Thursday, April 2, 2009


Originally uploaded by jstevewhite

Macro photography is probably my favorite type of photography these days. back when I was younger, it was glamor photography, but things change. Anyway, I came across this beetle - he was about 1/4 inch long - and popped off a few caps of him. I didn't even know until I got the image on my iMac that his shell was transparent. I'd have taken more pictures if I had.

This was shot with an old SMC Pentax-M 100 f4 Macro. It's an old lens that was popular with dentists, and it only does half life size. But it's contrasty and sharp and works well on my K20D. Old tech meets new and works really well.

That's one of the main reasons I chose Pentax, rather than Canon (which is what I shot, mostly, in film). I'd always loved the old SMC Pentax lenses - they had an almost Zeiss or Leitz type contrast and saturation - but I couldn't afford an LX, while A1s and even F1s were a couple hundred dollars. But nowadays, I can indulge my old fetish - and I have, with several old Pentax lovelies.

For hand held macro, I use a 'point and shoot' system. I have an ancient Vivitar 283 with the manual adjustment plug, and a Lumiquest on-flash softbox made for event photographers. The softbox nearly hangs over the end of the lens, giving me a very diffuse light source. I run the lens out to (usually) maximum magnification. I set the K20D for "Catch-in-focus" (where it fires the shutter when the sensor detects something is in focus), and I walk up to a test subject until the shutter triggers. I adjust flash power, test again, adjust flash power - then delete all the test images and head out to the garden. By now, I know that anything that's in focus will be properly exposed.

You still have to pick your target's pose properly. Because of the extremely short distances involved, something a little closer to the lens can get significantly more exposure. Also, if you're not shooting in bright - and I mean BRIGHT - sunlight, you can get the "flash look" where the background is pitch black. So if you want to do this hand-held macro work, pick your "stage" carefully.

You can spend (literally) hours walking around your back yard photographing tiny stuff. Give it a shot, it's fun.

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