Tag: nature

Tips for Handheld Macro Photography

guest-blogger-strip-blackBy Nicole S. YoungBumblebeeMacro photography is an fascinating way to get a close-up look at everyday items. Photographers will oftentimes use a tripod to create their photos, but in some cases it is necessary, and also more convenient, to hand-hold the camera to create these images. However with hand-held macro photography you will also face certain challenges along the way. Here are some tips to help get you started creating your own beautiful macro photographs.

Camera gear used in this article:

  • FUJIFILM X-T1 Camera
  • FUJIFILM X-T2 Camera
  • FUJINON XF60mmF2.4 R  Macro Lens
  • Neewer CN-216 Dimmable LED Panel

Add More Light

I like to photograph macro images in the shade or on cloudy days so that I have a nice even light spread across the scene. However, sometimes the existing light is not quite enough for the camera settings required to get a good image (a high shutter speed and lower ISO). To compensate, I will oftentimes use a simple and inexpensive LED light that can either be attached to the hot-shoe of the camera, or held off to the side. This not only adds a good amount of fill light, but it also will help add catchlights to whatever you are photographing.

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The Neewer CN-216 Dimmable LED Panel adds a nice fill-light to a macro photo without being too harsh.

Focus Manually

When photographing something that is moving, just like I did with these images of bees, it was very difficult to use auto-focus. The bees were moving to quickly and positioned themselves out of focus before I could even press the shutter. To work around this challenge, I decided to pre-focus the lens and moved the camera back-and-forth until I could see the bee in focus, and then I pressed the shutter and fire off several consecutive frames. You will end up with a lot of throwaway images with this technique, but you will also have a higher chance of getting one of the images from that set in focus.

Here’s a step-by-step on how I performed this technique:

  1. First, I pre-focused the lens so that the focus point was an appropriate distance from the lens for the subject (in this case, a bee on a flower).
  2. Next, I set my drive mode to “continuous high”.
  3. Once I found a good subject (a bee on a flower), I moved the camera back and forth on the bee until I could see it come into focus on the preview on the back of my camera. As I saw it pop into focus, I pressed the shutter and created several images (with the hopes that one of them is in focus).

Focus on the Eyes

If photographing a bug or small animal, it’s important that you focus on the eyes. Small bugs can move around quickly, and so it can be tempting to feel like you are getting a good photo if the creature is facing away from you. While it won’t hurt anything to fire off a few photos (pixel are cheap, after all), a photo of the eyes of a bee, for example, is much more compelling than a bee butt. Have some patience and position yourself so that you can create the best creature portrait as possible.

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This photo is in focus, but it’s also the wrong end of the bee! (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/680 sec at F2.4, ISO 400)

 

 

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Your best bet is to position yourself so that you can photograph the eyes of your subject. This image shows just how detailed the eyes of a bumblebee can be when zoomed in close. (FUJIFILM X-T1, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/1000 sec at F5, ISO 3200)

Find a Clean Background

Creatively speaking, the composition of your photo is going to be one of the most important aspects. You might have a “technically perfect” photo, but if it does not look good compositionally then it it loses its appeal. I find that one of the easiest ways to get a good composition is to angle myself so that the background is clean and not busy. There are a few different ways you can accomplish this:

  • Move your camera (or yourself) lower to position the frame at eye-level (instead of shooting down). This will help create a blurred background to separate the subject from its surroundings.
  • Find a subject that has contrasting elements behind it so that it stands out.
  • Use a wide aperture to add more blur to the background.
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The bee in this photo is on a very distracting background, and makes the image less pleasing. (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/420 sec at F2.4, ISO 400)

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To get a better photo, I waited for the bee to move and positioned myself so that the background behind the bee was less busy. (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/320 sec at F2.4, ISO 400)

Use a Fast Shutter Speed

With hand-held photography it’s important to make sure that the shutter speed is set fast enough to prevent camera shake. A good rule of thumb is to set the speed to at least the same number as the focal length of your lens. For example, I was using a XF60mm lens for these photos, so I would want to be sure that the shutter speed was set to no slower than 1/60th of a second to make sure that I don’t add motion blur to the photos. However I also needed to make sure that the shutter speed was fast enough to freeze the action of the bees as they moved around. For these photos I found that a shutter speed of 1/250 (and typically higher) was a safe setting.

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At 1/30th of a second, the shutter speed is WAY too slow to both hand-hold the bee and photograph it without moving. As a result, there is a significant amount of motion blur in this image. (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/30 sec at F4, ISO 200)

Bumblebee

Using a faster shutter speed, such as 1/500th of a second, gives you a better chance of getting a photo without any movement. (FUJIFILM X-T1, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/500 sec at F4, ISO 640)

The intensity of the light in the environment you are photographing will determine if this is going to be an issue. If there is a lot of sunshine or it is very bright (even in a shaded area), then you may be in the clear. However if you do need to increase the shutter speed, here are some tips to help you add more light to the scene:

  • Try adding an additional light source (similar to what I mentioned at the beginning of the article).
  • Increase the ISO setting, or set it to “auto” and let the camera decide for you.
  • Use a wide aperture, such as ƒ/2.8 or wider. Doing this will allow more light to the sensor, but it will also increase the blur and narrow your depth of field (the area that is in focus), so it may be more difficult to get an in-focus photograph.

About the Authornicole_s_young_portraitNicole S. Young is a full-time photography educator living in Portland, Oregon. She owns and operates the Nicolesy Store where she creates and sells photography training, presets, and textures for photographers of all levels. Nicole has also been a stock photographer for over 10 years and licenses her work primarily through Stocksy United.

Backyard Bokeh: Find Everyday Inspiration!

By Seth K. Hughes

As someone who has traveled 50,000 miles in the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize you don’t have to go far to have fun and make great photos. Truth is, no matter where you live, all you have to do is step outside your back door. I guarantee that if you slow down and look closely at what’s around you, you’ll find many interesting subjects. Whether it’s literally in your backyard, in the nearest park, or an adorable pet —these things are right there under your nose just waiting to be noticed.New Orleans, LouisianaWhile visiting Louisiana, I headed out with my weather-resistant FUJIFILM X-Pro2. Within just a few yards I found leaves, flowers, insects, frogs, and my beloved pooch Emma. Admittedly, I wasn’t feeling very inspired in the beginning. At first glance, there was nothing particularly interesting about my environment. I walked out my door, down a paved road and stumbled upon a nondescript nature path. I had to force myself to slow down and peer into places I would otherwise have overlooked. By the end of the shoot, I was having a blast.Mckinney State Park, Austin, TXI recommend keeping it simple and just grabbing your camera and one or two lenses (tripod optional).xIMG_3399I chose my FUJINON XF56mmF1.2 R APD prime lens known for its sharpness, clarity and beautiful bokeh effects. The FUJINON lens lineup pairs perfectly with – and optimizes – the X Series camera system. This APD prime is the only lens I’ve ever used that ships with its own apodization filter (think ND filter) which creates smooth bokeh outlines and enhances the three dimensional feel of an image. To maximize the bokeh capabilities and create a macro-lens aesthetic, I opened the lens up all the way to f/1.2 and manually set the focus to its closest distance. Then I just explored and moved the camera in and out on various objects. When I found something I liked, I framed up an interesting composition and further refined the focal point.

**Lighting tip: look for subjects in the open shade or go out on an overcast day. This will ensure your light is soft, your colors are enhanced and your exposure values are under control.New Orleans, LouisianaThe other lens was the venerable XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR which is one of the best lenses available today for image quality and stabilization. I find this lens to be excellent all around and I’ve always enjoyed shooting portraits in this focal range. Enter my beloved brindle boxer — Emma. She emerged in a bed of flowers and I instantly had a muse!New Orleans, LouisianaI found close to a dozen pictures in under an hour while I was just meandering around. It really pays to take your time (and your camera) and absorb whichever features happen to be around you. You will see the beauty and details in everyday life. I guarantee you’ll find something interesting.

Extension tubes open up a whole new world!

Ben Cherry Macro

Ben CherryWith travel photography, one of the issues is prioritising equipment. You simply can’t carry everything you could possibly want to bring. If you do then it often hampers the overall travel experience as you’re weighed down by equipment and have to constantly look after it. For me, on my current trip that meant I couldn’t justify bringing a dedicated macro lens, especially when I had the XF56mm and XF50-140mm covering the similar focal lengths offered by the two available macro options. Instead I chose to pack both the 11 and 16mm extension tubes (MCEX-11 / 16). Offering camera-lens communication that allows autofocus, these simple compact devices can turn nearly any lens into a macro option (but please check lens compatibility).

My primary role in Costa Rica is to work as a researcher for a scarlet macaw program, so macro functions weren’t really at the top of the list. However the wildlife in this region is remarkable and macro functionality quickly became important. One of the sites we regularly see is a trail of leaf cutter ants marching through the forest taking supplies from the canopy to their nest. Following the tiny motorway, which has been carved out of the rainforest floor you’ll eventually find yourself at the base of a tree that’s being harvested.

Although I am focusing on leaf cutter ants, the general principles apply to all types of macro photography.

Leaf Cutter F4

Leaf Cutter F4-2
It is possible to get macro photos with wide apertures, these were taken at F4 with the XF50-140mm and X-T1, using ISO 3200(!) because the rainforest undergrowth was so dark (ominous clouds were gathering) and the ants were moving so fast, I needed fast shutter speeds, 1/600, 1/400 to help freeze the motion as I wasn’t using any flash.


Macro Photography fundamentals

For this type of photography you generally want to be using very high F Stops e.g. F22. The reason for this is when you start to focus on very close objects; the depth of field becomes very thin with more regular F Stops like F4, 5.6, 8. Even the maximum aperture on your lens is often not enough to get most of the frame sharp. One technique employed is to focus stack. Taking multiple pictures of a static subject, moving the focus throughout the frame and then stacking the pictures in postproduction. This wasn’t an option for me unfortunately as the ants were moving continuously (so fast when you’re looking at a macro frame!).

Leaf Cutter F22 normal flash
Using flash helps to stop these fast moving insects in their tracks. Note that the bokeh does degrade because of extension tubes. Taken with X-T1, XF50-140mm and stacked extension tubes. I used a Nissin i40 to light the scene from just above the camera.


Extension tubes – what are they?

They are simply extensions of the lens barrel, extending the distance between the rear lens element and the sensor. This shifts the focus, so for example instead of focusing at over 10 metres according to the lens, you’re actually focused 0.5 metres away when using an extension tube. There are two extension tubes available from Fujifilm a 11mm and 16mm. This gives you three options as you can stack the two together. The greater the distance, the closer the focusing.


Some lenses have very close native focusing distances

There are non-macro focused lenses that do actually have very close minimum focusing distances. For me, the two lenses spring to mind – the XF10-24mm and XF16mm. Though not particularly helpful for ‘normal’ macro photography because of they’re wide-angle lenses. However, I really like using both of these lenses for placing my subject within its environment, the benefit of these two is that my subject can be an elephant or an ant, both lenses are capable.

XF10-24mm macro

A frog from Borneo
Above were taken with the XF10-24mm
Taken with the XF16mm
Taken with the XF16mm


Downsides to extension tubes?

Well as you might have seen on some of the images, the bokeh can regress from the wonderfully smooth circles we are all used to from Fujifilm lenses, to something more like heptagon! The high image quality we are also used to does degrade somewhat, but this is to be expected when you’re pushing a lens from what is designed for. What you have to remember is that these are ultra lightweight, convenient macro inducers that save you money and carrying around another lens.

I am only touching the fringes of what is possible with macro photography, there are many out there who know a lot more about macro, but the benefit of extension tubes for those on the go is obvious.


Macro Creativity

With a little time and patience you can really start to create some interesting images. Though the images below are nothing particularly new, it was nevertheless satisfying to produce them. Using an off camera flash, placed behind the ants shooting back towards the camera backlights the ants and produces some interesting silhouettes/shadows thanks to the leaf cuttings.

Ben Cherry Macro backlight

Ben Cherry Macro backlight-2

I hope this has been helpful. Here is a short video of how I went about creating these images. Filmed and edited by Ellice Dart. If you liked this blog and video then please leave a constructive comment below.

Happy Shooting.

 

Ben is an environmental photojournalist, zoologist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. His passion is showing the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Find more of his work at:

Wildlife photographer Chris Weston puts the new XF16-55mm f/2.8 through its paces

Fujifilm’s new XF16-55mm f/2.8 weather-resistant lens lives up to expectation. With a new type of nano-coating that reduces flare, the optical excellence of the lens matches the supreme quality I have come to rely on in the very best Fujinon lenses.

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X-T1 with XF16-55mm @ 55mm. 1/4000th, f/4, ISO800

 

Photographing birds of prey at a local falconry, I was astounded by the depth of detail, sharpness and contrast of the pre-processed images. It feels great in the hand. The aperture and focus rings give me confidence when I need it most while the build quality exceeds my often-exacting need for equipment that can cope with the most extreme and harsh environments.

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X-T1 with XF16-55mm @ 55mm. 1/400th, f/5.6, ISO1600

 

And, even with the fast f/2.8 aperture, it’s still compact enough to travel with. This is a lens that lives up to the Fuji legend.

Chris Weston – Wildlife Photographer and Fujifilm X-Photographer

X-T1 with XF16-55mm @ 55mm. 1/4000th, f/4, ISO800
X-T1 with XF16-55mm @ 55mm. 1/4000th, f/4, ISO800
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X-T1 with XF16-55mm @ 55mm. 1/1250th, f/4, ISO800

 

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X-T1 with XF16-55mm @ 55mm. 1/1900th, f/8, ISO800

 

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X-T1 with XF16-55mm @ 55mm. 1/1700th, f/8, ISO800