The positioning of every piece of equipment is just as important as the settings used. To properly illuminate the drops of water, the 580EX is placed behind the stream of water and facing the camera. If a black background is desired, the flash is lifted out of view of the camera and a black photo board is placed behind the subject. In a dark room, the black board hides any objects inadvertently in the shot and creates an illusion of dark infinity behind the subject. While only one flash is required for drop photography, the second flash is almost essential to capture the drops and insect subject. The two heads of the MT-24EX are placed in different locations. For my setup, the A Head is aimed from the left and vertically in plane with the mosquito while the B Head is positioned adjacent to the lens on the right and aimed directly at the mosquito. The B Head is approximately 3 times closer to the subject than the A Head. Because I am forced to use the lowest power of flash to capture motion, I use the distance the flash is from the subject to change the amount of saturation of light, with closer flashes providing greater illumination.
With the drops correctly captured, my next challenge was with my mosquito subjects. Mosquitoes fly in seemingly random patterns and exhibit varying flight scenarios and characteristics. As a result, capturing a mosquito flying through the cameras pre-determined plane of focus is a very difficult task to accomplish. To eliminate some flight variability, I designed an acrylic box that would house a mosquito. Inside the box was a wall with a square hole, whose dimensions matched the cameras sensor size, removed from the center. Above this hole was the valve sensor, which would drop the water onto the mosquito as it traversed the gap from one side of the box to the other. The idea here is that the camera would be pre-focused at the wall opening. Then, when the mosquito moved through the opening it would be in view and in focus. At that instant, I would actuate the Camera Axe, hit the mosquito with the drop, capture the image and Bob’s your uncle. However, nothing is that easy when working with live subjects.
To capture the falling drops, the normal rules of photography are seemingly reversed. Instead of instinctively shooting with a shutter speed as fast as possible, I set the camera to a longer exposure, around ¼ of a second, and shoot in a completely dark room. While the 1D has a 1/8000 second maximum shutter speed, the need to shoot with an extremely closed aperture for increased depth of field results in needing a very strong lighting, which can disturb live subjects, and high ISO, which adds noise. Instead, a sudden burst of a flash captures the drop in place. This works simply because in a dark room the quick flash illuminates the subject for only a short period; before and after the flash fires, the environment is completely dark. In essence, we are creating a faster shutter: completely dark (shutter closed) -> flash fires (shutter open) -> completely dark (shutter closed).
My main goal in macro photography is to capture the most detail through magnification while not compromising the focus of the subject. This is done through proper camera and lens choices and pushing the equipment to its maximum abilities. For all my research shots, I use a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. Its full frame senor is ideal for almost all scenarios and has incredible low light sensitivity (yes, full frame sensors do decrease the available depth of field compared to standard frame sensors, but I’ve found this effect is seemingly negligible). Mounted to the camera, I use, primarily, the Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x Macro Lens. The 65mm offers an unmatched level of magnification; set at 5x magnification or a 5:1 magnification ratio, 1mm of subject is captured as 5mm on the sensor plate. For an example of full 5x magnification see Macro Insects gallery. However, the 65mm can only be stopped down to f/16 resulting in a maximum depth of field around 2.24mm. This small depth of field means that in order to have my subject mosquitoes fully in focus they must fly perpendicular to the camera. Even then, some of the wing and leg structure details are lost; this is a trade-off using the MP-E 65mm for its magnification powers.
As part of my research photography, I was recently asked to attempt to photograph a collision between a drop of water and a flying mosquito and a mosquito flying in a field of drops for a research article determining how these insects can fly in the rain. While seemingly straightforward, this quickly became one of the most difficult shots I have ever attempted. In a fraction of a second, I needed to capture – in focus – the flight path of a mosquito timed perfectly with a falling drop of water, all with enough magnification to provide enough detail and aesthetic beauty to wow readers. After many days of trying, I think I finally got the results I was striving for, which is shown here. I will publish a full gallery as soon as the copyright licenses from the journal have expired, so for now please excuse the watermarks covering the images. My main goal now is to provide detail on how I managed to capture this image, as there is a very steep learning curve in macro-photography and very little documentation on procedures, equipment, and setup. Many people have asked me how I managed to get these unique shots, so I decided over the next few posts I would chronicle the equipment, setups, and techniques I use to accomplish my macro shots.
The other week a very cool Mental Floss article was published about stereoscopy and some interesting new examples. For those who are unfamiliar, stereoscopy is a photographic technique that attempts to create a three dimensional aspect to still photographs by enhancing the illusion of depth. You may be familiar with the red and blue 3D glasses from the ‘50s or even had a View-Master. Both of these devices show one image to the left eye, focused at a certain depth, and a second image, focused at a different depth and slightly shifted laterally, to the right eye. The brain, unable to align the two images simultaneously, processes the images with binocular vision. The left and right eyes perceive the same scene from slightly different positions, and the brain uses the “parallax”—the slight shift in objects’ relative positions—to generate the illusion of depth. However, there is another way to create this illusion that doesn’t require glasses or a View Master– Wiggle Stereoscopy. The wiggle is a shift between the two separately focused images positioned atop one another. Neurologists believe the effect of depth is created by a “binocular rivalry,” where the separate images presented to each eye compete for perception. If the timing between the wiggle matches the brain’s processing speed for image change, approximately 0.12s for most people, the brain is tricked into disregarding the rivalry and attempts to see the image as one, three-dimensional image.
Spawning from humble beginnings in Burlington, Vermont in the early eighties, Phish spent two decades playing sold out shows across America before taking a couple of short hiatuses. Back to touring and psychedelic as ever, the band played the first night of a two day showing at Verizon Wireless Encore Amphitheatre, in Alpharetta, GA on Tuesday, June 14. Known predominately for its extended improvisational “jams,” Phish did not disappoint, playing two sets and an encore that spanned for the better half of three hours. Throw in an amazing light show and the speakers turned up to what felt like the unattainable eleventh dial and you have a good recipe for one rocking show. It’s dedicated fan base, often playfully referred to as “Phriends,” came along for the ride, setting up camp in the parking lot. Psychedelic t-shirts and steak and cheese fajitas were among the goods that were being sold. Front man and lead guitarist Trey Anastasio, often called the creative power behind Phish, kept the crowd bobbing and weaving from the show’s opener “Dinner and a Movie” till its closing song, “Quinn the Eskimo.” The band has retained its main lineup throughout nearly its whole career: Anastasio on guitar, Mike Gordon on bass, John Fishman on drums and Page McConnell on keyboards. Anastasio and company grooved together in front of a packed and raucous crowd, composed of very diverse demographics.
Better than Ezra is that band where everyone knows their song, but no one knows the artist; the silent musicians who continually churn out catchy, radio-ready music every few years, only to go completely unrecognized as they walk down the street. Don’t call them one-hit wonders, though – while their 1995 hit “Good” off the Deluxe album skyrocketed to the #1 position on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart seemingly overnight, the band has had plenty of other successful songs. It seems as though Better than Ezra’s notoriety problems stem from bad timing: it took seven years after their formation in 1988 for the post-grunge, alternative rock band to release music with a label. By that time, styles and tastes changed and celebrity remained elusive. Luckily for fans, the lack of recognition for their deep discography never seems to slow the trio from Louisiana. In fact, it seems as if the band revels in only having a select, loyal fanbase – the result of which is a more personal performance with fans. Despite having not released new material since their 2009 album Paper Empire, Better than Ezra has been touring across the US, entertaining and satisfying those who matter most to them: their devoted fans who know them by name.
Tokyo Police Club and Two Door Cinema Club headline an energetic night of indie rock at the Masquerade in Atlanta. Accompanying them was the up-and-coming band Somebody Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. A triple helping of indie rock was what the young crowds asked for, and they were certainly not disappointed. Somebody Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, the only American band of the night, warmed up the crowd and stood up surprisingly well against the much more established bands that they shared the stage with. Their sound was similar to the other two groups’ but a bit less electronic. The band’s songs were catchy and the crowd greatly enjoyed their performance and stage presence. The band members appeared to be genuinely humbled by the recognition they were receiving and then proceeded to spend the rest of the show on the floor with the crowd watching the other two bands of the night and enthusiastically interacting with the concert-goers.
The alternative rock band, CAKE, concluded their three-night, Atlanta concert series on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at Center Stage. Dubbed an “An Evening with CAKE,” the event was one of seven stops on the band’s Showroom of Compassion Tour, which promoted the release of their new album of the same name. Known for their unique musical and lyrical styles, CAKE delighted fans young and old with a three-hour performance that sampled from the band’s extensive discography.