– Unngå ringblits som pesten!

Thomas Shahan svarte på lesernes makrospørsmål.

Du har kanskje ikke merket deg navnet, men det er meget mulig du har sett bildene hans. Thomas Shahan er lidenskaplig opptatt av alt som kryper og gir de fleste av oss frysninger, og takket være denne lidenskapen har han også blitt en av verdens beste makrofotografer.

Mannen og bildene hans er tidligere publisert og fremhevet i et utall publikasjoner, blant annet National Geographic, og han har også vært gjest i flere TV-programmer i USA.

Foto: Thomas Shahan
Foto: Thomas Shahan

Bildene hans av insekter og edderkopper er ikke bare fascinerende, de er også utrolig vakre, og nå kan du finne ut hva hemmeligheten hans er.

Se flere bilder på Thomas Shahns hjemmeside

Apropos hemmeligheten, så er det neppe dyrt utstyr som er det avgjørende. Shahan benytter seg nemlig av svært så rimelig utstyr: Et Pentax K200D med et par halvgamle objektiver og en svært så billig blits.

Thomas viser frem sitt bidrag til National Geographic.
Thomas viser frem sitt bidrag til National Geographic.
Foto: Thomas Shahn
Foto: Thomas Shahn

På onsdag ettermiddag norsk tid stiller han altså opp i nettmøte med Akams lesere. Han snakker naturlig nok ikke norsk, så spørsmålene må sendes inn på engelsk.

Nøyaktig tidspunkt er ennå ikke helt låst på grunn av de åtte timene i tidsforskjell, men vi satser på å gjennomføre nettmøtet klokken 17:00 - 19:00. Eventuelle endringer i tidspunkt vil publiseres her så raskt som overhodet mulig.

OPPDATERING: Tidspunktet er nå bekreftet. Nettmøtet blir dermed avholdt klokken 17:00 - 19:00 onsdag ettermiddag/kveld, som annonsert.

Vil du ha noe makrolesestoff frem til den tid, som en slags forberedelse, foreslår vi Carsten Arnholms populære makroguider:

Thomas Shahan i full vigør.Foto: Sam Martin
Thomas Shahan i full vigør.
Foto: Sam Martin

Husk, allerede nå kan du sende inn spørsmål til Thomas Shahan, ved hjelp av skjemaet nedenfor:

  1. dead or alive

    Spørsmål fra Dmitry K Valberg:

    Is it a big deal to you if subjects are dead or alive?..

    Hey Dmitry! Yes - it really is a pretty big deal. Given how much time I spend with the subjects - a certain affection has grown.

    It's much more difficult to shoot live, healthy arthropods - but certainly more rewarding once I get the shot!

    That said, I am quite interested (although I haven't experimented around with it yet) with microscopic stacking work of preserved specimens. Take a look at the studio work from Nikola Rahmé and John Hallmen.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 16:33
  2. Use of flash!

    Spørsmål fra SveinMMortensen:

    How essential is the use of flash in your pictures, and how near to the object do you recommand to place the flashunit, and what is the best angle in degrees??? :-)

    Hey Svein!

    Pretty essential for higher magnification work. The sun creates a certain sharp iridescence that it isn't very aesthetically pleasing at higher magnifications. And additionally - the sun isn't always enough of a light source - not to mention it's not always available :)

    Diffusion of the flash is also critical - arthropods often have shiny exoskeletons, subtle hairs, and other metallic areas that will be bleached out or overexposed by a bare flash unit. I have yet to decide on a nice angle or method of diffusion - but my general rule is to have a large area of diffusion as close as possible to the subject. Make a cloudy day for them!
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 16:37
  3. Sharpness

    Spørsmål fra Henrik:

    What is your secret to getting so extremely sharp pictures at such wild close-ups?

    Hey Henrik!

    Can't tell you that :)

    Just kidding, but here actually really isn't much of a secret - just shoot with quality glass, try to compose the shot the best you can in-camera to minimize post processing, and know your subject.

    From my experience - less glass means more sharpness. I'm continually surprised by how sharp my results are with simply a 50mm prime reversed bare or with extension tubes!

    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 16:42
  4. Stacking

    Spørsmål fra Trond:


    In your youtubevideo I can see that you are taking the picture handheld ?.I take it that you are using stacking technique. My question is how do you manage to get so sharp image handheld, taking so many pictures to stack?

    Hey Trond!

    One thing that really helps understand this is that my focus stacks are very small - rarely more than 2-3 images total. Given the magnifications I'm shooting at, and my usual aperture of ~f/10-16 - I have a comparatively large amount of DOF (in relation to studio microscopic stacking). So my stacking may simply be stacking the pedipalps into the face of a spider of the antennae back onto the head of a wasp...

    And of course - I take special care not to falsely represent the subject my using misaligned or greatly differing images - I will only stack if the images are just about perfectly aligned.

    You asked how the images are sharp even though taken handheld? Well, I primarily shoot using flash - so my everage in-camera exposure is about 1/200th of a second, and the duration of the flash is much, much shorter - effectively freezing my hand-shake and the subject (even if moving)!
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 16:55
  5. Focus

    Spørsmål fra Fred-Stian Martila:

    How do you actually manage to get this tiny creatures in focus with the DoF so small as it is in macro.

    Do you have any good tips you want to share?
    Are most of your creatures alive and not "slowed down" of some sort?

    Keep up the excellent work!


    The answer is patience :)

    Tips? Shoot as many shots as it takes to finally get the shot you want if you find a cooperative subject. I realize that's not a new or innovative tip - but it really is the best I can offer.

    All my subjects are alive and healthy unless otherwise noted. Although considerably more challenging - shooting live subjects is much more rewarding!
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:02
  6. DOF-focus shift

    Spørsmål fra Ole Martin Helgesen:

    Hi, amazing shots!
    I am interested in how you achieve decent depth of field, which is a big problem. I understand you combine several photos with focus shift. How do you do this, and what software do you use?


    Thanks! The depth of field is a combination of subject size, small aperture, and occasionally - a bit of very minor focus-stacking.

    For moderate magnifications - I usually shoot at f/10-16 or so - which takes a bit of a hit in sharpness, yet offers more depth of field. Also - carefully choosing certain angles to maximize how much of the subject you can cram into that narrow plane of DOF.

    Focus stacking is relatively simple, and I rarely stack more than 2 shots given my shooting things handheld. I either manually stack the images in photoshop (taking special care not to alter the structure of the subject with misaligned or differing angles) or putting them through the wonderful Zerene Stacker.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:12
  7. Focus stacking

    Spørsmål fra Kennet Solfjeld:

    I have been looking at your stuff for quite a while now. And im impressed by your work. I wonder what focus stacking program you think is the best. I use Photoshop, and i think it does a good job. I see that you use other programs. Why?

    Thanks, I appreciate the interest in my work!

    I personally still use PS for much of my stacking work out of comfort and familiarity - but Zerene Stacker is slowly creeping into my workflow for certain stacks.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:15
  8. Practice makes perfect?

    Spørsmål fra Egil Rotevatn:

    How many photos did you shoot before you became published?

    Quite a few! I've been shooting arthropods since 2007 or so, and went a few years before getting any real notice or attention.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:17
  9. lenses, f number and flash

    Spørsmål fra Per Johannessen:

    What lenses do you use? What F numbers do you use and why do you not use a ring flash?

    I currently use two lenses - a cheap old 1970's 50mm prime and an even cheaper 28mm. I reverse these bare or onto varying amounts of extension tubes depending on the desired magnification. f/8-16 seems to be the norm - but that varies of course given the situation.

    I'm really not a fan of ring flashes. They create (in my opinion) very unattractive light from a very unnatural angle. They flatten the subject and give no indication to form and depth. When in nature would the light source ever emit directly from the viewer?
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:23
  10. Big fan of your work

    Spørsmål fra Hallvard:

    I have tried to take some photos, but I cant set the aperture on the lens so it's pretty much impossible to get enought of an area in focus. Do you adjust the aperture much, and when focus stacking do you just move closer to the object?

    Maybe try investing in an older manual lens that will allow you to physically set the aperture on the lens?

    And yes, all my focusing is through my actual movement forwards and backwards. I don't think I've ever touched the focus ring on my lens while shooting.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:25
  11. Lenses

    Spørsmål fra Hallvard:

    Do you have a suggestion for a good cheap quality lens to use? I guess it has to be one with manual aperture to use backwords

    I think any older 50mm prime would be a good choice - fantastically sharp and easy to obtain. Reversed, they offer a nice working distance as well.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:27
  12. Details

    Spørsmål fra Arne Løvaas:

    How do you capture such details as facets in the eyes of an insect with
    a cheap Pentax camera?

    Haha - Pentax cameras are inexpensive but definitely not "cheap" in the quality or performance sense.

    Aside from the slr body, all my macro equipment (lenses, tubes, bracket, flash) was around 70-90 USD. A careful combination of quality glass and proper light diffusion will result in surprising results for the cost.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:32
  13. hey

    Spørsmål fra vetle hofstad:

    what kind of lens du you use?

    Thanks! I'm currently using an old 1970's Pentax 50mm prime reversed and on occasion, a 28mm for higher magnification work.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:34
  14. Software

    Spørsmål fra Simen Olsen:

    Amazing pictures!

    What software do you use for focus stacking?
    What other software is important to you?

    Thanks! Most of my processing only takes place within Photoshop CS5, which usually only entails adjustments to contrast, levels, saturation, color balance, etc...

    I also primarily use PS for focus stacking - although Zerene Stacker is slowly working it's way into my workflow.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:36
  15. Accessories

    Spørsmål fra Simen Olsen:

    What accessories do you bring to the field, aside from the camera, lenses and flash?

    Good question - haven't had that yet!

    The first and most important thing is water. Oklahoma summers can be absolutely brutal. Next - extra SD cards, multiple plastic containers to collect spiders and bugs, occasionally a small led flashlight to use as a focus assistant, a few different homemade flash diffusers/softboxes... can't think of what else...

    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:39
  16. What lens?

    Spørsmål fra Eirik Hommedal:


    In one of your vidios on youtube you told us about how you took an old crappy lens, flipped it over and magicly you had a great macro lens. What was that lens called?

    I love bugs, and i really want to be able to make good images of them, but i cant afford a real macro lens.

    Thanks for your time.

    Hey Eirik!

    Really any old 50mm prime reversed will open a whole new world to you - research a quality and easy to obtain 50mm you like and get the proper reversing ring and you're good to go!
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:41
  17. Practical workflow?

    Spørsmål fra Fred:


    What is your workflow when taking pictures?
    With for instance flies, do you run after them like a crazy person, or do you simply sit down and wait?! :-)
    I can understand spiders who don't fly as much, but I'm very curios how you work with flying creatures!

    Hmm. I really am not sure. The majority of the shots I take are absolutely worthless, and my workflow completely varies from subject to subject, situation to situation.

    My general answer is that I simply try not to give up until I've achieved just the shot I want, which can take several hours at times.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:44
  18. Focusing issue

    Spørsmål fra Vidhu S:

    When the aperture is stopped down to, say, f16, the viewfinder gets very dark. In that case how do you achieve the focus?

    This is tough. It's a combination of luck, estimating what's in focus, and just shooting blindly at that point. Sometimes I will use shiny or reflective portions of the arthropod (which may be the *only* thing I can see through the viewfinder) as a guide - and attempt to move back and forth until they are at their smallest point.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:47
  19. Signal to noise-ratio

    Spørsmål fra Are Thunes Samsonsen:

    Just out of curiosity, for each successful shot that you get, how many shots are edited away? In other words, what is your keeper-to-thrower ratio?

    if i have a ratio - it's embarrassingly bad.

    I may go weeks or even months without taking a single shot I want to show anyone. It's not uncommon for me to go out every afternoon for weeks, taking hundreds of shots each day, and come back without a single shot being one I find usable.

    If I had to guess - it's only 10% keepers for me.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:50
  20. Belysning

    Spørsmål fra Hans-Kristian:

    Hei, hvor viktig er det med blits, da tenker jeg på ringblits kontra en typ sb-600 med liten softboks på?

    Noen tips rundt dette?

    A flash is almost a necessity with macrophotography as work of this kind innately requires a great deal of light and the sun isn't always enough (or available!). That said, natural light macrophotography is completely possible given certain conditions.

    I personally would avoid ring-flashes like the plague - they create unattractive light from an unnatural angle. Take into account how the catchlight from your flash setup will look reflected in the eyes of a jumping spider for example - do your really want an odd white ring reflected in their eyes? It may be interesting - but may ultimately may be distracting or confusing for the viewer. You want the viewer to notice the subject, not the photographic technique.

    If possible, invest in a way to diffuse one or two flash units. I've seen beautiful results taken with both traditional flash units and twin-flash macro lighting setups.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:58
  21. Single best advice

    Spørsmål fra Are Thunes Samsonsen:

    I have a feeling we'll se lots of macro shots in our image critique section after this...

    For the readers who have become inspired by your works and want to try their hand at macro work, what would you say is the single most important piece of advice for them?

    Take a lot of shots! This type of work doesn't always happen easily - you may have to spend several hours with your subject. Also - get to know arthropods - understanding their behavior is vital.
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 17:59
  22. Optics

    Spørsmål fra Are Thunes Samsonsen:

    Would you recommend just reversing a lens (a 50 mm, for instance) onto the camera body, or on the front of a longer lens, like a 100 mm or 85 mm?

    What apertures would you recommend the lenses to have? How will the reversed lens limit the usable aperture of the normally mounted lens, if at all?

    I feel it's best to minimize the amount of glass between you and the subject - less is more with this kind of thing.

    I've never tried reversing a 50mm on top of any other lens (aside from a teleconverter once or twice - which yielded acceptable results) so I can't say too much there - but I've had continually good results reversing or mounting lenses normally to extension tubes. Simply adding space between the lens and the camera does wonders.

    Aperture depends on many things - lens, magnification, subject, lighting - everything basically. The maximum aperture for the prime lens doesn't really matter too much as you won't ever be shooting macros wide open at f/1.2 with your 50mm. That said, it's often true that lenses that offer really fast apertures may be of a higher quality. But for the purposes of macro - any of f/1.7 or f/2 50mm prime will be great once stopped down.

    I generally shoot between f/8 and f/16 (although diffraction softening artifacts tend to occur at the more narrow apertures). Take into account that with older manual primes with aperture rings - you'll likely be shooting through a pretty dark viewfinder due to the light lost by the magnification and narrow aperture.

    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 18:30
  23. Thank you

    Spørsmål fra The editor:

    Okay, that seems to have been all the questions for today. Thank you very much for spending your time sharing your knowledge and experience with us.

    It was a joy to have you as our guest, and if you ever come to Oslo, Akam owes you a beer, at the least!

    Excellent! I had a good time and there were some great questions!

    Thanks to everyone at Akam - I may take you guys up on the beer offer someday!
    Besvart: 23. mai 2012 18:32

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