Today I had a desire to get out of the house with my Macro setup to capture a few images, this is what I came home with and why I choose this set up.
- Month: August
- Arrival time on the trail was 08:40 shooting.
- Camera: D500
- Lens: 105 Macro f/2.8 (see notes)
- Other Gear: Nikon R1CI Macro setup
- Garmin Fenix 5x watch for "how far did I walk to get this photo" distance capture
- Environment: Nature - out in the wild, everyday offers different opportunities
Images in this article are mostly from one great weekend out for one purpose - doing macro photography!
Lets start with the foundation: I ALWAYS carry, use and depend on a good tripod system - even if I dont use it I carry one just in case. This saves my back from hand holding a DSLR system for hours on end and for subjects that do not move! My tripod choice is a Gitzo Off Center carbon fiber tripod (Gitzo GT2531EX) with a acratech head (great tripod head) on top. This is one awesome system - light and can be setup in almost any level or angle. For me I always carry a lightweight tripod, If I do not need it or the subject is not cooperative i simply drop the tripod and continue with hand holding - because I use the Arca Swiss quick release, dismounting the camera from the tripod is quick and simple. Macro photography can be very tiring, more so than other photography because you may find the best angle is lower and you need to hold the camera in a way that stresses your back - the tripod saves me every time - why hand hold and wear yourself out? Static subjects are the flowers, plants and non moving subjects. Gitzo makes great tripods and my Gitzo Tripod allows for any angle and any level of shooting, so I recommend you get one to save your back as well.
Lens: Nikon and other 3rd party lens makers offer exceptional glass for both DX shooters and FX shooters alike. My personal recommendation for either is a 105mm from Nikon to start with. If you are a crop body shooter - this is a great choice for a lens. a 1.5 factor gives you a 160mm fov with the latest in VR and optical quality.
macro photography tips: wow, lots. Carry a tripod. Use fill flash, and if possible use the longest macro lens you have for working distance.
I have three go to Macro lens. My 60mm, my 105mm and the awesome 200mm Nikkor macro lens. Depending on what my intentions are will drive me to one of the three. For Indoor gardens and general plant photography I choose the 60mm. For more detailed shots of flowers and some larger insects I use the fantastic 105mm. When I require maximum sharpness and working distance the 200mm is it. I like shooting spiders and capturing extreme details, the 200mm offers me a comfortable working distance and has the sharpness to match. All these lens are fantastic, the 60 can double duty as your normal lens and the 105mm good for portraiture shots as well.
I normally prefer the 105mm or 200mm macro lens, but at times shoot with my Nikon 60mm macro for flower groupings. The one issue I have with the new 105 is that as you change focus the image size also changes making it difficult to do focus stacking. This issue was noted by many macro photographers for this lens.
Do you need a flash in bright daylight? Not really, but you would be missing out on the ability to control your lighting. Using a Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS), it offers you the ability to throw some lighting at your subject, filling in the shadows while blending into into the natural lighting situation, create dramatic effects and simply reduce the background to dark if you wish.
My Macro Flash of Choice is the Nikon R1C1 system, it simply works and allows me to dial-in individual settings for each flash you use. As an example one can be 1/3 under while the other +1 over - it is your choice, and since it is wireless you can move a flash anywhere you want to help show details from of the subject from various angles. This system is small and portable and the flash can be incorporated into larger arrays if you so desire. I like removing one flash and hand hold it off to an angle for some shots, making for some nice lighting effects without looking like it is with flash.
In closing - Macro photography is very rewarding and habit forming, If you have not tried it I recommend you take some time to explore the small world or Macro.