Macro Photography Using Old School Techniques

In photography, sometimes you just have to forget about automation and get back to basics.  This was the lesson I learned last weekend whilst attempting macro photography using an extension ring, which gives high magnification, but at very short focusing distances (3 inches and less). Under these conditions, automated modes fail and one must fall back to old school methods to get a decent image.

When using an extension ring you must focus manually and your depth of field is razor thin.  A little bit of wind is all it takes to move your subject out of focus.  Naturally, this was a windy weekend and it was not an easy job.  I was lucky enough to get a few bug images with passable focus. When I’m in a less masochistic mood, I’ll try this again on a less windy and sunnier day.

Lighting is another problem, very little sunlight falls on your subjects when focusing so close.  A good flash is the solution, but I do not have over 500 bucks burning a hole in my pocket for a specialized macro ring light.  So I reached for an automated digital flash that can be triggered in wireless mode off the camera.  I tried hand holding the flash and it really did not work so well.  First, the light is not well diffused and secondly, the automated exposure mode gets it wrong.  The solution was to dredge out a 3o year manual flash and connect it to the camera via an old sync cable.

I also jerry rigged a low budget flash diffuser using a rolled up reflective tube, some paper towel and scotch tape.  This gave me exactly the light I needed.  All the camera settings were manual and the flash output was also set manually.  It all came together and I took photos the same way we did 30 years ago before automated exposure meters, automated flashes and autofocus.

All images were created with either a Panasonic G3 or an Olympus E-P3.   The lenses used were an Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/2.0 Macro and an Olympus Zuiko 35mm f/3.5 macro connected via a 25mm extension ring and a 4/3 to micro 4/3 adapter.

I will be posting some images of my low budget macro setup.


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