That’s right, I’ve finally acquired a bona fide digital SLR camera system and am taking the plunge into real insect macrophotography. I’ve been playing with my little point-and-shoot over the past 18 months or so, and the more I used it to take photographs of tiger beetles and other insects, the more I realized what I could do if I had a true macro system. I made the decision several months ago and got lots of good advice on what kind of system I should put together from my colleague, field companion, and insect macrophotographer-extraordinaire Chris Brown, as well as from Adrian Thysse over at Voyages Around My Camera. For a time, I was trying to design a system on a rather tight budget, and Adrian graciously wrote an excellent post (Basic DSLR Macro System on a Budget) in response to my query. The problem was, I could get the macro lens that I wanted but would have to really skimp on the flash and the camera body. Or, I could get both the lens and the flash that I wanted, but then I’d have no money for a camera (kind of hard to take photographs with a lens and flash only). I was thinking that maybe I could come up with a cheap body somewhere that I could live with for awhile, but in the end I realized that if I was going to do this I had to do it for real and find some way to scrape up the funds for a real system. I decided to sell all of my bike racing equipment, keeping just my one really nice carbon road bike and a backup. Happily, my equipment sold for a lot more than I thought it would, and I ended up raising enough funds not only to purchase a real system, but to purchase the system of my dreams. I present to you the new BitB (Beetles in the Bush) insect macrophotography system¹:
¹ It is ironically amusing that I had to take this photograph with my old point-and-shoot camera!
The system includes:
- Canon EOS 50D Camera
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.4 Macro Lens
- Canon MP-E 65 mm 1-5X Macro Lens
- Canon EF-S 17-85mm Zoom Lens
- Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite Flash
- Kenco extension tubes (12mm, 20mm, 36mm)
At this point, I feel like I have just jumped into the ocean after having taken one introductory swim class at the YMCA. I really have no experience with SLR photography since putting away my old Olympus OM-10 with a Zeiko 50mm macro lens some 20 years ago (pulling it out briefly for my trip to South Africa almost 10 years ago), and my digital experience has been limited to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX3 I’ve been using since I started this blog. However, I’m a smart fellow and am reading everything I can right now, and I have the able tutelage of my colleague Chris, who has been more than willing to help show me the ropes with insect macrophotography in much the same way that I helped him get up to speed on our state’s fascinating tiger beetle fauna.
I suspect I’ll use mostly the 100mm out in the field, as most tiger beetles require slightly less than 1:1 magnification. The extension tubes will also be useful in the field when I need to get a little more than 1:1 but don’t want to pull out the 1-5X beast. Above 1.5, which I’ll need for many of the smaller buprestids (that the rest of the insect macrophotography world has overlooked to this point), I’ve got no choice – I’ll have to pull out the 1-5X. I’m a little fearful of this lens (see Alex‘s fine review), which seems to have a steep learning curve (I haven’t even taken a shot with it yet), but I’ll just have to deal with it if I want to get the kind of photos I’m looking for with our beautiful, but small, jewel beetles. Perhaps someday I’ll earn a listing under people’s “Insect Macrophotographers” blogrolls, but I doubt I’ll be posing much competition to the likes of Alex, Adrian, Chris, Kolby, Dalantech, and Mark for the time being.
For now, I present to you the very first tiger beetle photograph taken with my new system, the common spring woodland species, Cicindela sexguttata (six-spotted tiger beetle). It’s not real close up, but it is tiger beetle photograph number one!
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009