Making this shot was an interesting experience. When I was driving on this road, this composition occurred to me. Stopped the car off the road and walked into the middle of the road to visualize some possibilities. I tried several heights of the tripod – flat on the ground, at 1 feet height, 3 feet height and my eye level. At each tripod height, I tried compositional variations and exposure variations. Finally, this is the composition I selected. The tripod is about 1 feet high (I think!). To get end-to-end sharpness, I adjusted the aperture to f22. Since this is a wide angle image, my 17-35mm f2.8 lens was used. Of course, I used a remote release cable to open the shutter. Gitzo 1340 tripod and Kirk BH-1 ball head provided the stability I needed. My wife was extremely helpful – she stood by the side of the road and alerted me whenever a vehicle was approaching on the road. All my attention was on the photographic technique and composition – she made sure that I did not get run over by a car. Every time a vehicle approached, I lifted my tripod/camera and walked out of the road, then tried again.
There are a few options to make high magnification images of small things. Firstly, you may get yourself a dedicated macro lens. I would highly recommend the 200mm f4 macro lens. The 200mm focal length allows for sufficient working distance from the insects. A 100mm focal length option is much cheaper, but you have to get very close to the insects and they will fly away before you get your shot. The other option, if you already have the 70-200mm f2.8 lens is to add a Canon 500D diopter to it, to make it focus close. This is what I do. The third alternative is to add an extension tube (available from Kenko) to the 70-200mm f2.8 option and thereby reduce the minimum focusing distance to enable macro photography. Once you get the right lens, your next challenge is to hand-hold and shoot these insects. At macro focusing distances, you hardly have any depth of field. Shooting at f22 is a necessity to get the whole insect in sharp focus. This challenges the shutter speed. You deal with it by setting the shutter speed to 1/250 s manually and using an external speedlight to provide the lighting. This is how I photographed the Syrphid fly shown here.
Although it requires special skills, once mastered macro photography can be very joyful.
I will be covering the macro technique in detail in the “Advanced DSLR Seminar” coming up.