Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Macro Flash Diffusion (again)

This is a follow up post to my main macro flash diffusion page (here).

I am regularly asked about my macro flash set-up and have recently written a couple of magazine articles on this topic. During some recent experimentation I thought I would try to illustrate the power and importance of macro flash diffusion for those still unconvinced. The following example is far from perfect and I would have ideally used an example from the insect world such as a nice shiny ladybird. Unfortunately I've yet to find a shiny insect that will sit perfectly still while I fiddle around with diffusers only 5-10 cm away. So, the best I could come up with is a shiny laurel leaf covered in water droplets.



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The above shows a comparison between the 'naked' MT-24EX twin flash (top) and a diffused MT-24EX (bottom) diffused in the manner described in my other macro flash diffusion page (here) and as shown below:




Hopefully the comparison shot shows how useful diffusion is. Gone are the harsh highlights and extremes of light and shadow to be replaced by much more even tones. It is however possible to have too much diffusion which can result in images with insufficient contrast. So my aim is never to remove all highlights but just to ensure that the highlights aren't burnt out and that the contrast is reduced.


I have used the above diffusers for several years and have generally been happy with their performance. I have achieved slightly superior performance using a single sheet of plastic rather than the two domes but find this to be more cumbersome. The above therefore provides a nice balance between performance and practicality.

Until recently, no effective commercially available diffusers were available for the MT-24EX (as far as I am aware). As a result, most users of this twin flash unit constructed their own home-made diffusers as I did above. However, I recently became aware of an individual named Ian McConnachie who was producing diffusers for the MT-24 and selling them on Ebay. I duly bought a pair and have been testing them in recent weeks. The image below shows the diffusers attached to my MT-24EX and my MP-E 65mm macro lens.




 The diffusers require a certain amount of construction but this is well explained in this YouTube video. I also find the diffusers a little tricky to get on and off. But, they do a fairly good job of diffusing the flash, especially if you add an extra layer of kitchen towel over each individual flash head. Below I have made another quick comparison image, this time showing (1) no diffusion, (2) my original home-made diffusion and (3) Ian McConnachie's diffusers. Please excuse the fact that the focal point moved slightly in image 2.



I still think my home-made diffusers are my preferred choice but Ian McConnachie's are not too far behind. They are certainly the best commercially available option for the MT-24EX.

Note that to purchase these diffusers on ebay you need to search for 'MT24 diffusers' or look for listings by user 'redstag101'. I notice that he doesn't always have them for sale but would hope that some will be listed soon if none are currently available.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Drinker Moth Caterpillar

In the beauty stakes the adult Drinker Moth is nothing to write home about but the same can't be said of the Drinker Moth caterpillar. They are impressive creatures with long 'fur' and striking yellow spots.

I recently discovered several of these caterpillars and so took a variety of images of them. Below are a selection.

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First, a backlit image:



Second, a more traditional portrait:



Finally, a habitat image taken with a fisheye lens:



Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Insects in Sunshine...

I've been a bit slow updating my blog recently, in part because I haven't done a great deal of photography lately. But here are a couple of springtime images taken over the last few weeks. The first is a Tawny Mining Bee feeding on flowering redcurrant and the second a Seven Spot Ladybird.


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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Article in Digital Photographer Magazine

The current issue (issue 160) of Digital Photographer magazine contains a large article on macro photography. I've contributed a couple of pages of images and text with some specific tips on wideangle macro. Some of my images and text are shown below.

Unfortunately, a couple of the captions for my images were swapped during the design process and I also have concerns that one of the images included in the article is of a dead wasp (it's not one of my images obviously, and isn't shown below). But those reservations aside, the article is quite informative!


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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Fungi images (better late than never)

While waiting for spring to begin properly I've been finishing off the processing of some fungi images from last autumn. Here are a selection of my favourites, the majority deliberately showing the subject within its environment.

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Friday, 20 February 2015

In the Bag...

Ever wondered what I keep in my camera bag when out on macro shoot? No? Well I'll tell you anway, or rather Wild Planet Photo magazine will :)

The magazine has started a new feature which shows what different photographers keep in their camera bags and they decided to kick off the feature with yours truly.

More information on the latest issue of Wild Planet Photo magazine can be found here.


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Monday, 19 January 2015

Digital SLR Photography magazine

February's issue of Digital SLR Photography magazine features my review of the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens. It's a unique lens, capable of between 1x and 5x magnification and the article provides my opinion of the lens and some tips on how to use it.

It's perhaps worth mentioning that the star ratings at the end of the article are slightly erroneous. Even the most loyal fans of this lens wouldn't give it 5 out of 5 for 'ease of use'!