I have always been fascinated by the smaller animals around us as the adaptation and perfection displayed is incredible. For everything we and larger animals have achieved, somewhere in the miniature world, it has been done better...take dragonflies, one of my big favourites. They crawl around in the water as the perfect submersible predator for between a year and several years. Then on a chosen day they transform into nature's supreme airborne hunters!
When shooting macro I use either natural light alone, a combination of natural light and flash, or just flash.....
For compositions where maximum magnification is not required the ambient light can be sufficient when using a capable camera body with good ISO performance up to perhaps ISO 800.
I often expose manually for the ambient light at or just under 0EV, then use some gentle fill flash. The short flash duration reduces the chances of camera shake or subject movement ruining the image and helps even out the lighting. Combining ambient and flash light in this way is my preferred technique as it usually shows the animal in an element of its environment.
Finally, for real close up work at 1:1 magnification or bigger, flash provides the only real light that influences the exposure. I diffuse it by using a mini softbox or by tacking semi-opaque plastic cutouts from a milk carton over my ringflash tubes.
Personally I never use a tripod as I need to be mobile and take opportunities that present themselves, often in awkward places, like thigh deep in a pond!
I have several macro lenses, one being a Sigma 150mm f2.8, which is great for its working distance and versatility, as it also takes a 1.4x teleconverter for extra reach or magnification. Another is the Carl Zeiss 100mm f2; one of the best lenses there is full stop. It "only" goes to half life size magnification but is fabulous for dragonflies in natural light, using the Nikon D700.
For travel and its handiness with Kenko extension tubes, I use a Sigma 105mm f2.8 and I also have a Voigtlander 90mm f3.5 APO Lanthar as a tiny, optical gem for going really small and light.
Keywords:Bugs, Close-up, Macro, Photography
Cliff, your wildlife photos are truly amazing!!! I am in awe!
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© ATRAX PHOTO by Clifton Beard