This marks my first attempt on photographing insects. Without a macro lens. And I am sure Yiaw Wei would love me, for taking macro more and more seriously.
I know, I am a cheapskate, I can't help it. The way I am seeing my financial status at the moment, I will not be able to add anything into my photography equipments for many many months to come, possibly more than a year. Hence, no new lenses, or anything else in that regard. Sad, I know, but I shall live with what I currently have.
And so it was a fine Saturday morning that I managed to wake up really early in the morning, and according to Jasonmumbles it is time again for me to torture my camera. A little correction, it was nothing like torture at all, the way I see it, it was more of going out and having fun, with the camera. Come on man, I am not that kind of person treating cameras like slaves ok. I let it rest 5 days a week, and only bring it out for heavy usage in the weekends.
For some really unexplainable reasons, the dragonflies were, somewhat very friendly that particular morning. I was using my standard zoom lens, attached with a +4 close up filter, and I moved my lens to as close as I dared, up to a point less than 10cm from the front of my lens, fully zoomed in telephoto end. On normal days, the dragonflies would have flown away when anything moved within 1m radius of their vicinity. I guess I must have been quite lucky, since many of them remained really still, and allowed me to go that near for those macro shots.
GOING AS CLOSE AS I CAN
AMAZING SHARPNESS EVEN FROM A KIT LENS
Of course the usage of close up filter can aid in obtaining a little extra, but significant magnification in the shots, but it is by no means a proper replacement for a real macro lens. I do not really consider those shots macro at all, since the magnification factor was way less than 50%. A true macro lens will enable you to go in much further, browse the web for macro snapshots of insects, and you can see their hairy head with scary huge beady evil eyes, filling up the entire picture frame. As for me, I just did with what I have, and even it was not fully considered as anywhere close to the real thing, I was happy and thrilled with the shots, in the process of making it, and having the final results.
This is also one of those few times I went on full manual in focusing. One of the immense yet mostly unknown advantages Olympus DSLRs offer the photographers would be the full time manual focus override capability. You can use the Autofocus to pin point the focus zone first, then while the shutter is halfway pressed down, you rotate the focus ring at the front of lens, and this provides an override into the manual control over the focus, enabling you to fine tune to the precise narrow depth of field you want to stay sharp in focus. For example, your autofocus might just snap somewhere near the head of the dragonfly (might be a little too much to the front of back, but not where you precisely want it to be), but if you truly want to snap your focus on the eyes, you can fine tune the focus by turning the manual focus ring, without even touching or switching any other buttons. I find this, really really useful, and once you have sampled its extreme versatility, believe me, you would not want to go back to conventional ways of AF/MF switching anymore.
LITTLE DUDE ON A GRASS
SMILING AT MY LENS
Another really useful feature that I have engaged was the Live View function, with magnification function to further aid in fine tuning the manual focus. With this, you do not really have to squint your pitiful eyes over the viewfinder, but can have the luxury of viewing one portion of magnified area through the huge LCD screen. Plus the manual focus control by Olympus is "focus by wire", fully digital in mechanism control, basically you get much higher accuracy. For those of you who have not experienced this flexibility, you might want to give it a try. It is definitely a huge plus in getting that tack sharp image.
Since my standard kit lens is 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6, and I was zooming into the full telephoto end, most of the pictures taken were shot at F5.6. This resulted the inability to fully throw the background out of focus, and whatever blurring occurred could not effectively isolate the dragonfly. Nevertheless, I was not complaining, since this is something I need to live with, not having a real macro lens, but utilizing a cheap alternative close up filter. I dare say, the background blur is creamy enough, though Nikon and Canon users could have achieved approximately 20% further defocussing capabilities in comparison to Olympus.
FRONT AND BACK
Another point worth noting, the built in body Image Stabilization seriously made a hell of a difference. I have tried with my E-410 previously, and I can honestly tell you I was never going to be able to produce those sharp/shake free images, even at ISO800 !!! Now with the built in Image Stabilization, all I was worrying about was where to focus the subject considering the superbly narrow depth of field, not so much trouble on blurring due to camera shake even shooting at marginally lower ISO settings. You can judge for yourself from all the pictures I have posted here, onviously less shake and the noise control this time was much better too compared to my previous attempts. (if you are so free go browse back my older entries, where people always complain that my pictures have too much noise/grains)
As for me, I really, really enjoy shooting those dragonflies. Though the shots are nowhere near what those true macro photographers would consider as anything useable and good (inadequate magnification, insufficient bokeh), but I still have this fulfilling and satisfying feeling viewing the end results. After all, I do believe in fully maximizing the use of your camera before you should move on to the next level by upgrading your equipments. I know I have not tried out every single thing the Olympus has to offer, but I am in no rush, and I am taking one step at a time. We learn progressively, and in each mile we travel we all will improve.
To produce those shots, it was not an easy task, and sure it was time consuming, On the whole this session took me almost 3 hours, and a lot of them involved patience in waiting for the dragonfly to come near you, and trying really hard not to move too much, or too sudden to startle them. Trust me, photography needs patience, if you have not much, start gaining some if you want to see improvement in your shots. Nevertheless, I dare say dragonflies are very fun to work with, and they almost seem to camwhore for me !! Tiring, it was but all the effort and time were worth the thrill and end-satisfaction.
I am foreseeing more future insect photography attempts. Someone, donate me a macro lens please and save me all this misery.