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Discussion in 'Nature' started by DrLazer, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. DrLazer

    DrLazer Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 23, 2011
    Sheffield, UK
    I thought I would share one of my macros here ... see how it goes down. I know not everybody really digs macro. All my macro work is done with a Lumix G10.

    This is an early morning field stack of a large blowfly. I'm not sure on the ID, i'll see if I can find out. 12 images with the El-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 at f/5.6 and a further two exposures, one at f/8 and one at f/11 to give a more natural transition into blur.

    The lens is bellows mounted and I am using a linear translation stage to adjust focus.

    View attachment 179021

    A few crops to save you going through to my Flickr and viewing it in full size.
    View attachment 179022

    If you do want to view the original size it is here
    • Like Like x 8
  2. RetroBoy

    RetroBoy Mu-43 Regular

    Incredible detail on his face. Almost HDR like look to it.
    Great composition and lighting too. Was this natural light?

    I take my hat off to you - I have no idea how you do that focus stacking stuff but it sounds complicated!
  3. DrLazer

    DrLazer Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 23, 2011
    Sheffield, UK
    Thanks for the comment RetroBoy

    This is a combination of natural light and flash. "Mixed light" some people call it. Basically I position the camera roughly in front of the subject, then pan the camera to the side so the lens is only looking at oof background. I expose for this using the cameras light meter. When i pan the camera back to the subject, the light meter drops by a couple of stops ... not to worry though.

    I shot taken with these settings would expose the bg as we see here but silhouette the fly. The flash is then used as a "fill light" to light up the subject. I use a Nikon SB24 on a separate tripod and fire the flash through a kleenex to diffuse it.
    • Like Like x 3
  4. Robin

    Robin Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 6, 2011
    Wonderful image - just incredible!

    I have what might be a stupid question though - how do you get the fly to stand still while you are setting everything up?
  5. KVG

    KVG Banned User

    May 10, 2011
    yyc(Calgary, AB)
    Kelly Gibbons
    Wow! I want to read up on how to do macro. Maybe you or someone on here could write a thread.:smile:
  6. playak47

    playak47 Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 4, 2010
    Amazing photo.
  7. DrLazer

    DrLazer Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 23, 2011
    Sheffield, UK
    @KVG ... just for you

    This post exists mainly for two reasons. Reason one is because a lot of people ask me questions about how my macros were put together, sometimes they ask about a specific piece of equipment, or sometimes ask questions as general as "how did you do this" which is a difficult one to answer really ... where to start with that one? Do you know what aperture means?

    The second reason is that I think of myself as an absolute beginner at this kind of work. I have scraped together the basics of the knowledge I need to get the results I have gotten so far. I have a rig put together to take my studio macros and it is as basic as it ever will be, whilst still being in a state where I can use it to create reasonable quality images. I haven't spent much money really and I think this kind of setup will be accessible to most people, so I wanted to demonstrate how studio macro can be done on a budget. I have "upgrades" and more precise and expensive equipment on the way to me in the post and I don't want to forget how I used to do this in the future. Hopefully you may find the information useful if you are just starting out with macro, or even if you are just curious about my primitive rig. I thought now would be the best time to write this while it is all still fresh in my mind.

    The rig explained below is a simple low cost method of focus-stacking for macro images with a magnification ratio of 1:1 or greater. If you do not know what focus-stacking means. You can read this excellent tutorial as a pre-requisite for this rig explanation. That tutorial is on the website of Zerene Stacker, and is my current favourite application for merging my images together.

    I haven't put much effort into taking photos of the equipment or setup, they are just quick snaps to show the required info.

    Camera Body - $100
    View attachment 179087
    I use a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10. I have a Lumix Superzoom/Bridge DMC-FZ35 also, but the G10 is the one I use for studio macro. The FZ35 is an amazing camera, my first real proper piece of photography equipment and I love it. I was very familiar with the layout and controls on that camera so this is the only reason I stuck with Lumix. A friend on Flickr offered me the G10 body for cheap and I couldn't resist. The main features which I would describe as being essential when picking a camera for this kind of work are ... #1 an interchangeable lens. In order to reach higher magnifications this will be a must. #2 Flashmount. Which is standard flashmount on the G10. Off-camera flash will be essential to light the subject well. #3 Ability to use a remote trigger. You can't be working at high magnifications whilst man handling the camera, you'll end up in all kinds of trouble so a remote trigger for the shutter is well needed.

    The G10 is a micro four thirds camera, meaning its sensor is not quite as big as a regular DSLR, but neither is the camera itself so it might come in handy as a nice lightweight camera for field work in the future. See here for more info on sensor sizes.

    M42 adapter - $20
    View attachment 179088
    I purchased this adapter on ebay. There are plenty of them readily available. Most of the work done for studio macro will be done with manual settings throughout. There are lots of great cheap manual lenses/extension tubes/bellows etc that are M42 screw thread fitting. I also want to keep the budget low for the rig so these bits of equipment are ideal. Here is the camera with the adapter attached.
    View attachment 179089
    You can see the inside of the adapter is painted with a non reflective matt black. This will prevent flare from stray light bouncing around inside the adapter and degrading the quality of your images. It is definitely worth checking an adapter has this coating before purchasing.

    Bellows - $80
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    I spent a quite a bit on bellows, in hind-sight this was a bit of an error on my part. I wish I had bought a real basic bellows unit so I could have played with it for while till I figured out how to use them properly. These bellows are branded Pentax ASAHI and are M42 mount so will screw nicely into my adapter. The main purpose of a bellows unit is to move the lens further away from the camera sensor. The greater the distance from the lens to the sensor, the more magnification achieved. The metal blocks at the far left and far right of the bellows unit hold the concertina of non reflective synthetic material in place and are called standards. The one on the left is the rear standard. The small metal arm at the bottom locks it in place. When raised the rear standard is free to move up and down the rail. The front standard is moved around with a wheel for more precise movement, but ultimately the same result. A lot of cheaper bellows units will have only a front moving standard and a fixed rear standard. It is nice to have bellows where both move, that way the rail doesn't get in the way. You can just move it backwards or forwards to a suitable position. This picture shows it almost fully closed up.
    View attachment 179090
    And these two pictures show the other side. The block on the bottom has a threaded hole that most tripods will fit. The block also moves around on the rail, meaning I can move the camera + lens forwards and backwards to where I wish to have it quite easily.
    View attachment 179091
    View attachment 179092
    To get these bellows mounted, both standards have to be pushed along the rail to the "rear" so the rail isn't in the way whilst you try and screw them onto the body. It is important the bellows are mounted completely straight. I measured them with a protractor. I am sure you could think of a more sophisticated method than that, but it does the trick for me.
    View attachment 179093
    Now we are getting somewhere! Already the kit looks like it's going to do the business for you. A false sense of confidence can never be underestimated. Now would be an ideal time for a box of beers.

    I went for Tuborg. I like the noise the lids make when you peel them off the bottle. We are going to be taking photos of tiny stuff real soon.

    Enlarger lens - $22
    View attachment 179094
    You can't take any photos without a lens, a common error people make is assuming that macro images with a magnification ratio of greater than 1:1 can only be achieved with a very expensive lens. This lens is a Japanese made enlarger lens. They are designed to project images of slides onto larger surfaces for viewing (I think). $22 on ebay, I picked it up fairly cheap but this lens is readily available on ebay for less than $40. The build quality on this puppy is just incredible. The aperture blades snap into place, it has a real solid feel to it. Before buying one, be sure that it has no fungus, no marks, no dirt caught inside the glass elements, the aperture blades work smoothly and are oil free, and also make sure the threads on both sides are in good condition as we are going to need them. There are other enlarger lenses and other types of lenses that will also work, but this is a well known beauty. This is the El-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8. The El-Nikkor comes in other focal lengths too, but this one is the most common (therefore cheaper). John Hallmen a great inspiration of mine, has written a nice little performance review of the lens here. He tests a more modern version but I preffer the look of the old one. I don't think there is much of a performance difference between the old style and the new style.
    View attachment 179095
    View attachment 179096
    The side on shot shows the manual aperture control, with a range from f/2.8 at it's brightest to f/16 at it's most closed. From previous testing I know this lens has a sharpness sweet spot at around f/5.6 so that's the aperture I normally use. You can also see the matt black non reflective coating on the underside too. So we need to somehow mount this onto the bellows unit. If we think about how this lens is supposed to be used .. projecting a large image onto a surface. This means the front of the lens would be facing the projection (bigger image) and the back of the lens will be facing the slide (smaller image). We want to use it for macro with ratio's greater than 1:1, meaning the subject will be bigger on the sensor than it is in real life. Sticking with the design of the lens to achieve the best possible quality, we should mount it how it was designed to be used: with the front facing the sensor (larger image), or mount it in reverse. The filter thread on the El-Nikkor 50mm/f2.8 is a random 40.5mm, but fortunately and I have no idea why ... there is an abundance of 40.5mm -> 52mm step-up rings available on ebay. Get one of those rings and then a 52mm->42mm reversing ring and we can mount it on the bellows.
    View attachment 179097
    View attachment 179098
    In the first image one more thing worth noting: most reversing rings and setup-up/step-down rings are made from metal and are quite shiny. This will degrade the image quality quite badly as light will bounce around inside the bellows. You can see in the photo I have lined my reversing ring with a flocking material so I will get no flare. You can use any blackout flocking material but personally I like to use the material made for the job. Protostar. Available quite cheap and for postage worldwide here. If you are planning on acquiring one of these lenses, be sure to get the f/2.8. The f/4 also exists but is an entirely different lens that will not render results as crisp.

    Speedlight - $50
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    There are lots of awesome macro images on Flickr using natural light only. However, to do this the conditions need to be right. You have to be in the right place at the right time etc. I want to be able to shoot studio macro whenever I wish so for this I will need to provide my own lighting. This can be done with LED lights but may lead to long exposure times, vibration and other complications. I think flash gives you a lot of control over the image and is probably easier for a beginner (like me). I picked up this Nikon SB24 on ebay for $50. It's big and bulky so probably wouldn't be best for fieldwork, but as we making a rig for the studio this will be fine. It works from standard flashmount so will be good for my G10. It also has a full manual mode where I can set the flash power from anywhere between 1/16th and 1.
    View attachment 179099
    View attachment 179100
    It's got a bit of gunky sticky tape stuff on it .. sorry about that, it's been used in many experiments. To produce nice even light, reduce hotspots and specular highlights as well as harsh shadows it will be necessary to diffuse the flash when fired. I didn't want to spend much on this so knocked together something simple out of a cardboard box, some black tape and a sheet of white kitchen towel. Oooosh
    View attachment 179101
    View attachment 179102
    The kitchen towel makes an excellent diffuser. You may want to experiment with other materials to diffuse the light. Yoghurt pots are good ... maybe Styrofoam, white paper, tracing paper, facial tissue etc. Just find the material that diffuses your flash nicely. For me this kitchen towel is simple, easy to replace and seems to do the job.
    View attachment 179103
    What I have created here is a very primitive (and small) softbox. Just like the ones they use in portraiture all the time. I am not 100% satisfied with it, it leaves square highlights on shiny surfaces, it could be further improved by making it round or elliptical.

    Flash Cable - $20
    View attachment 179104
    Off course we will not be mounting the flash gun directly to the cameras flashmount. It would be a very restrictive setup and I wouldn't be able to move the flash around to where I wanted it. Not to mention that it would likely cast a harsh shadow onto the subject where the bellows or the lens are between the flash and the subject ... not ideal really. You can purchase nifty wireless flash triggers, but in keeping with the theme of low budget, a synch cable with a long stretchy cord should enable you to move the flash around nicely. This cable is standard flashmount to standard flashmount, I ordered it on ebay from the far east for a measly $20.

    Tripod - $25
    View attachment 179105
    A way of holding the flash gun in place will be needed. This cheap lightweight tripod is not at all ideal, but very cheap and will do the job. It has a ball head, that's the main thing really so I can angle the flash exactly where it will work best. The legs on this tripod extend to about chest height, so I can make it sturdier by extending a few sections if required.

    That's about it for lighting. I don't think i really need to post a picture of the flash gun on the tripod with the diffuser placed over the business end of it. I'm sure you can use your imagination to visualise that. I like imagining things; I think I probably do it more often than most. I guess sometimes real life just isn't punchy enough.

    Macro Rail - $20
    View attachment 179106
    View attachment 179107
    This was also ordered on ebay from the far east. It's the dirtiest most inaccurate piece of equipment you can imagine, but it is also a very very cheap option, and it can come in handy for other things in the future should you choose to upgrade it. All it does, is enable you to move whatever you mount on it, forwards and backwards with a nice textured thumbscrew. On the underside you can see that the block will mount directly onto any tripod and will be fixed firmly in place. The smaller of the two thumbscrews locks the rail in place, when loosened off, the bigger thumbscrew can be used to move the plate forwards and backwards. The bellows unit can mount directly onto the plate. We now have a method of focusing. This rig is for focus-stacking. The depth of field will be very small, but I can adjust finely (in the loosest sense of the word) throughout the entire subject, taking a photograph at each step that will merge together to create a final image.

    Tripod - $100
    View attachment 179108
    We need a tripod that is a little more sturdy to hold the rig in place. Even with the u4/3 lightweight camera, lightweight bellows and a small lens ... this still weighs quite a bit. Plenty enough to make a tripod designed to hold a point and shoot camera topple over. This Velbon tripod cost $100. I really wouldn't recommend spending any less than that on a tripod for focus-stacking. It's not great, it's tricky to use and has a bit of play in practically every direction. However, it does have a head built in, it can pan left and right, tip up and down, and open out to hold the camera sideways on .... all with independent and separate controls.

    Remote Trigger - $9
    View attachment 179109
    The final piece in the puzzle. It is not essential, and I didn't have one at first, I used a 2 second or a 10 second timer. However, if you add up all those seconds on an 80 image stack. It's a slice of life that you are just wasting. For a mere $9 again from the far east, you can have that slice of life back to do whatever you choose with it. Maybe you could take an archery lesson. I've always wanted to do that .... never quite got around to it. hmmmm

    Total cost for this rig : $446

    Examples of what this rig can achieve. As you can see, they are not the greatest macro images ever produced, but they are a damn sight better then setting your camera to the "flower" mode.
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    • Like Like x 11
  8. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    WOW !!!!

    That is one crazy looking set up, amazing shots and brilliant post.

    Thanks :2thumbs::2thumbs::2thumbs:
  9. Hyubie

    Hyubie Unique like everyone else

    Oct 15, 2010
    Not really into macro, but I keep coming back to your images. Great great shots!
  10. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    Much thanks for the great how-to post and superb images!
  11. garfield_cz

    garfield_cz Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 9, 2011
    Czech Republic
    Nice equipment, but when connected together you have static bulky indoor setup. When shooting macro I am trying to be as light as possible because insects are moving quickly :wink: So the question is: Which kind of glue are you using to keep them in desired position? :rofl:
    • Like Like x 1
  12. DrLazer

    DrLazer Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 23, 2011
    Sheffield, UK
    Actually. For macro greater than 1:1, this would be considered a VERY lightweight rig. It is very well suited for field work on live insects. It could be improved by replacing some cheaper parts with more expensive ones to increase stability. A better tripod designed for macro work for example.

    The "glue" I use to hold the insects in place is a nice product called "nighttime" from a company called "mother nature" :smile:
    Fortunately for me, the climate where I live is mild most of the time and usually means nighttimes are a bit chilly. The blowfly at the top of this post was focus stacked, on a tripod at 5:45am. The cold slows down the insects metabolism and they are unable to move well until the sun comes up.

    In this little clip you can see what the light is like at that time in the morning. The tree cricket here is not at all bothered by my presence.
    [ame=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2xPi64gA8s"]Video Clip - Field Cricket[/ame]

    I have only just moved onto this kind of technique as it is difficult due to wind / fog / moisture in the air etc. Some of my work is done on dead specimens that I have prepared for a shoot.

    This dronefly here, I caught her in a jamjar and then introduced a cotton wool ball soaked with nail polish remover. This puts the fly to sleep. My gear was all setup and ready to go. On the very 2 last frames the fly started to twitch her antennae (which is why they are blurred) as she started to come back around. I placed her back on the same plant and made sure nothing captured her until she flew off.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    This is what would be considered a heavy indoor setup.

    View attachment 179120

    Thanks for the nice comments everyone.
    • Like Like x 1
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