Slug caterpillar

Macro notes and gear

I'm sometimes asked about the cameras, lenses, and techniques I use to photograph tiny creatures. Here are some notes that may be helpful:

Photographic equipment:

Olympus micro four-thirds camera (currently OMD-EM1-ii, older shots with OMD EM5 ii), M Zuiko 60mm macro lens, Godox TT350 flash, DIY diffuser. I sometimes use a Raynox 250 if the subject is small (under 4-5mm). The Olympus M43/Zuiko lens combo is perfect for shooting macro in the field, IMO, and I feel I'm getting substantially better shots in the field than the excellent full-frame Nikon and 105mm combination I used to use. The keywords here are "in the field."

The little Olympus is a marvel: I can carry it in one hand for hours, shoot one-handed (critical when you need to move brush out of the way or steady a twig), and more easily pack when traveling. I’ve used it in both cold weather and humid tropical climates with only minor internal lens fogging in extreme conditions. The battery life is excellent, the image stabilization is amazing, and the camera is rugged.

This setup works for me because I only shoot live creatures, I only shoot in the field, I shoot handheld, don't stack, and I travel a lot.   If I were shooting in a controlled environment like a studio I would probably use my full-frame Nikon with a 105mm and a tripod.  But that's a whole different ball game.  

Since I was asked: No, I have no connection to Olympus and I'm not being paid to endorse them (or anything else) -- if I mention a camera brand, a hotel, product, or service it is because I genuinely think the information is of value to people. 

Technique:

All the photos in this gallery were taken in the field, handheld, and are single shots and that's where and how I shoot 99% of the time. The subject's welfare is an important consideration and I try to disturb the subject and his environment as little as possible. I do not use bait for birds or mammals and do not capture and chill my subjects or otherwise molest them. 

Special macro equipment:

Just a couple of little things: I usually carry a lightweight, collapsible stool, wear knee pads and wear/carry volleyball elbow pads. This looks dorky but allows me to comfortably lie down or kneel on rocky surfaces — or simply sit. The pads also make useful wraps for camera equipment that needs protection during travel.  There is often coffee.

Post-processing:

With the Olympus system I usually only need to make minor tweaks to the "ORF" file produced by the camera. I mostly modify shadows, blacks, and whites. If I find a distracting or unacceptable highlight on an otherwise acceptable picture I may attempt to take it out in Lightroom using a radial filter or brush. The place this happens most is on frogs and salamanders, especially around their mouths and eyes. Because I’m not crazy about the work involved (and I’m not very good at it) I try to manage my light so as to avoid having to muck about with it in LR. 

Bird shots:

I use a Nikon d750 and the lovely 300mm f2.8. This lens is about as long (and heavy) a lens as I would want to shoot handheld. I can’t be bothered to lug a tripod about and, anyway, I feel that a tripod can be limiting since birds tend to move about all the time. I do not currently have bird shots on this site.


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