Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shooting non macro with MPE65!

The MPE65 is a great macro lens which can go from 1:1 to 5:1, but it is strictly a macro lens and will not allow you to go lower than its minimum magnification of 1:1. Translation: if you use it on a cropped sensor i.e APS-C body like my 40D, you will see 22.2mm filling up the width of the frame at the MPE65's minimum magnification of 1:1.

Of course, if you use the MPE65 on a full frame body like the 5DM2, you will see 36mm at 1:1. If you would like to know more about determining magnification, you can check out this post.

 I don't know how many full body shots of nice bugs I have missed just because I was too lazy to  take out my Sigma 150mm lens, and many times I just didn't bring any other lens except just the MPE65. Sometimes, if the subject didn't move much, I was able to take shots of different parts of the subject (for example, left half, then right half, with some overlap), then photomerged them in Photoshop CS3. You can see some example here.

However, with this new great discovery by one of my macro mentors, Lord V on Flickr and POTN, hopefully, we can now shoot non macro subjects and even landscape!

Shot with the MPE65, single shot, no merging or whatsoever.
MPE65 non macro shot with 2X Telemore Teleconverter IMG_0462 copy

View the 100% crop of the prawn/shrimp here:D

Canon Service Centre, Peremba Square. Had my sensor cleaned for free there earlier! Oh a cup of complimentary cappuccino and espresso too while waiting:D  
MPE65 non macro shot with 2X Telemore Teleconverter IMG_0478 copy

Left - added Black and warmed it up a little in Adobe Camera Raw during Post Processing. Right - straight from RAW
MPE65 non macro shot with 2X Telemore Teleconverter IMG_0490 copy MPE65 non macro shot with 2X Telemore Teleconverter IMG_0490 copy

Anyway, here is what you need: a Telemore 2X Teleconverter, and reversed lens adapter and step down ring to mount a reversed Telemore 2X Teleconverter to the MPE65.
MPE65 non macro shot with 2X Telemore Teleconverter IMG_0457 mpe n telemore tc

I didn't figure out what adapter and/or ring to use just so I can reverse mount the Telemore 2X Teleconverter to the MPE65. I am not that geeky, yet! Credit must go to Tom Hicks of Fred Miranda Forum. However, his Telemore was M42 mount so he used a different reversed lens adapter. Mine is OM Olympus mount so I needed a different type of adapter.

I bought the Telemore 2X TC, the step down ring and the reversed lens adapter all  from ebay.

Telemore 2X Teleconverter OM Mount - USD 18, another USD17 for shipping
52mm OM Mount Reversed lens adapter - USD 4.40 free shipping
58mm to 52mm step down ring - USD 1.79 free shipping

Total damage: USD 41.19, that's about RM129 at the current exchange rate. When shopping on ebay, don't just look for the lowest price. I sometimes choose to pay slightly more just to choose a seller with higher rating, preferably, 99.5%, at least! Do look into shipping insurance too if it is an expensive item.

Tip: just type " 41.19USD  in ringgit" in google and you'll get this:

41.19 U.S. dollars = 128.121384 Malaysian ringgits


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All about extension tube for macro!

What is Extension Tube?

Extension Tube is a great and comparatively inexpensive way to get started in macro photography. You can match it with a nifty fifty (50mm F1.8 lens) and get more than 1:1 magnification. You can also use it with your existing 1:1 macro lens and go beyond 1:1 magnification (life size). Extension Tube is available in Canon mount, Nikon mount, Sony mount etc. If you are not sure whether you really like macro, this is a good way to test the water and to get your feet wet.

It looks like this and normally consists of 3 tubes of 12mm, 20mm and 36mm.

Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set for the Canon EOS AF Mount.

What lens is the Extension Tube compatible with?

It works great with macro lenses such as the Tamron 60mm, Canon 60mm, Canon 50mm F/2.5, Nikon 60mm F/2.8, Tamron SP90, Canon 100mm, Nikon 105mm, Sigma 105, and even Sigma 150mm. Kenko Extension Tubes set consists of three tubes of different lengths: 12mm, 20mm and 36mm.

How does Extension Tubes work?

Extension tubes allows a lens to focus closer than its normal set minimum focusing distance. That has the same effect as magnifying your subject i.e higher magnification. Extension Tube will enable you to convert almost any lens into a macro lens at a fraction of the cost while maintaining its original optical quality.

How many Extension Tubes should I use?

A set of Extension Tubes consists of a 12mm, 20mm and 36mm tubes. You can use either just one, or any two, or all three together to achieve different magnification. The longer the combination you use, the higher the magnification you can achieve. Extension Tube works on non macro lenses too: 50mm f/1.8, 70-200, 300mm, 400mm etc.

Any IQ degradation?

There are no optics in the Extension Tubes so there will be little or no IQ loss.

What Magnification can I achieve?

Magnification achievable when using Extension Tubes with 1:1 macro lens. Thanks to KJTeng for some of the info on magnifications here:

With Tamron SP90, Canon 100mm, Nikon 105mm - approximately 2:1 (2X life size)

With Nikon 60mm macro - approximately 2.53:1 (2.53X!!!. Add a 1.4X Teleconverter and it will be more than 3X)

With Sigma 150 - approximately 2:1 (2x life size), this is a little surprising!


Magnification gained = length of tubes / focal length

For example, with the nifty fifty 50mm F1.8 and full set of 68 mm of tubes

Magnification gained = 68/50 = 1.36X.

Obviously this doesn't really apply to macro lenses. Therefore the best way to find out is to shoot an mm scale ruler as explained in this post.

Only two types of tubes!

Yes, only two types, basically, if you ignore the brand names.

i. those without electrical circuitry nor mechanical coupling - you get a set for less than USD10 if you know where to look! No TTL, no AF.

ii. those with electrical circuitry and mechanical coupling -these will cost more, obviously, but I highly recommend it though. Unlike the type with no electrical circuitry and no mechanical coupling, you can still control your aperture freely, and your view finder won't be dim either because you don't have to pre-set your aperture to the usual macro setting of normally F11.

Your ETTL will still work as normal too! This is very important because it takes a lot of lighting guesswork out of the equation. I almost always shoot in ETTL mode, and use FEC to control my light.

There are many other brands other than Kenko. Google is your best friend so do your homework!


Add a 1.4X Teleconverter for even higher magnification - roughly another 0.4X to whatever you get from the extension tubes!

Finally, if you want even higher magnification, like 3X to 5X, then you must check out DMF SuperMacro

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mating pair of giraffe weevils

A mating pair of  giraffe weevil / long necked beetle, Paracycnotrachelus sp.

Ever since i spotted my first giraffe weevil back in March 8, 2008, I have been on the look out for for a mating pair.

Finally, I got lucky on Oct 9, 2010.

We found not just one but  two mating pairs on that day!
IMG_9969 copy

mating pair of giraffe weevils IMG_9899 copy

mating pair of giraffe weevils IMG_9901 copy

mating pair of giraffe weevils IMG_9996 copy

If you search "giraffe weevil" on, you can actually find my first giraffe weevil image right on top of the result page! I think it's a sign that I have shot too many of these super cute giraffe weevils.

Oh, you can view the mating animation here:

I have also blogged about: 

Giraffe Weevil and its host plant Bridelia tomentosa 


Giraffe Weevil Building Nest & Laying Egg

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Poor man's MPE65 - DMF Supermacro

There are a few ways to achieve more than 1:1 magnification. This is just one of them. I will be sharing a few other methods too soon.

If you have been drooling over the MPE65 and MT24EX, drool no more! LOL. Thanks to KJ Teng for the heads-up.

This may just be what you have been waiting for:

dmf supermacro reverse lens adapter with twin flash

It's called DMF Supermacro, a reverse lens adapter with twin flash. Note: the camera body and lens are not included. There is only Canon version though. You will still need a lens. An 18-55 kit lens will work great here. With this DMF Supermacro reverse lens adapter, you will not only be able to use ETTL flash, but also to control the aperture setting. About USD 700 including EMS shipping to Malaysia.

There is a demo video but there's only Mandarin subtitle:

DMF SuperMacro TECH PART3 from frankwu on Vimeo.

DMF Supermacro site is here. It is in Mandarin but there is a "translate" button at the bottom right, at least in my Firefox browser.

DMF SuperMacro features:

Here is my attempt at the translation!

* 輕易將一般型陽春鏡頭升級為高解析超微距鏡頭!
* transform any ordinary kit lens into high resolution super macro lens!

* 具備超微距專用雙閃,可任意調整光線角度!
* equipped with macro twin flashes with adjustable angles!

* 獨家設計鏡前輔助對焦燈,取景視野明亮清晰!
* built in focusing light!

* 搭配不同焦段鏡頭可獲得1/3~10倍超顯微放大並維持高解析畫質!
* achieve from 1/3 to 10X magnification depending on the zoom ranges and focal lengths of the lenses.

* 搭配之鏡頭不需做任何修改及拆解!
* no modification required on the lens(es).

* 轉換拍攝倍率無需拆換鏡頭,直接調整即可!
* simply adjust the lens barrel to change the focal length in order to achieve different magnification!

* 輕便高效率的專利設計!台灣精密製造耐用質感優!
* Patented, light weight and durable design. Made in Taiwan!

With a Canon 18-55mm kit lens, this is what you can get:

* at 52mm, 1:1 magnification
* at 38mm, 2:1 magnification
* at 28mm, 3:1 magnification

If you wish to calculate the magnification, the best way is to shoot an mm ruler as explained in the "How to calculate magnification" post.

Sample shots on Flickr.

There is a somewhat similar product from Novoflex - EOS-RETRO, Reverse Adapter (Euro 299) for Canon EOS (yes, Canon, again. Don't they know Canon already has an MPE65?). But as you can see, it doesn't come with the twin flash like the DMF Supermacro does.


Of course you also buy just a simple, no frill reverse lens adapter like the Opteka 58mm Reverse Macro Adapter for Canon EOS EF 18-55mm . It is a simple reverse lens adapter with no electrical contact, hence no ETTL, no aperture control via the camera.

It's cheap. The downsides are, you will have to manually adjust the flash power. That can be quite a pain at different magnification. Since you have to preset the aperture to probably F11, most macro photographers' favorite aperture setting, the view finder will be very dim. Not really a big problem if you don't mind attaching a focusing light to your macro rig.

How do you know which adapter is for your lens you want to reverse? Simple. If you have a Canon 18-55mm kit lens, you know the filter size is 58mm, then what you need is a 58mm Canon mount reverse lens adapter! So on and so forth. There are reverse lens adapters for most mounts: Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax etc.

Please also check out "All About Extension Tubes for Macro" to find out how you can go beyond 1:1 (1X) or simply just to test the water, get your feet wet in macro photography! It is really inexpensive. As low as 10 USD to get started!

Tips on shooting with natural light

Natural light macro / close-up photography tips:

In this post, I will be sharing tips on shooting with natural light. Although all my shots here are macro and/or close-up shots, the same tips apply for non-macro photography as well, i.e. landscape, product, etc.

Note: for flash macro/close up photography, check out this post.

I seldom shoot with natural light with my MPE65. Even at its minimum magnification of 1:1, it is very tough to get a sharp shot without flash. Besides, the working distance of 4" makes it a real pain to set up a tripod. Not many insects are willing to put up with you while you set up a tripod just 4" (MPE65's maximum working distance) away from it, are there? Nevertheless, I have seen quite a few great NL shots with the MPE on  Flickr and some forums. Most were done with slightly higher ISO and with  the aid of bean bags.

With a longer lens, however, it is a different story. The longer working distance will allow me to set up my tripod comfortably without spooking my macro subjects. You will also get this wonderful bokeh that shorter focal length can't provide.

Natural light macro/close-up is best done in the early morning and/or late afternoon when the quality of light is good, or when you are under shades or canopy that shields out harsh, direct light.

When I shoot with natural light, I almost always use the Av mode. I decide what aperture I want, which is normally F11 (or higher when i am greedy for more DOF and the background is not too distracting), and let the camera's light meter decide the shutter speed. I normally set the ISO to 200. ISO100 is preferred but when it is windy and the subject moves a lot, ISO200 will mean half the exposure time and higher chances of sharper shots.

Theopropus elegans,  40D, Sigma 150, tripod, reflector, 1/10, F11, ISO200, 2 second timer

Theopropus elagans Asian Flower Mantis.....IMG_9310 copy

Laternaria ruhli,  40D, Sigma 150mm F/2.8 on tripod. 2 seconds, F14, ISO100, tripod, natural light, w/o reflector, 2 sec timer

Rudolph the red nosed bug!

Wet caterpillar.

wet caterpillar natural light shot IMG_8798 copy

Shield bug nymph.
shield bug nymph natural light shot Maliau Basin IMG_6031 copy

Another caterpillar, a hairy one.
natural light hairy Caterpillar...IMG_4392

White lipped frog.
White lipped frog (Hylarana labialis)... IMG_3026 copy

Green crested lizard, stacked from a few handheld shots.
green crested lizard natural light stacked IMG_0598stk copy
I used CombineZ freeware for the stack but I am really not very good at that. Most of the times, I do manual stack. However, since upgrading to CS5 in May 2012, I have been doing my stacking in CS5.

Handsome male great angle head lizard, Gonocephalus grandis.

More about these fascinating lizards here.
Gonocephalus grandis IMG_1229 copy

weevil natural light IMG_4691 copy

Robber fly with prey
robber fly with prey IMG_9321 copy
 More robber flies here.

Katydid nymph on a wild flower plant
Katydid nymph...IMG_0513 copy

Male Dragonfly, Crimson dropwing (Trithemis aurora)
crimson dropwing dragonfly Trithemis aurora  reflection

Here's an slr macro photography tip i've discovered:

I mounted my 40D and Sigma 150 on a tripod using the tripod collar instead of the camera base. I focused manually by using the viewfinder. After that i turned on the Live View before i pressed the shutter to activate the preset 2 secs timer. Using the timer is a cheap but effective alternative to a cable release.

Why manual focusing via the viewfinder and not via 10X zoomed in Live View?

The 10X zoomed in view on the 40D is just not great for focus confirmation because the LCD on the 40D has only 230,000 dots. On those with 920,000 dots (or more) like 5DM2, 7D, 60D, 550D,  it's great though. The use of the Live View is a real battery drainer though so be prepared.

Why Live View then? get the Mirrors up (MLU) in order to avoid mirror slap vibration that will ruin sharpness at low shutter the region of 1/50 to 1/2 second. Please also check out  "Live View and Mirror Lock Up" on Juza Forum to find out if you have the right type of Live View that replaces MLU.

I also re-focused and repeated the whole process again to ensure i get at least a few reasonably sharp images. Repeat this process for as many times as possible until you're confident that you are going to get at least a couple of sharp shots. The subject might have moved a little bit without you knowing it. It could be the antennae, the mouth parts, the legs. Movement due to wind is another factor to be considered.

Here are few accessories that will come in handy when shooting with natural light.

A plamp. Use it to clamp onto branch/perch to cut down wind movement, or to hold a green leaf to avoid black background in full flash macro photography! Use your imagination :)

IMG_4108 copy
You can find out on how to DIY your own plamp here.

Reflector and tripod. I normally use only the silver side. Sometimes, when you have to shoot under direct and/or harsh light, a diffuser will help a great deal, as explained in this post.
IMG_3776 copy

Never underestimate the power of a simple reflector. This image, for example, would have been terrible because of the strong backlighting, but with the help of a reflector, we could throw in some light onto the subject. Still not great but at least I got a decent shot there! For more info on the use of reflector in natural light macro photography, check this out.

Pyrops whiteheadi ........IMG_9578 copy

If you really must know what else I have in my camera bag, check out "What's in my bag" :D

If i shoot NL without a tripod, I sometimes raise the ISO to as high as 800, maybe 1000 but not any higher, and lower the F number to as low as F6.3, and set the drive mode to Continuous H mode (6.5 fps on the 40D). I will also capture even more shots than with a tripod.

Manual focus stack for more DOF in CS3

This is a simple Adobe Photoshop tutorial - manual focus stacking using layer/layer mask. If you intend to stack multiple images (i.e. more than two), then it's probably easier to use stacking software such as CombineZP (freeware) or Helicon Foucs or Zerene Stacker. Focus stacking using CombineZ is covered here. However, if you intend to manual focus stack only two or maybe even three separate images to increase DOF (Depth of Field), then you can consider manually focus stacking them in Adobe Photoshop.

All images were shot with a 40D, MPE65 1X-5X macro lens, and MT24EX Twin Flash with DIY Concave Diffuser.

I have two images to start with:

I will call this "Recipient". This is the one I like, but notice the eye is OOF (out of focus)
manual focus stacking in adobe photoshop recipient IMG_4399 original eye oof

But lucky for me, i have another shot, which I will call "Donor". I prefer "Recipient" over "Donor" but "Donor" has the eye in focus.
manual focus stacking in adobe photoshop donor IMG_4398 copy donor

Now the fun part.

(a) I opened both images, one after another in my Adobe CS3.
manual focus stacking in adobe photoshop +donor n recipient

Then I go to the "Donor" image, and Select All (Ctrl+A) then Copy (Ctrl+C), then I Paste (Ctrl+V) Donor onto the Recipient image. Now you can see "Layer 1" on top of Background (Recipeint). Notice i also adjusted the Opcacity to 50%.

opacity - manual focus stacking in adobe photoshop

(c) your screen will something like this once you have adjusted Layer 1's opacity.
manual focus stacking in adobe photoshop + overlapped images

(d) Now use the Move Tool to align the two images, particularly the eyes area. You might want to zoom into 100 or 200% for the best possible alignment. You might want to check the alignment by Hiding/Showing Layer 1 (the eye to the right of Layer 1).
move tool to align layers during manual focus stacking in adobe photoshop

(e) once you have aligned the images, click Add Layer Mask (left image) and a white box will appear to the right of Layer 1 (right image).
add layer mask during manual focus stacking in adobe photoshoplayer mask2 during manual focus stacking in adobe photoshop

(f) change the Opacity back to 100% and Invert the Mask by pressing Ctrl+I. Notice the white box is now black i.e inverted.
invert mask in manual focus stacking in adobe photoshop

(g) Now we'll use the Brush Tool to unmask Donor's eye.
brush tool in manual focus stacking in adobe photoshop

(h) Use [ and ] to control the brush size while working on the Unmasking to reveal the Donor's eye that we have inverted (behind Recipient's eye). Be really careful when working around the edges. You can use Ctrl+Z to undo at any time. Now our Recipient has received its new, in focus eye from Donor :)
manual focus stacking in adobe photoshop IMG_4399 focus stacked eye sharp copy

I am sure there are many other ways to do manual focus stacking in Adobe Photoshop, but this is how I normally do it. This Adobe Photoshop Tutorial may seem very complicated and very daunting to you at first but all you need to do is follow the steps and practice it a few times. You'll get the hang of it in no time.

Monday, October 18, 2010

MT24EX concave diffuser quick update

As mentioned in this post, I have been testing this simple yet effective diffuser for my Canon MT24EX twin flash. It's a variation of SteB1's cup diffuser. He's one of the most brilliant macro experts I've met online!

The front of the diffuser does tend to get in the way when i try to approach my subjects. I trimmed a bit off the PP material on the front and the side but ended up with light spill, resulting in part of the image being brighter than the rest of the image. The affected area is normally on the sides.

The solution, is, however, really simple.
DIY concave Diffuser for the MT24EX on a canon 40D and MPE65 Macro Lens
40D, MPE65 lens, MT24EX Twin Flash, DIY Diffuser

I use 3M medical tape to hold the concave diffuser onto the MT24EX adatper, but you can use moldable plastic to DIY a better and more secure way of holding the diffuser in place.

While i've trimmed away the front and side of the transparent PP material, I left the polystyrene protruding beyond the transparent housing.
DIY Diffuser on a 40D body, MPE65 1x-5x macro lens and MT24EX twin flash - cup diffuser 06-04-10_1340
40D, MPE65 lens, MT24EX Twin Flash, DIY Diffuser

Sometimes I bend the polystyrene sheet back a little to prevent light spill and to prevent the background from  becoming too bright, or to prevent the diffuser from getting in the way.
DIY concave Diffuser on 40D, MPE65 and MT24EX
40D, MPE65 lens, MT24EX Twin Flash, DIY Diffuser

MT24EX is lighter and more hassle free to use than a diffused speedlight on a flash bracket, but more expensive. With the MT24EX, when the working distance changes from 4 inches (1:1) to 2 inches (3:1), all I need to do is the click the flash heads all the way down. I normally leave it at one click up when shooting at anything between 1:1 to 2:1.

A diffused speedlight on a flash bracket is, of course, slightly heavier.
Weight aside, it is really troublesome to have to adjust the ballheads to re-position your diffuser when the working distance changes! Of course, you don't always have to use the 580EX II / 430EX (or equivalence). The 270EX will work just fine, as demonstrated in these great macro rigs from my friends.

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