Category Archives: Macro

Macro photography using the wonderful canon 100mm f/2.8 L Macro lens and the crazy canon MP-E 65mm 1-5X macro lens (macro on steroids!!!!)

Tiny Ant on a Clematis leaf with the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro lens

Extreme Macro Ant
Tiny Ant on a Clematis leaf

Well, it is a Saturday, and I am sure there are some Macro Monday groups I could find, but I got the sudden urge to balance my postings a bit with a macro photograph!

I also remember my intention to talk about equipment and technique from time to time on my blog, so here come the technical bits and do feel free to read no further and just enjoy the picture if such things do not excite you – I shall completely understand :0)

You can see it is a macro shot, of course, but please believe me, this is not a giant tropical Ant, and this is not an ordinary Macro lens!!

Allow me to introduce you to the remarkable Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Lens.

This incredible piece of glass really is unlike anything else available from the main camera makers.

Although the term is used loosely for close up work, true macro is 1:1 magnification and above. This means that the image falling on the sensor is the same size as the object.
Such specialist lenses are readily available, but this lens starts where they stop!

It starts at 1X magnification (it can only focus close, so you cannot get smaller magnification or use it for normal photography unlike the standard macro lenses). It then goes to 5X magnification at which point a grain of rice will not fit into the frame.

Before you rush out to buy one, a word of warning. This is a notoriously difficult lens to use:

Autofocus? Absolutely not!
Depth of field? About 0.05mm at f/2.8 and 0.3mm at f/16, both at full magnification
working distance? Less than 2 inches at 5X
Viewfinder visibility? Very dark!!

All of the above mean that lighting is very, very hard indeed!
The short working distance makes getting direct light onto the subject difficult, with shadows being a big problem
You will want plenty of light and a small aperture to get a half decent Depth of Field and the normal solution would be a slow shutter speed.
At this level of magnification any movement is magnified so much that an imperceptible breeze takes this option away.
Unless you have a controlled environment inside, with no breeze, the only realistic option is flash.

Again, normal camera-mounted flash will not work, as the lens will block the beam.
Specialist ring flashes mounted to the front of the lens can work very well and are certainly the most practical option, but cost a fair bit of money.
Many people have made some weird and wonderful rigs as a cheaper alternative, and for this shot I have put a metal foil-lined Pringles Crisps tube over the end of my Canon Speedlite (hotshoe-mounted) and put a diffuser on the other end, angled down over the Ant.
A bit Heath-Robinson, but it has worked surprisingly well!
Another method which has worked for me is to hand hold the Speedlite flash to one side of the lens, with a reflector the other, to balance the light and avoid shadows, and remotely trigger the flash.

I do aim to get hold of a specialist Flash in due course, as this really is the ideal solution in my mind

The nature of the lens means that the view in the viewfinder is very dark (remember, this lens does not autofocus), making manual focus very difficult, and I have found using Live View at full brightness a far easier option.

I absolutely adore this truly fabulous piece of glass, but if you are tempted, please do not get put off by the huge and steep learning curve and be prepared for a low strike rate and frustration in the early days.
Rest assured that when a shot works there are few more satisfying lenses out there :0)


Delicate Spring Apple blossom

Selicat Spring apple Blossom
Beautiful Spring Apple Blossom in my garden in Sissinghurst, Kent England

On the Apple tree in my Garden in Sissinghurst Kent, UK. The tree was smothered with these beautiful blossoms last spring and a beautiful white climbing rose scrabbled through producing the most wonderful sight. Nine months on and a good crop of apples has come and gone and I can’t wait for these gorgeous flowers to emerge again this Spring!

Perfect camouflage

Buff Tip moth
Buff Tip Moth

The Buff tip moth, Phalera bucephala. A truly fascinating British moth, which is easily visible here, but if found on its food plant, the birch tree, remains virtually unnoticeable. The wings have the same colours, shades and patterns as the twigs and the head and the tips of the wings both have the pale yellow colours of broken birch twigs. Like all moths which rely on camouflage, they remain completely still during the daylight hours, even when touched, to avoid giving the game away. Isn’t nature remarkable :0)

Seen on my artist websites’ Macro and close up Gallery

The fabulous furry Poplar Hawk Moth!

Poplar Hawk moth Macro
Fabulous furry moth

Here we have a photo of the Poplar Hawk Moth (Laothoe populi). This is a full body macro shot to give you a view of how remarkable its camouflage is, looking for all the world like a bunch of dead leaves, and indeed the subtle colours are very similar to the dead leaves of its food plant, the Poplar tree, from where, of course, it gets its name. It is one of the UK’s largest moth with a wingspan approaching 4 inches and, while not rare, it is seldom seen due to the effectiveness of its camouflage. This is also helped by the positioning of the wings, which are not completely overlapping, like most moths, giving the impression of separate leaves, with the forewings only partially covering the hind wings and is one of the few moths to lack a frenulum (the small hook which normally ensures the wings are held together. The moth is resting on an old seed head of a foxglove and, if you look carefully, you can see tiny fungal spores growing on them. I am delighted to share this fabulous furry moth with you as it is one of my all time favourites – I hope you don’t think me peculiar :0)