September 13, 2010 – Gnat


Gnat - Reverse-mounted lens

Monday, September 13, 2010

Welcome back from the weekend, everyone! This picture was taken almost exactly a year ago, immediately after I had originally gotten my reverse-mount lens adapter. (End of August, to be a little bit more specific.) I chose it today because it’s particularly illustrative of some of the cool parts and some of the not-as-cool parts about using a reverse-mount for macro shots.

First, the good parts. This was taken with a 13 dollar attachment and the 18-55mm kit lens. So, “very minimal financial investment” would be appropriate to say. This bug was freaking tiny. I mean, it’s a gnat. You know how big gnats are. They’re little dots. So to be able to see all of this detail is (I think) really cool. I could go on and on about that, but, that’s the basic idea.

Now, the bad parts. This list is longer than the “good parts” list, but that’s not intended to say that the negatives outweigh the positives, it’s just that I can speak more specifically to the drawbacks. The first is the extremely limited depth of field. One thing I really love about this picture is how well it illustrates that. I mean, you can SEE how narrow of a band you’re working with. That’s a gnat, for god’s sake, and only 2 of his six legs are even discernible. So, forget about using autofocus, you just need to pick a focus point, then move forward and back until your subject is crisp. Then, hopefully your shutter finger is fast enough to get the shot before you sway backwards or forwards by a fraction of a millimeter. (Did I mention that taking these shots is ridiculously aggravating??) This will sound familiar if you read this blog with any frequency, but: a big part of the limited depth of field is just due to macro photography in general. But it’s exacerbated by the fact that you’re using a reverse-mounted lens (as opposed to one that’s macro-specific.) This is because, since the electrical connections for your lens are now at the *front* of the lens, your camera can’t control the aperture, and thus you’re taking pictures with it set wide open. Because of this, using the kit lens (or other less-expensive lens with a usually-undesirable small maximum aperture size) is actually helpful. If you were using a lens that was stuck at f/2.8 or wider, it would be even worse.

My other favorite frustrating thing about using a reverse-mount is that you end up working with an extremely small amount of light. This picture was taken with very-late-afternoon light (probably an hour before sunset) shining directly on the subject. But yet, I still had to resort to using ISO 1600 and a 1/80s shutter speed to even get it to expose. (It was “hand-held”, but I had the camera wedged up against the tree. It was an image-stabilized lens, but your electrical connections aren’t connected, remember?) Full-on mid-day sunshine is better, but still, you’re stuck with higher ISOs and slower shutter speeds, unless you’re using a macro flash. So, I apologize for the ugly graininess, it was really unavoidable. I believe this issue is really unavoidable with extreme macro photography. It may not be quite as bad with a regular-mounted macro-specific lens, I’m not totally sure if different optical setups are able to help with this sort of thing or not, to be honest. But, it’s a true fact that macro photography is a different beast.

Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Reverse-mounted 18-55mm kit lens. 1/80s, ISO 1600.

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