Friday, February 25, 2011

Tripod for Macro

This post is about tripod for macro photography.

I was out looking for bugs again when I found this newly emerged cicada perching on its own exuvium, pumping fluids to its wings, waiting for its body to harden before taking its first flight! I spent the next one hour photography this cicada.

I believe I missed the emergence process by about 10 to 15 minutes. Better luck next time! The newly emerged cicada was about 5 inches from the ground, on the root of a tree. So i lowered my tripod. My cheap tripod, which cost me RM200 ( about 65 USD), could go quite low, if it wasn't for the centre column which gets in the way.

But I really wanted to get low enough so I could shoot from an angle which maximizes my DOF. A light bulb lit up in my head and I found myself a blunt, dry tree branch on the forest floor and started digging!  Ah..i forgot to include dry tree branch i used for digging in this pic. :D.

macro tripod 17-02-11_1320 copy copy

A closer look. Tripod brand name removed. I probably should start carrying a spade in my backpack. I wonder if there is a foldable spade:D. Although I managed to get quite low, it still wasn't as low as I would have liked. The next time you see holes and earth all dug up, it may not be the work of the wild boars.
tripod for macro photography 17-02-11_1328 copy

And then Derrick suggested an idea - fold up the tripod and put it on the ground, like this:
tripod for macro photography 17-02-11_1350 copy

Excellent. Now we could get really really low!

I can't show you the actual shot from this session yet but I have a somewhat similar shot I took back in November 26, 2007 - my first sighting of an newly emerged cicada. Same type of cicada, same park. Same "a few minutes too late" :(

newly emerged cicada DSC_8781

You don't have to go through all this trouble though if you are willing to spend some money on the right tripod. I have seen one where the center column can be removed. Beanbag is also another idea, if you don't mind an additional 400 gram or so in your backpack.


  1. Can`t your tripod do like this ?
    It would be much easier :)

  2. I think so, but once the centre column is taken out, it's extremely difficult to put it back in.

  3. Hmmm. Yeah maybe it is - with your tripod ;).
    My can do this as usual option.
    P.S. It is advice for the future, i just was shocked when i saw this hole in the ground :D

  4. OK..i think i forgot to cover the hole :P. I'll make sure i do that in the future.

    I can saw off the bottom part of the centre column..but then I won't be able to go really high though. Some bugs are high up on tree, such as the lanternflies/lantern bug.

  5. Very good ideas the one of the hole and positioning, was thinking about a additional tripod this week, unfortunately my place is so windy that even with the camera very steady I need to solve the problem of subject steadiness, a Cicada in a trunk would be ok but most of them are in flexible vegetation :(

  6. Thanks Gustavo. Until i can afford better (but more expensive) tripod, I'll have to find ways to overcome the obstacle of getting the tripod low to the ground. Wrt the wind, I think all that can be done is to use higher ISO and thus higher shutter speed. I think using a plamp to restrict/dampen branch movement may not be a bad idea either.



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