Monday, June 16, 2008

Changes in my Gear


Sleeping Solitary series 2-1
Originally uploaded by Dalantech.
Just a quick note to let everyone know that I'm still here (been busy!) and that I've made some changes to the gear that I use. First up is the MT-24EX -I'm no longer using Gary Fong's Puffer diffuser. I contacted a company that makes diffusion plastics and they sent me a sales brochure with a sample of every plastic that they make. I took small strips of one of them and hot glued it directly to my MT-24EX's flash heads. Life size to twice life size is the toughest magnification range for me to shoot in and get good diffusion -past 2x the flash heads are so close to he subject that the apparent size of the flash relative to the subject makes getting good diffusion easy. So I'm including a life size shot with this post as an example of what I've been able to do with the new material. Here's a 3x shot so you can see how good the detail is -and how little glare I'm getting.

Sleeping Solitary series 2-4

Also notice that the shadows are much more pronounced. One of the problems with using the Puffer is it's shape -that curve throws light everywhere. I've been able to get shadows with it simply because of the way I would place the flash heads on the mount, but the shadows were always "thin". With a flat diffuser the light from each flash head is a lot more directional so shadows look better, and are easier to control. As an added bonus the new material only causes me to lose about 2/3 of a stop so the flash duration is extremely low.

Several people have asked me if I use a tripod. The only time I use any kind of camera support is when I'm shooting water drops or abstracts in the house -out in the field I take every shot hand held. I'm not using any kind of brace other than an elbow on a knee. For both of the images in this post (and a lot of my recent shots) I'm holding on to whatever the critter is perching on with my left hand and I'm bracing the lens on that same hand to keep everything steady.

Now that it's "macro season" here I'll try to do more image deconstructions as a way to show you how I'm taking photos and hopefully you can pick up something from it that you can apply to your own style.

Happy shooting!

12 comments:

Mstic said...

Hey. Thanks for the updated post. If you can, do you have a comparison shot with the puffers? So perhaps we could see it side by side to compare? Thanks d.tech :-P

Dalantech said...

@ mstic: Almost impossible to do with the exact same subject -no way for me to swap them in the field.

squinza said...

What about background illumination? I notice in this shot that you have a very well lit backgound.
usually with the MP-E and the MT-24 everything behind the subject is pitch dark (at least in my shots...). Is this a problem related to the distance from the flash heads or you use an additional strobe?

Dalantech said...

@ squinza: If the background is within about 6" of the subject then the MT-24EX will expose it pretty well. I deliberately placed that bee close to the background so I could expose the entire scene with the MT-24EX -I'm actually holding on to the stick that the bee has clamped its mandibles on.

Techuser said...

What I liked more in these bee shots is the background having the same clarity of the subject
I feel tempted to shot in the sun sometimes for getting this effect, but I hate the iridescense the sunlight causes in some plant leaves and carapaces

Dalantech said...

@ Techuser: I have this love / hate thing going on with the sun and my macro work. Like you I want to see some color in the background, but at the same time I don't like the glare or the color shift that the sunlight causes. I solved a big chunk of that problem by adding an 81A warming filter to the MPE-65...

Rasmus said...

Interesting post! Would you recommend a diffuser for the MR-14EX as well and how would you do that? I know you've been using that flash as well.. :)

DBump said...

I'd love to see a photo of you taking a shot like this, to get a better idea for your hand-held technique!

Dalantech said...

@ rasmus: The diffuser plastic that Canon used in the MR-14EX is very good! The only problem with that flash is that the light it produces is almost parallel with the lens.

@ dbump: I normally shoot alone, but I need to get a shot of the technique if for no other reason than to be bale to show it on this blog.

Rasmus said...

How would you optimize the light from the MR-14ex? I find the light quite flat and a bit "boring" so to say and everything get's this "flash-glow". I've tried putting more power in the B-section of the flash to create more shadows. Any tips on this?

Orion said...

Great stuff, John. Thanks for sharing. You should design and mass produce diffusers and get rich like GF :D
kurt

Dalantech said...

@ rasmus: I use to shoot with a 4:1 ratio with the MR-14EX.

@ orion: I probably could at this point :)