Monday, September 10, 2012

How to do Macro Photography (Part 1)

Macro Photography is kind of the thing that I do. Although I don't photograph your typical macro subjects on a regular basis (ya know, flowers, bugs, stuff like that) I still go about it in a similar fashion. My work deals with what I like to call Macro Landscapes. I started off by trying to create little maquettes (models) of scenes from books that I had read. Mostly fantasy books like David Eddings The Elenium and stuff like that. It didn't really work as well as I would have liked, but I kept at it. Eventually I started exploring a the macro world (Macro is where what you are photographing is pretty much represented close to a 1:1 scale on the medium you are photographing with, ie Film, or your digital chip in your camera).
  There are a couple of different ways to do macro photography, and most people think you NEED an expensive macro lens. Not so. That is simply the most simple solution, but not very cost effective. There are many other set-ups that you can utilize that are a little softer on the wallet. I will be talking about a few of them here and in subsequent posts.
  My initial set-up was a little funky. I grabbed some cheap Chinese lens extenders off of eBay and used all of them on a 400mm f4 sigma manual focus lens. I was photographing some packaging from a hard drive that I had just purchased (like I said, i don't photograph the traditional macro subjects). What these extenders allowed me to do was focus closer to the subject, but it wasn't close enough for me. I was still about 5 feet away (I didn't realize this at the time, but I could have gotten closer if I had just used a shorter focal length, but you learn as you go right.)
  My second set-up was recommended by my Graduate School professor, Christopher Gauthier. This time around I took a Cambo 4x5 view camera and created a special plate for the back. I measured the size of a film holder and cut a piece of wood to match it. I then found the center of the view camera and drilled a hole the size of a lens extender (a cheap one from China. Found easily on eBay). Don't forget to check the fit of the wood in the back of the 4x5. I had to sand down the sides so that the plate would actually fit and be held in place. Next I painted the plate matte black, to prevent light reflection and contamination.
  After the paint is dry, I took the lens extender, and epoxied it on the opposite side, added weight, and let it sit for two days (the instructions said one day, but I didn't want to take any chances). By the time it was dry, I had my plate. The last step was to use some black electrical tape to seal off any light that would seep in through the epoxy. It doesn't have to be very precise where you place the tape, just secure.
  At this point, I attach my Nikon D7000 to the plate and attach it to the back of my Cambo 4x5 view camera.  Because the view camera has a focal length of 135 mm, and the addition of the bellows, I was able to get roughly 12-16 inches of space between the lens and the chip. Because of this extra space, I essentially turned the 135 mm lens of the view camera into a macro lens for a 35 mm digital SLR camera. To a normal 4x5 sheet of film, it would have acted like a normal lens in comparison, but with the smaller chip format, I was able to focus VERY close to my subjects, sometimes, less than a centimeter away.
  I used this format for quite some time, but it was very bulky and difficult to focus and compose with. Other tools came along later that helped with the process, but I will talk about that in later posts. I will also posts pics of some of my set-ups just in case anyone wants to try it out.
Thanks for reading.

No comments: