder mount support. I played a bit with it in the store felt quiet good but think it works in some cases but can limit you in other. Any experience with that solution anyone, the fact non off you mentioned it kind off says it all.


The model suggested was the""Novoflex pickstock-C".
Shoulder mounts are great for stability, but do limit your range of motion. I think it totally depends on what you're photographing and how. They're great for video, and probably great for heavier rigs.
07-02-2015, 05:28 AM   #23
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I'm not familiar with the "pickstock-C," but Novoflex products tend to be unusual designs, sometime innovative but sometimes just odd, well-made but unreasonably expensive. Go to the B&H website and at least look at their offerings for shoulder stocks/braces. The Revo 1000-SR is a very light weight unit at a reasonable price, and the molded plastic Steady Stock is only $30. I have used an LL Rue wood gunstock for some macro, but much prefer a small tripod (my favorite: and old Slik 444D, still working perfectly after 30+ years).

07-02-2015, 06:31 AM   #24
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QuoteOriginally posted by WPRESTO Quote
I have used an LL Rue wood gunstock for some macro, but much prefer a small tripod (my favorite: and old Slik 444D, still working perfectly after 30+ years).
I wouldn't use a gunstock on a camera in the USA. You might be shot by the police.

I don't understand how to use a tripod for 1:1 macro. Do you also have a macro rail? You must be shooting very patient or lethargic insects.

Last edited by audiobomber; 07-02-2015 at 07:42 AM.
07-02-2015, 06:58 AM   #25
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First thing , develop a flash solution ..
2nd ( Pentax ) you will need to shoot above 1/125 preferably 1/180 shutter speed ..
3rd , aperture , use this function to get the light level right ..
Shoot Manual ... Just do some test shots till the light is right , and then go out and take pictures ..

Auto focus . forget it ! Just select the focus distance you want to shoot , Macro = 1.1 or 1.2 and so forth ...
And remember to set the camera up for it ( aperture setting )

It really is quite simple once you practice a little .. ( Honestly )

Its just a matter of setting the camera up and then not changing very much ...
But you will want a flash , one set up for Macro photography . Check out google images for ideas ..

https://www.google.com/search?site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1920&bih=955&q=Ma...71.2KAH-_VD4Kw
07-02-2015, 07:46 AM   #26
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I wouldn't use a gunstock on a camera in the US. You might be shot by the police. (

I don't understand how to use a tripod for 1:1 macro. Do you also have a macro rail? You must be shooting very patient or lethargic insects.
1:1 is really tough in the field. I suspect, without measurements, that most of my field insect macros are 1:5 (large butterflies) to the vicinity of 1:2 ( small flies - then cropped PP to fill the frame*). However, I have a slider made by Cullmann (lock knob closed by spring tension - twist back against the tension to slide, then let go and the spring twists the knob to lock - extremely securely) that allows about 6 inches of motion. Using a unit-focus macro lens (favorite = SMCA ED 200mm) six inches is all the distance adjustment necessary to go from around 1:2.5 to 1:1 without moving the tripod. Alternatively, more rarely, I use a geared Pentax macro focusing device, but it is a flawed design and does not have the range of movement of the Cullmann slider.

*DOF is a major problem at higher macro ratios. Backing off, then cropping PP gets more DOF on the insect, as it should based on optical principles. The loss of IQ is usually more than compensated by the increased DOF, that is, the impression that the image shows a lot of detail is enhanced even though if you pixel-peek a cropped image taken @ 1:3 versus a frame-filler @ 1:1, the latter will have more detail in the zone of perfect focus. Critical is having a macro lens with excellent IQ, and I've collected several.


AND V-A-V using a gunstock. As noted, over 50+ years I've experimented with just about every macro method there is. The gunstock was one of those experiments, but I found it generally clumsy to use compared to a tripod. Too often hand holding I've shifted slightly and either lost the plane or focus or fouled the framing. My % keepers has always been best uding BOTH a tripod and a flash, but there are, as always, exceptions.

Last edited by WPRESTO; 07-02-2015 at 07:52 AM.
07-02-2015, 08:15 AM   #27
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A couple examples. The first four are uncropped/cropped of same file with tripod-mounted camera, available light. for the spider, the DOF is barely adequate. The Bee is hand-held with flash of necessity and is a deeper crop. NO WAY I could have moved fast enough to keep her in the plane of focus, in fact, getting her in focus at all was a matter of luck (and some discarded image files)

Last edited by WPRESTO; 01-29-2016 at 11:58 AM.
07-02-2015, 08:36 AM   #28
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I don't understand how to use a tripod for 1:1 macro. Do you also have a macro rail? You must be shooting very patient or lethargic insects.
I use a tripod frequently at or near 1:1 and occasionally beyond. I have no macro rail at this point, but here are my typical uses:

-Early morning before insects have warmed up and started moving around.
-Critters that rely on either camouflage or bright colours (announcing toxicity) to avoid predation tend to not move much and often sit still while you work around them (mostly insects, but most of my native frogs rely on not being seen before their ability to flee).
-Caterpillars, slugs, snails, turtles, and other slow movers.
-Anything returning to predictable perches or food sources (flowers, etc.)
-Nocturnal insects you find in the daytime (especially moths).

A tripod is an essential part of my field kit that I would never do without. Even if I'm using multiple flashes to light a scene I still prefer to work with a tripod + mirror lock up if it's feasible, but I won't be bound to it if circumstances dictate handheld is the way to go.
07-02-2015, 08:45 AM   #29
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QuoteOriginally posted by TER-OR Quote
Shoulder mounts are great for stability, but do limit your range of motion. I think it totally depends on what you're photographing and how. They're great for video, and probably great for heavier rigs.
I think you're right, the biggest lens I have is the 100mm macro, easy to handheld till it's getting smaller and I am not a static shooter, I tiger around a lot few weeks ago someone came up to me to see if I was all right lying on the ground in the woods for a caterpillar

---------- Post added 07-02-15 at 03:47 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by BrianR Quote
I use a tripod frequently at or near 1:1 and occasionally beyond. I have no macro rail at this point, but here are my typical uses:

-Early morning before insects have warmed up and started moving around.
-Critters that rely on either camouflage or bright colours (announcing toxicity) to avoid predation tend to not move much and often sit still while you work around them (mostly insects, but most of my native frogs rely on not being seen before their ability to flee).
-Caterpillars, slugs, snails, turtles, and other slow movers.
-Anything returning to predictable perches or food sources (flowers, etc.)
-Nocturnal insects you find in the daytime (especially moths).

A tripod is an essential part of my field kit that I would never do without. Even if I'm using multiple flashes to light a scene I still prefer to work with a tripod + mirror lock up if it's feasible, but I won't be bound to it if circumstances dictate handheld is the way to go.
Great insight, I'm an early bird will hit the flower fields at break off day soon as I can

---------- Post added 07-02-15 at 03:56 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by old4570 Quote
First thing , develop a flash solution ..
2nd ( Pentax ) you will need to shoot above 1/125 preferably 1/180 shutter speed ..
3rd , aperture , use this function to get the light level right ..
Shoot Manual ... Just do some test shots till the light is right , and then go out and take pictures ..

Auto focus . forget it ! Just select the focus distance you want to shoot , Macro = 1.1 or 1.2 and so forth ...
And remember to set the camera up for it ( aperture setting )

It really is quite simple once you practice a little .. ( Honestly )

Its just a matter of setting the camera up and then not changing very much ...
But you will want a flash , one set up for Macro photography . Check out google images for ideas ..

https://www.google.com/search?site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1920&bih=955&q=Ma...71.2KAH-_VD4Kw
I'm looking into the flash solution preferably in combination with a tripod but a flash can when used to help me with handheld shots as well, I can loan a ring flash from my local dealer for a couple off days will put it to the test. Autofocus went out the window after 10 minutes shooting macro with this lens I will let you all know how it develops. Found the "Novoflex pickstock-C" for 30 online tend to try it out for that amount not sure yet will let you know. Thanks for you're kind advice.
07-02-2015, 04:40 PM   #30
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QuoteQuote:
[/COLOR]
I'm looking into the flash solution preferably in combination with a tripod but a flash can when used to help me with handheld shots as well, I can loan a ring flash from my local dealer for a couple off days will put it to the test. Autofocus went out the window after 10 minutes shooting macro with this lens I will let you all know how it develops. Found the "Novoflex pickstock-C" for 30 online tend to try it out for that amount not sure yet will let you know. Thanks for you're kind advice.
The flash will allow you to :
Run the highest shutter speed ( 1/180 )
More aperture for DOF
Lower ISO
as well the flash will help freeze the scene .. ( Sharper less blur )
Also this will mean more hit's rather than misses .
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