Posts Tagged ‘studio photography’

High-speed sync flash photography

March 14, 2018

Background information

DSLRs and many, if not most mirrorless cameras require a mechanical shutter in order to properly expose larger digital image sensors. The default flash sync speed of my Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR is 1/200s: external flash units work with the camera at shutter speeds of 1/200s or slower; a black bar will appear on images at shutter speeds greater than 1/200s.

That’s a problem, especially if you prefer to shoot at faster shutter speeds. What’s the solution? High-speed sync. Rather than a single burst of light, high-speed sync uses imperceptible rapid pulses of light that enables your camera to work properly at shutter speeds greater than its default sync speed. Sounds great, right? Not so fast. As it turns out, the power output of external flash units is reduced by using high-speed sync.

Among other reasons that I bought the new Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite recently is because it supports high-speed sync (HSS), unlike the older model it replaced. I experimented with HSS so I could use a faster shutter speed in order to diminish/eliminate camera shake/vibration, a big problem in high-magnification macro phototography. Problem is, the Guide Number of the macro flash isn’t powerful enough to shoot HSS indoors. (Outdoors should be fine.) Again I ask, what’s the solution? More power! (Grunt, grunt.)

I  used wireless multiple flash photography by setting the macro flash in “Master” mode and two Canon Speedlites (580EX and 580EX II) in “Slave” mode: one of the macro twin lites is Group A, the other macro twin lite is Group B, and the other two flashes are Group C. All flashes fire at the same settings automatically, as configured currently. If the master flash is set for HSS, then the slave flashes also fire using HSS. The system works in either ETTL- or Manual modes. (I prefer Manual mode for macro photography.)

Test shots

Photo No. 1 is a test shot of the lens cap for a Canon EF 100mm Macro lens using high-speed sync flash photography. Notice the shutter speed is faster than the default sync speed of 1/200s.

No. 1 | 100mm | ISO 100 | f/18 | 1/320s | 0 ev

Photo No. 2 shows a Brook Snaketail dragonfly (Ophiogomphus aspersus) nymph that was collected by Bob Perkins on either 10 SEP 2017 or 03 OCT 2017 (the date is uncertain) along the New River in southwestern Virginia. The nymph was reared in captivity until it emerged on 31 OCT 2017 and metamorphosed into an adult female. The following specimen is the exuvia from the nymph.

No. 2 | 100mm | ISO 100 | f/22 | 1/500s | 0 ev

Notice the f/stop is smaller and the shutter speed is faster than the first test shot. As you might guess, that means I increased the power output of the master- and slave flashes until the image was exposed properly.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot Photo No. 1 and 2: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode; and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites in “Slave” mode.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Good news, bad news

March 10, 2018

Regular readers of my blog know I have been shooting a lot of studio macro photographs recently. Three essential items of gear are used for every shot but are mentioned rarely in the “Tech Tips” featured in many blog posts, so I thought it would be a good time to pause to share my thoughts about some of the behind-the-scenes gear that I use.

Let me just say at the outset that commercial product photography is more challenging than one might think. Witness the following quick-and-dirty photo used to show two of three items of gear that will be discussed in this post — those are some ugly shadows caused by an external flash unit!

Manfrotto tripod head and tripod legs, plus Neewer focus rails.

The preceding photo shows a Manfrotto 405 Geared Tripod Head plus Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focusing Focus Rail mounted on a Manfrotto 055XPROB Aluminum Tripod.

Manfrotto 405 Geared Tripod Head

Let’s start with the three-way geared tripod head. Although the 405 is extremely expensive, it’s a JOY TO USE! It’s vastly superior to both ball heads that I own, including one made by Manfrotto and another made by Vanguard. Each axis of motion features two geared knobs: one for coarse adjustment; another for fine adjustment. The three-way geared tripod head is much easier and faster to use to position my camera exactly where I want it, unlike a ball head.

That’s the good news. So what’s the bad news? The Manfrotto 405 Geared Tripod Head weighs 3.53 lb. Of course, the weight of the tripod head is added to the weight of the tripod itself. In this case, the Manfrotto 055XPROB weighs 5.29 lb, for a combined weight of 8.82 lb, less the weight of the focus rail(s) and camera/lens/flash.

A heavier tripod head and tripod legs can support heavier camera gear, but the obvious trade-off is portability. This rig is good for studio photography but less than ideal for field work.

Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focusing Focus Rail

Let’s start with the good news. At a price-point of ~$26.00, the Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focusing Focus Rail is priced toward the less expensive end of the cost continuum for focus rails. The product was endorsed by a trusted source, so I bought one.

The Neewer focus rail works well with lighter camera rigs, but it is insufficiently stable for high-magnification macro photography using heavier camera rigs.

If you’re just getting into macro photography and you’re using a relatively light camera such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera (my go-to camera kit for photowalking), then the Neewer focus rail is a good choice. Otherwise you will discover quickly you need a professional-grade focus rail. Can you guess my next gear purchase?

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

What is it?

February 18, 2018

It’s time for another exciting edition of “What is it?” Well, what is shown in the following photograph?

What is shown in this photograph?

If you were thinking “empty containers of Philadelphia cream cheese spread,” then you’re only half right.

These small plastic tubs can be repurposed as storage containers for odonate exuviae, such as the Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) exuvia shown below. (Oops, I just noticed it’s time to update the label on the container!)

Storage container for a Sable Clubtail dragonfly (exuvia).

The containers are ideal in many ways. They’re not too big and not too small. The tubs can be “nested” so they don’t take up much space when you’re in the field. For long-term storage, the closed containers can be stacked neatly inside a larger box such as a Rubbermaid Keeper. And the tubs can be used to soak specimens in soapy water in order to clean- and/or re-pose exuviae when they’re pliable.

Finally, think about all the tasty toasted bagels and cream cheese that you get to eat in order to build a collection of specimen containers — that’s what I call a win-win situation!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Have you ever wondered…?

January 9, 2018

Have you ever wondered…

The preceding photo shows the “focal plane mark” on my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

The same mark appears on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR, as shown on p. 16 of the “Instruction Manual.”

Minimum focusing distance versus working distance

The “minimum focusing distance” is the distance from the subject to the focal plane. The “working distance” is the distance from the front of the lens to the subject.

For example, the minimum focusing distance for the Fujinon XF80mm macro lens (shown above) is 246 mm (24.6 cm). The working distance is 98 mm (9.8 cm).

Magnification (or magnification ratio)

True macro lenses have a magnification ratio of at least 1:1, meaning the size of the subject is the same size on the focal plane (digital sensor).

For example, the digital sensor for the Fujifilm X-T1 is 23.6 mm wide by 15.6 mm high. At a magnification ratio of 1:1, a subject that is 15 mm (1.5 cm) long will be 15 mm (1.5 cm) wide on the digital sensor; expressed another way, the subject will fill ~64% of the frame width.

For a prime macro lens, maximum magnification of 1:1 is possible only at the minimum focusing distance; magnification is necessarily lower at longer focusing distances.

Adding an extension tube

Adding a Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube reduces the working distance to 89 mm (8.9 cm). It’s interesting to note the minimum focusing distance of 249 mm (24.9 cm) is essentially the same, with or without the extension tube.

The net effect of adding an extension tube is the magnification ratio is increased to a value greater than 1:1, say 1.2:1, so the subject appears slightly larger on the focal plane.

Related Resource: Adding an 11mm extension tube, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More light diffusion

January 7, 2018

A toy dinosaur was photographed using a Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite mounted on a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS lens (set for manual focus), Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube, and Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera (set for manual exposure). Snap-on plastic light diffusers were mounted on both flash heads.

The first photo shows a wider view of the small plastic toy.

Default light diffusion on both flash heads (snap-on plastic diffusers).

The next photo shows a closer view of the same toy. Specular highlights are more noticeable when the flash heads are closer to the subject.

Default light diffusion on both flash heads (snap-on plastic diffusers).

More light diffusion was added by mounting four layers of translucent white plastic foam on the right flash head (facing forward). Notice the specular highlights are less glaring on the right side of the last photo than on the left.

More light diffusion added to right flash head (facing forward).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Toys are for testing

January 5, 2018

The first photo shows a laid-back toy monkey, photographed using a Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite mounted on a Fujinon XF80mm macro lensFujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, and Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

The Fujinon macro lens is tack sharp. Hotspots from the Canon macro twin lite, technically known as specular highlights, are visible in two regions of the monkey’s face. Although snap-on plastic light diffusers were used with both flash units, additional diffusion seems to be necessary.

The last two photos were taken using the same external macro flash unit mounted on a Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (set for 1x) and a Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR.

The preceding photo shows a rubber duck, SWAG from the Sleep Inn in Staunton, Virginia.

The following photo shows Totodile, a Pokemon character. Depth of field is noticeably very shallow. The focus point is the eye of the toy.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

What is it?

December 26, 2017

Well, what is it? It’s obviously a dragonfly. The real question is what is shown in the following photograph?

If you think you know what it is, then please leave a comment. The answer will be provided in a follow-up comment.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2017

“Crystal,” the crystal dragonfly Christmas tree ornament, wishes you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Now it’s time for Crystal to fly back to her perch on a nearby pine tree.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macro flash for Fujinon 80mm macro lens

December 22, 2017

The following photograph shows a Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite mounted on a Fujinon XF80mm macro lensFujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, and Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Two adapter rings are used for mounting the macro flash unit on the macro lens: a Sensei PRO 62-67mm step-up ring (upper-left); and Canon Macrolite Adapter 67C (lower-right).

The filter size for the Fujinon 80mm macro lens is 62mm. A 62-67mm step-up ring is used to connect the macro lens with the Canon Macrolite Adapter 67C, so named because it works with “most 67mm filter size lenses.” In this case, it works perfectly with the Fujinon 80mm macro lens.

Like every other Canon external flash that I own, the new macro flash is compatible with my Fuijifilm X-T1 digital camera. TTL is incompatible, so it’s manual mode flash only with the X-T1. That’s not a problem since I prefer manual exposure for macro photography. Although high-speed sync is supported by the Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite, it’s incompatible with the Fujifilm X-T1.

Related Resources

The filter size for the Fujinon XF55-200mm lens is 62mm. Therefore the same combination of adapter rings described above can be used to mount the Canon macro flash on the 55-200mm lens. The lens, in combination with one or more extension tubes, can be used for macro photography. The most magnification results at 200mm; the least magnification at 55mm.

The Canon Macrolite Adapter 58C can be used to mount the Canon macro flash on the Fujinon XF18-55mm “kit” lens (58mm filter size). The Macrolite Adapter 58C cannot be seen in the following photo, but it’s there. This lens, in combination with one or more extension tubes, can be used for macro photography although in my experience the 55-200mm lens is a better choice for that purpose.

Canon MT-26EX-RT adapter mounted on Fujinon XF 18-55mm lens.

The front of the Canon MT-26EX-RT adapter has a filter size of 58mm. The next photo shows a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter mounted on the MT-26EX-RT adapter using two adapter rings: a Sensei 58-52mm step-down ring; and a Sensei 52-43mm step-down ring. The same combination of adapter rings can be used to mount the Raynox close-up filter on any lens to which the MT-26EX-RT adapter is mounted.

Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter and Canon MT-26EX-RT adapter.

Most of the time I carry the Raynox close-up filter connected to the Sensei 52-43mm step-down ring because it fits a couple of lenses that I own with a 52mm filter size, such as the fixed lens on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera (my go-to camera kit for photowalking).

MT-24EX versus MT-26EX-RT

The Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite is the successor to the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX. The MT-24EX supports E-TTL with Canon DSLRs; it doesn’t support high-speed sync. The MT-24EX is $160 less expensive than the newer MT-26EX-RT (MSRP $829.99 versus $989.99). Both models are compatible with the Canon Macrolite Adapter 67C and Canon Macrolite Adapter 58C.

As the owner a Canon DSLR, I could rationalize the higher cost for the newer model because I like to shoot Shutter Priority using shutter speeds faster than the default sync speed of my camera. If you need a macro flash for Fujifilm digital cameras only, then you may want to consider buying the less expensive model.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Light-modifier

December 20, 2017

Here’s a light-modifier for external flash units like the Fujifilm EF-X500, shown below. It’s simple, and works surprisingly well.

Simple light-modifier mounted on a Fujifilm EF-X500 external flash.

Mount a translucent white plastic foam bag on the flash head, secure it using a rubber band, and voila! In this case, I repurposed a foam bag that came with my Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter.

Thanks to Alan Pezzulich for sharing the idea for this clever light-modifier with me during a walk-and-talk about some of his techniques for field macro photography.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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