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Sunday, January 31, 2010

MT-24EX on Sigma 150 and MP-E65

I explained about apparent light size in Full Flash Macro Photography - 3 Things you must know!. Since many people still find the apparent light concept hard to grasp, I specifically added this supporting post with more examples. These additional sample images have been added to the main post Full Flash Macro Photography - 3 Things you must know! as well.

Consider these two scenarios:

A: I used my Canon MT24EX Twin Flash with the DIY Diffusers on the Canon MPE65 1X-5X Macro Lens,

B: the same MT24EX with the same DIY Diffusers on the Sigma 150mm F/2.8.

I should be getting the same light, right?

If you answered Yes, you should read Full Flash Macro Photography - 3 Things you must know! again.

Now take a look at these two images:

mpe65 IMG_7564
sigma 150 IMG_7565

Both were shot at 1X, lit with the MT24EX and DIY Diffusers. Even without the text, you should still be able to tell which one was shot with which lens. Clues: look at the quality of the light - which one has nicer light? Which one harsher? Another clue: apparent light size. Look at the twin reflections on the scroll wheel.

MPE65 has a working distance of 4 inches from the front of lens to subject, whereas the Sigma 150, approximately 7.9 inches. The same DIY Diffusers will give better light because of the smaller working distance, and hence better apparent light size. And don't forget about the inverse square law for light and the higher virtual shutter speed. At 1:1, if i were to shoot in manual flash mode, i'd probably need only 1/4th power. With the sigma 150, i might need full power. Since all the light is from the flash at my normal full flash shot of F11, ISO100, 1/200, look what difference in virtual shutter speed i get courtesy of the flash duration:

Flash duration ( which is my virtual shutter speed)
1/1050 sec. at M1/1 (full) output
1/2700 sec. at M1/4 output

Sigma 150's longer working distance of 7.9 inches works against it on all 3 aspects: apparent light size, inverse square law and
Longer lenses are just not meant for Full Flash Photography.

I am not saying the Sigma 150 is not good. I wouldn't have bought it if i didn't think it was great. It's just different. I love it for its bokeh and working distance which allows me to shoot more skittish bugs that's not possible to approach with the MP-E65. But i use it mainly for Fill Flash and Natural Light shots. It's not impossible to use it for full flash and still get great light. You can always place the flash and diffuser off shoe, really close to the subjects. But how many times have you come across an insect in the wild that allows you to do that?

So if the same twin flash and same DIY Diffusers give harsher light on the Sigma 150 because of the longer working distance, how will it perform on the MPE65 at 2:1 (2.5" working distance), and 3:1 (2" working distance). Working distance info here.

I am sure you know the answers already by now. Nicer, more diffused light, of course:)

mpe 2x IMG_7567

mpe 3xIMG_7568

All shot with Canon MPE65 1X-5X macro lens and/or Sigma 150mm macro lens with MT24EX Twin Flash

However, it is worth mentioning that if you use an adapted concave diffuser on longer lenses like the Sigma 150, you can still get very good diffusion. Look for KJ Teng's and CheeWai's macro rig and sample images in this post,

DSC_4284-1 KJ Teng's macro rig concave diffuser
KJ Teng's macro rig. SB900 on hotshoe, but he has since upgraded to R1 twin flash.

macro rig double diffusion sml_DSCN4933
CheeWai's Macro Rig, 270EX on Dual Arm Macro Bracket.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What metering mode to use when shooting macro?

Spot? Partial? Evaluative? Center Weighted? What mode to use?

I shoot mainly full flash in ETTL mode so i am guessing the metering mode won't matter. How ETTL works (from Canon site):

Canon's flagship flash mode, E-TTL stands for "Evaluative Through-The-Lens" flash exposure control. In E-TTL, the meter reads through the lens, but not off the focal plane. Utilizing a preflash fired after the shutter button has been fully depressed - but before the camera's reflex mirror goes up - E-TTL uses the camera's evaluative metering sensor to analyze and compare ambient light exposure values with the light reflected from the subject by the preflash. This data is used to calculate and store the flash output required for optimum exposure of the main subject (identified by the AIM system), while maintaining a subtle balance between foreground and background. This method provides several extra features such as Flash Exposure Lock (a method of spot metering with flash) and FP flash mode (the ability to use flash at high shutter speeds). E-TTL requires the use of EX-series dedicated Speedlites such as the 550EX, 420EX, 220EX, 270EX, Canon MT-24EX Twin Flash or Canon MR-14EX Ring Flash in combination with a compatible camera.

More here:

and here:


I also dial in mostly -1 FEC (flash exposure compensation) depending the the background and fine tune from there. When there is no bg or bg is dark, i increase the -FEC (i.e from -1FEC to maybe -1.3 or -1.6, or even -2), and when the bg is bright, i reduce the -FEC, or even dial in +FEC ( i.e -.7, -0.3, 0, +0.3 or more)

For a detailed explanation on the use of FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation), pls refer to this post.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A huge, orange robber fly with prey

The first and last were single exposures, unstacked. The second shot was stacked from two images in Adobe Photoshop CS3 manually. Tutorial on manual focus stacking is here.

All images shot with a Canon 40D, Canon MP-E65 1X-5X macro lens and Canon MT-24EX Twin Flash with DIY Diffuser.

For the vertical shots, i turned my Canon MT-24EX Twin Flash 90 degrees CCW before closing in on my subject.

IMG_6296 copy

robberfly stacked copy

IMG_6305 copy

Check out some of my favorite robber fly shots here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wonderful reflection!

A beautiful Crimson Dropwing (Trithermis aurora) dragonfly with wonderful reflection.

Shot with a Canon 40D and Sigma 150mm F/2.8 macro lens.
crimson dropwing reflection

The original image is this:
IMG_1926 copy

Yes, the reflection was added using Flaming Pear's Flood plugin. :D

A tip. Notice that there's insufficient space at the bottom for reflection? Well, you can fix this easily in photoshop. Just go to File - New and create a blank layer the same width but twice the height of the original image, then copy the original image over and lastly, flatten it.

Play with the Flood plugin all you want until you get the effect you like. That's it! Enjoy!

This dragonfly shot was taken with natural light, tripod, reflector, 2-second timer, Live View. You don't have to use the timer if you have a remote control or cable release. For more tips on natural light macro photography, check out this post.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tanah Aina

I was hired to shoot for Tanah Aina quite some time ago. It's great to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and I enjoyed every minute of my stays at all five of the different Tanah Aina Orchards.

Photos - me
Location: Tanah Aina Farrah Soraya
Tanah Aina Farhana
Tanah Aina Fareena
Tanah Aina Farouq
Tanah Aina Azareena
Brochure Design: Kingfisher Creative


All shot with a Canon 40D and Tamron 17-50mm

Yes, that's my new pet....aww...so cute :)
Tanah Aina (IMG_6316)

Tanah Aina (IMG_5712 copy)

Yes, i'd be lying if i told you i didn't feel like jumping into the stream with crystal clear and cool water...but alas, I had a job to do :D
IMG_2160 copy

Tanah Aina (IMG_5709 copy)

Tanah AIna (IMG_5704 copy)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tropical Flora

Sharing some of the wonderful tropical flora of Malaysia. Learning to shoot flowers (and plants) here. Not easy but i knew that already :D. Flowers are so beautiful and elegant, and they are best complemented with nice light and bokeh. Of course, since most flowers are so big (compared to most bugs, LOL), you need to decide where to place the Depth of Field.

All taken with a Canon 40D and Sigma 150mm F/2.8 macro lens, mostly with natural light.

Not getting the bokeh i wanted, even with the Sigma 150mm. Perhaps i need a 180mm.

Not sure of its ID
IMG_5207 copy

Dendrobium crumenatum, white wild orchid
Dendrobium crumenatum IMG_5271 copy

Bamboo orchid
IMG_5349web

Cup mushroom
cup mushroom IMG_5255 copy

Bamboo orchid
IMG_5359 copy

another orchid
IMG_5338normal copy

purple waterlily...the bee insisted on being there.
IMG_5610 copy

yellow orchid, looks like top view of a bug :D
IMG_5417 copy

Mushroom
wild mushroom on decaying tree trunk IMG_2057 copy

Fern
fern IMG_6955 copy

Bird's Nest Fern
Bird's nest fern IMG_7471 copy

Wild flowering vine
wild flowering vine IMG_0974 copy

Pitcher plant
pitcher plant nepenthes IMG_8079 copy

Anthurium
anthurium IMG_3801 copy

Green orchid
green orchid IMG_6936 copy

Some kind of creeper, climbing fig (Ficus sp.?)
creeper climbing fig, ficus sp. IMG_9663b copy

Backlit fungus
backlit fungus IMG_5951 stk copy

Rafflesia cantleyi. More about it here.

IMG_8846 copy

Hmm..
IMG_5583 copy

All the images above were shot with natural light, with tripod whenever I could, and reflector when necessary. When on tripod, I use the 2-second timer (because I don't have a cable release or wireless remote), Live View (to enable Mirror Lock Up, MLU). More info here.

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