Life size is a matter of perspective. We see tiny leaves and insects all the time, no big deal. To the naked eye, we see these subjects like an astronaut might see the Earth from space, or a person looking up at the sky and seeing a disc-shaped moon. With macro, I have a newfound love for nature with all its life that goes mostly unseen. Seeing creatures as they really are is a singularly rewarding experience. There’s an interaction with these little life forms, I have questions about them and they’re just as inquisitive about me. They have so much personality; macro photography lets me see them as they are. I’ve gone from stargazer to astronaut.
My final setups involved using a clamp to hold the lens and tele-converter together (donated by my Dad) and a little bit of tape to keep things in place. It took a couple of attempts to hold them together, the first time the 35mm wasn’t perfectly straight so there was distortion. But my third lens setup was truly the charm. At roughly 1.4x magnification, I have enough close-up ability to get details in tiny bugs, but not so close that I can’t get some of their environment in the photo as well.
My issue now has to do with light and depth of field. Wide open at F3.5, I have about half a millimeter in focus, no kidding. At F8 I have a decent amount in focus, with F11 and F16 being better in terms of depth of field but with slightly noticeable diffraction. These are the apertures set on the lens, but the amount of light hitting the sensor is even less because of the modified tele-converter. I’m thinking that the amount of light is still halved, so F8 is like F11, F11 is F16, etc. An external light is critical; I have no off-camera flash and am still challenging myself to not spend money.
All of the macro photos you have seen have been with the on-board flash. Playing around with different flash settings has yielded decent results, but I wanted to have the light coming from the side (and not straight on). I set out to build a diffuser, and after cutting up rolls of paper towels, Styrofoam cups, and small boxes, I’ve ended up with something decent. Using an elongated can, a cupcake plastic holder, tape, and aluminum foil, I’ve created mini Frankenstein flash unit. I haven’t had time to experiment with it much, but it does give the photos a more natural feel. A co-worker donated the last piece of the puzzle, and I hope to put this setup to use over the coming months.