I have always been fascinated by the incredible complexity and detail of the world when seen under high magnification. One of my first purchases when I initially became interested in photography 30 years ago was a Bellows which provides the potential for some pretty close-up shots. As I was making up my current equipment list, I definitely wanted to be able to take similar macro shots.
July 28, 2001: Five new shots added to this gallery (the first 5).
Many of the shots in this gallery was taken with a similar set-up, at ISO 100. The lens used was the Canon 100 mm/f2.8 USM Macro lens, which is capable by itself of achieving 1:1 magnification. To boost the magnification, I added the complete set of 3 Kenko Extension Tubes (for a total of 68 mm extension). Lighting is always quite challenging in these shots, and with the extension tubes further reducing the available light, together with the extremely narrow depth of field at these distances mandating a small aperture, natural light shots are almost unobtainable. So I used a single 550EX flash (with or without the Stofen Omnibounce to 'soften' the light), mounted on a KirkPhoto FB-6 flash bracket. This allows placement of the flash right above the end of the lens (or anywhere else you might want it). The ST-E2 was mounted to the camera's hot-she and used to trigger the flash in a wireless fashion.
Magnification (Addendum July 22, 2001): I had previously estimated magnification as being 1.68. This was based on the equation Magnification=Extension/Focal Length. The 100 mm Macro lens at 1:1 theoretically has 100 mm of internal extension. Adding 68 mm of extension to this gives (100+68)/100=1.68. I received email from Roy Baty, who used the same lens and extension, and actually photographed a ruler at maximum magnification. The width was 10.84 mm, which divided into the D30's sensor width of 22.7 mm gives an actual magnification of 2.09!
Clarification (Added November 16, 2001): I received an email from Charles Chien (who does some amazing macro photography), whose reading suggested how to resolve this problem. It appears that many macro lenses in the 100 mm focal length range, when focused up close, actually have effective focal lengths closer to 70 mm or so (click here for further information on this topic). If you plug this figure into the formulas, you come up with Magnification=(70+68)/70= about 2.0. Taking into consideration rounding error, this is approximately correct, and offers a reasonable explanation for the apparent contradiction above. Thanks Charles!
All shots were hand-held - a tripod would have been nice to use, but with the bugs moving, and the extremely narrow depth of field, this wasn't too practical. Manual Focus was used, and you just kind of move your whole body in and out to fine-tune the focus with macro shots like these. A focussing rail would need to be used with a tripod, to allow fine-focus control, but at this point, I don't own one.
Some shadows are inevitable in this set-up, but hopefully aren't too distracting. Other lighting options include a dual-flash bracket, (but my research indicated this is even more cumbersome than the arrangement used here, and most people seem to abandon this in favor of a single flash set-up), or a 'ring-flash' (Canon MR-14EX). This produces somewhat "flat" lighting, but I'm still interested in what this unit can do. An internet friend is trying this unit out, and I might purchase one, depending on what his results and experience are with it.
The subject matter here (mostly bugs of various kinds) is apparently not on everybody's 'favorites' list, so some may choose to skip this gallery entirely. But as I indicated above, I am continually amazed by the intricacy of the world that is right there under our noses, so to speak, but rarely seen.
And one last point - all of the bugs in this gallery were 'extremely' small - generally around 2 or 3 mm, with some a little smaller or slightly bigger. Some of them come in much larger varieties, but I was concentrating on the really small ones!