Macro Fly Photography - A Process

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Old Hat
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Re: Macro Fly Photography - A Process

Post by Old Hat » Tue Jun 02, 2015 2:57 pm

Killer photo William!

Sorry ;)

That turned out nice, the only thing that caught my attention right away was the DoF. I like the back fly out of the DoF. But, with the back fly out, I would like the front fly completely in. Your perspective is enough of an angle that the back end of the front fly is also out of the DoF. If this was a one fly photo, it wouldn't really matter. Just my perspective is all. Just critiquing a bit. If it was my photo I wouldn't worry about it either, but I feel you are more of a perfectionist than I am. :D
I hate it when I think I'm buying organic vegetables, and when I get home I discover they are just regular donuts.
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Re: Macro Fly Photography - A Process

Post by William Anderson » Tue Jun 02, 2015 3:27 pm

Carl, I appreciate your feedback. Thanks. I like this composition as well and would like to pursue shots that include the repetition of the pattern. I've seen lots of images in the past couple of years like Kevin Compton's nymph piles or clusters of spiders. Or Wayne's current technique letting the magnet hold half a dozen of his nymph patterns. These all work great. I'd be happy to explore this as long as it doesn't get into more complexity trying to design a composition. For art's sake, it might be worth the trouble, but for sharing flies at the rate we like to share them and the nature of this site, it would probably keep me from posting as often.

The focus or D of F in particular for the Killer Bug shot was an issue. I like the posture of the fly and the arrangement of the rear fly to be be out of focus. For this shot I had to hike the F stop to F20. The bend of the hook on the front fly really doesn't bother me, but I did try to get the front fly in focus. I'm having a terrible time with my 40mm macro lens and the extension tubes. I can manage good focus with the 12mm tube, but the mid and large tubes are useless. I haven't tried them with the 50mm prime lens, but will at some point.

This was shot on white foam rather than the card stock or the watercolor paper I've been using. I've also tried photo print paper, glossy side up and that's an interesting effect, and I found actual dry erase paper that is very high gloss and offers the slightest reflection. It does help to brighten the underside of the flies. The white foam however gives me a lot more control over the posture of the fly which is going to be a major issue if I'm trying to find a presentation without the clamp or vise.
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Re: Macro Fly Photography - A Process

Post by William Anderson » Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:37 pm

I would like to get to the point where I can outline a "what I've learned" post, but I'm not there yet. It seems like every time I sneak down to take a few shots I come up against all sorts of things that need to be worked out. More reading is in order to move forward from here. But, I will post a few shots of the photo set up and hopefully it's to a point where it won't need anything else. It's simple enough. It will need to remain in sight and readily available, or I just won't use it.

My first little dedicated photo set up was put together in 2011. My attempt to figure out what Hans was doing and get the same lighting effect. I never even came close, but it worked for a long time.

2011 - With this set up, I have always had to put the camera lens literally within an inch of the fly and that eliminated any light striking the fly from the front, which is evident in all those shots. Pumping light in from above and below and from the right was almost enough.

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2015 - The two Ott lights are identical. I just took the stand off the one on the right and glued magnets to the bottom so it stands rock solid on its end. Both of these lights are standing on steel plates with the use of magnets and can move around very easily. The one above can hinge, pivot and roll. Obviously you want all other light sources in the room off. Windows too. I just opened these to get shots of the set up. I even had trouble with that. :oops:

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The background panel is leaning against a "bookend" that is held to the bottom of the upper steel base with magnets. The whole things comes undone and packs away if needed. The white stage card sits on the little acrylic stand.

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The aluminum foil reflector card slides around to the left of the lens. I have diffuser paper that I rolled into a tube and taped so it can just slide over the lamp, but I haven't been using it.

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The clamp to hold flies in profile is held on the backside of the light's post and the tripod is lowered to shoot straight across.

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Not a great shot, but not all of them are.

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For the stone shots the tripod is set to shoot the fly from a much shallower angle than those shot on the white stage.

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I tried shooting some flies in the wet tank, but it's going to take some time to work that out. Nothing to show today. :?

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Once this is squared away and I learn to use the camera, I would hope the whole thing will be much simpler.
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Re: Macro Fly Photography - A Process

Post by William Anderson » Fri Jun 05, 2015 3:56 pm

So one of the goals has to be the ability to reproduce the results consistently. One of the techniques that I've found that works best for soft-hackles and nymphs, so far, is the white foam. These take a quick and simple post production routine, but it's becoming familiar enough.

40mm Macro prime lens, no additional magnification. F stops between F/12 and F/20, mostly F/16.


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This is definitely the quickest and more repeatable technique.
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Re: Macro Fly Photography - A Process

Post by William Anderson » Fri Jun 05, 2015 4:11 pm

One of the things that I figured out today is more about processing a raw file, but for those fooling with this it goes beyond setting your white balance correctly for the shot, or changing the image temperature, but going to the menu that allows you to select each color and reduce the saturation of that color to gray. The images shot on white are fairly uniform, but as each fly requires different settings for the shot, and adjusted lighting, the tweaking to get the shot back to neutral sometimes require that you remove all colors that are not present in the fly.

I went back and reworked this kebari to see if I could get a better result and I like the second shot better. It was a number of adjustments for a very small gain and a minor difference, but it worked and the second shot is a more accurate representation of the fly's true color.


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Re: Macro Fly Photography - A Process

Post by crazy4oldcars » Fri Jun 05, 2015 8:54 pm

Great posts. I'm really enjoying the journey here.
About making the picture look more like the fly, at least color-wise. If you aren't working on a calibrated monitor, then you are adjusting the colors only to your monitor. What we see looks great, but it may or may not (with emphasis on may not, lol) be exactly what the original looks like.
I have a dual monitor setup at work. Same make and model, and probably even from the same run, as they were purchased at the same time.
I cannot get them calibrated the same. I've gotten used to the difference between them and hardly notice it now unless I'm looking for it.
What you will be able to accomplish is to create all of the files to a common standard. At least as long as you keep the same monitor.

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Re: Macro Fly Photography - A Process

Post by fly_fischa » Sat Jun 06, 2015 8:18 pm

Heya Will,
I'm really liking these latest white foam images. Great images for consistencies sake and very pleasing too from an aesthetic point of view. I wonder if a very small triangular white foam cutout (to imbed the hook point into) would allow you to raise the noggin/head of the fly so the shank is more parallel to the foam base. I really like the soft hackles in this series, and the pt the fact they're doing headstands kinda works well due to proportions and the swept back hackles. On the last nymph I would prefer the beard/thorax of the fly to look less cramped/squashed, just my opinion (not to be taken too seriously) ;)
The thought behind the tiny raised square or triangle foam cut out is that you may manage to get a pretty consistent way of posing a greater range of flies than having to change the posture/angle of different flies to accommodate materials like hackle of the dark side variety :oops:
Probs you may encounter by adding the raised bit of foam is that it may show up, be obvious against the foam base/background, your lighting and exposure will have a lot to do with this... Just some food for thought, I know we share a similar degree of ocd/perfectionism otherwise wouldn't have mentioned this recommendation.
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Re: Macro Fly Photography - A Process

Post by William Anderson » Sun Jun 07, 2015 6:45 am

Kirk, your comments on monitor calibration are true enough, although I don't know what I could do about it. I view our site on four different screens and I wouldn't say I've ever noticed any difference, but the differences are minor. Being consistent for myself across all my own shots seems important. It wasn't possible before shooting in raw, but I tried.

Karsten, I'm glad you're liking the white "stuck shots". Most of the soft hackles have worked out fine, although I don't care for hackles that are mashed beyond their natural appearance. It's still preferable and interesting and nothing is lost. I tried a couple ways of lifting the flies head and they all required to much of the hook being removed from the shot. It's a minor point (there was a pun there, complete accident) but the missing point was very distracting. There might be a way to pierce something to allow the hook to protrude, that would be less awkward. Many have used glue or something to hold the bend against the stage and that can work but you'd have to be really committed to the shot. That's more time than I want to spend.

Viewing the fly from less conventional angles is kind of fun. There's little difference between a dry fly standing upright or held in the vise, but the soft hackles pose a unique problem. The vise works, the clamp works, the scanner works, but if there is another suitable way that offers a different effect I'd like to find it.

Thanks as always for your input. If anyone has questions or comments about their own shots this would be a great place to sort it out. I didn't mean for this to be only about my process. Please, help make this a more general and inclusive thread.
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Re: Macro Fly Photography - A Process

Post by letumgo » Sun Jun 07, 2015 6:59 am

Have you tried placing one of the neodinium magnets underneath the foam? The magnetic attraction may provide enough friction against the foam to pose the fly, whiteout puncturing the foam whit the hook point. Worth a try. Varying the magnet size my give you a little more control.
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Re: Macro Fly Photography - A Process

Post by William Anderson » Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:15 am

Ray, thanks. I did think of that amd totally forgot to try it. I suspect it will take very fine tuning to keep the shank of the magnetized spot, but it's worth sorting out. Great idea.
"A man should not try to eliminate his complexes, but rather come into accord with them. They are ultimately what directs his conduct in the world." Sigmund Freud.
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