Saturday, October 1, 2011

Supersize Me


These buggers are small.  Not midge small, mind you, but nothing like the morbidly obese terrestrials of Summer.

Photographing these iconic little insects begs for a macro lens, but there's a problem: This type of glass produces a reproduction ratio of 1:1 (or actual size).  With diminutive subjects, that's great for images that emphasize the insect in its broader surroundings.

What if you actually want a mayfly to be the main event, and fill a more significant portion of the frame?  You can certainly crop your image as a means of bringing the viewer closer, but often there isn't enough detail for a bug to stand on its own 6 legs as an engaging portrait.

The other option is magnification - a method known as super macro photography.  There are a large number of techniques that can be used to achieve larger-than-life insect images.  Tools of the trade include reversing rings, teleconverters, close-up lenses, extension tubes, bellows, and enough accessories to roughly equal the mass of a neutron star.

If you talk to 10 blokes who delve into super sizing, you'll find 10 different ways of shooting.  Using a $7 reversing ring, you can jump in feet first with a 50mm conventional lens and a Google search on reverse macro.  One thing is certain: It's a technique-intensive specialty.  No piece of equipment is going to do the deed without some patience and a lot of practice.  Still, it's fun to dial in the detail on trout food once in a while.

Sunrise Callibaetis Mayfly Supermacro

Nikon D300
A Variety of Super Macro Accessories


  1. Thanks JGR - mayflies are actually pretty spectacular when you get all up in their grill.

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