gear faq

every now and then I get asked about gear. here is an faq about my gear.

1. what is your gear?
my current setup of choice is a Canon 80D (as of 2018) body paired with an MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x macro lens with the addition of a full set of Kenko extension tubes and an MR-14EX II ring flash. I've been with the MP-E since spring of 2020 and this lens is otherworldly. my other lens of choice is my EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM paired with the extension tubes and the same flash (but diffused). I carry both lenses with me often. my non-macro lenses are my Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art (which I adore, especially for my street photography) and my Tamron 150-600 f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 (mmm more letters please) which is super freaking cool and I don't upload the photos from nearly enough (what can I say? my heart belongs to the bugs). I'm not going to get into the other things, like tripods and bags because... really? The rest of my photography gear is a whole bunch of film stuff.
my camera bodies have upgraded over the years. I started with a Canon 450D in 2014 and after I broke that running from yellowjackets I got a Canon 750D in 2015.

2. how do you take photos of things that are so small?
I get real close to them and forget to breathe.

3. what is your setup for specimen photography?
I use three disposable Petri dishes stacked on top of a white napkin to have a completely neutral background.

4. what do you do for post-processing?
hey, this is a pretty fair question. I'll spare you an adobe rant, but know that a rant exists behind everything else. first of all, I rarely use a tripod for macro work (if ever). it's incredibly inconvenient (while many extreme macro photographers consider it a must). that said, I use focus stacking (nearly) always, although I don't do the extreme focus stacking your favourite macro photographers might. I may be a photographer, but I'm also a scientist. or something. I believe that post-processing is an incredibly important part of photography (especially macro photography) and it's where I find most of my time being spent. I keep everything obsessively organised in lightroom and have about five terabytes of photos so far scattered over a few SSDs. I use photoshop for simple stacking and curves adjustments as well as mosaics, removal of sensor dust, and many other nit-picky things you'll never see the results of. I am also an astro-image processor and much of those techniques translate into my photography as well. when it comes to more extensive and deep stacks, I use ZereneStacker.

5. should I base my photography setup on your gear?
NO. no setup is perfect, but I can definitely tell you things that I would do differently. first of all, I will offer praise for the MP-E 65mm. I was hesitant to get it after reading online that it was a difficult lens to use, but man, I was taking photos of copepods within my first week with it. I found it super straightforward to use, but this may be partly because of how I was using my 100mm up to that point. usually, with the 100mm, I'd keep it fixed at the closest magnification so I learned over time to capture a subject with ease. this translated very well to my use of the MP-E 65mm. a non-Canon or cheaper alternative to the MP-E is the Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5x macro (a very good lens, I hear). there are multiple reasons you may be prefer that lens (even as a Canon user) to the MP-E, so I encourage you to do research on both. the Laowa is much lighter and compact and has more aperture blades, among other things. not much can be said for the 100mm f/2.8L that hasn't been said before. it's a fantastic lens I've had for many years—the internal stabilisation is otherworldly. I've had good success doing macro video-work with it as well.
my reservations about my setup come with the whole concept of a ring flash. the ring flash is PERFECT when it comes to specimen photography. since the light source is right at the front of the lens, it's super bright even at lower settings and the controls offer very nice dimension at high magnification. however, at lower magnification the light can appear rather flat (as the two light sources aren't angled) and the reflection shapes are quite odd. my main reservation, however, is that diffusion of the light is incredibly difficult. the light comes out somewhat soft which may be enough for some, but I am very unsatisfied—soft and dimensional light is important for eye-catching macro work. having a flash at the front of the lens is great for providing enough light, but because we are dealing with very close focusing distances, sticking a diffuser to the front isn't very realistic, especially when it comes to high magnifications. However, I do use this diffuser with my 100mm. in my eyes, this is more of a temporary solution—the diffuser has its own issues (light is very warm, focusing distance is nearly non-existent). I have plans to address this with new flashes soon, though the MR-14EX is fantastic for the specimen shots (which I find myself doing more and more often).

6. photography gear is nice, but what do you use for collecting bugs?
I have a number of methods. I have a battery-operated UV light (in woodland bog), a wall-powered UV light (at tree line), and an MV light (in open grassy area) with associated sheets. I use the lights abroad as well, but these are the standard locations I used this season at my house. I use a sweep net for sweeping and beating vegetation. I use 1.5mL microcentrifuge vials for collecting the hoppers. sometimes I directly collect the hoppers with the vials if I don't have a net with me. I'll make another post regarding hopper collection though.

that's everything I can think of at the moment.
clear skies, fellow photogs

Posted by nomolosx nomolosx, October 27, 2020 22:58

Comments

Thank you very much for sharing your most interesting experience . Much to learn.

I have Cannon, but with insects use lighter Olympus gear.

Vitaly

Posted by vcharny about 1 year ago (Flag)

@vcharny nice! — lighter is certainly a plus with macro work. I'm very accustomed to the bulk of my DSLR setup, but it's quite inconvenient for travel. when I travel, I pack the camera gear and everything else is an afterthought :P

Posted by nomolosx about 1 year ago (Flag)

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