Nature's Place

Macro Illustrated

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All the pictures here were taken using the equipment and techniques described here.

It has taken me a couple of dedicated years to sift the gold from the muck with regard to getting macro images that I can say are as good as I can get – for now, there is a lot of misinformation about. And it’s a never ending evolution, old ways and perceptions fade as new emerge and the work to assimilate and realise them is done. This is the fruits of that effort.

There are basic principles and practices to getting this quality imagery and I endeavour to outline them here. These principles and practices can be applied whatever the equipment and I believe anyone who applies them can get equivalent images. But it won’t happen without practice, as with anything worthwhile, that’s the beauty of it. I give nothing away that you don’t have to work for, and some things only become apparent with experience.

I trust you enjoy this rendering of the art of Nature Macro as I do.

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Hi.


First of all I’ll tell you why I do it, insect and flower macro. For contact with the simple wonder of the usually unseen or overlooked beauty of form and colour at our feet. It reminds me I am a part of something great and vast that has at its foundation the mystery of creation and the inscrutable intelligence behind its infinitely variable design. And because, fundamentally, it is a pleasure.

The practical value for me in macro nature photography is in the time I spend in the nature looking closely at the fact or being in the sense of things with minimal mind work – thinking. The more time I spend in the sense of nature the more at ease I am. It’s that simple.

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In my experience; if you want peace of mind fill it with the Sense of Nature.

Ok. The whole process. Since I am often asked about one part or other of how I get the shots I do, here and there – at different fora, it makes sense to put it all together in one place. Just remember, I am self taught and I don’t get into the numbers much, just the picture. And what I say is not dogma, it’s just what works for me.

I’ll keep it as simple as I can and I’ll answer any questions through the comment facility on this page, below.

Can you hear me back there?

A question already sir?

Fundamentals :

First of all, for the benefit of anyone starting in insect macro, there is no shot if the creature doesn’t show up. Nature is in charge, even with the creatures that show up at the house. And nothing shows if I am not present to see it. Which means getting out in nature, a lot. 100% of my shots are of live creatures, 95% are from the ‘wild’, 5% show up at (or in) the house and may be brought in for a few shots on a leaf or flower and fed some water and honey before being released where found – or better. I may move the creature around but that’s it. I never gas, cool, freeze, impale or otherwise kill or injure anything for a shot – I don’t see the need.

When I’m in nature (or not) my approach is simple, I let the creature show itself. This means I have to be still, inside and out, or I won’t notice the often tiny movement or flash of colour or contrast that indicates something live and unusual. Still inside comes from an absence of thinking – after the necessary technicalities have been understood – which is where I bring my meditation practise into it – very practical, for me – and either something you are attracted to do or not.

I have seen amazing stuff with this approach, and captured some of it with the camera.

Seeing :

The art is to see or visualise a point of view other than the actual, to ‘put yourself in the other’s shoes’. Apparently this is not a common ability but I think everyone has it to some degree and it can be nurtured when brought to awareness. Being able to see inside what shot you want is half the work, it’s the basis for the shot you get and you always end up working with what is presented anyway.

This basically means when I see a creature in a position I can get a shot of I look to see if I can get the shot I want, knowing from experience what angle works best with the creature’s particular architecture with consideration for background, contrast, lighting and reflection, the basic composition of the picture.

Insect architecture is a necessary consideration since the depth of focus is so shallow at high magnification, even with small aperture, that it is necessary to maximise it by placing the plane of focus according to the plane of the creature’s body surface/s – when the illusion of deep focus is desired or necessary.

The Approach :

First of all you have to find the little fellas. In my experience insects are everywhere but more in some places than others. It’s these ‘some’ places that I seek out since the more bugs there are the better my chances of getting a good shot. In these places there are hot spots where for some reason there is a concentration of life forms. And it all changes by the season, some places are good at different times for different creatures.

So what are the basics for burgeoning insect life? Well, it’s the same for them as it is for us, food, water and shelter. The best wild places in my experience are usually, but not always, where the clearing or field meets the bush or forest and where there’s nearby water. And it can happen on the bathroom window.

Out of a forest or bush and water everything grows, plants and animals of all sorts. Everything eats something, some things eat anything, and eating goes on all the time. I find most of this eating takes place on the edge where the clutter of the forest gives way to the open space of a clearing or field. Or, in a sense, just ‘on the edge’ – of whatever. YMMV …

But, as I said, you can find insects everywhere. In the garden, on the wall, under a log or stone, even in the letterbox – I’ve got a Gecko living in mine – or on a power pole – as below. There is no end to the possibilities of finding insects and often all it takes is to sit down (or stand still) in appropriate places and wait for them to show themselves.

So, there are insects and other small creatures everywhere and I want to take their picture, how to do it? With respect, is the short answer. Creatures, again, have the same basic instincts as us. Though they don’t reason or analyze as we do they are still sensible, because sense doesn’t depend on thinking. And those senses are of their environment so the less impact you make on it the more likely you are to get close enough for a shot or two.

The fundamental instinct of all living creatures is survival, and anything that threatens or appears to threaten that will trigger the fight or flight response. This is why when shooting stinging or biting creatures I always leave them a way to run or fly away. Never trap a biter or stinger unless you are willing to endure the possible consequences.

Insects sense what they do, probably not very different to us again even if not exactly the same. Some taste with pads on the feet, others smell with the antennae, feel through air pressure hitting sensitive body structures such as hairs or skin and I don’t know it all – that’s for sure. They can hear, see, smell, taste and feel the vibrations of wind and movement. So it pays not to offend or shock any of their senses.

Does that make sense?

To get up close with any insect I generally approach it slowly, lowering myself to its level to minimise my appearance and not overshadow it, avoiding sudden movement or striking its perch. But most of all I don’t get anxious so as to keep the experience a pleasure. It is a kind of hunting, or stalking at least, which essentially is a form of self discipline. Control of mind with regard to being present to notice the slightest sign of ‘prey’, and control of the body to minimise the footprint in the creature’s sensible domain. It also takes considerable discipline to evolve through the learning of what is and is not viable and its application in the process of capturing the image. Self discipline, for sure.

There is no substitute for experience.

Equipment :

Physical size, weight, expense, image noise, processing speed and the size of the frame are the primary differences between what I use and the ‘average’ dSLR. My present camera is the Panasonic FZ50 (still – March/2013) which is small, light, relatively cheap, a bit noisy – digitally – most of the time and has a small sensor so the frame is small. It has other attributes that make it ideal for me, regardless of its obvious (to me) failings. I don’t think it matters what you use as long as it does the job for you, as long as you are comfortable with it. My camera is called a ‘bridge’ to note its similarity with a dSLR and it has the equivalent of a 400mm internally zooming lens on which I mount a variety of achromats of varying dioptre strengths.

I am now also using the Panny G1, with Oly macro lenses and the famous Kiron 105/f2.8 1:1 manual lens, an antique but very good glass, as I want better resolution and IQ – sharpness, clarity, etc. Some of these pictures were taken with some variation of them.

P1060146 - Mark Berkery

The ability to print bigger without the distraction of noise in the image, or the loss of detail from the use of noise reduction software. Plus their articulating LCD’s make them indispensable for the angles you can’t get with a viewfinder. Much of the so-called modern, and expensive, dSLR is actually old technology with a digital sensor. Various camera companies come out with such incremental changes most of the time it is hardly worth the time keeping up with it. I just keep an eye out for an upgrade, or the equivalent, to my FZ50 – I will recognise it when it comes, if it comes.

An achromat is a two or more element magnifying lens that screws on to the lens just like any filter and they come in varying dioptres or strengths, just like reading glasses. They work best on long focal length lenses since they magnify what is already there and they effectively shorten the working distance – from lens/filter to object.

I generally use three achromats. Each is made of quality glass and has a different dioptre strength. One is a +2 dioptre that gives me a working distance of around 18 inches and is good for Butterflies – don’t see many of them – and Dragonflies, so I can get the whole creature in the frame. Another is a +4.5 dioptre with a working distance of around 8 or 9 inches that I rarely use on its own these days and is good for larger insects. The third is a +8 dioptre with a working distance of around 4.5 inches.

Very often now I stack the +4.5 on the +8 which gives me a working distance of 2.5 inches. This is considered to be too/very short by some but I find it very comfortable as it gives me more control over the scene and especially the lighting, but it doesn’t work for everything since, obviously, I have to get closer to the creature.

I have a fourth achromat, it’s a +20 dioptre and I only use it where I can take my time and have absolute control, as much as it’s possible anyway, since the DOF is less than wafer thin and so difficult to work with – as with the fruit fly above. Each achromat or combination has its time and place, depending on the situation – size of the creature or object, its tolerance or awareness of my presence and the physical limitations of the environment.

Macro magnification is something you get used to working with over time. I graduated through increasing magnifications, each increase giving a corresponding decrease in the depth of focus (DOF). And like any exercise it gets easier with practise.

P1060122 - Mark Berkery

The more you practise the easier the muscles involved in maintaining position or balance do the job. Remember, you’re working with very shallow focus that is not easy to place where you want it, it takes time.

Do you understand?

DOF :

Or, how deep is your focus? The very big advantage of small sensors for macro is you get the same image in a smaller frame, relative to the bigger sensors of dSLR’s. Small sensor equals small frame, relative to the object at relative magnification. Though if the M4/3rds makers would produce a decent internally zooming macro lens with good AF I would be happy to use it more.

What is macro is simple for me. The way it works, as far as I am concerned, is this : Macro magnification is generally regarded as 1 : 1 or 1x, this means 1cm of object width (for instance) takes up 1cm of sensor (or frame) width. So, if your sensor is 7mm wide and the object is 7mm wide the frame is filled with the object. If your sensor is 21mm wide and the object is 7mm wide then the object covers 1/3 the width of the frame. Both are macro, or 1 : 1, or 1X because the object is ‘life’ size on either frame.

There are complicated arguments about this matter and I take my pictures without knowing or understanding all the convolutions, it just doesn’t matter to taking pictures in the field – except to the mentally adjusted, anyone who has to know the math.

Lighting :

99% of the time I use flash, only one picture here is without flash. And again, I am a minimalist, I don’t like big and bulky. It gets in the way or just gets complicated. So I use a DIY snoot/tube/cone … On the first picture below you can see the snoot is over to the left. I can rotate that over to the same position on the right, and fix it at any point in between by the use of Velcro strips – not shown.

Ignore the tripod, it is only used to hang things on : P1140496-1

You get the idea …

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And this bit of diffusion on the lens helps a lot when WD is very short, everything is variable.P1030300_filtered

… to deliver the light to where I want it and diffuse it according to my taste – which changes with experience. I use flash nearly all the time since at macro magnifications motion blur can be a real and pervasive problem.

Effectively I let the flash be my shutter speed by keeping it to the minimum pulse duration required for adequate exposure – can be as fast as 1/50,000 sec – and eliminating or minimizing ambient light – which is one reason I get sharp pictures. Slower SS can be used to allow ambient light if the situation allows and the shot calls for it – as above at dusk.

Shadowing from directed light gives depth and interest to an image.

Stability :

For composed and sharp pictures at macro magnifications with DOF often less than 1mm deep, stabilisation is a must. I don’t use a tripod or monopod since all my subjects are alive and usually on the move or about to be. They don’t wait for ‘pods to be set up. Usually there is a very short window when the shot can be had and it helps to have some quick method of very mobile stabilisation, especially if I can’t hold the objects perch. My primary solution is a stick.

A smooth polished wooden stick about five foot long and no thicker than my thumb. I use it gripped between left fingers and cam (or somehow or other) so if I release the pressure it slides easily up or down at will for vertical stability at any practical height. It can also be planted in the ground at different angles to maximise horizontal stability at any height. In fact, between my knee on the ground and my other foot planted away for stability, the stick acts as the third leg of a very articulate tripod.

Don’t think about how you can make a stick work for you, try it out and its working for you will unfold as the necessary mechanics to maximise stability. Just feel free to use it any way that works for you, for stability. Your keeper rate will probably double immediately.

5-P1030108 - Mark Berkery

The stick is the third leg of the tripod, you are the other two, or three or however many points you use to brace for a steady shot. It also doubles for walking, snipping spider webs cast across the track, a warning to snakes in the long grass – whatever it is to you.

You don’t need a picture of a stick, do you?

Another way to stabilise with very short working distance is to hold the leaf (or whatever) the creature is on in left hand and rest the lens on the same hand. Both on the same platform means if one moves so does the other = stability, relatively speaking. It’s all relative, isn’t it.

Working distance is relative to magnification and the actual size of the object you want to capture an image of.

And yet another way to stabilise the lens is to use the left hand as if you are placing a snooker cue on it, helps get the higher angle when necessary or desirable.

You have to get creative, which is where relaxation and meditation helps greatly, in my experience.

Settings :

As already indicated, I use flash and largely exclude ambient light for sharpness. I use manual mode and my shutter speed is kept at dSLR specs (for when I use the m4/3 – to be used to the slower SS) and my aperture is usually as small as I can have it within diffraction limits. In all but the strongest sun this is enough to eliminate ambient light so the flash is the effective shutter speed – very fast = sharp. The maximum synch flash speed on most DSLR’s is around 1/250 which is enough most of the time, it’s also a serious limitation when you need faster and don’t want the multi exp of high speed synch.

If I want ambient light in the scene, for effect, or because the creature is dark and there is no immediate background to bounce light off I will use aperture priority or just lower the shutter speed. On my camera I never leave base ISO for anything, another restriction of small sensors – presently.

I usually set the camera to underexpose using flash compensation through ETTL, to keep the highlights from blowing – being able to vary the angle of the light helps too – with reflection. This underexposure also has the effect of saturating the colours.

I have to say it again, there is no substitute for actual experience. Any guide or book should only be to help define that.

Focus :

The first focus you need is inner, focus of your attention. If you don’t have that you won’t get it in a lens. And the kind of focus you need to actualize your potential can be developed – gradually.

Probably the single most important aspect of any picture, focus, for without focus where you want it you don’t have a picture worth looking at. It’s normal to focus manually in macro but I believe that is only because the equipment most people use doesn’t auto-focus very well, and/or they don’t know how to use AF for macro – apart from the fact every macro lens I know of is a Pinocchio, it extends with magnification.

3-P1030293 - Mark Berkery

I use AF with the (1.5 inch) LCD on 5 year old technology – it’s now end of 2010 (March/2013) – known for its poor low light performance so it can’t be bad, can it? I do it this way basically because I find it easier than using the viewfinder – back injury and poor eyesight.

I’ll tell you how I do it. First I have a look over the top of the camera to see which part of the creature I want in focus first, and then I aim at that point through the LCD, having single centre point focus set on the camera. As soon as focus is locked I press the button the rest of the way – without delay – and voila, I have the shot – usually.

Any delay at all and the creature has probably moved through the field of focus and you won’t get what you aimed at, or you have moved and the result is the same.

Of course there are misses, as with any technique. And there is back and forward focusing issues with some lenses but not mine, up to 2 : 1 magnification. Everything can be compensated for, gotten used to.

P1070817 - Mark Berkery

Another consideration that has to be made when using AF for macro is the fact the focus point has before it an area of acceptable focus that can be better placed more on the object. This requires the smallest of movement towards the object to achieve it, resulting in the optimum use of the field of acceptable focus, with a bit of luck – because I can’t actually see it. It’s what makes the difference between something that’s just in focus and something that looks like a focus stack or deep focus.

Or, taking the objects architecture into account, I aim for a point just behind where I want focus to ‘begin’, is another way of doing it. And different methods work best at different times with different shapes and structures. With this way I need to be able to judge minute distances, a kind of intuition that requires refined muscle control – since it only comes with experience and understanding.

P1110335 - Mark Berkery

Either way, at times it’s not unlike shooting an arrow from horseback at a moving target, it’s an art. I find if I have inner focus the outer happens more easily.

Auto Focus works, as you can see from my pictures, so don’t knock it.

Manual Focus : Or MF, is necessary on most macro lenses attached to a DSLR, as with my Oly macro lenses attached to my Panny G1. I still use the articulating LCD and the way I do it is the same as for an optical viewfinder except the view is not so resolved. So it is a case of judgment.

P1060875 - Mark Berkery

The action is, with lens in MF and at the appropriate WD (working distance), move in to the object to be imaged until the area you want in focus first loses focus – it becomes blurred. Then move out from the object until that same area comes back into focus and shoot – press the shutter button. Timing is critical.

Processing or PP :

I aim to get the picture as near as I want it from the camera so when it comes to processing I am minimalist again. And I always shoot in JPG with camera on minimum picture settings, contrast, saturation, etc. So I have more control over the picture. I have seen some mastery of the processing of some RAW files but not enough to tempt me, yet.

P1030929-001 - Mark Berkery

I use Picasa, except for sharpening, and usually spend no more than 20 – 30 seconds per image. I might one day learn something more sophisticated than Picasa but I rarely see enough advantage to justify the time I’d have to spend learning. But I never say never, life has a way of contradicting me.

And you know what happens when life contradicts.

With macro, unless the object is absolutely still and not likely to move, and the camera is well braced, I frame with the option to crop for composition. Many of the shots I take are of moving targets so this a necessary compromise. It’s a compromise because I don’t like losing the pixels or resolution.

P1040703 - Mark Berkery

Then I’ll saturate with an eye on the reds or yellows in particular since they seem to blow first and I lose detail. I usually underexpose a tad so I will then bring up the brightness with an eye on the histogram to keep the highs from blowing. And may darken shadow for contrast.

I also de-noise and sharpen in a dedicated program. And that’s usually it. Maybe a little cloning now and again.

The Shot :

Getting it … Here, after all else is taken into consideration, it’s a case of the more you shoot the more keepers you will have. Don’t mind the people who say if you don’t get the shot in a few frames you’re no good, they haven’t tried macro of living creatures in their own habitat. Macro may be the most physically demanding photo discipline so practise is imperative for the often minute control necessary at high magnification – shallow DOF.

P2000319_MarkBerkery-001

My keeper rate varies from 90% in situations where nothing moves and the positions are comfortable, that’s about 10% of the time, to 5% or so where the light, physical position or whatever are just not conducive. The more usual keeper rate is between 30% to 50% since I just love capturing the small creatures in pose or action, or both. So I bin a lot. (It is now over three years since I first wrote this and the keeper rate is much higher than previously stated.)

And they are never better than from the wild where you never really know what you’ve got ‘till you get home.

A few words :

There is no quick route to expertise in macro, it takes practise which takes time. Not least because of the absolute need for stabilisation, the quirks of macro lighting and the limitation of DOF. And of course the physical demand of posture takes time to develop the necessary control of the muscles involved.

And don’t forget patience, or the absence of impatience more like, which can be helped with a simple and practical meditation. You’ve just got to slow down, inside and out, to enter the wonderful and often beautiful world of bugs at our feet, to see what’s going on and capture an image of it.

As you can see, a lot of how I do it is contrary to the accepted wisdom. Especially I use Auto Focus effectively from the articulating LCD, two taboos broken in one go. As I said, whatever works for you.

And last, as it was first, be easy and enjoy the action and the pure and peaceful sense that nature is. By putting it first in your practise and giving up any anxiety about getting the shot.

Relax! It’s enlightening – of the weight of mind.

Insects, our neighbours as ourselves :

This wouldn’t be complete without a word about the attitude of society towards nature in general and insects in particular. We really think it’s ok to exploit nature for short term personal and financial gain, and we are reaping the consequences – though we aren’t really feeling it yet in Australia. I understand the disappearance of the usual native, and introduced, pollinators is alarming many in some circles. What to do?

P1050177 - Mark Berkery

I still run across people who think insects are pests, ugly or dangerous. Something to be destroyed, judged and feared – when all they need is respect. This is not a sane attitude on a planet where those same insects – and others – are intrinsic to our survival. And, in truth, are born of the same mystery and the same earth.

The fact is we can’t do without insects. If they were to die out the soil would become infertile, rotting matter would cover the earth and we would starve, if we lived long enough to.The earth’s ecology would break down, it would cease to be a functioning organism. Earth, as we know it, would die as far as we humans are concerned – long enough for the problem to rectify itself.

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Look at it as if you are the earth and your digestive and immune systems stopped working, how long do you think you’d last?

If we are not to ruin the Earth it is imperative we stop killing what doesn’t need killing.

If we die out we won’t be missed by any other creature on earth, except those closest to us, the dogs and cats. They don’t need us, for anything. Except perhaps, being the highest expression of life or intelligence on earth, that we become more intelligent and start to see the beauty and wonder of the whole creation, including the insects.

Do you think it can happen?

Hmmmm!

It’s a Setup :

My primary consideration when moving a creature, that is easy to move, is to not harm or kill it, then to shoot it no more than necessary – I wonder about the effect of a lot of flash, and usually give it some water/honey before letting it go where I found it – or similar location. Often I find a couple of hitchers when I get home from the local rainforest remnant. Today it’s a Louse fly, a spider and a small bug. The spider is too small, the bug flew away but the Louse fly is like a yoyo – always returns when I flick it away, when I can find it – so it’s an opportunity and might be good for a few shots later when it cools down. I haven’t had a Jumper in except the one that lives on the outside bathroom window, that I encourage.

During the now passing winter here often the only creatures I saw were the ones that showed up at the light at night where I kept flowers and leaves for platforms and backgrounds, and late at night the relative cold kept them still for easy manipulation – coaxing onto a leaf or such. But setups don’t demand full engagement of my attention beyond a few minutes and are largely without the essential element of the creative unknown – essential to me.


That’s what I love about shooting bugs in the wild nature, you never know what you’re going to get and something always shows up – here anyway – even if it’s just a magnificent fly. Some of it couldn’t be devised in the lab, the angles, backgrounds, comps, colours and light. I prefer to let nature set it up and be ready to shoot when it presents.

3-p1040241 - Mark Berkery

Ethics? Truth is what you live, or can live with, and if you set shots up why not? And why not tell what you do, if you are asked straight. But then there is the matter of how you go about it. Some don’t see any harm or wrong in immobilizing creatures, by various means, for a shot or stack but the fact is I don’t need such a shot so bad, and I don’t stack – can’t see the point. That’s my position, for now. I always have to qualify my position so because you never know what you might have to do next. But respect for the small things is important to me.

I find it’s best not to think about the ones that get away or I can’t have, except for how I might be ready for it next time or manage a way, if there is one.

Ownership :

The ideas here are not claimed by me to be original. Some were born or realised of necessity and experience of getting it wrong, rightly said to be the mother of invention, or intuition. And others were necessarily harvested. Ideas are universal, they don’t belong to anyone but who develops and uses them.

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If I bring anything unique to the field of endeavour and exploration that macro is, it is the idea that nature is its own value and has its place first in the order of things. Before the ‘photographer’, the gear, the techniques and settings, or anything else that is a part of the process.

Nature comes first because without it the rest is for nothing.

And it is putting the sense before the intellectual where the real art lies. The art of being what you are doing without the distractions of personal thoughtful or emotional considerations, being in the senses. And then the art of being before the sense.

Some might call this zen – no mind, but I call it being practical because it is something that can be done to one degree or another by anyone so moved and aids peace of mind in any situation. No need to make it special and put it out of reach.

And there’s nothing new about this idea, it’s as old as nature itself.

One last thing : This page is changing as time passes. Thanks for the feedback.

© Mark Berkery ……. Click any picture and click again to enlarge

304 Responses

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  1. Kenny Goodison said, on 15/07/2014 at 10:41 am

    hi Mark , first of all can I just say that your pictures are amazing . I myself have just got my new camera Nikon d7100 and I have a Nikon 50mm 1.8g a sigma 17-70 2.8 and a Nikon 70-300 vr . I just got my raynox dcr 150 and am wondering have you any experience with this ? and what lens will it work best on for me . Im also thinking of getting a set of extension tubes to try out aswell . can I use the raynox with the extension tubes ? and can I ask what accessories you were using to capture such great pics .
    regards Kenny g………

    • Mark said, on 16/07/2014 at 2:36 pm

      Hi Kenny.

      I do have experience with the 150. It’s good glass so it works, what on is down to experience – just try it out. Remember, the working distance of achromats is more or less set according to their magnification. The 150 will be around 8″ WD.

      The equipment I use is various dioptre achromats on primarily an old FZ50. In my experience it’s the lighting that makes or breaks an image, but only after the other aspects are mastered – composition, angle, etc. It takes experience which takes practise which takes time – no mystery.

      Regards. M

      PS Have a look at http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/780820/ for a range of setups doing macro. Might give you more idea of what works than I can here.

      • Kenny Goodison said, on 20/07/2014 at 2:48 am

        tnx for your reply mark im actually looking at getting a second hand Panasonic FZ-50 to concentrate on my macro and use my raynox dcr 150 on that . what are the various dioptre achromats that you use ? can I ask how close you are to your subject when your taking your shot and are you using a tripod for them ?
        regards Kenny g

        also mark am I wasting my money in buying a sec hand fz50 or would I be better off buying a second hand sigma 105mm 2.8 for my d7100 and doing my macro work on that , or is the fz50 a better cam for macro work . be nice to have sec cam to just use for my macro work and save mu other cam for my other stuff , my main interests are wildlife and portrait and birds .

        • Mark said, on 20/07/2014 at 12:37 pm

          Hello Kenny.

          I suggest you work with what you have, get a dedicated macro lens if you want one – they work. Many people do well with DSLR’s. :-) See here – http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/780820/ and check their output against their gear – which is only a part of the equation of getting good imagery. Lighting is fundamental – http://strobist.blogspot.com.au/2007/07/lighting-102-unit-21-apparent-light.html and will be the icing on the cake of your efforts. Achromats are here – http://www.ki.tng.de/~sgude/achromats.html and you really have to do the work, which is not a lot.

          I use the FZ50 because it is one of a kind and works for me. Use whatever works for you, and you can get used to anything.

          Regards. M

          • Kenny Goodison said, on 20/07/2014 at 7:56 pm

            tnx for reply reason im looking at the second hand fz50 is to just use this one for my macro work and leave my 7100 for my other stuff. is the fz50 a good camera for macro work and how close can you get to your subject with the raynox dcr 150 on the fz50 . macro lens cost about 600 new maybe 3 r 400 for sec hand one and that’s why im looking at getting the second hand fz50 for my macro stuff .
            regards Kenny g . also how do you rate the fz60

            • Mark said, on 20/07/2014 at 9:33 pm

              I understand the cost of DSLR’s and the convenience of a dedicated cam for macro and the FZ50 works for me as I use flash 99% of the time – mostly mitigates against the digital noise. I don’t know about the FZ60, or any other offering, there’s just too many of them these days and none so far to match the features of the ’50 – that I want, YMMV – they all have extending lenses and are without manual zoom or suitably located/hinged articulating LCD’s. The 150 working distance is 8 inches, that’s how close you get to any creature. If you use the 250 it’s 4.5 inches WD, and if you stack a 150 on a 250 it’s 2 inches WD. 2 inches is what I work with most of the time.

              There’s a few good looking S/H FZ50′s on ebay now. BTW, better to use a step ring than the universal adapter the 150 comes with – the grip jaws break after a while.

              Rgds … M

            • Kenny Goodison said, on 21/07/2014 at 9:52 am

              hi mark I think im going to buy a second hand fz50 for my macro work as I said I have the raynox 150 so will look at getting the 250 aswell now as I like to get very close to my subjects and I like the close pin sharp pics . can you tell me what flash you use plz ? also can you tell me what kind of step ring is best to get ?
              regards kennyg

            • Mark said, on 21/07/2014 at 5:28 pm

              I use the onboard flash, snooted and diffused – see pix in post above. Or I use the Oly FL36 which has ETTL for the FZ, also snooted and diffused (and aimed). Step down ring is (M)55mm to (F)43mm, filter thread on cam to rear thread on 150. Notice it’s 55mm male thread to 43mm female thread, like this one – http://www.ebay.com/itm/320845445455 but check with seller – not related – I’m sure there are others available.

              It is advisable to graduate to higher magnification, as it gets more difficult to get focus with diminishing dof. Practise …

              Best … M

            • Kenny Goodison said, on 22/07/2014 at 7:40 am

              tnx very much Mark for your quick replies but when you say It is advisable to graduate to higher magnification what are the higher magnification lens to get ? so when I buy my fz50 I need to get an oly fl36 flash and and a step ring . and im sorted then with my raynox 150 and im going to buy a 250 aswell :)
              regards kennyg

              also mark is the Olympus flash fl36 better than the lumix flashes that you can get ?

              also can I ask you mark would you advise getting the sec hand FZ 50 or the lumix g1 ?

            • Mark said, on 22/07/2014 at 11:00 am

              Hi Kenny.

              No problem. The graduation there would be from the 150 to the 250 to the 150 ‘on’ the 250. Each graduation will increase in magnification, decrease in DOF (at same FL), and shorten in WD from 8″ to 4.5″ to 2″. The fl36 is the same flash as Panny’s **36 flash, only cheaper generally. The G1 is a different animal that I rarely use any more, YMMV.

              I would advise you search/ask on this forum – http://www.dpreview.com/forums/1033 for Panasonic/FZ/50 related information. From around 2004/5 when the FZ50 came out there were a lot of proficient ’50 users and many threads of relevance. If you ask you may find exactly what you need …

              Best … M

  2. Michael said, on 29/05/2014 at 8:44 pm

    Hi, Mark,

    I read your informative guide Macro Illustrated and I found your idea of the stick interesting.

    So after it rained yesterday, I got my new camera (E-M10) and lens (Oly 60mm Macro) and tried using the ‘stick’. I was all thumbs. It seemed to be getting more in the way than being helpful.

    I thought I read that I have the stick in my left hand (loosely) and the camera ALSO in my left hand. But when I also tried putting my right hand on the camera to hit the shutter button, I felt very awkward.

    Was that your experience as well?

    Also, my very first thought when you said a 5′ stick, I though about going on an airplane with it. Not likely to happen. Do you have a solution for that? I thought about those bungy connected collapsible poles like for tent poles but they seemed thinner than you specified. I also thought about a monopod but treating it more like a ‘stick’. Would have to be a tall monopod for that to work.

    Your thoughts?

    Thanks in advance. Your images have me fired up to try to find more critters in my area. Love the pictures. And having a blast trying.

    Michael

    • Mark said, on 01/06/2014 at 8:30 am

      Hi Michael – thanks …

      Helpful or not depends, doesn’t it … On your own need and use. If you need stabilisation and you want mobility, be able to move and re-orient for the shot without notice, you will get used to it and it will become indispensable until you develop a different style of shooting – by getting closer. I won’t go looking now but when I use the stick, which is not often these days as I have a constant working distance of between 8 and 2 inches and can hold creatures platform and rest lens on same hand to stabilize enough for flash shooting, I hold it in left hand between thumb and palm while holding cam in same hand. It’s second nature to me now but like anything it takes time to adjust to.

      Basically, stick is between base of thumb and palm, gripped by lower three fingers to palm while tips of forefinger and thumb hold cam. To vary height you just let grip loose and let stick drop as you rise or slide down (a polished stick so no splinters) as you lower. If close/r to ground you can put the point of the stick anywhere in the ground that’s not too far away from your feet while resting the upper part against shoulder, or if standing it just helps to stop or control movement. You get used to it. A monopod does the same thing for carrying on a plane, though ‘they’ might still think of it as a weapon, or you can just cut or pick up a stick wherever you go – one of the wonders of nature is its ubiquity, though some sticks are better than others.

      I trust this answers your questions, or get back.

      Best … M

  3. http://quiettail1227.soup.io/ said, on 24/05/2014 at 10:55 am

    Je n’ai pas eu le temps de terminer de regarder toutefois je reviendrai après

  4. Steve Ho said, on 24/05/2014 at 4:25 am

    Hello
    Chance to see what you shoot photos of insects
    Too brilliant
    So I would like in your own blog with other photographers to share your work in Hong Kong
    I will quote your website
    I hope you do not mind
    Thank you also wish a happy shooting

    • Mark said, on 26/05/2014 at 5:42 pm

      Hi Steve. You are welcome to share as you wish.

      Best … M

  5. Mustafa said, on 03/05/2014 at 11:47 pm

    Dear Mark , Its the most fantastic Photos I ‘ve ever seen , I have Nikon d7100 with 16-85 lens , if I get the Raynox DCR-250 2.5x Super Macro Lens with my lens , should this be enough ? , or should I take the Niikor 105 macro lens with DCR 205 for better result ? , I need extremely sharp and super macro , Thank you very much , I am wondering also if You have a page on Facebook

    • Mark said, on 04/05/2014 at 8:32 am

      Hello Mustafa. The macro lens would be better for higher magnification, no doubt. For the sharpest, unless your objects don’t move, you’ll need flash – properly sized, delivered and diffused.

      No, no facebook for me …

      Best

  6. Phillip said, on 23/04/2014 at 7:23 am

    Hi Mark,

    I’m new to photography and I was doing some research on macro tips and I came across your website and you have some amazing pictures. I’m currently using a Nikon D800 with the Micro 105mm Macro lens from Nikon as well. I’m photographing jewelry and no matter how much I increase the f stop even to the max I’m not able to get that crisp sharp detailed fine image like the pictures your taking of the insects. In some of the picture you’ve tooken is so detailed that you can even see the hairs on the bugs. Is there anyway you can give me some tips on how I can get that crisp sharp image like yours? I was reading that to get a lot closer and more of a sharper image it says to use a lens dioptre. I’d appreciate your feed back.

    Thank,

    Phillip

    • Mark said, on 24/04/2014 at 11:50 am

      Hello Phillip.

      In my experience sharpness in an image can be had by one or two means; absolute stability or motion stopping flash. I use flash because my creatures are nearly always on the move, or about to be, and flash – of the appropriate relative size, properly delivered and diffused – is the effective shutter speed, up to 1/50,000sec with ambient light excluded from the scene via aperture and SS – fast SS and small f# (f11 and higher, whatever eliminates ambient light, if required).

      You have the possibility of using stability alone, for which you need a platform for the object and a base for the camera that ‘do not’ move ‘at all’ – usually means a good tripod (I don’t use) and a source of constant light appropriate to your situation – because at macro magnification even a pixel of movement will detract from the apparent sharpness of the image. Exposure can be adjusted in post … but it’s always best to get it as right as possible OOC.

      Contrast also has an effect on the apparent sharpness of an image. You could also ask here – http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/board/45 – where you will get more diverse views, so perspective.

      I trust this is of some help.

      Best … M

  7. Brad said, on 13/04/2014 at 11:48 am

    Hi Mark. Great photos.
    I have been using my 90mm Tamron Macro lens on a Sony A550 for a while now, but would like to get closer macro shots like yours. Would you recommend using a achromatic filter on a macro lens? Should I maybe look at getting a Raynox DCR-250. I watched a youtube clip where he used close up filters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ch_gABHaeBk. I have a set of extension tubes, but they drop the light a lot. Any help and recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    • Mark said, on 13/04/2014 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks Brad. Doesn’t live-view on the A550, automatically/or otherwise, compensate for the drop in exposure you get with ext tubes? Regardless, in the absence of suitable dedicated macro lenses I think achromats are the way to go for more magnification. Because the DCR250 is a small diameter you might get vignetting when you pull back to get something bigger in the frame, otherwise it is excellent glass – (I use the Raynox achromats, the 250 will set your working distance at app 8″ – achromats on a lens fix the WD according to the magnification factor). If that’s an issue you can always look at the larger diameter Canon or older Nikon achromats, Marumi are supposed to be good but I’ve never used one. Most options are found here – http://www.ki.tng.de/~sgude/achromats.html Or have a look at some of the work of some of the posters here – http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/780820/

      • Brad said, on 13/04/2014 at 4:32 pm

        Hi Mark.
        Thanks for the quick reply. I still want to use my 90mm macro lens, just want bigger and better final images. So you think the Raynox DCR250 would vignette on a fixed 90mm? Maybe a Hoya +10 Macro Close-up Filter?
        Or am I better of using a zoom lens with a Achromat?

        • Mark said, on 13/04/2014 at 5:16 pm

          “So you think the Raynox DCR250 would vignette on a fixed 90mm?” Depends how far back you want to pull – to get bigger bugs in the frame. Depends on what you want to do and only some experimentation will give you real perspective. I haven’t used Hoya so can’t comment on quality but if it’s a bigger filter size you can pull back further than if it’s a small filter size – is all. Zoom lenses work too – you’ve seen my stuff from an old Pany FZ50.

  8. Jane said, on 11/04/2014 at 9:07 am

    Mark. Wanted to thank you for your email (received back in January 2013) and this post. At last (yes, it’s taken me over a year) I’ve managed to make the diffuser and take some photos with it on holiday in the Florida Keys. Really pleased with how it works, but will obviously be messing around with the position and thickness of the diffusing material – Here’s a shot from today https://twitter.com/WildlifeStuff/status/454342381765017600 Cheers! Jane

    • Mark said, on 11/04/2014 at 11:49 am

      Hello Jane. I remember you, just … Great shot of the Lizard, good to get the ambient blue in the background. Shadow may be a bit hard, have a look here – http://strobist.blogspot.com.au/2007/07/lighting-102-unit-21-apparent-light.html – it applies no matter what the size or distance. As a general rule the diffusion needs to be bigger the further away the object is – relative light size really, like the sun behind cloud on a bright day works for ‘big’ creatures at ‘some’ distance.

      • Jane said, on 11/04/2014 at 10:32 pm

        Thanks for this link – I’m going to need to read it several times, I’ve got “brain ache” already! Cheers. Jane

  9. Mike said, on 31/03/2014 at 10:58 pm

    Thank You Thank You Thank You. Fantastic pictures and very good instructional text to go along with it. I’ll have to get me a macro lens…. oh, and a stick !

    • Mark said, on 02/04/2014 at 6:12 pm

      You’re welcome Mike. You don’t need a dedicated macro lens, achromats are good – the more expensive ones, you get what you pay for usually.

  10. 6pm promo code said, on 31/03/2014 at 4:38 am

    I need to to thank you for this wonderful read!!
    I certainly enjoyed every bit of it. I’ve got you book-marked to check out new things you post…

  11. jason said, on 09/03/2014 at 12:56 pm

    thanks for all your help Mark!!
    i just bought a fuji x e1 mainly so i can adapt any older legacy lenses to it.
    would you happen to have any suggestions for a good entry level macro.

  12. naturimdetail said, on 04/03/2014 at 4:02 am

    Hi Mark,

    Thank you so much for sharing these incredible macro photos and the inspiration you give!

    Stefanie

    • Mark said, on 05/03/2014 at 12:21 am

      Thanks Stefanie. I see you have some good images on your site too.

  13. Healthy Harriet said, on 28/02/2014 at 8:11 am

    Like many others I am truly stunned by the quality of your pictures and the beauty of the subjects. Your ability to combine reflective practice and technical brilliance is really unique. Thank you for sharing your work and your insights into our world.

    • Mark said, on 28/02/2014 at 9:30 am

      Thanks Harriet. Just grinding my organ … :-)

  14. Sonel said, on 16/02/2014 at 4:48 am

    I am in awe Mark! Stunning shots! I love insects as well and don’t use any insecticides in our garden as I love watching and photographing them. I hope to take awesome macro’s like you one day. Thanks for the lovely post and tips and for sharing. :D

  15. Mahimul said, on 09/01/2014 at 8:09 pm

    Hello Mark,Can I Take Pictures like these with any macro converter?which macro converter should i use for nikon d3100?

    • Mark said, on 09/01/2014 at 9:56 pm

      Hello Mahimul. Not any one, not the cheap ones. I couldn’t tell you what to use because it is a complex matter and comes down to your particular requirements. Have a look here : http://www.ki.tng.de/~sgude/achromats.html for an idea. When you know a bit about it just buy the one you think will do what you want and if it doesn’t work, or when you want to change, just try another one – they are much cheaper than lenses but just as good most of the time, and you can always get (near enough) your money back on the good ones.

  16. Mike said, on 16/11/2013 at 9:36 am

    Hey Mark,

    Your macro work is incredible. I am just starting to get into macro photography now. Can you tell me what would be the next important piece of equipment that I would need to start getting close ups like these? I have a canon 60D with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM and a Hoya 67mm HD Hardened Glass 8-layer Multi-Coated Digital UV (Ultra Violet) Filter. I am definitely going to loom into the stick idea, I think that is genius. Do you think I need to look into finding an extender or would focusing on lighting and a better flash (than the built in one) be a better option? What kind of magnification will I get out of the 100 mm lens?

    Thanks
    Mike

  17. David Fisher said, on 12/11/2013 at 2:22 am

    Stunning images Mark,and a great read in to the bargain.

    Cheers Davy

  18. ladyfi said, on 05/11/2013 at 6:24 pm

    Breathtaking shots!

    • Mark said, on 30/01/2014 at 1:22 pm

      Thanks Lady Fi. (don’t know how I missed you there)

  19. jbrianwaddington said, on 25/10/2013 at 5:33 pm

    Your suggestion to use a stick as a support was one of the reasons that I am now getting these results. Not all the time but still and all it is a significant step up for me. Thanks.

  20. jbrianwaddington said, on 24/10/2013 at 11:59 am

    For my 62nd birthday my wife bought me a FinePix S4200. For the last month i have been exploring our backyard. Today It was suggested that I take a look here. I applied two of your suggestions (remember i am a seriously new newbee) I found how to set my shutter speed and I used my walking stick as a brace. Serious improvement in enjoyment and clarity.

    I will work through your suggestions because I know the first two worked.

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together.
    B.

    • Mark said, on 24/10/2013 at 3:29 pm

      You’re welcome Brian. Since I usually go down on one knee I also use a gardeners cushion nowadays, saves the skin from hardening, drying out and cracking – not to mention those pesky ants and things …

  21. kurt van bever said, on 23/10/2013 at 6:32 pm

    Hi ,
    I noticed that magnification is smaller with the G1, is that correct?
    The olympus macrolens you use , is a 4/3 lens , so you need an adapter too?

    and thus manual focus too?
    Is it hard to MF on the G1 ?

    • Mark said, on 23/10/2013 at 11:54 pm

      Hi Kurt.

      The mag appears smaller, correct. The sensor is bigger with same magnification. A 4/3′s adapter is necessary for anything but Panasonic lenses, AFAIK. AF is no good on any macro lens I have used, MF takes more time, using MF assist. I still prefer the AF of the Pany FZ50 internally zooming lens, no extending.

      • kurt van bever said, on 26/10/2013 at 6:12 am

        internal zoom without extending , do all FZ series work that way ? And would you recommend a particular one of them , is there one that stands out , Better handling , or better IQ ……

        • Mark said, on 26/10/2013 at 11:29 am

          No, they all extend that have significant zoom. You can use a adapter to screw on and the lens extends in that and you can put achromat on the adapter, but I’ve not experimented with it. I haven’t seen anything to recommend any of the other FZ’s and the evolution of the FZ50 was supposed to be the G series … AFAIK.

  22. Al Ahad said, on 09/10/2013 at 1:30 am

    Hi Mark, have been following your posts for long. I have a question. I have a FF Nikon and a 100mm f2.8 macro lens. Do you think I will be able to achieve similar kind of magnifications that you got from my setup using extension tubes? Thanks a lot.

    • Mark said, on 09/10/2013 at 11:31 am

      Hello Al. It would depend on the length of extension tubes, it’s possible by some means but I don’t know the math. One of the best places I know to ask that question is here : <a href="http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/board/45&quot; title="Macro Forum” target=”_blank”> and look here too : <a href="http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/780820&quot; title="Macro Setups” target=”_blank”> for an idea of what people use and match it to what they get with their setup.

      It’s always best to start out with lower magnification because the dof gets progressively shallower the higher mags get and it gets more difficult to control and even get focus. But ask at the forum and you will get your answer and more …

      Best … M

      • Al Ahad said, on 11/10/2013 at 7:42 am

        Thanks for the link Mark. And I have a Panasonic FZ28 shelved since I bought my FF Nikon. Looks I can rekindle that little one if I buy a Raynox 250.

  23. John said, on 14/09/2013 at 2:44 am

    Mark,

    Love the page, a lot of great information. Your images are inspiring and give us a great appreciation of the magnificence of nature and it’s smaller creatures. I was wondering if I could get the template for the snoot?

    I am generally on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to wildlife photography and shooting birds and other moving critters from a greater distance. I recently purchased a Canon 100mm 2.8 Macro though and now I am getting into learning shooting nature’s smaller creatures. So far I am finding it very difficult to get a decent shot that doesn’t have such a shallow depth of field. Even with really small aperatures it is razor thin. I am just amazed how you get the shots you do amazing really. I also seem to not get close enough with just the lens so I am looking into extension tubes. Again, great pics. Thanks!!!

    • Mark said, on 14/09/2013 at 11:23 am

      Hi John.

      I’ll get that off to you asap. Yes, macro can be difficult to master even with just a macro lens. Wit shallow DOF you need to be more cognizant of that and how to apply it to nature’s architecture to get optimal focus. Extension tubes are common and cheap but I am used to achromats and much prefer them since there is minimum exposure of the sensor to the environment, amongst other things …

      There is a lot to learn but I cover the basic principles above and if you are interested have a look here – http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/board/45 – particularly the sticky’s at top, there is one on tubes and another on setups.

  24. Darda said, on 13/09/2013 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks Mark

  25. Darda said, on 11/09/2013 at 3:12 pm

    Dear Mark,

    I would likt to Thanks to you for your article. I found your article of macro illustrated few months ago. Than I tried to make DIY diffuser and shot several things with 55-300 mm lens combine with macro filter (cheap diopter +4) and got quite good picture…then I bought DCR 150 and got better photos (but offcourse they are not as good as your photos…smile)…

    So, Thanks for beingmark that post very useful articles about macro, nature and sprituality….Keep going Mark. You can check some of my photos on my facebook.

    Thanks…

    • Mark said, on 11/09/2013 at 3:30 pm

      Thanks Darda. Glad it is of some use to you. I would look but I don’t use FB at all …

  26. Simon C. Joseph said, on 10/08/2013 at 6:55 am

    Awesome, awesome, awesome. What more can I say? Photomacrography / micrography has always been my main interest in my personal photography, but never at this quality. Mark, I’m humbled by your ability.

    • Mark said, on 10/08/2013 at 10:58 am

      It’s just what I do Simon, a lot … :)

  27. Jake said, on 08/08/2013 at 9:23 am

    Hi again Mark,
    How to you see what you’re focusing on while your aperture’s at say 2.8 to compensate for the flash/DOF? I’ve been trying to focus at a wider aperture and then quickly closing it before I shoot haha, otherwise the preview shows up as really dark on the lcd screen. Unfortunately I generally loose that sweet spot of focus due to the shakes.
    Thanks for the great info and the weekly calmness your post provides me. Much appreciated.

    • Mark said, on 08/08/2013 at 10:43 am

      Hello Jake.

      I’m not sure about the meaning of the question, but … For starters; I use an old cam, the FZ50 + achromats = live-view on a small screen and auto focus. So I don’t actually ‘see’ (with old eyes) what i have in focus, just approximately, but there is minimal time between focus capture and image capture – it’s a very good cam for macro, especially with the internally zooming lens (doesn’t extend and retract) so I can rely on a constant working distance. I only use the G1 (Panny) with the various macro lenses (that extend and retract) when I can rely on the creature staying still long enough for me to set up the shot – still with live-view. It sounds like you don’t even have live-view? In that case you need to be more stable or you need to shorten the distance between focus and image capture. Better still get a cam with live-view and your problem is solved, more or less. Sorry, can’t otherwise help … :)

      Thanks Jake, glad it is all of some value.

      • Jake said, on 08/08/2013 at 1:03 pm

        Thanks for the quick reply Mark!
        My Pana GH2 has live view but as I’m shooting with a manual lens the preview is really dark because the aperture is so small :-) No worries, practice makes perfect, I’ll just have to go play around a bit more. Luckily there’s heaps of sunshine at the moment in Brissy :-)

        • Mark said, on 08/08/2013 at 1:58 pm

          I also use a Panny G1 with manual lenses and don’t have your issue so don’t know what’s going on … ?

          • randy said, on 09/08/2013 at 2:42 am

            It would make sense that a manual (legacy) lens would close down the curtain when manually setting the aperture to say f22 prior to shooting the shot. That in turn is reducing the light hitting the camera sensor and in turn, the view being displayed via LCD or EFV (realize you know all this – just clarifying so we’re all on the same page).

            So I *think* the question is – If you are also using legacy (manual) lenses Mark on your G1 how do you get around this issue? I would assume any camera body would have the same issue when using a legacy lens.

            • Mark said, on 09/08/2013 at 7:07 am

              I understand what you are saying but that is one of the functions of ‘live-view’, to bypass the limitation of the old ‘actual or optical view’ when A (small) and SS (fast) combine to eliminate ambient light from the scene. Live-view means the curtain is always open for light to get to the sensor – which is where you get ‘live-view’ from, surely? And the live-view function augments for the reduced light to the sensor. The Panny G1 is always in Live-view mode, maybe other cams need live-view to be turned on. I just had a look and whether the popup is open or closed I have ‘live-view’ – clear as day – with a legacy lens set at f16 and SS of 1/4000 (which should eliminate any natural light). My settings are always in M (for Manual, on the dial). Other than that I do nothing special.

              PS Any legacy lens that fits should work on a ‘live-view’ body and allow ‘live-view’ as it is only the aperture that is narrowed, nothing to do with the curtain which is in the cam’s body. Basically, if your camera doesn’t have an optical viewfinder it has live-view and there should be no issue as you describe, that I know of – which is limited to my experience. This : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_preview gives a basic rundown.

              Let me know if you work it out?

  28. woodlandgnome said, on 06/08/2013 at 12:29 pm

    Mark, your photos are so beautifully composed. They could hang on the walls of any gallery or museum. Thank you for explaining how you do it. (not that I understand much of the technical aspect, but am totally with you on the empty mind aspect. It seems that creatures can sense the peace is one’s heart…. or not….) You have so much to teach. By the way, Spielberg surely came to Australia for inspiration in designing his many creatures. What an amazing world you share with the rest of us.

    • Mark said, on 06/08/2013 at 5:24 pm

      Thanks WG. As with any subject it’s a graduation in time, of absorption and application before it can be mastered. Some creatures are more sensitive than others but you can’t always tell so each shot demands the best effort, which is a variable. Yes, the heart is quieted for the mind to be still …

  29. Alex Khoo said, on 04/08/2013 at 3:07 pm

    Thank you so much for this post!

  30. owen said, on 03/08/2013 at 4:48 am

    your work is art, genius, amazing. im lost for words. ive seen other insect macro, even tried it myself but this is….

    • Mark said, on 03/08/2013 at 9:40 am

      Thanks Owen. Like anything, you just keep at it and it works out – somehow …

  31. Mark said, on 28/07/2013 at 3:53 am

    On the Snoot/Diffuser …

    Couple points. Card will be more flexible but probably won’t last long at all and once you have the shape you want it’s probably a good idea to scan it as an image and you will always have a template ready for your setup – mine is plastic and is years old now – card will serve until you have the pattern you want then cut it from more durable light weight plastic sheet. Also, you might not want it to extend over the lens at all – you won’t always have it on max zoom, assuming an extending lens.

    Use a single anchor point for the snoot to the popup. I use a single spot of adhesive velcro – one ‘hook’ spot on the inside of the snoot to attach to one ‘ring’ spot on the back of the popup. That way it easily rotates, on the single spot – two make it rigid, and velcro doesn’t wear easily. Also, you might want to use the same single spot (or two side by side) to anchor it on the lens – two will give you more room for flipping side to side.

    And to keep the snoot where I want it, flipped at whatever angle, I also use a length of velcro (about 9″ long, depends on your own dimensions). Let’s say the length of velcro is the ‘hook’ side – It works by three ‘ring’ spots (adhesive velcro), one on top of the snoot (a few inches down from the flash) and one each on either side of the lens housing or from bottom of body if necessary. If the length of velcro is ‘hooked’ to the ‘ring’ spot on back of snoot at its mid point, flip the snoot to the angle you want and attach the ends of the length to the other two spots to keep it there.

    I trust that makes sense. It’s like anything else, you get to know how it works best by doing it.

    Looks like I’ll have to take some new pix and update the description when I have time.

  32. randy said, on 23/07/2013 at 12:17 pm

    mark- awesome info and pics of course. love the KISS principle to your approach. i have a raynox 250 on the way since i got at good price but may try the 150 as it’s a little more forgiving. would you send me your snoot template please? thank you sir for the inspiration…

    • Mark said, on 25/07/2013 at 11:31 pm

      Hello Randy. Good you enjoy the little things. The 150 is definitely a good place to start, then the 250, and then stack them – depends on what you mount them, but it’s good glass. Email on the way now …

      PS Having trouble sending in gmail. I trust you have it now.

      • randy said, on 26/07/2013 at 2:43 am

        recently purchased a panny g5 and for now, the kit 12-42 lens. figured i’ll learn to shoot it before moving to anything else. between a new camera, a big lens (compared to my compacts), micro DOF and NOW also A STICK, i’ve got lots to keep me occupied for a while now. ;o)

        i’ve had compacts for years but have grown tired of the 2-cm working distances. the m4/3 sensor will make a BIG difference i’m sure. and yes, i did get the template – thanks much!!

        • Mark said, on 26/07/2013 at 7:44 am

          You are welcome. Always good to keep it simple and graduate, in my experience of maniacal involvement … :) And yes, the stick is a tool in its own right that requires investigation by application.

          Those 2cm WD cams are really not suitable for live creatures, too close for comfort. I also use the Panny G1 with various macro/achromatic lens combinations and the IQ is certainly a grade above but not so much as might be expected. The big put-off for me is always the extending lens and the variable working distance, on the FZ50 with 150 or 250 mounted the WD is either 8″ or 5″ (thereabouts), stacked they give me a comfortable 2″ WD – comfortable for hand held by gripping the creature’s platform in left hand while resting lens tip on same for stability – one moves with the other.

  33. Natural Ramblings said, on 22/07/2013 at 8:52 pm

    Hi Mark I just found this brilliant post, thanks for taking the time to write such an extensive explanation alongside your amazing portfolio. Its so nice to find others on the same wavelength who care about the creatures and environment, not just want to get a shot. Your images are outstanding and I love how you capture not just the beauty of the insect itself, but capture a behaviour that priceless moment in time.
    Glad I stumbled across your site.

    • Mark said, on 25/07/2013 at 11:26 pm

      Hi G. It’s my pleasure, it’s what I do … :) If some value the mystery, intelligence and forms of existence it pays back into the system of being we are and reduces a little the system of being we are not. Got that? :)

  34. Dan Dexter said, on 15/07/2013 at 12:54 pm

    OK Mark…I must have passed up the pictures of your camera with the diffusers or something. I’m now slightly ill…your setup is 1/4 the price of the setup I just purchased about one week ago. Yup. Man do I feel like giving up right now. Your images are beyond top notch and with not so expensive gear. Thanks for the wonderful images I can look at. I’m throwing in the towel.

    • Mark said, on 15/07/2013 at 1:17 pm

      Ha, so soon? You’ll get used to your setup, it just takes time – which means practise. Have a look here at what some other people use : http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/780820 There are also links in the comments and if you have any questions just ask.

      Best … M

  35. Lucinda Deffell said, on 30/06/2013 at 10:10 pm

    I was very pleased to search out this web-site. I needed to thank to your time for this glorious read!… I undoubtedly having fun with each little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

    • Mark said, on 30/06/2013 at 11:07 pm

      You are welcome Lucinda and I trust you also enjoy what is to come …

  36. Kim said, on 17/06/2013 at 11:04 am

    Hi Mark,

    I just happened across your site and I’m blown away by your incredible macro shots!

    I used to use my FZ30 (with the DCR150 and DCR250) to take macro photos, but I became increasingly frustrated with the noisy images (among other issues), so I purchased a Panny G1 in 2009(?) which was an improvement with regards to the noise, but the shallow DOF became unworkable for me. As a result, I haven’t shot macro for several years but I would really like to get back into it, so I’m hoping you won’t mind if I pick your brain a bit.
    (1) Would you mind sharing what software you use for sharpening and noise-reduction of your FZ50 photos? I still have my FZ30 and may pull it out of the closet and try it again (although I now find the 30s LCD screen to be tiny and a little difficult to use compared to the screen on my G1).
    (2) I, too, would like to have a template for your homemade snoot and/or can you direct me to additional resources for using flash with macro images? I’ve rarely used flash in my macro shots because I have never been able to figure out how to evenly disperse the light; most of my macro shots where I used flash are unpleasantly harshly lit, usually from just one side or the other :-( I’ve been toying with the idea of purchasing a ring flash, but your photos show that it is possible to achieve pleasant lighting using an external flash, and since I already have an external flash, I’d like to try to make that work…
    (3) When shooting macro with your G1, what do you do (if anything) to compensate for the shallow DOF?

    Thanks so much for posting your photos/thoughts/techniques!

    • Mark said, on 17/06/2013 at 1:12 pm

      Hello Kim.

      I have no issue using the G1 (for DOF @ f16-22) except for auto-focus (and side mounted LCD), which the FZ50 does better more consistently – being an internally zooming lens and not an extending one that most macro lenses are. I prefer not to advertise any product but I use Neat-Image for ‘conservative’ noise reduction and sharpening (not all images are served, and other programs are just as good if not better?) + 20 seconds in Picasa for general PP on OOC JPG’s – which are usually sharp by use of full flash. The template is for use as a snoot on the on-board flash of the FZ but should work on the G1 – you might have to modify for working distance, I’ll send anyway – proximity, apparent light size and diffusion is key, along with regard to angle lighting is delivered from and context/surrounds to mitigate against too high contrast – exposure being TTL and usually controlled by single centre spot. Have a look at http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/780820 for a variety of setups using flash – it pays to check a setup against the images captured using it to see if it actually works but using the principles I have outlined above should get you through anyway.

      I trust that makes sense … Any specific questions just ask.

  37. furrygnome said, on 12/06/2013 at 10:11 pm

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this; it’s very helpful. Though as a complete novice I have a long way to go! Meantime, your pictures are truly incredible. I especially like your advice to develop inner focus first. Thanks.

    • Mark said, on 12/06/2013 at 10:48 pm

      You’re welcome. It’s really just a matter of practise and you find your ceiling naturally …

  38. alex19alex said, on 09/06/2013 at 8:20 pm

    Hi there!
    I am new in macro photography and I love your pictures! I can only say WOW! I read your technical advices with a lot interest! Thanks for sharing them. I am glad I found this blog.
    Alexandra

    • Mark said, on 10/06/2013 at 2:02 am

      Thanks Alexandra. I trust it is of some value …

  39. gretelau2001 said, on 17/05/2013 at 4:39 am

    I’m using your beautiful insect macros as desktop pics daily. Any chance of more flower macros Mark? The ones you have done are stunning in their detail.

    • Mark said, on 17/05/2013 at 7:58 am

      Hello Lissa, that’s a good use for them. I haven’t done many flowers recently but you could look at this : https://picasaweb.google.com/103821805315525825157 and access it with your Gmail or google account. There is four folders with over 1,000 pix with some early flowers – can be viewed as thumbnails and open anything you want to look at in a new tab, I believe you can copy or DL them from Picasa online.

      I might be going to WA in September for the desert flower season but until then there is little to shoot around here though now you have mentioned it who knows what I will see … :)

      • gretelau2001 said, on 17/05/2013 at 8:19 am

        An absolute treasure trove of goodies :D thank you! I’ll look in here each morning for a DT pic now. WA sounds like a great trip.
        Many thanks, Lissa

        • Mark said, on 17/05/2013 at 1:48 pm

          You’re welcome. What’s a DT pic?

  40. donski said, on 11/05/2013 at 6:38 am

    Thank you for the informative post.
    As someone who is trying to get a feel of macro photography, I found the contents of this post very valuable. :)

    • Mark said, on 11/05/2013 at 7:14 am

      No problem D, or B. It takes time and practise … sometimes lots of both.

  41. choppy123 said, on 06/05/2013 at 3:46 pm

    I was totally mesmerized with your photos, they are incredible, maybe a new follower but will be a stayer :)

  42. Don Clark said, on 19/04/2013 at 12:49 pm

    Nikon 5T and 6T with FZ50 macro focus. Unable to use AF macro. It will macro focus with manual focus but will lose focus when I try to take photo. Any experience with Nikon close ups? What am I doing wrong with the FZ50?

    • Mark said, on 19/04/2013 at 7:25 pm

      There’s no reason I know why it wouldn’t AF. When you put an achromat on it changes the distance range in which the cam will focus, all achromats. I don’t use the Nikon so don’t know the working distance of them, determined by the FL or Dioptre strength. You just have to find the distance it will focus. See here : http://www.ki.tng.de/~sgude/achromats.html According to the diagram your 6T is a +3 Dioptre so WD will be around 35cm – should AF at that. Every different strength Dioptre will give you a correspondingly different WD – the distance at which it will AF.

      • Don Clark said, on 20/05/2013 at 3:13 pm

        Hello Mark, Slowly working the bugs out thanks to reviewing your tutorial several times. Just received my 150 and 250 Raynox lenses and step down ring. Spent a lot of time with the Nikon 5T and 6T and slowly getting comfortable with the Macro concept. I also have an old FZ50 with 30000 keepers and maybe 3 times that many in the trash. The exterior coverings are being held on with duct tape and the menu set/curser buttons are not legible. I am an old fart so some of this comes slow and I have a few questions. (If you don’t mind). 1. Can you focus the FZ50 to infinity? 2. How do you shield the LCD for viewing in bright conditions? #3. Looking thru my FZ50 manual I can not figure out what flash settings to use? -2 EV to +2 EV. #4 under settings–Shutter speed is kept at dSLR settings??? #5 You write that ” My aperture is usually as small as i can have it within diffraction limits” What does that mean?? My sweet spots are usually 5.6 or 8.0. #6 I would also like a snoot template. Thank you very much. Don Clark

        • Mark said, on 20/05/2013 at 5:08 pm

          Hello Don. Better to use step rings than rely on the spring adapter which may fall off in the field by knocking or the jaws wearing out over use/time. The 150 and 250 are a big step up in magnification from the Nikons. Yes, I have a couple FZ50′s with glue holding some bits on, also have a couple spares.

          Q’s 1. No, with an achromat on the focus range is limited to around the working distances, around 8″ for the 150, 5″ for the 250 and 2″ with both stacked. See a little way down here : http://www.ki.tng.de/~sgude/achromats.html

          2. Either with my hat rim shadow or vary the angle of view, it’s always a compromise. If using AF turn the ‘bleep’ on and you will have the two senses engaged, though I do without and tend to go for shots within capacity.

          3. Flash setting is as required by the scene and ambient light on top of settings, A and SS. It’s TTL (through the lens) on-board (exposure control) flash so the cam will compensate but doesn’t always get it right. I use single centre spot for exposure control and aim for just underexposing to saturate colours in cam, for JPG’s. My ‘usual’ is +1/4 to 1/2 but the flash can overheat and slow recharging if used in quick succession, as we do. It’s a good idea to take a few, recompose and take a few more, etc – make the OB flash last longer, or get the OLY FL36 or a cheaper Yongnuo YN460-ll – both do TTL exposure control so you don’t have to change settings for different shots.

          4. I keep my SS at 1/160 max (often the max SS while using flash on a DSLR) so I am used to DSLR limitations, in case I have to use one and it matters.

          5. Diffraction is a degrading of the IQ when the A is too small for the available light, explained better than I can elsewhere on the net. With proper flash exposure the limit is raised so f11 on the FZ50 is no problem and f16 (even f22) on the G1 is good – exposure control is the key.

          6. I’ll send the template asap.

          Best … M

  43. gretelau2001Lissa said, on 02/04/2013 at 5:12 am

    A friend sent me a link to have a look at your work. Absolutely beautiful shots. Thank you so much for sharing them.

    • Mark said, on 02/04/2013 at 8:23 am

      Thanks Grete/L? Via what avenue did you hear …?

      • gretelau2001 said, on 09/05/2013 at 4:42 am

        Sorry Mark have just seen this response – Can’t remember for sure but think it was Bob. Gretel is my dog and email addy, I am Lissa :)

        • Mark said, on 09/05/2013 at 5:40 am

          Ha! I see Lissa. I’ll try remember for next time … :)

  44. Robert B Luttrell said, on 31/03/2013 at 10:09 pm

    HI Mark, Bob from ANBees here. Just quickly scanned down your photos, it is just an avalanche of amazing images, but what impressed me even more was your attitude towards those small creatures that share our planet with us. I share those feelings totally, everything has its place, and its role. We are the ones who have lost sight of our proper place.

    Congratulations on a great display, on all the fantastic information, and hope you find time to come my way some time

    Bob

    • Mark said, on 01/04/2013 at 11:01 am

      Thanks Bob. Glad you like them. Will mail you later re travelling.

      Yes, we have gotten lost in the hall of mirrors the mind is in these times. Can’t be helped, just have to keep going … :)

      Best … M

  45. Amota said, on 10/03/2013 at 6:54 pm

    Hi!

    I am glad to have come across this page. I really like the macro images you added – they are fantabulous!

    I like photographs and just started taking pictures a month ago since the arrival of my new cam nikon d3100. I am waiting for the arrival of my tamron 90mm lens and surely your techiques and guides will help me get good macro images.

    Thank you for sharing this – especially for photograph beginners like me.

    • Mark said, on 10/03/2013 at 11:23 pm

      No problem Amota. If you read through the comments you will find some useful links too …

  46. Jane said, on 20/01/2013 at 4:16 am

    Hi Mark. I came across your blog totally by chance… some things are meant to be! I take all my macro photos with a bridge camera and like you I love solitary bees (well… all insects really!). Your post has been so useful, you wouldn’t believe! I’ve been thinking about getting a new camera and even wondered about an expensive DSLR. At the moment I use a really cheap and cheerful Fuji S5800. I couldn’t really find anything to match it for macro and ease of use. I can see now that the Panasonic FZ50 would be good, and might try to pick one up 2nd hand, and I’ll definitely invest in some Raynox macro attachments. I also love the snoot/tube/cone (going to make one – when I can work out what you have used). I never use a tripod (like the stick idea – going to nick that too!), and always use flash but it’s too harsh. The snoot/tube/cone should fix it! I’d been getting quite despondent about my macro shots, and this has really instilled a new enthusiasm into me for the Spring! Thanks! Best wishes. Jane

    • Mark said, on 20/01/2013 at 8:34 am

      Hi Jane, and welcome …

      I sent you the std txt and snoot template via your email, so check your spam if you don’t see it. You may need to dry run it on paper and modify until you find what fits your setup. Whatever cam/setup you use you will get used to it, the FZ50 is old tech and can be very noisy even staying on ISO100.

      Macro is a discipline, mental and physical, if you find yourself feeling yours is not good enough that’s the time to look for a better way of doing it – and so you have. Now you know you don’t have to wait for despondency next time … :)

      That bee looks very good, light a bit harsh but diffusion will help. Very nice shot.

      • Jane said, on 21/01/2013 at 7:42 pm

        Thanks for your email Mark – and the snoot template. Really useful. I find macro photography a great relaxation, when I’m sitting in the garden watching bees nesting in the bee hotel or sitting by a flower waiting for a particular bee to turn up, absolutely nothing else matters! I think I know how it feels to be a male solitary bee… staring at a flower for hours, patiently waiting for a female to turn up! :)

  47. Rob Watson said, on 15/01/2013 at 4:23 am

    Your stuff and David Attenborough keep me and the kids entertained for hours. Thanks

    • Mark said, on 15/01/2013 at 8:38 am

      Pleased to hear it Rob. D.A. was one of my earliest inspirations. Love his work, and his passion – even if it is a performance sometimes, it’s the way of things if you want to change the ignorance of the masses – an impossibility, but we must add our weight to the effort, no?

  48. Robert Ashdown said, on 02/01/2013 at 12:52 pm

    Hi again, had a chance to read this page properly and will return to read other pages. Thanks for sharing your experience so generously in such an informative and thoughtful way. Cheers.

  49. Liane said, on 01/01/2013 at 3:21 pm

    Wow Mark your work is awesome, certainly has inspired me to get out and try to do better!

    • Mark said, on 01/01/2013 at 4:59 pm

      Hello Lianne, and thanks. It does take time and effort, as with anything, but it pays off as with anything you enjoy.

  50. Elizabeth said, on 21/10/2012 at 1:13 pm

    Wow, your photos are absolutely amazing! I find myself so disappointed in my DSLR by comparison, I’ve never gotten a single picture as sharp as any of yours. I think it’s great that you just use a stick to stabilize the camera, sounds like a monopod. I’ve been worried that I’d have to buy an expensive tripod to achieve good results. Do you find that image stabilization built into either the camera or lens is very important? I recently ordered a 100mm macro lens but it doesn’t have any stabilization, nor does the camera body.

    I think my fault is with camera shake and lack of good flash. I only have the popup flash and I am not very knowledgable about diffusion etc. Is a speedlite/external flash necessary? I was thinking of picking up one of the third party brands, do you have any recommendations for one for someone on a tight budget? I would also be interested in hearing more about your snoot.

    I have also taken a look into the Raynox diopters. Before I bought my macro lens, I was considering getting one to put on my 70-300 IS lens. I have been thinking that it might work better on the zoom lens because of the stabilization, but if I could improve my technique with stabilizing my camera and using proper flash, maybe it’d be better on the macro lens.

    • Mark said, on 23/10/2012 at 10:32 pm

      Hello Elizabeth. I can’t really recommend a flash as I know so little about them. I only know what works for me. For ideas of snoots have a look here ; http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/780820/0#7182291 You’ll see mine on the first page too. An achromat on the 300 is not a bad idea, just get a more expensive one as the cheap one are just that … And remember an achromat will limit the distance your cam will focus in – that’s your working distance, and it varies with the dioptre strength of the achromat, and the WD determines the size of the snoot, dependant on distance from subject. This is mostly covered in what has been written or commented here before. Raynox are a small diameter and cause vignetting at the lower FL range but are very good glass. The canon or Nikon achromats are bigger diameter but are fewer and not so versatile when it comes to stacking achromats for higher mags.

      Thank you for the Arm. :)

    • Peter Wilson said, on 29/10/2012 at 8:13 am

      Wow excellent pictures, not managed to achieve anything like as good as what you have despite a top Dslr and lens, will have to try much harder, congrats, Pete

      • Mark said, on 29/10/2012 at 8:20 am

        G’day Peter. Get the flash lighting principles right then dial A for max DOF and just below ‘right’ exposure while allowing some ambient light by SS and you won’t be far off. Then it’s practice and knowing your subject, which is really your self …

  51. David said, on 21/10/2012 at 8:04 am

    The world is truly amazing, most people don’t even appreciate the mountain views, oceans, morning mist or the nature they see with the naked eye. And yet there is an incredible world to discover with patience, skill and relatively simple kit. You make it look easy ;) Thanks for sharing, the page is worth returning to just for the images, but the insight and tips are invaluable. I picked up an Oly 60mm macro lens last week and hope to get results even half as good as these in time I will be happy. Thanks for sharing. I also sympathise with the comments about peoples attitude toward insects, I have started taking my 3yr old boy out with me and a point & shoot for him and already he has gone from terrified by spiders to excitedly declaring “pider” and pointing his camera.

    I would be interested to see you flash set up.

    Thanks
    Dave.

    • Mark said, on 23/10/2012 at 10:45 pm

      It is indeed David, but I distinguish between the world and the Earth, one is not the other. The world is of the human mind and is a reflection of it, conflict and unhappiness. The earth has no problem – when was the last time you saw a wild creature hold it’s head in shame, or defeat, or anything else for more than a few seconds. The earth has no problem, only mankind.

      It’s good your boy has a healthy attitude towards all creatures, it negates a cruelty that is inherent in ‘human’ nature. And the intelligence of the earth, through man, is evolving despite appearances. For my flash setup in it’s infancy but still functional see the link in last post. it’s nothing fancy and when you know the principles as I have articulated in the post above you can do it with any rig.

      But the best kit, or the kit that will never let you down last, is the senses. They are the direct link to the reality inside of beauty and wonder, and when they are gone there is only the reality. So nothing is lost and everything is … :)

      Thank You for the Arm. mark

  52. MINGTYH maa said, on 11/10/2012 at 12:47 am

    Mark, is your flash on the hotshoe and snooted from there, or is it in a flash bracket with a ttl cord?

    • Mark said, on 11/10/2012 at 1:02 pm

      Both hot shoe and on board flash depending on which cam I’m using, no bracket – no need.

  53. Leon Arditti. said, on 02/09/2012 at 6:17 pm

    Hi Mark, well at my age getting down is no problem! it’s the getting up lol. especially if squatting for any length of time, thank you for the tip on the Raynox. Sorry I forgot to give you one of the web sites i’m on so have added a link, having seen your photo I do not expect you to be impressed lol. but to me even at 76 photography is an on going thing, that’s why I try to encourage the young!, there is nothing more annoying than some of us old gits putting youngsters off! that’s one thing I can’t understand. best regards and thank you for your answer, I also do photo manipulations, you can see them at this link, Leon.

    • Mark said, on 04/09/2012 at 3:45 am

      I do it because I enjoy it, is there another criteria? And the more you do a thing the more you enjoy it, unless you’re just a grumpy old bugger, and the more you enjoy it the better you are at it. All you need is love … :)

      I wonder though if I’ll be able to get up at 76, 20 to go and already feeling it.

  54. Leon Arditti. said, on 02/09/2012 at 2:08 am

    Hi Mark, you appear to have the bug lol. if you get my meaning! I at the age of 76 have that same bug and am none technical where photography is concerned, I not long ago bought a monster of a camera a Fuji HS20EXR with a 30 zoom plus a Raynox DCR-150 macro lens, all my macro shots are hand held and as you need to use the Raynox at 30 zoom it’s a bit like waving a stick about at times and takes a while to master the art of using it. your idea of a stick sounds a great idea and one I should have thought of as it makes sense. I have just recently yesterday in fact won two awards for one of my photo’s so pleased at that. My main aim apart from enjoying what I do is to encourage younger people to take up photography, as a hobby even if later in life like me or as an occupation if good enough, so I hope you won’t mind if I pass your link on to others. I in this short time looking at your photo’s have learnt some things for that I thank you, regards Leon.

    • Mark said, on 02/09/2012 at 3:48 pm

      Hello Leon. It’s A bug, for sure. The unceasing call to peace of mind. And I have a few means to it, macro is great entertainment and gives unprecedented insight into the wonder of our nature, even in such small things they can’t be discerned except under magnifying lenses. You know if you put the DCR 250 on that Pinocchio it won’t have such a long nose as with the 150 for the same magnification. Where are your pix? I see no site entered for you.

      No problem Leon, pass it on as you see fit. How’s that getting down and back up at 76 going? :)

  55. Jo said, on 16/07/2012 at 11:04 pm

    Hi Mark,
    I followed you here from Aus photoholics forum after being somewhat gobsmacked by the quality of your images.
    So glad I did, besides you providing details on how one might hope to create the same sort of magical insightful images into the bug world you create, you also espouse a philosophy that I think the world would benefit from.
    Sometimes I think I carry a camera just as an excuse to sit and watch the wonderful natural world.
    Thank you for providing good karma as well as inspiration.
    Jo (Phoenix)

    • Mark said, on 17/07/2012 at 12:40 am

      Hello Jo. It’s just my nature, glad to be of some assistance … :)

  56. [...] most amazing insect pictures and I’m not exaggerating. Nature’s Place has a Page titled Macro Illustrated, which describes the basic principles and practices of nature macro photography and includes [...]

  57. Maggie said, on 06/07/2012 at 8:07 am

    Can I ask what camerathis is? These are beautiful pictures, and I’m looking for an upgrade to my camera with good macro.

    • Mark said, on 06/07/2012 at 9:58 am

      Hi Maggie. It’s a Panasonic FZ50 + achromats, mentioned above. Once you have a halfway decent camera, just about any camera these days, it’s a matter of practise and you can get used to anything – as long as you get the lighting right.

      Work with what you have until it can’t do what you can …

  58. Darren said, on 22/05/2012 at 2:59 am

    Hello, Mark. Awesome blog. Can you tell me how you did the flash diffuser? How do you create those colors? I am amazed with how the colors turn out. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Mark said, on 22/05/2012 at 3:02 am

      Hello Darren, thanks. To get properly saturated colours I find it best to underexpose slightly, saturate to below overexposure and brighten up to correct exposure – where nothing is blown, or as little as possible. Contrast will also have an effect but once you stay within parameters it’s a subjective matter. Email on the way.

      Rgds. M

  59. wormspit said, on 18/05/2012 at 7:24 am

    Mark,

    I had another comment typed in, and had trouble logging in to post it, so if you get two, please disregard!

    I do a lot of insect photography. I raise silk moths, both domesticated and wild types, and also enjoy shooting images of the bugs in our busy organic back yard. I really enjoyed seeing your page, and reading your descriptions.

    I’m using a DSLR now (Canon T2i) with a macro lens, and I’m interested in making a lighting snoot like what you’re using. I did find you on the setup forum and saw the snoot; I can mostly visualize it, but it sounds like there are some tricky parts that I’m not likely to get right. Could you send me the template?

    Thanks!
    Michael Cook

    • Mark said, on 19/05/2012 at 3:08 am

      Hello Michael.

      Silkworming looks like a very involved business for you. And WormSpit a helpfully grounding name.

      Template is just sent, have been a bit busy planning and equipping for a trip across the top to the flowering deserts of WA – Sept to Nov – the plans of mice and men …

  60. Vicki said, on 03/05/2012 at 7:19 pm

    Thank you for your photos, your story, your generosity of spirit in sharing information and for being my photography mentor.
    regards,
    Hopefull (of getting a good image one day)

    • Mark said, on 04/05/2012 at 11:01 am

      Thanks Vicki. Better to focus on being relaxed and the image will come.

  61. SteveB said, on 27/04/2012 at 2:04 pm

    That is just the most amazing macro photography I have ever seen. You’re a great talent, and I’ve just bookmarked your site to show my freinds. Exceptional work.

    • Mark said, on 27/04/2012 at 4:29 pm

      Thanks SteveB. My best work probably goes on the front page though, it varies I suppose, sometimes picking the pics to fit the story.

  62. Tod Neiper said, on 24/04/2012 at 10:46 am

    I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already ;) Cheers!

    • Mark said, on 24/04/2012 at 6:02 pm

      Fame? I don’t think so. Notoriety perhaps? Forgotten, as we all end up – if we’re good. :)

  63. Rolf Stahnke said, on 23/04/2012 at 2:27 pm

    This is a great blog. thanks so much for all the information!

  64. asha.R said, on 17/03/2012 at 6:57 pm

    hi

  65. Peggy A Thompson said, on 05/03/2012 at 4:27 am

    Mark, your insect photos leave me in awe! Some of the very best I’ve seen! And I applaud you for divulging some of your camera techniques, as many “other” photographers would never think of giving away their secrets! And lastly, thank you for reminding photographers and many “would be” photographers that Auto Focus works just fine in many situations. Rule of thumb is sometimes “all thumbs,” if you know what I mean…and I think you do! Thank you so much for sharing this awesome niche of nature photography with the rest of the world! May the tiny world of insects put on their best runwaymodeling shows for you!

    • Mark said, on 05/03/2012 at 8:49 pm

      Thanks Peggy. It might look like a giveaway but to do it takes a right understanding and lot’s of practise – not many at all are willing enough to do it properly.

    • Keith Hatfull said, on 29/06/2012 at 8:48 am

      Funny you mention autofocus…I’ve begun using C-AF on my Olympus DSLRs under certain conditions. It’s quick enough to compensate for any movement in a plant that my subject happens to be on. While manual focus is usually never a bad idea I’ve come to appreciate good autofocus when available.

      • Mark said, on 01/07/2012 at 6:13 am

        It’s as well to use the best tool for the job, in other words. :) Though I only use AF with internally zooming/focusing lens.

  66. Ken Cameron said, on 02/03/2012 at 11:15 am

    Great article and lovely images. I just bought a raynox dcr-150 and thanks to your advice have made a good start on its use. I love your concept of photography as a meditation.

    One minor quibble. You write:

    “If we die out we won’t be missed by any other creature on earth. They don’t need us, for anything”

    I couldn’t agree with that. Dogs, for example, would be in a bad way if we died out. So would the myriad tiny creatures that live in and on our bodies. For better or for worse, we are part of the web of creation and we have interdependencies with many other creatures.

    • Mark said, on 02/03/2012 at 4:16 pm

      Thanks Ken. I think you’ll find if you approach it as a meditative practise your results will show it. Of course you (anybody) need to meditate on the basics of the subject to start with, but with the fundaments applied from the start it becomes second nature, and eventually it’s not forgotten.

      I take your point, any relatively domesticated creature, including the ones living on us, would miss us for a while. But it was just to make a point. We may be considered the pinnacle of intelligence (or its expression) in form on earth but we are not seperate from or above any part of it – contrary to the sub/conscious reality of the dominant culture. We don’t really disagree?

      And if the human race were to wipe out it wouldn’t be long before another form took its place, as the highest expression of intelligence on earth. It’s the intelligence that matters not the form of it. And it takes for the old to die for the new to be.

      The earth could easily survive our absence, if there was such a need.

  67. Alex (Felix on AIF) said, on 23/01/2012 at 4:48 pm

    Hi Mark,

    First off GREAT page, love the way you took me on a journey through your Macro adventure! I feel macro photography is a very personal experience with nature, almost private affair with your subject. I’ve just started getting into Macro (I found you off AIF), and I wanted to ask you a few questions;

    1) Can I get your opinion on my gear, I’m after the crisp, super macro shots you take and am currently using a Tamron 90mm 1:1 macro lens, a set of Kenko extension tubes all on a Canon EOS 600D… Question being, should I look at a DCR-250/150 to get that extra bit from my setup? Will it work on the 90mm?

    2) I’m also using a EX430II speedlite for illumination… should I be constructing and how a snoot like yours to assist?

    3) I also have a 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM and a 50mm f1.8… is there any variations of the above equipment and addition DCR parts that you would recommend.

    Thanks!

    • Mark said, on 23/01/2012 at 7:25 pm

      Thanks Alex. I remember you from the forum all right.

      Macro is a way only recently widely available for so many to see the wonder and beauty of a nature that has all too often been only seen in a utilitarian way, the “what’s it good for” mentality. Now it can so readily be seen it’s good in itself, even in the smallest of things and creatures. There is an indescribable and undeniable intelligence behind the creation, whatever one calls it, doesn’t really matter anymore.

      Q1. For sharp images lighting is key. And for the best lighting at macro magnifications you need the motion stopping power of flash. A tripod and natural light will do if nothing moves, the light is right and the equipment is up to the job, and that’s not impossible, but it’s not sustainable all day any day.

      The motion stopping power of flash is increased the shorter the duration of the flash pulse. To keep the pulse short you have to get your light as close to the subject as possible without loss, at the right apparent size for the subject – think diffusing umbrella to human head, a little smaller ratio – and properly diffused so the light isn’t making any hot spots on the diffusion material. It’s all in the text above, it just needs doing to get the feel for it.

      The tubes and/or the achromats will work on the lens. Each will have different effects and again you need to experiment to see what works for you. Have a look at this thread on various setups : How They Do That?

      Q2. You could use a flash bracket with a ball on it for the angles with a snoot made from a good sized plastic bowl (see link above), you could adapt a snoot like mine. Mine works best within certain distances – again because of apparent light size, to subject, and proximity, which affects everything else about the lighting. Of course flash can also be used as fill instead of full, which is often best and gives you some motion stopping power and reduces the criticality of proximity/apparent size/pulse rate, but stability becomes more critical the more natural light you include in your pictures. So there is always a trade-off.

      Q3. You could always use the 50mm reversed (wide open, control from the 85mm) on the 85mm with a F to F step ring of the appropriate filter thread sizes, and see what you get across the zoom range. Or the 50mm reversed to the body for very high mags, then you have aperture control issues – which can be worked around. You could also stack the 150 on the 250 on the 85 but you won’t get a lot of mags out of that. Achromats are a good way of using long FL prime lenses.

      ***Experiment is the key, to find what works for you. On that link, check what kind of images a member is getting with his setup – not everything works as you might think. And some members setups have changed from the start of that thread and updated or reposted their new one later in the thread so if you want to see what they were getting with it then you will have to go back in their profile/posts to see – match the dates.

      • Alex (Felix on AIF) said, on 24/01/2012 at 4:23 pm

        Thanks for the reply Mark!

        After reading your post and that thread a few times, I’m thinking about trying a Tele Converter and maybe a Achromat like the Raynox. Experimentation is absolutely the key!

        Another question;

        You refer to setting your saturation low… I have a ‘Picture Style’ where I can set a User Defined detail set of sharpness 0 to 7 and contrast, saturation and colour tone -4 to +4. Would I do best to set all these apart from sharpness to 0 or -4 to allow most control in post production in combination with underexposing?

        Thanks again!

        • Mark said, on 24/01/2012 at 7:25 pm

          I’d just adjust for a little less than I want since it’s easier to bump it up than to take it down.

  68. Bernard De Cuyper said, on 19/01/2012 at 8:53 pm

    Hi,

    Using a diffuser is a wonderful idea. I will try it..

    Best regards, Bernard

  69. Bill Mackie said, on 17/12/2011 at 1:45 am

    Mark…your pics are awesome! and thanks for showing them… I too have a Panny G1 and am about to get a Raynox 150. My Question is would it be ok to use the Raynox on my 14 to 45mm Panny kit lens or would I be better to use the 45 to 200mm Panny kit lens. I am new to macro so any advice would be most appreciated.
    Kind regards
    Bill.

    • Mark said, on 17/12/2011 at 12:06 pm

      Hi Bill. The Achromat will magnify what’s there so I’d put it on the 200mm, you can always zoom out. Another option is the Oly MCON40, a +2 dioptre gives you a WD of 40cm, good for b/flies and Dragonflies.

      • Bill Mackie said, on 19/12/2011 at 9:24 pm

        Hi Mark,
        Many thanks for the advice and info, I will see if I can get hold the Oly lens you suggest. I do already have some dioptres so can’t wait to give them a go on the 200mm also.
        I will let you know how I get on.
        Kind regards
        Bill.
        PS Happy Christmas to you and yours.

        • Mark said, on 20/12/2011 at 12:11 am

          Hi Bill. Just try out what you have and you’ll find something that works or at least what doesn’t. :)

      • Bill Mackie said, on 27/12/2011 at 7:00 am

        Hi Mark…..when using the G1 and 45 – 200mm lens with the Raynox 150 attached, do you set the camera to macro mode?
        Kind regards
        Bill.

        • Mark said, on 27/12/2011 at 8:13 pm

          Just experiment Bill, see what works best for you.

  70. Scotty McAdam said, on 08/12/2011 at 8:03 pm

    Mark mate i hope that everything is going really really well.
    Your site is getting bigger and better every day and that makes me so happy.
    Id still love to catch up one day and just watch you from a distance what you do and hopefully enjoy the silence of nature with you!.
    And please people i beg you. If this page makes you smile. if it inspired you. If it helped you. Donate to keep this fantastic photographer and fantastic man giving us all what we love and enjoy!.
    Thanks again mate.
    Scottymc

    • Mark said, on 09/12/2011 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks again Scotty. I’m sure what is coming is coming. Maybe see you some time.

      All the best mate. M

  71. John Chapman said, on 03/11/2011 at 11:06 am

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures and interesting techniques.
    I would appreciate details of your flash snoot.

    thanks,
    John

  72. Tony said, on 30/10/2011 at 10:08 am

    Hi Mark I have been looking at your photos and they blow me away, there is so much detail absolutely brilliant. I was thinking of a new camera and was wondering if the new canon superzoom sx40hs with maybe a raynox 250 lens would be any good for this quality of macro photography. I do realize that there is a hell of a lot of skill and experience involved in your photos but I thought I may as well try to get some advice from you as to your recommendations. I also do a lot of fishing and photograph lots of wildlife so I like the portability and capability of the superzooms, I also keep some native bees so I would love to get some great close ups.
    Regards Tony.

    • Mark said, on 30/10/2011 at 12:06 pm

      Hello Tony. I can’t really answer your question about the SX40 since I haven’t used it and so much comes down to how a cam is used. See what the reviews say, I saw one and it looked good. I understand it’s just an updated SX30 so one of those would be cheap and probably just as good. I understand it is 35x (eq over 800mm FL) so the R150 would do to start with. It’s best to graduate through magnifications to get used to the diminishing DOF, otherwise you get few or no keepers and risk frustration overtaking endeavour. You can always add the 150 to the 250 later. I still use the FZ50 mostly, with both 250 and 150 stacked on it.

      What kind of bees are you keeping, stingless/sugarback? Other?

      • Tony said, on 30/10/2011 at 9:10 pm

        Hi again Mark and thanks for such a quick reply and I regard your opinion very highly for obvious reasons you really are very skilled in the art of macro. I keep stingless bees which are very common up here in the NT, I see the photo of the stingless amongst your collection and it is a great shot but you make look easy with so many great shots. I have also been reading your blog and it is very informative, you seem to inspire many people into this form of photography both on here a the Australian Photography website.
        Hopefully I can send you some of my own photos when I master the art.
        Keep up the great work Mark.
        Regards Tony.

  73. johnholding said, on 05/10/2011 at 1:09 pm

    Well Mark, you certainly are a master in your trade. It is not often one finds such detailed and beautiful work in the macro discipline. Really enjoyed reading through your blog on your techniques. Certainly points the way for me and no doubt others.

    • Mark said, on 07/10/2011 at 2:47 am

      Just doing my best John. It helps to enjoy it too.

  74. Niall Hastie said, on 04/10/2011 at 7:17 pm

    A really interesting and insightful article, well done.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it, and also looking at the simply brilliant photographs you have taken.

    Macro is an area of my photography that I am keen to explore more fully, having dabbled in the past with it, mainly on flower photography though. Your article really opened my eyes to what is possible, and within reach if just a little thought and care is applied to the project.

    Truly outstanding work, thanks for the inspiration!

    I would be very interested to see your template/design for your flash snoot if that is possible also.

    Keep up the great work.
    Thanks
    Niall

    • Mark said, on 04/10/2011 at 11:14 pm

      Thanks Niall. I am just getting started on flowers, wonderful little creatures they are, but tend to stay still. :)

      I’ll send the template soon. M

  75. Brian Bellisario said, on 03/10/2011 at 1:56 am

    Mark,
    WOW. Your photos are incredible. I’m really amazed, and very inspired. Thank you so much for posting such a helpful article, it’s very refreshing to see someone with so much talent so willing to help people and share tips/techniques.

    I do have one question. You say that you usually stop down the aperture as far as possible. Does this mean all the way to f/32? I’ve read that stopping down so far will hurt the sharpness of the picture, or is it a negligible amount?

    Also, I would be very grateful for a copy of your diffuser instructions. Thank you so much for everything!

    • Mark said, on 03/10/2011 at 5:42 am

      Thanks Brian. I stop down all the way on the FZ50, to f11. Diffraction does play a part at some point an bigger cams, around f16, but if light is good you may get away with smaller. I’m still experimenting with the G1 and old lenses too. I’ll send the template asap. M

  76. Z Joya said, on 19/09/2011 at 5:26 pm

    Hello, Mark. Awesome blog. Can you tell me how you did the flash diffuser? How do you create those colors? I am amazed with how the colors turn out. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    Z

    • Mark said, on 21/09/2011 at 9:00 pm

      Thanks Z. Mail is on the way. Colour is a product of the cam and always underexposing a little for saturation. I like the jpeg engine of the cams I use, they don’t presume a lot of pp in expensive software. Plus I push it as far as it will go in pp without blowing or overdoing it, no real work at all.

  77. Arlan said, on 09/09/2011 at 10:34 am

    Hi Mark,

    Great photos!

    Is your snoot applicable to a DSLR’s pop-up flash? Can you send me the plan how to make a snoot like yours?

    Arlan

    • Mark said, on 10/09/2011 at 8:37 am

      Thanks Arlan. No reason why not. Will send soon.

  78. Peter Oostendorp said, on 07/09/2011 at 8:53 pm

    Mark,
    I use a canon 40D and a Canon 100mm Macro lens, I use Photoshop CS4, I can get many good macro images but my biggest problem is digital noise and sharpening. I noted in your article that you use Picasa for basic image editing but you use another program for sharpening and noise control, can you advise which program you are using? I have found as you have that underexposing gives richer colours and less specular highlights but then the noise gets extreme in the shadows and dark tone areas, so I tend to expose more and loose the colours etc. I often use the on board flash and a Metz flash on a bracket set to the side, I will have to try your method of diffusing the light to reduce the specular highlights, I have photgraphed metalic cockoo wasps and been very disapointed with all the highlights distracting from the brilliant colours. I live in QLD and photographed many of the creatures you have.
    Thanks for the beaut article, many great ideas to try.
    Regards

    Peter O

    • Mark said, on 07/09/2011 at 11:14 pm

      Hello Peter. I’ve seen some of your bees on aussiebees.com, good stuff. I use NeatImage for noise and sharpening, only trouble is I can’t do either selectively, but don’t need to mostly. I’m sure you can get a plugin for CS4 – once you have the technique it all comes down to lighting. Some of what I wrote on the subject is deceptively simple, you need to work at visualizing it and put it into practise until you get what you want – appropriate light size, to object – good diffusion, no hot spots on the surface and no undue blocking the light – proximity, related to apparent size, for shortest flash pulse – backgrounds for reflection – all interrelated to produce ‘good’ lighting. It’s the principles that matter. Topaz plugin/s is said to be the best these days??

  79. Martin said, on 07/09/2011 at 5:35 am

    I am in awe.
    I thought I was taking decent shots with my canon xsi w/ 100mm macro but they just do not compare with yours at all. Is it my camera or me? I use a Panasonic Lumix ZS3 as my p&s and have it takes great pictures (often better than my xsi for regular and macro). Now that I see your shots taken with a Pan it makes me wonder if I should sell my camera and buy a FZ. Do you have an opinion of the canon macro vs your FZ50 with macro?

    • Mark said, on 07/09/2011 at 11:01 pm

      Hello Martin. The more recent shots are by the Panny G1 and Oly 50/f2 with R250 or 150 on, see here http://www.beingmark.com The fact is it doesn’t really matter what you use as long as it suits you. The article above is written from using what suits me. I have described the principles and they are applicable no matter what you use, you have to make the necessary adjustments for your gear. You have to spend the time at it. Sorry, can’t recommend anything I don’t or haven’t used.

  80. Kate Everitt said, on 26/08/2011 at 9:43 pm

    Fantastic information, very useful and realistic, not pie in the sky stuff. You brought it all to a level I could understand. Beautiful shots, you have inspired me to continue. I’m using an HS10 with a raynox dcr250 macro attachment on the front end of it and failing desperately, now I see that light is the answer, any chance of instructions on snoot construction please I would be very grateful.

    Thank you for taking the time to show us your work and expain it all so well

    Kate

  81. chris de schepper said, on 16/08/2011 at 8:50 pm

    very interesting to read your ideas. First of all I admire your pictures very much and I like your minimalist approach as well as your filosofical mind. Very refreshing and different

  82. Augustin Man said, on 06/08/2011 at 4:10 am

    I’m only a humble photo hobbyist, but I’ve always been fascinated by the insect world, so your images actually took my breath away! Besides your outstanding skill as a photographer, I’ve discovered that you are also in deep love with the world of these tiny and fantastic creatures.

    I wish all the best and happy shooting,

    Augustin

  83. allegory in the sky said, on 01/08/2011 at 2:42 pm

    Just simply splendid. You make the insects more beautiful than a real life encounter. Some of these guys I wouldn’t want to be walking around to close though. I can see where the movies gets their inspiration. Very enjoyable to look at all your beautiful work.

  84. Colin Fry said, on 27/07/2011 at 3:09 am

    Thanks for your insight, it has given me a whole new frontier to explore.

    Thanks again,
    Colin

  85. Tom Bennett said, on 27/07/2011 at 2:26 am

    Hi Mark,

    Fabulous site and good info! I am keen to get started!

    Would you please send me your template for the flash snoot ?

    regards

    Tom

  86. rg rawlins said, on 26/07/2011 at 2:26 am

    A great tutorial for practical macro work. I really enjoyed this and of course the shots are excellent. I agree with your use of flash as your shutter. Also, the achromats are a relatively inexpensive door to macro compared with purpose built macro lenses. Thanks.

  87. Stephen Noel said, on 26/07/2011 at 12:53 am

    Just found this and am very glad. Been dabbling in macro a bit over the years, but not mastered it yet. Some great information here. Especially the flash setup!

    I find that my wife and I have both cameras in house, mentioned here. Except our FZ is the 30 not the 50.

    Fashioned a close-up adapter by disassembling an old zoom lens and keeping the front 1 inch section that has 2 glass elements in it. Super Glued reversing adapter to rear, with 49mm male thread exposed. When threaded on front of various lenses, gives differing macro results and still has the 58mm thread on front for hood, etc.

    Again Thanks,

    Steve

    • Mark said, on 26/07/2011 at 3:11 am

      Thanks Steve, a good use of old lenses. Send me a link to pix (taken by and of it), would like to see.

      • Stephen Noel said, on 01/08/2011 at 10:50 am

        Mark,
        I have only just started my photo bucket, and put a few picks as trial run. I’ve been “clickin” for over 50 years as a hobby, and am still trying to get it “right”
        Adapter has a reversing ring glued and taped to rear with 55mm male thread exposed for threading to filter thread of lenses.
        So far, the “adapter” from front element of an old zoom lens has been used on the front of a Konica 50mm f1.4, a Vivitar 24mm 2.8 in OM mount and the OM 35-70mm, with very good first tries. I have some more pics taken with various combinations. Will post them later to P B.

        http://s1191.photobucket.com/home/snkenai/index

        Thanks, Steve

        • Mark said, on 01/08/2011 at 11:48 am

          Thanks Steve. If my FZ50 ever fails I’ll do something like that with it. So far it’s only the outside bits that are falling off. ((:

          The glass is too good to throw away.

  88. Stuart said, on 12/07/2011 at 8:53 pm

    Wow!!!
    What an amazing website. Your images are truly wonderful and thought provoking Mark.
    I followed your link from APF. Although I have been ‘snapping’ for more years than I care to remember I have usually done family shots and motor sport action. Seeing your efforts has inspired me to attempt some macro shots on my new 7d. I feel like I have discovered photography all over again.
    Can you please send me the template of your flash snoot Mark?

    Thank you,

    Stuart

  89. Jenny Smillie said, on 10/07/2011 at 9:07 am

    Hi Mark, amazing and so inspirational.
    Can you please send me the template for your snoot? Thanks

    • Mark said, on 10/07/2011 at 3:38 pm

      Hi Jenny. You should have that now.

    • Jenny Smillie said, on 10/07/2011 at 6:06 pm

      Hi again Mark, thanks for sending me the template, I have now made my snoot. It works well, although for some reason using the bellows, i am not able to adjust the flash compensation and some images are a little bright.
      Question – I’m having trouble getting the focus right. I have three lens (18-55mm, 55-200mm, 50mm). All have manual focus option. But I cant seem to get it right. What am i doing wrong?
      Secondly, using the bellows, I can barely see anything through the viewfinder, actually the 55-200mm allows me to see clearest, but again, the focus issues.
      I did manage to get a few good pics, but few and far between, plus I struggled to find any critters as my subjects…. :-(
      I have the bellows set to 75mm.
      Any pointers, or questions, please let me know… I’m trying to be patient.. :)

  90. Ineke said, on 27/06/2011 at 2:11 pm

    Hi Mark

    I found this site through 1x and I am blown away by the amazing macro photography, you have opened up a whole new world that the naked eye cant see!
    I became totally engrossed in your explanations and when it came to equipment I was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of some of it.
    I would love to give macro photography a go and a few months ago purchased a Bower digital macro filter kit with 1x, 2x, 4x and 10x magnification. Would something like that be suitable if I use it on my 18-270mm lens, or would I be better off using it with my fixed 50mm portrait lens?
    Thanks again for sharing you wonderful photos!

    Regards
    Ineke

    • Mark said, on 27/06/2011 at 3:18 pm

      Hello Ineke. It is indeed an amazing world usually unseen at our feet.

      I have never used Bower so can’t tell the quality but Dipotre’s work best on long FL lenses so the 270 for sure. The 50 is best reversed to the body or another short lens, but very high magnification – see previous replies for info on that.

      To avoid the frustration of a low keeper rate to begin with just say thank you, to nothing in particular, for the simple wonder and pleasure of nature. ((: M

  91. Star B. Prior said, on 23/06/2011 at 7:17 pm

    Hi Mark! Amazing photos! I love nature and I’m a science teacher. So I’ve always been fascinated with the insect world. I’ve always wanted to do macro photography. But I don’t have a dSLR just yet. I’m thinking that, with my busy schedule right now, I may not be able to maximize its use. But I’m inspired by your photos. So I’m seriously thinking of getting a dSLR soon. Any idea which model works best for macro photography but not too complicated for a novice like me?

    Would appreciate ideas. Saving your page so I can go back to it from time to time and learn more. Thanks. I’m new here by the way.

    Star

    • Mark said, on 24/06/2011 at 3:55 am

      Hi Star. First off you don’t need a DSLR to do macro. I’ll keep it simple; all camera’s are good for macro, in their way, and the only one I’d recommend is the one I use. Having read the above post – which needs updating – you know I have use/d the Panasonic FZ50 with achromats attached. Now I primarily use the Panasonic G1 (micro 4/3′s) with the Olympus 50/f2 macro lens attached + achromat – other lenses will be added for greater versatility and magnification, and ‘IQ’.

      What you get depends on what you want to shoot, flowers, insects, big or small. And whether you want the cam/lens to double as a telephoto, and how much money you spend. And so many other factors it’s impossible for me to say. As you become interested enough you will gravitate to some setup or other, or you won’t become interested enough and you will decide on something, or not.

      I suggest you google ‘macro forum’ then search for ‘setup’ (or ask for links). You have seen mine and what I get with it, now have a look at what everyone else is using. It varies so much once you get past the Canon and 100mm or MPE. Also look at the few micro four thirds (m4/3) fora.

      Whatever you get it will be best to

        graduate

      to higher magnification, through practise, lots of it.

      • Star B. Prior said, on 17/07/2011 at 6:22 pm

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. Will look at those fora that you suggested. Yes, I’m the type who reads lots of reviews before buying something, especially if it costs a bit.

        I thoroughly enjoy all your photos. Thank you for sharing them. It inspires me a lot. Will look forward for more…

        Star

      • Star B. Prior said, on 20/07/2011 at 3:11 am

        I got another question, if you don’t mind…

        Been reading through some fora about macro photography and I came across Raynox DCR 250 that is compatible with my Canon Powershot SX10 IS. Do you any idea about it? I’ve browsed thru photos taken with that combo and so far I have not seen anything that’s as nice as yours. Is it impossible to get photo quality like yours using non-dedicated macro lenses?

        Thanks again for any help.

        • Mark said, on 20/07/2011 at 9:19 am

          The Raynox are high quality achromats and won’t, AFAIK, degrade the image on a good lens. I use them to good effect. Olympus, Canon, Nikon, etc, etc also make achromats. It’s the lighting and diffusion many can’t seem to get right – have another read of the article above.

          The 250 is a +8 strength dioptre, the 150 a + 4.5 dioptre – magnification strength, and the stronger the dioptre the shorter the Working Distance – 4″ for the 250 and 8″ for the 150 (app). I stack the 150 on the 250 on the FZ50 for a WD of 2 inches. I also use other achromats on other lenses and vary my lighting to suit.

          You can’t go wrong with the achromat (not cheap macro filters) for anywhere between 50 and 100. If I were you I’d start with the 150 and get used to the shallow dof, or get them both and play.

          No problem. ((:

      • Star B. Prior said, on 20/07/2011 at 1:30 pm

        Thanks, Mark. I think I’ll get both. … time to practice.

  92. lucy said, on 22/06/2011 at 2:31 am

    Hi Mark,

    Loving your work so much that I’m going to have a go with my Panasonic FZ38. Was thinking of getting either the Canon 250d or perhaps the Raynox 150 or 250 for shooting insect macros – what would recommend for a novice. Also interested in a template to make up a flash diffuser if you have one, please.

    Many thanks.

    Lucy

    • Mark said, on 22/06/2011 at 2:45 am

      Hi Lucy.

      I’d say start with the 150 and work with that for a while. It takes time to get used to the shallow dof, and practise to get any good at it. I’m not familiar with the FZ38, I suppose you could attach it to the lens with a step ring – perhaps you already know what to do. Diffuser template and info sent by email.

      All the best. M

  93. Stuart said, on 20/06/2011 at 12:50 am

    Hi again. I have pm’d you about this but in the event it doesn’t work its way round the world to you, can I effectively use an achromatic lens with a 100mm macro lens to improve magnification?
    Once again congratulations on this site, absolutely exceptional!

    • Mark said, on 20/06/2011 at 2:00 am

      Of course, achromats work best on longer FL. Just make sure the glass is good, you get what you pay for.

  94. Stuart said, on 19/06/2011 at 7:07 pm

    Oh my, these shots are stunning. I have just stumbled across your site and am so glad I did. I have struggled with Macro for some time, your work is an inspiration to try some new techniques.

    • Mark said, on 19/06/2011 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks Stuart. It’s not that difficult, but does require practise.

  95. Erica Siegel said, on 13/06/2011 at 5:54 pm

    Hi Mark
    I really enjoyed your article, it kind of reflects my views and I use a Panasonic FZ18 with a Raynox 250 I
    Just cannot use the flash once the converter is set to on which means some shots have harsh light or hot spots.
    The Panny is great, light and mobile but the noise is a detraction.
    I would have loved to come to your workshop at Indigiscape but am otherwise engaged on that day.
    I bet it will be fun.
    I love bugs and love your shots !!
    Erica

    • Mark said, on 13/06/2011 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks Erica. Indigiscapes is off for now. Email sent to you on other stuff.

  96. Vincent said, on 11/06/2011 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Thank you so much for sharing with us such wonderful photos and most important of all, your technique. Would appreciate if you could send me a copy of your diffusion instructions!!!
    Thanks so much.

    • Mark said, on 13/06/2011 at 7:18 pm

      Hello Vincent. That’s done, trust it works.

  97. Peter Hall said, on 20/04/2011 at 9:34 pm

    Always admired your images Mark. I think your colours and diffusion are just about the best I’ve seen. So my question that I have (and I’m sure everyone one else has too) – could you post a macro flash diffusion ‘how to’? Would love to see how ‘the master’ gets those glossy colours!

    Cheers

    Pete aka galadial

    • Mark said, on 20/04/2011 at 9:38 pm

      Hello Peter.

      I have the standard mail sent to you with a template. Am also working on new diffusion and will post something when I’m done, don’t know when. Any questions just ask. And if anyone else wants a copy of my diffusion instructions let me know.

      Rgds. M

      • Keith Tate said, on 09/06/2011 at 10:20 am

        I would very much like to have a copy of your diffusion instructions!!! Thanks so much.

        Keith

  98. Sem said, on 29/03/2011 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Mark,
    I have read/look at your wonderful blog on macro photography and would love to try it out. My camera is a DSLR (canon 400D) with 2 lens ( 18-55mm and a 75-300mm). I am not so good at macro.
    Would appreciate some answers to a few questions:
    - What brand of achromatic lens do you use – I presume the quality is really important looking at how good your photos are!
    -I am thinking of starting at low end cost and buying a canon 250D (+4 dioptre) achromatic len and using it on the 18-55mm lens.
    Will this give me sufficient “enlargement” of say a bumble bee(about 1.5cm) to have a decent image on screen; maybe “life size”?
    -How will the above change if I use it on the 75-300mm? This setup will be difficult to control as the lens is rather long and heavy.
    -Any other advice will be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance Mark.

    Sem

    • Mark said, on 29/03/2011 at 10:43 pm

      Hello Sem.

      Rather than put an achromat on the 55mm look here : http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/663112 You can also reverse another short FL lens to the 55mm.

      The achromat will only magnify what’s there so it’s better on the 300mm than the 55mm. I use Raynox but the Canon is good. For achromats look here : http://www.ki.tng.de/~sgude/achromats.html

      Apart from what I use the best I could recommend is a 1:1 macro lens and achromats for when you want to get closer. On a Canon the best is the MPE 65mm – 1:1 – 5:1, with Telemore when you need lower mags, see here : http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/927952

      And no matter what else you have or know, if the light isn’t right you’ll get second rate pix.

      All the best. Mark

  99. jamyun said, on 14/01/2011 at 1:40 pm

    This is my 3rd time reading this post..your infor..useful..highly appreciated Mark

    • Mark said, on 17/01/2011 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks Jamiun. Only the third time ..? ((:

      • Jamiun Micheal said, on 31/01/2012 at 5:54 pm

        Today 31 of January 2012, i’m here on this page. Read again..now..i understand your key point in this post..after experienced some practice..i feel enjoy..i dont know why..but that is a fact..

        Thanks Mark..

        • Mark said, on 31/01/2012 at 7:03 pm

          That’s good Michael. Maybe when you can see what it is you will tell me?

  100. James Niland said, on 02/01/2011 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you, this was more than I expected but just what I was looking for.

    Taking macro shots of bugs has not only made me appreciate those beautiful small creatures but also the plants they’re on and the whole local ecology.

    Love your shots
    James

    • Mark said, on 02/01/2011 at 8:59 pm

      You are welcome James. Yes, once you see the beauty of colour and form of the usually unseen creatures you have to respect their simple right to being.

  101. Terry Branscombe said, on 22/11/2010 at 7:17 am

    Mark,

    I’d like to echo all the praise other folks have offerred you. The images you’ve shared here with us are outstanding in their composition, colour, and sharpness. You also have a vastly more interesting bug population that we do around here!

    I initially found my way to your sight while searching for macro flash brackets, and was very impressed with your design for its simplicity and light weight. I’ve constructed one of my own based on your design, so THANK YOU, but I am baffled by your statement that it can be rotated to shoot from right or left of the lens. Judging from the lack of questions here about this, I guess I’m not grasping the obvious, so my apologies to you and your readers for asking that you put up one or two more images that show how your setup can be used from the sides.

    Thanks again!
    Terry

    • Mark said, on 22/11/2010 at 11:26 am

      Thanks Terry. In the first pic of the snoot it is turned all the way over to the (our) left, the fulcrum is a point – as in pointy – where it rests on the centre of the lens. And if it is turned on that point it will go all the way over to the (our) right. The shape of the snoot at the lens is a V, it doesn’t fit the curve of the lens – as some have mistaken.

  102. John said, on 16/11/2010 at 8:23 pm

    Hi Mark, thankyou for a personal tour of your macro world. I am facinated by your work.Thanks for explaining it in a way even I can understand.Im motivated,
    John

  103. Bob Barrett said, on 09/11/2010 at 3:19 am

    Thanks for the look Mark. Great shotz. I spend a great deal of time, in my retirement, sitting and waiting on birds. I have devised a few feeders and strategies also and aside from the obvious joy of getting a good shot, it’s really the sitting and being quiet that matters most to me.
    It’s kinda like fishing but without harming any living creature….you wait and watch and every now and then, you get a response.
    I think you should try to sell one of the photo magazines on using your pictures and text. If you are not into that, thanks for sharing with folks on the web. I look forward to seeing more of your great work.
    Best,

    Bob

    • Mark said, on 09/11/2010 at 11:52 pm

      Hi Bob. It takes a lifetime to appreciate the value of being here and then we have to leave. Irony is built into this existence, or is it contradiction. ((:

  104. Helen said, on 07/11/2010 at 5:59 pm

    Wow Mark, These photos are absolutely stunning. Your article is so full on interest. I love the Macro world, and have a Macro lens, which I love using. Now I hope to become a little more proficient after reading your article.

    Cheers,

    Helen

    • Mark said, on 09/11/2010 at 11:51 pm

      Hello Helen. It just takes practise – like anything worthwhile.

  105. Mark said, on 07/11/2010 at 2:04 pm

    Mark,

    Thanks ever so much for freely sharing how you create your stunning images. You’re a prime example that a true artist doesn’t require the finest tools to create their art and your mindful presence really comes through in your photos.

    You’ve inspired me to give this a try myself…yet another way to enjoy nature :)

    Mark

    • Mark said, on 09/11/2010 at 11:49 pm

      Thanks Mark. Art, really, is in the perception there is a world of wonder – light and beauty – behind that makes this one shine. It’s the connection that’s conveyed, isn’t it.

  106. Charlotte said, on 06/11/2010 at 7:59 am

    Truly gorgeous works of art……your work is amazing….my daughter…a photographer…sent this to me and I am thrilled ….I don’t understand most of the technical jargon but that’s ok as I appreciate the art and to me that is what is important….although your information seemed quite useful….thank you for sharing your beauty and expertise with the world…..Char

  107. Tammie said, on 06/11/2010 at 7:36 am

    Hi Mark,
    This is a wonderful post and your photos are breathtaking. What an amazing world we are part of. Insects are art, magnificent and crazy! Thank you for sharing how you go about things. I rarely read about photography and you captured my attention. Thank you.

    • Mark said, on 09/11/2010 at 11:45 pm

      Yes Tammie. Insects are art. It’s an amazing art we live, and die, in.

  108. Paula said, on 04/11/2010 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Mark!
    Your work is superb! Really really superb!!!
    Thankyou so much for sharing your photography tips with us.
    I’ve read this post twice now and have bookmarked it to come back and read it again.
    You’ve certainly inspired me to get some close up filters, get outside and stalk some poor unsuspecting bugs in the backyard (without getting stung)
    thanks again
    Paula

  109. David (dykat) said, on 04/11/2010 at 12:17 am

    Thanks Mark. I throughly enjoyed reading this article. Understand most concept and appreciate your sharing. A great effort indeed.

  110. Jim Griepenburg said, on 28/10/2010 at 11:18 am

    Beautiful informative and a wonderful philosophy. I actually know most of the technical items you present but have lacked the perseverance and fortitude to put them in action. You give inspiration.

    • Mark said, on 31/10/2010 at 11:37 am

      Thanks Jim. Yes, knowing is one thing, doing is something else.

  111. anipics said, on 23/10/2010 at 6:27 pm

    oh my God! your pictures are brilliant and beautiful. those sharpens and colors… simply ingeniously!

  112. Kim K. said, on 23/10/2010 at 8:38 am

    I clicked on this page because I love macro photography – WOW! These guys look crazy awesome. Great photography.

  113. Vee Ladwa said, on 23/10/2010 at 1:48 am

    Simply amazing.

  114. Martin Hellewell said, on 03/10/2010 at 9:31 am

    Hi Mark,

    Very many thanks for this very informative article. I’ll certainly be trying out your advice and hoping for pictures even a fraction as good as your ultra-brilliant shots. Well done and thanks for sharing.

    I also admire your philosophy and feel that many would-be photographers could usefully spend more time just being there and seeing what happens, not just with macro photography but also with landscape, street etc.

    Cheers,

    Martin

    • Mark said, on 31/10/2010 at 11:36 am

      Thanks Martin, your comments are appreciated.

  115. Mark said, on 09/08/2010 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks all, glad you enjoyed it.

  116. Joshua Rose said, on 05/08/2010 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you! Aside from the amazing images, I like the underlying curiosity and respect you show your subjects and collaborators.

    • Mark said, on 31/10/2010 at 12:04 am

      Thanks Joshua. A little more respect never harmed anyone or thing.

  117. Jason Asher said, on 04/08/2010 at 9:35 pm

    Hi Mark, Jason from the BP forums here. I just wanted to say this was a fantastic article, many thanks to you for sharing your knowledge and simple wisdom. I especially liked the last few paragraphs there. Well done mate, would definitely be interested in your book when it happens.

    All the best mate
    Jason

  118. Bill Nicholls said, on 04/08/2010 at 4:55 pm

    Excellent work. Enjoyable read, and I understood the process.

    Cheers

    Bill

  119. Ross said, on 04/08/2010 at 4:19 pm

    Fantastic insight into the world of macro – thanks for sharing what works for you and look forward to having a go at finding what works for me!

    • Mark said, on 31/10/2010 at 12:01 am

      Thanks Ross. You gotta get stuck in, but you know that.

  120. Ailsa said, on 04/08/2010 at 12:39 pm

    Wonderful article and It has inspired me to keep trying and will look at just how you go about your process, in detail. Thank you so much.

    • Mark said, on 31/10/2010 at 12:00 am

      You are welcome Ailsa. Practise is a big part of doing anything well.

  121. Excellent article.

    The description of your light modifiers, plus the stick support, was excellent, and may prove useful in one way or another to me.

    I also liked the way you described the practical and natural approach to insect macro, respectful of their lives , habits and environment. What everybody should do.

    Cheers,

    Marc

    • Mark said, on 04/08/2010 at 2:52 am

      Thanks Marc. Your comments are appreciated.

  122. Paul Lewis said, on 03/08/2010 at 7:20 am

    Thank you for a thoroughly enlightening Macro article. I have loved taking macro pictures for years, but few have come close to the quality of yours.

    I hope you decide to continue with this blog, and eventually publish your book. You are an inspiration.

    Thanks

    Paul

  123. Jim Barnaby said, on 03/08/2010 at 3:36 am

    Mark
    This a wonderful job you have done explaining macro and many of it’s aspects. Your images of course are outstanding just as they always are in the WCU.

    The best part is that you have shown that it can be done without thousands of dollars in the latest and greatest equipment. Something that most people feel is necessary. Oddly enough, even with the best gear, most can not touch the IQ you get.

    I might suggest a second camera to shoot you in action to show your techniques. I find that many people feel that they could never get as close as I do until I show them. After that, they find they can do it themselves.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jim

    • Mark said, on 03/08/2010 at 7:34 pm

      Hi Jim. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Necessity is the mother of invention – old but true saying. If I had the thousands I’d probably spend some so I could find the optimal macro – rig for me.

      There are two reasons people – with the best gear – don’t get the same IQ. One is stability, the other is lighting. But lighting is the real key, I might have a look and see if I can describe what I mean a bit better above.

      Good idea about the pix of me at work, might do that.

  124. Keith said, on 02/08/2010 at 10:13 pm

    Easily the best dissertation on the topic I have seen. Thanks for taking time to put it together.

  125. Samuel Sharpe said, on 02/08/2010 at 7:37 pm

    I found this to be a very refreshing read, most topics I have read about macro have been more about the equipment and less about the technique. It seems you have taken the opposite approach and kept your equipment to a minimum and focused more on the technique, which I think you have mastered.

    I don’t spend too much time doing macro, mainly because of other commitments, but I have followed some of your techniques and my macros have improved tenfold, in my opinion anyway. The biggest improvement came when I built a flash diffuser similar to yours, but I have found when I get really close to my subjects they are dark at the front which is usually where the eyes are. The main reason for this is because the light is coming from above and not in front. So I have to either not get so close or get myself a ring flash or something similar? You spoke about using a small sheet of foam plastic which sounds like it would work but I am having trouble visualizing it, would it be possible for you to post a picture?

    Thanks for taking the time to write what you have learned over the years, it is a fantastic resource for us newbie’s and I really like your choice of images, it makes for a fun read.

    • Mark said, on 03/08/2010 at 7:26 pm

      Thanks for your comments Samuel.

      I have put in a picture of the extra diffusion – will do a better one later.

      Your diffuser needs to fit your working distance. To get the light down to the front of the creatures you need to angle the diffusion surface accordingly, yours will be aimed too far up and to the rear. The one I use is good for between 4 and 12 inch working distance, that’s basically because of the angle the light comes out of the tube. It’s possible to make that angle more acute and bring the diffuser back and down to the side so the light hits closer to the lens.

  126. Andy Denford said, on 01/08/2010 at 6:30 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to put into words what many of us have been trying to discover about your pictures Mark. Sharing your insights into both the technical and theoretical aspects will no doubt go some way to helping some of us to begin to capture similar subjects in a much improved manner.

    Thanks

    Andy


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