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How I do macro photography
When I started with digital photography, I knew that I wanted to get really close. When I got my first DSLR camera, a Canon EOS 10D, I bought a real macro lens, the sharp Tamron 90/2,8. I had a lot of fun with this combo! In the beginning I only had the old speedlite 380EX flash. It worked OK, but when I added some extension tubes to double the magnification of the macro lens, I had to build a simple flash-light-extender to get the light on the subject. Sometimes its enough with a simple omnibounce on the flash. This shows that you can do a lot with fairly simple tools.
DSLR with a macro lens, flash and an Omnibounce.




But I wanted to get even closer with better lighting that was easier to work with.
When my insect photos started to generate some income, I bought the Canon MT-24EX dual head macro flash and the high-magnification Canon MP-E65 macro lens. The MP-E65 is a specialized macro lens with no autofocus, and its lowest magnification is 1:1, which is the limit of normal macro lens. Its highest magnification is 5:1, yummy! Transferred to mm, 1:1 magnification (lifesize) means that something that is 22,5 mm long will fill the enire length of the cameras sensor. At 3:1 magnification, an object that is 7,5 mm will fill the sensors length. And finally, at 5:1 magnification something as small as 4,5 mm will fill the length of a photo. Examples:
Araneus Quadratus, 1:1 magnification:

Araneus Quadratus, 3:1 magnification:

Araneus Quadratus, 5:1 magnification:

At this magnification i can take full resolution photos of even the smallest spiders. Lets say that a spider is two millimeter long, not counting the legs. With the legs stretched out, or walking, this tiny spider will fill the frame.

I use flash for 99,9% of my macro shots. I don't use a tripod. When I do normal macro shots, I often try to make them colourful:
Fly in a plastic mug (no flash!):


Wasp in lemonade bubbles:

Scarlet Lily Beetle:

Ant harvesting from his aphids:

For this site, www.eurospiders.com, I capture the spiders an put them in my "studio". As a studio I use a white porcelain plate where I put the spider. The MT-24EX makes the lightning easy. I always take photos of live specimens, and when I am done, I'll let the spiders out in the nature again. My macro studio set up:
Stefan Sollfors taking a spider photo with a Canon DSLR and an MP-E65 lens and a MT-24EX flash.


One thing that I didn't like with the Tamron macro lens was that it became longer when focusing. When having a heavy flash on it and pointing your camera up, or down, the auto focus motor had problems with the heavy flash. So I sold it and got the Canon 100/2,8 macro lens instead. Equally sharp, but doesn't change length when focusing. It also has faster auto focus.

Even though the six megapixels of the Canon EOS 10D is enough for most uses, I now use different Canon EOS DLSR:s which gives slightly higher magnification than the 10D due to higher pixel density.

Shooting macro is fun! And don't forget to back-up your photos on your computer!

/Stefan Sollfors
Facts:
Macro photography:
It is generally called macro photography when you do close-ups on small things. 1:1 magnification is normally the maximum magnification of normal macro lenses. 1:1 means that the bug you take a photo of is as big in reality as it is on the camera sensor/film. At higher magnifications (sometimes called micro photography), like 3:1 magnification, the bug is three times bigger on the sensor than in real life.

Another interesting macro project of mine - how cola soft drinks erodes teeth:
Teeth eroded by phosphoric acid in cola
 
 

  © Stefan Sollfors, Eurospiders.com
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but feel free to link to individual pages.
  Disclaimer.
I am a photographer, not an arachnologist. Although I spend a lot of time on spider identification, I can not give a 100% guarantee on the id of the spiders.