Thursday, June 5, 2008

How Working Distance Works Against You

Slurp III
Slurp III
Originally uploaded by Dalantech.
I’ve been putting a little money aside for a while so I could pick up some new gear. Photography isn’t what I do for a living and with a wife and three kids I just can’t spend money on stuff that doesn’t help pay for the important things like electricity and food. But I managed to get in range of the Canon 180mm L macro and thought about finally getting it…

Over the course of this past weekend I talked myself out of spending the money –the 180L just won’t allow me to do anything that I’m not currently doing with the glass that I have and I don’t need the extra reach. In fact putting more distance between me and the subject could actually be detrimental. Take the shot I’ve included with this post, shot at three times life size with a Canon MPE-65mm lens. The only way I could get a sharp image of that honeybee was to hold on to the flower that it was feeding on. So with the flower’s stem pinched between my left index finger and thumb I rested the lens on my left hand and adjusted the focus by sliding the lens back and forth. Since the lens and the subject were on the same platform, my hand, I could keep the scene rock solid and take full control over where I placed the depth of field. Now imagine that same shot with a 180mm lens and two teleconverters (a 1.4x and a 2x) for 2.8x at a nine inch working distance.

I’d have to rest that bazooka of a lens on my forearm and try to shoot over the ridge of my thumb…

It’s not possible to take a shot of an insect on a flower without holding on to the stem –the slightest breeze is enough to throw the critter out of the plane of sharp focus. The best way to get a sharp, well composed image is to take full control of the scene and I just can’t do that by standing back with a long focal length lens. The 180L will have to wait for another day…
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