Monday, November 03, 2008

Eyes of a Dragonfly

As many of you might have noticed, I have been toying around much with close up shots, and I am still persisting on doing macro photography, without a proper macro lens. Knowing me this far now, I am sure you guys have come to terms with my stubborn effort of doing whatever I can to get that shot I want, without spending that extra load bit of cash on new lenses or costly accessories.

For some weird reasons, I am getting obsessed with dragonflies. Please check out this previous attempt of macro photos done on dragonflies, if you have not already viewed that entry.

I have tried one of the cheapest alternative for Macro, that is attaching a close-up filter (+4 diopter) onto the front element of my standard lens. Though this setup could bring me marginally closer to the subject, with minimum focusing distance of less than 5cm from the subject, but the magnification factor was still rather limited, and the photo outcome was nothing near to what can be considered as true macro. I needed longer zoom to achieve higher magnification, and being as unsatisfied as I was on my previous attempts, I seriously started to think for more alternatives.


One of those thoughts have actually come across before, attaching the close up filter onto the telephoto lens. I actually tried it before, and the autofocus was not working with the combination. Therefore, I abandoned the idea. Nevertheless, when I was at Penang few months ago, I met up with another fellow photog, Fishtan, and he actually could use the close up filter on his super zoom lens. So now it actually hit me, could it be that the filter could actually work, and just that the autofocus system was struggling to hunt for the near distance?

I was glad I put this theory to test, and the setup of tele + close up filter worked, only with full manual focus. Three or four months ago, I would shy away from the idea of utilizing manual focus in taking general pictures, with the fuss and much work to go around it compared to all out autofocus, which everyone has been so comfortable these days. Fortunately, I have been experimenting with the manual focus and getting more and more accustomed to it, though still feeling slightly uncomfortable administering the cumbersome process of turning the focus ring. It was not that easy to tell whether the shot is tack sharp through the viewfinder either.


So I ventured out early in the morning to the park, and firing away the tele+closeup setup with full manual focus control to obtain the shots displayed in this entry.

And boy !!! I was a little stunned with the pictures.. mainly because:

1) I could get a HECK LOT CLOSER now. Check out the scary eyes !!!! The magnification factor was dramatically increased. I did not perform any crop at all to these pictures, what you see here is the exact frame out from the camera. Pretty amazing results for a non-macro lens eh?

2) I did not even have to place my lens that close to the subject. The closest was probably 35-40cm away from the subject, and this provided me plenty of flexibility in composing my shots without worrying about scaring the insects off. A definite clear advantage over the standard zoom lens I have used previously, which went all the way to 5cm in front of the dragonfly and yet could not achieve as much magnification factor !!


Obviously there were drawbacks as well, using my setup.

1) Manual focus is darn tiring !!! It is hard enough trying to spot the right focus zone yourself, and for the first time, I really appreciate the invention of autofocus. Since I have not much experience with manual focus, a handful of my shots come out wrongly focused.

2) It was not an easy task steadying the shots with tele at maximum zoom, being shot so unusually close to the subjects. Image stabilization was of a little help, but even by moving the camera accidentally 1mm downwards, I could shift the entire head of the dragonfly to the far bottom of the frame. A feasible solution would be using a tripod, it helps !! Seriously, I will bring my tripod on my future attempts.

3) Since it was a hard job steadying the shots, I dare not stop down my aperture. I was sticking to wider aperture (smaller F-number) which is not a good thing in macro, because we need larger depth of field (larger zone to be sharp in focus) which requires smaller aperture (larger F-number). Alright I know this is confusing for some of you, but in short, I could not achieve wider sharper shot, and could only get a selective small area in focus. Again, tripod could help eliminate this problem.


There you go, simple steps that did not cost a thing, but I am now able to get closer to true macro photography. Of course, nothing could replace the true macro lens, but hey, for a poor boy like me, anything goes, and I was pretty happy with the turn out of the pictures this time.

I am sure many other tele lenses out there are able to autofocus even with the close up filter attached. That would have saved you a lot of trouble and time. I have not known that many friends who used this setup, so this is pretty much new to me.


Anyone tried this setup before? Feel free to share your opinion, and if you have, some pictures !!


  1. gee.. i saw baja hitam.. LOL!

  2. hey allen,
    oi baja hitam is grasshopper lah !!! Wrong insect !!

  3. er.. baja hitam's second cousin?

  4. lol.. no chicks.. no comment? :P so quiet

  5. spiderman's over at my side.. :P