What’s in Les’s Macro Kit?
by Les Saucier
Macro photography is a challenge unlike other photographic skill sets. It takes not only a lot of practice to master macro photography, but quite a bit of patiences as well. I can be a patient person, but when a job can be made easier with the right tool, I’m all over it. As well, I’m a lover of gadgets, so I’ve worked through many macro tools over the years, some good, some bad.
I’m sharing with you a list of what I have in my macro kit with full confidence that these are really good tools. They’re in my kit because each one serves to make my time shooting macro more productive and more gratifying, and less dependent upon my patience.
I say the longer the lens the better. Longer lens afford a better working distance and less clutter in the background, as compared to shorter macro lens.
Janet and I both shoot Fuji, so we use the Fujinon 80mm f/2.8, which is an extremely sharp and versatile lens. The other lens I have used and admire is the Sigma 150mm f/2.8. Adaptable to Canon and Nikon, a new Sigma 150mm with OS runs in the neighborhood of $1,000, while the earlier model of this lens can be found online for around $500 or less.
A good macro tripod needs to go from eye level to ground level, which means the legs have to be capable of a 90 degree angle to the ground. Sometimes one of the legs may need to go higher than 90 degrees. Such would be the case if an obstacle, such as a log or a rock, is in the very spot the tripod needs to be. We use Feisol tripods for their stability and versatility. I can never say enough good things about Feisol’s tripods.
A good macro ball head has an Arco Swiss type system that will let you use a sliding rail, such as a Nodal Rail, as a close focusing rail. Why move your tripod if you can move your lens closer or farther from the subject? It saves recomposing the shot, not to mention time (and some frustration). We use Really Right Stuff ball heads with quick release plates. I’m a big fan of their ball heads. Plates and rails are not as critical as your ball head, which has to be strong enough to hold steady with a heavy macro lens. Drift is never a friend, but particularly with macro. Go for a quality ball head.
I’ve consistently recommended the Canon 500D or the Nikon 6T or 5T for close up lens choices. Shop eBay or other online resources to find these lens.
The Marumi EXUS circular polarizers are my go to filters. Their sturdy and easy to turn. They also let in one-third more light than other polarizers, which allows me to use faster shutter speeds.
The ZebraLight flashlights are what I recommend because they’re small, but mighty. The metal housing makes them rugged and their light doesn’t cast blue tones on the subject. The flashlight comes with a clip attached, so you can hook it to a belt, and it easily fits inside your pocket.
Note: If you’re using macro flashlights, you don’t need any stinking reflectors!
You can find these macro flashlights at:
ZebraLight SC53c Spot Light – http://www.zebralight.com/SC53c-AA-Neutral-White-High-CRI-Flashlight_p_201.html
ZebraLight H53Fc Angled Flood Light- http://www.zebralight.com/H53Fc-AA-Headlamp-Floody-Neutral-White-High-CRI_p_195.html
But, you’ll want a Diffuser
For times when I’m forced to shoot in bright light, I carry a diffuser in my kit. A 12-inch or 24-inch diffuser is large enough for macro. Buy one that folds down into a soft carrying case so it’ll fit inside, or attach to, your camera bag.
Yes, I’m partial to the FlowerPod™. After all, I invented it because I needed such a macro tool. Initially, its purpose was to hold flowers blowing in the wind, one of the main enemies to macro photographers. But it wasn’t long before I found many other uses for the FlowerPod™, for both outdoor and indoor applications, such as holding the diffuser or my flashlight. The FlowerPod™ aids in setting up the shot, from background to foreground.
The Hook, as I call it, is really the Greenlee FP3 Wire Fish Pole. Electricians use it to fish out wires from behind walls and down from ceilings. I use it because it makes a great macro tool. With the FlowerPod™, the Hook can hold a scarf or other material behind the macro subject. It’s also handy to have nearby to move annoying distractions in your shot — dead leaves, insects, and so on. The Hook fits in a pocket, but telescopes up to three feet. Look at local tool supply stores or online for the Greenlee FP3 Wire Fish Pole.
Go to an outdoor store and pick up some hikers’ bandanas to use for backgrounds in your images. The background being one of the key elements in good macro, these type of bandanas offer an opportunity to control it. Pick up lots of different colors and keep them in your camera bag. If you want to use with “the Hook” and the FlowerPod™ combo, fold over one side of the bandana about two inches and staple the edge to create a rod pocket, then slide “the Hook” through the pocket making a curtain to put behind your subject.
I keep a small spray bottle of water in my kit. When you need dew on that petal or spider web, pull out the spray bottle.
A tiny bottle of glycerin comes in handy when you need a single drop of water running off a leaf or petal. Apply glycerin carefully and wipe it off the subject as needed after you shoot so as not to do harm to a plant, insect or other objects.
Thread nippers and Tweezers
Nature isn’t always pretty and I have to do some housekeeping chores to clean up my shot.
Keeping thread nippers (a sewing tool) and tweezers nearby are tools to clean up the “trash” in the shot.
Need More Info
Should you have any questions about these macro tools, where to find or how to use them, contact us anytime. I hope these tools make your macro photography experience more rewarding. Macro is surely a challenge, but practice using your camera and your tools will make it easier and more fun.