Posts Tagged ‘gear talk’

MYN – Hits and misses

May 25, 2020

This blog post might have been called “New ways of doing the same old thing.” In other words, experimenting with new techniques for shooting sets of macro photos of a familiar  subject and new variations for creating focus-stacked composite images.

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/16 | 1/200s | ISO 160 | 0 ev

Tech Tips

In-camera focus bracketing was used to shoot a photo set with my Fujifilm X-T3 mirrorless digital camera and Fujinon 80mm macro lens (coupled with 11mm and 16mm extension tubes for a little additional magnification).

The camera lens was focused manually on the closest point on the face of the subject. The shutter button was pressed one time; the first photo was taken after a 10-second timer elapsed, then the focus point advanced automatically from the initial focus point to a far point on the subject in the background of the photo.

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to batch-convert the resulting 50 images from Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create five sub-stacks (10 photos per sub-stack) that were combined into one focus-stacked composite image. The final image was edited using Apple Aperture.

Analyzing the results

Most of the “misses” were self-inflicted.

For example, minimal effort was invested in arranging the subject and lighting the scene. Generally speaking, better lighting results in better photos.

Some trial and error is required in order to determine the correct focus bracketing settings for a given combination of camera and lens. The following settings were used to shoot the photo set for the focus-stacked composite image featured in this post: Frames = 50; Step = 10; Interval = 4 s.

Step size is a number from one (1) to 10, with one being the smallest increment and 10 being the largest. Although a step size of 10 enabled the camera to cover the subject completely from front-to-back in 50 frames, selecting the coarsest step increment might have resulted in small “focus gaps” that are noticeable in a few places on the full-size version of the composite image.

I cabled a Godox PROPAC PB960 to the Godox TT685C external flash unit that is used to backlight the white background. The power pack enables faster flash recycle times and increases the number of times the flash can be fired before its AA batteries run down. That was a big “hit!”

I didn’t realize the radio flash trigger was set for a power ratio of 1/4 +0.7 — that’s 2/3 of a stop slower than my preferred setting of 1/2 +0.3 that usually results in the pure white background (255, 255, 255) that is a goal of the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. That was a big “miss” I was able to correct in post-processing, although increasing the exposure enough to blow out the background might have degraded image quality a little.

One of many reasons the Fujifilm X-Series cameras are so popular is their retro look and feel, including lots of buttons and dials on the camera body. That’s good and bad: it’s good to be able to adjust many camera settings using either an external button or dial rather than navigating through menus in the camera’s firmware; it’s bad that it’s easy to change camera settings accidentally.

I must have rotated the back dial slightly because the shutter speed was set for 1/200 s rather than the camera sync speed of 1/250 s. Using a faster shutter speed can result in sharper images.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromia illinoiensis exuvia (face-head) redux

May 22, 2020

A Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia was collected, with permission from park staff, on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The preceding image shows the remnant ommatidia clearly.

From this viewpoint, it’s harder to see the prominent horn on the face that is a key field mark for larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers). The base of the triangular horn is located above the labium (face mask), between the long, thin antennae; the apex of the triangle is pointed toward the viewer.

It’s easier to see the horn in the featured photo in my last blog post.

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

20 photos of the specimen were taken using 2.5x magnification at an aperture of f/4; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to convert Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create a focus-stacked composite image that was edited using Apple Aperture.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromia illinoiensis exuvia (face-head)

May 20, 2020

The following photograph of a Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia shows a prominent horn on the face that is a key field mark for larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

The specimen was collected, with permission from park staff, on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The specimen was posed on its dorsal side, so the camera was focused on the face-head-ventral view of the exuvia. The final image was cropped and rotated 180° during post-processing.

10 photos of the specimen were taken using an aperture of f/16; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to convert Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create a focus-stacked composite image that was edited using Apple Aperture.

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the last installment in what turned out to be a three-part series. The featured focus-stacked composite image is a little closer to what I had in mind when I set up the photo shoot.

  1. MYN – Macromiidae larvae/exuviae are horny
  2. RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0

May 18, 2020

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 powered by SILKYPIX is a free application available for download from Fujifilm USA. The application can be used to convert Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files.

The application is somewhat counterintuitive. For example, if you look at the File menu (shown in the menubar) notice “Export” isn’t an option.

Instead, images are exported from the Development menu.

First, select “Development / File output settings…” and configure the menu settings as shown below (or as appropriate for your purposes).

If you’d like to export several files, then select “Development / Batch development settings…” and configure the menu settings as shown below (or as appropriate for your purposes).

Use the left sidebar to navigate to a set of RAF files, then choose the images that you’d like to convert to TIFFs. Select “Development / Batch develop selected images…” [It’s worth noting that after selecting one or more images, some of the items in the “File” menu are no longer grayed-out. Selecting “File / Batch develop selected images…” is the same as working from the “Development” menu.]

Next a pop-up window appears; click the button labeled “Batch develop.”

The following window shows the progress of the file conversion process.

Tech Tips

“RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0″ can be used to edit photos too. I have no interest in learning to use a new application for editing photos — I know how to use “Apple Aperture” and “Adobe Lightroom” already. The free application from Fujifilm is simply a utility that enables me to convert RAF files that I can’t open and edit on my older Apple iMac desktop computer to TIFFs that I can open/edit.

That being said, the application appears to be fairly robust and has some features that might be worth exploring.

The step-by-step instructions provided in this guide were discovered by limited experimentation. If you know a better/simpler way to accomplish the same task, then please comment on this post. Thank you!

Related Resource: MYN – Macromiidae larvae/exuviae are horny, a blog post by Walter Sanford (see section entitled “Tech Tips”).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Macromiidae larvae/exuviae are horny

May 15, 2020

A prominent horn on the face is a key field mark for larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers), as shown in the following photograph of a Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia.

The base of the triangular horn is located above the labium (face mask), between the long, thin antennae.

The specimen was collected, with permission from park staff, on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The specimen was posed on its dorsal side, so the camera was focused on the face-head-ventral view of the exuvia. The image was rotated 180° during post-processing.

My vintage 2009 Apple iMac desktop computer is too old to support drivers for importing RAF files from my Fujifilm X-T3 mirrorless digital camera into either Apple Aperture or Adobe Lightroom.

The work-around is to use a free application from Fujifilm that converts RAF files to TIFF files, which can be opened and edited with Aperture and Lightroom. Problem is I’m a big procrastinator and haven’t learned how to use the file converter application, so I simply edited one of the JPGs straight from the camera.

For the most part, the finished image looks fairly good although the eyes are blown out a little to a lot. JPG files have less dynamic range than RAF files so I was unable to recover the blown highlights.

Hmmm, it might be time to buy a new desktop computer!

Post Updates

I finally got around to figuring out how to use the free Fujifilm application to convert RAF files to TIFFs. See my follow-up blog post entitled “RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0” for step-by-step instructions.

10 photos (converted from RAF to TIFF), including the one-off featured in this blog post, were used to create a focus-stacked composite image of the specimen that is a little closer to what I had in mind when I set up the photo shoot.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Adequate packing material for safe shipping?

May 13, 2020

I ordered a Laowa 25mm Ultra Macro lens from B&H Photo on 10 March 2020. The parcel was delivered a few days later on 14 March.

The first photo shows contents of the larger cardboard box in which the lens was shipped.

The last photo shows the larger cardboard box after I removed the smaller box containing the lens.

Notice there was NO PACKING MATERIAL on four of six sides of the smaller box for the lens. That can’t be good for shipping a camera lens safely!

During limited testing of the new lens, I haven’t been completely satisfied with its performance. I can’t help but think, was the lens damaged slightly during shipping? I’ll never know but I’ll always wonder.

What are the take-aways?

I remember opening the box of my first order from B&H Photo many years ago. My first impression was something like, “Wow! The items in my order were packed carefully to ensure they arrived in great condition.” Those days are long gone.

The fact of the matter is the problem of inadequate packing material seems to be the new normal at B&H Photo, and that doesn’t work for me — photo gear is too expensive to cut corners on shipping! C’mon B&H, you can and should do better.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Focus bracketing using Fujifilm X-T3

May 11, 2020

In-camera focus bracketing was used to shoot 35 photos automatically. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image shown below.

Focus-stacked composite image

The toy is a Poliwrath, one of many Pokemon characters. The 7″ plastic ruler is from the Calvert Marine Museum. Do you know why the small ruler is 7″ long rather than the more common 6″ length? Please leave a comment if you know the correct answer.

Photo No. 1

The camera was focused manually on the closest point in the foreground, before pressing the shutter button.

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/8 | 1/250s | ISO 160 | 0 ev

Select photos from the 35-photo set show the focus point advancing automatically from the foreground to background.

Photo No. 5

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/8 | 1/250s | ISO 160 | 0 ev

Photo No. 20

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/8 | 1/250s | ISO 160 | 0 ev

Photo No. 35

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/8 | 1/250s | ISO 160 | 0 ev

Related Resources

Tech Tips

Minimal effort was invested in arranging the subjects and lighting the scene.

Some trial and error is required in order to determine the correct focus bracket settings for a given combination of camera and lens, in this case, my Fujifilm X-T3 and 80mm macro lens.

As it turns out, I shot six sets of test shots before I found settings that worked the way I wanted. The following settings were used to shoot the 35 photos for the focus-stacked composite image featured in this post: Frames = 35; Step = 10; Interval = 3 s.

The camera was set to save files as FINE+RAW. In the interest of expediency, the composite image was created using JPGs straight from the camera. Photo No. 1, 5, 20, and 35 are also unedited JPGs.

What are the take-aways?

The technique works as advertised and should help to save time by automating the most tedious part of the process of creating focus stacks. Further experimentation is planned.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Clubtail exuvia (species unknown)

April 15, 2020

An Anisoptera exuvia was collected by Freda van den Broek on 10 June 2019 along the Red Cedar River in Barron County, Wisconsin USA.

This specimen is definitely a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), possibly Midland Clubtail (Gomphurus fraternus).

10 JUN 2019 | Barron County, WI | Anisoptera exuvia (dorsallateral)

Tech Tips

This subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

During this photo shoot, I tested the Flash Diffuser Light Softbox by Altura Photo (6″ x 5″) for the first time. This relatively inexpensive softbox ($12.99) is highly recommended by Allan Walls, an excellent photographer who specializes in macro photography. I must admit I was more than a little skeptical but the diffuser seems to work as advertised and is a remarkable bargain, unlike my expensive Lastolite softbox flash modifiers (8.5” x 8.5” square).

The 1:1 rule-of-thumb is used to determine how close/far to position a flash unit from the subject. The diagonal distance across the face of a softbox should be the distance to the subject [or less] for soft wrap-around light. Actually, the distance should be as close as possible without the softbox showing in the photo frame. Greater distances will result in a contrasty look.

For example, my new Altura softbox is a 6” x 5” rectangle (7.8” diagonally) so it should be positioned ~8″ or less from the subject. Buyer beware: This distance is OK for macro photography but not OK for most other types of photography.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

My MYN technique studio macro photography rig

March 25, 2020

The following annotated photos show the current iteration of my “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique studio macro photography rig, set up at BoG Photo Studio, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This rig represents the culmination of continuous experimentation spanning several months — it works well most of the time but not always. Some of the gear shown in the photos is nice but not essential. Start small and add items as necessary.

An equipment list and legend follows the photo set.

My MYN macro photography rig, front view.

Notice the orientation of the clear plastic stage relative to the white plastic background, optimized for best exposure of both the white background and the subject.

My MYN macro photography rig, side view.

Most of the essential gear is shown in the following photo. However you set up the rig, all you really need is a translucent white background, some sort of clear plastic stage, one or more radio-controlled external flash units (with light diffusers), and a camera, of course. I’m guessing many photographers will have most of the necessary equipment on-hand already.

Close-up of clear plastic stage and white plastic background.

In this case, the subject is a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) exuvia collected by Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy.

Equipment List (Legend)

  1. light stand (Promaster Deluxe Light Stand LS-2n)
  2. white plastic background
  3. clear plastic stage [part of a repurposed sandwich box from a delicatessen]
  4. Godox TT685F (fill flash, stage right)
  5. Canon 580EX II Speedlite (fill flash, stage left) fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash
  6. Godox X1R-C
  7. Lastolite Ezybox Speed-lite 2
  8. Tether Tools articulating arm [A large articulating arm is useful but DO NOT BUY Tether Tools articulating arms — they’re OVERPRICED and either work poorly (like this one) or not at all (like a smaller one shown in one of my YouTube videos)! Articulating arms and clamps made by Manfrotto are the best albeit expensive; arms and clamps made by SmallRig are a close second at a modest price point.]
  9. Westcott Reflector Arm Extreme
  10. Godox TT685C (backlight)

Everything is mounted on a Promaster Deluxe Light Stand LS-2n using the following Manfrotto articulating arms and clamps (and more).

A collection of articulating arms and clamps makes it easier to position everything exactly where it needs to be, enabling quick and easy set-up, repositioning, and break-down.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Laowa 25mm Ultra Macro (Canon mount)

March 23, 2020

Canon EF & RF, Nikon F & Z, Pentax K & Sony FE mounts are available. Source Credit: Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro, Venus Optics.

I bought the Canon mount plus the Canon EF lens to Fujifilm X mount camera adapter for use with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR and Fujifilm X-Series mirrorless digital cameras.

My Canon 5DM2 features a “full-frame” digital sensor; both my Fujifilm X-T1 and X-T3 cameras feature an APS-C digital sensor.

The following photo is an un-cropped, full size image from the full-frame digital sensor in my Canon 5DM2. Notice how much smaller the subject appears to be in this photo, in contrast with one of the un-cropped, full size images of the same specimen taken with my Fujifilm X-T1.

25mm (2.5x magnification) | ISO 100 | f/8 | 1/200 s | 0 ev

The Fujifilm X-T1 has a crop factor of 1.5x. In addition, the Canon-to-Fujifilm adapter (~1.25″ thick) increases magnification like the net effect of adding one or more extension tubes between the lens and focal plane of the digital image sensor.

The same photo was rotated slightly and cropped for better composition. Pretty good for a one-off shot at an aperture of f/8! Or was it f/5.6? I can’t remember and the EXIF info says f/0 because there aren’t any electronic contacts between the lens and camera body, so no help there.

25mm (2.5x magnification) | ISO 100 | f/8 | 1/200 s | 0 ev

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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