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After getting some inspiration from a mate, I’ve been wanting to experiment with macro photography of water droplets on blades of grass. I set up a make-shift macro adapter for my 580EX flash consisting of an plain A4 sheet of paper sticky-taped to the top of the flash head to bounce the light downwards. Essentially this works the same way as the catchlight that comes with the flash but on a larger scale. The results were surprisingly quite pleasing

These shots were taken with Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.4 mounted in reverse using a $7 adapter purchased over ebay. I found a number of major limitations of making macro images in this manner:

1) Aperture. This is not an issue if your lens has manual aperture control but can be a pain for lenses with motorised control. To set the aperture on such lenses you must mount the lens in the correct direction, set the aperture, then simultaneously hold down the DoF preview whilst removing the lens. Stopping down the aperture is essential, if the iris is fully open your depth of field will only be a fraction of a millimetre making capturing your subject a difficult task.

2) Focus. With a reverse mounted lens, focus can only be acheived by moving the camera body closer and farther from the subject. I found that for my lens, a subject will be in focus if they are roughly 3-4cm away from the front lens element. This makes framing of a shot difficult as you are forced to shoot at this distance. Cropping in post may be necessary for correct framing.

3) Light. As we are working with a very shallow depth of field, it is necessary to stop down the lens several stops before DoF approaches a desirable amount. For my shots I found that f/11 was sufficient to capture the detail I was after and just enough light for me to focus on the subject. Since we are locking in the aperture prior to pressing the shutter, it becomes increasingly difficult to see your subject especially in a dimly lit environment (I experienced this difficulty when taking these shots in the yard late last night).

As a whole I was pleased with the results but be prepared for a certain degree of back pain and eye strain that comes with taking these photos. It was difficult to see through the view-finder with the limited light outdoors at night but I found the key was just to release the shutter every time you think something is in focus and hope for the best.

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