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Posts Tagged ‘macrophotography’

Dalantech over at the No Cropping Zone writes:

From time to time I see people argue about the backgrounds in macro images, and about how dark backgrounds don’t look natural –whatever the heck that means. Seriously what’s natural about macro photography? Do you see all the detail in a bee’s compound eye or the tiny “hairs” that cover most leaves without the aid of some sort of magnifier?

I think Dalantech is entirely correct in that arguments about the naturalness of black backdrops are unconvincing.  There are many reasons to take photographs, and capturing an animal in a particular environment is only one of them.

Having said that, though, I’ve never been overly fond of the black background, even though I use it occasionally as a compositional device.  Black is in some respects a default setting for macro.  If you use a flash pointed away from the backdrop and a fast shutter speed, the background will fade to black as a matter of course.  Consequently, there are piles of black-backdrop macros floating around.  Sort of like turtlenecks at an art museum.  Enough to border on the monotonous.

Since black can be produced by accident, lots of those black background photos are themselves accidental, snapped without any attempt at composition.  They’re just more bad bug-on-a-flower-shots.  And as I get sick of seeing them, I go off black backgrounds generally.  Guilt by association.

Of course, my opinion is deeply unfair.  Dalantech’s photos are carefully composed and really superb.  Black is part of his distinctive style, and no one would argue that he’s just another guy taking happy snaps of bugs-on-flowers.  Maybe I’m just a big fan of white.  Which never ever gets monotonous, no?

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There is only one lens on the market that can take this shot

Only one lens can take this shot.

If you’ve paid attention to insect photography over the past decade, you’ll likely have noticed that a single lens, Canon’s MP-E 1-5x macro, has come to dominate the market.  Every professional insect photographer I know owns one, and many of the dedicated amateurs do as well.  Indeed, some photographers have even switched from Nikon to Canon just to be able to use it.

Yet the lens is also a throwback, possessing few of the electronic features of modern camera technology.  It is largely manual, with no auto-focus or image stabilization, and is notoriously difficult to operate.  So what’s the deal?  Why has a cantankerous retro lens become the glass of choice for macro?

caption

Canon's MP-E 65mm f2.8 1-5x macro lens mounted on an EOS 20D camera body, in many respects the ideal back for this specialized lens.

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Some Covers

keller_the_lives_of-ants
original photo here

insoc1
original photo here

molecol1
original photo here

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Formica incerta, Illinois

Formica incerta, Illinois

Despite a widespread belief that ants produce formic acid, the habit is confined to only one of the 20-some ant subfamilies, the formicinae.  This is among the most abundant subfamilies, containing the familiar carpenter ants and field ants, and is recognizable by the single constricted waist segment and an acid-dispersing nozzle called the acidopore at the tip of the abdomen.  The most recent myrmecos.net upload covers a variety of formicine species from Arizona, Illinois, and South Africa.

Click here to visit the gallery.

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Pasimachus sp. ground beetle, Arizona

Pasimachus sp. ground beetle, Arizona

My apologies for the lack of blogging the past few days.  I’ve been taking some time away from posting for the holidays, but I’ll be back next week.  In the meantime, here’s a Pasimachus ground beetle…

photo details: Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D
ISO 100, f/18, 1/250 sec, indirect strobe in a white box

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In an earlier post I listed my favorite insect images of the year taken by other photographers.  Now it’s my turn.  Here is the best of my own work over the last 12 months.

Laccophilus pictus, Arizona

Laccophilus pictus, Arizona

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byrrhid4

Cytilus alternatus, Pennsylvania

This lovely little round insect is called a pill beetle.  Why is that, you ask?

Check this out: (more…)

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