Early attempts at aquatic photography - new pics added 5-11-13
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:32 PM   #1
rozdaboff
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Early attempts at aquatic photography - new pics added 5-11-13


Taking pictures of aquatic organisms is definitely a different experience than terrestrial animals. I have had a bit of practice taking macro shots of amphibians, reptiles and inverts - but this was the first time I pulled out my SLR and macro lens (105mm f/2.8 Nikkor) to try and get shots of my new hobby.

Update

Had a chance the past week to try some more shots and settings. I upped the shutter speed as recommended (1/200) and decreased the f/stop to 10. And I definitely see better results. Still need quite a lot more practice though. I am also more seriously considering a lens upgrade in the future - as autofocus on this lens is not really a viable option. I still get nice shots with manual focus, but I think I would really "miss" fewer shots with an AF option.

Anyway - here are the more recent shots:

Brevibora dorsiocellata



Danio margaritatus


And a typical shot with these flighty fish...


Petruichthys sp. "Rosy"


Trigonopoma pauciperforatum


2/10/13

I definitely need practice with flash placement, and tweaking of settings (I was surprised the DOF was still shallow even though I had really upped the F stop) - but here are a few of the nicest shots of the short session.

Boraras brigittae



Neocardina cf. zhangjiajiensis "Blue Pearl" (are these not Neocaridina heteropoda? I thought they were a selected variant - but a little web reading suggested otherwise)


Last edited by rozdaboff; 05-11-2013 at 03:57 PM.. Reason: updated with new photos
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Old 02-10-2013, 10:12 PM   #2
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Those look pretty good, I think they all could be a little sharper, but color and lighting looks good. What settings did you use?
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Old 02-10-2013, 10:25 PM   #3
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Thanks - the settings for all pics were:

Aperture f/18
Shutter 1/60
ISO 100

For the flash, I used a SBR-200 aimed down into the tank and fired from my SU-800 controller.
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Old 02-10-2013, 10:51 PM   #4
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I would definitely try to increase shutter speed especially if your using a flash. For shrimp you might not have to since they're easier to catch standing still.
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Old 02-10-2013, 10:56 PM   #5
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Thanks - will give that a go on the next photo session. I would really like to capture my CPDs - as they are gorgeous fish.
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Old 02-11-2013, 11:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by houseofcards View Post
Those look pretty good, I think they all could be a little sharper
The Nikon 105mm is a very soft lens for macros. For the sharpest macro exposure, consider the AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G ED VR (lens performance comparison - 105, 85, and 40mm).
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Old 02-12-2013, 12:08 AM   #7
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Thanks zdnet. A new lens isn't in the budget right now - but I will definitely keep it in mind - as a shorter working distance would be nice. I also had the Sigma 180mm Macro for field shots for a while, but it wasn't getting enough use to justify it's place in my bag.

I hadn't heard about the softness and the 105mm VR, but I am actually shooting the older D version (http://www.fredmiranda.com/reviews/s...php?product=66). It has been several years since I bought the lens and did my research, but I don't remember softness being a problem with this particular lens.
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Old 02-12-2013, 02:14 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rozdaboff View Post
Thanks zdnet. A new lens isn't in the budget right now - but I will definitely keep it in mind - as a shorter working distance would be nice. I also had the Sigma 180mm Macro for field shots for a while, but it wasn't getting enough use to justify it's place in my bag.

I hadn't heard about the softness and the 105mm VR, but I am actually shooting the older D version (http://www.fredmiranda.com/reviews/s...php?product=66). It has been several years since I bought the lens and did my research, but I don't remember softness being a problem with this particular lens.

I also have the 105mm D lens. It produces sharper macros than the 105mm VR. The issue is with chromatic aberrations (CA).


Here is a CA chart of the 105mm VR (from http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/224-...-test-report):



As shown in the above chart, when stopping down the lens to increase DOF as is typically done in shooting macros, chromatic aberrations get worse. Thus, even though the lens was designed as a macro, it is not well suited for the task.


For comparison, here is the CA chart of 105mm D (from http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/223-...-test-report):




The 85mm VR is the one with the least chromatic aberrations (from http://www.photozone.de/nikon--nikko...korafsdx85vr):



Take shooting at F/16 as an example. The 85mm VR is twice as good as the 105mm D which is twice as good as the 105mm VR.
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Old 02-12-2013, 02:33 AM   #9
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Thanks for the info. I will have to seriously consider upgrading my lens. Until then, I will try and make the best out of it.
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Old 02-12-2013, 02:59 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zdnet View Post
The Nikon 105mm is a very soft lens for macros. For the sharpest macro exposure, consider the AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G ED VR (lens performance comparison - 105, 85, and 40mm).
At f18.0
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Old 02-12-2013, 03:27 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by houseofcards View Post
At f18.0
The 105mm VR is very soft across the whole spectrum and it gets softer as you stop down the lens.
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Old 02-12-2013, 03:37 AM   #12
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rozdaboff, the lens you have is perfectly fine for macro photography and it is more than capable of giving you the pictures you want. You don't need any other lens. Even if you want to go crazy worrying about chromatic aberration levels, it's easily removed in post, absolutely no need to get another lens when the lens you have is perfectly capable. All lenses "become softer" in the higher f-stops, its a result of diffraction.

The issue with your pictures isn't depth of field, or chromatic aberration, or lens softness, it focus. Those are all just unfocused (more on this later),...at f/18 you have plenty of depth of field and it's actually overkill.

As a side step, I just want to mention that the lighting is good, but its a little too harsh in my eyes, in other words, the flash aspect is just a bit too strong. Like in the shrimp pictures for instance, notice the harsh highlights and intense shadows?

There's a few ways to fix this, either use a slower shutter speed (which in your case, don't do, 1/60 is the lowest I would dare to go), increase ISO, or lower your f-stop....all of which will increase the level of ambient light mixing with the flash giving you more natural looking pics. The first thing I would do is maybe up the shutter speed to 1/100 (or up to 1/200 or more is probably better if you can do so with your flash/camera combo, but you probably won't be able to go past 1/200 since your not using a newer Nikon flash with high speed sync), but decrease the f-stop to f/11 or f/13 at most, and f/8 at the minimum. All the fish pictures in my sig were shot no higher than f/13, with most at f/8 to f/11, and thats on a full frame camera, so it'll likely be even more acceptable on a DX(crop sensor) camera if thats what your using (not sure what you have). The last way to increase the ambient and make the flash appear less harsh is to up the ISO. You don't have to go crazy, but even ISO 600 to 800 would help tremendously. But it depends how well your camera does at higher ISO, and for you, lowering your f-stop instead will be much more beneficial as you can still use ISO 100.

But anyways, besides the lighting, if you want sharp pictures, you'll need to change your focusing habits. It would help if you can tell me what focusing mode you're using and what camera you have, but I usually use AF-S for Nikon (One shot for Canon) with the single center point (you can use AF with 9 point expansion if you want), just make sure you avoid any of the auto settings, they're total crap. You have to be super fast in pressing the shutter after focusing, all the while being careful not to jerk the camera as you do so. You can use AF-C for Nikon (Servo for Canon) with the single center point if you want, and you'll also get good results, but I always had more success with AF-S despite using the same technique with each focusing mode.
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Old 02-12-2013, 03:45 AM   #13
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Thanks for the advice TickleMyElmo. I will bring back the aperture next go round.

My body is a D80. And as for autofocus - I generally don't use it when I shoot macro. One of the drawbacks of the older lens is that the autofocus is very slow - so I try to get a few shots in succession slightly changing the focus. For the shrimp - that wasn't too hard; but for the fish it was not very successful. Most of my macro experience so far is with shooting amphibians - and they would generally (although not always) hold still for short amounts of time allowing me to get shots more in focus. I will try autofocus and see how it goes.
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Old 02-12-2013, 12:55 PM   #14
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I'm sure TickeMe gave you some really good advice, but generally speaking I haven't seen to many clear pics of moving animals/fish at 1/60.
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Old 02-13-2013, 12:24 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TickleMyElmo View Post


Even if you want to go crazy worrying about chromatic aberration levels, it's easily removed in post,
Not true. For example, post-processing cannot eliminate axial chromatic aberrations.

Since chromatic aberrations affect image sharpness and post-processing cannot eliminate all, it is unwise to ignore that aspect when choosing a lens.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TickleMyElmo View Post
All lenses "become softer" in the higher f-stops, its a result of diffraction.
Not true. Diffraction is not the only lens factor affecting image sharpness. There is also the above mentioned chromatic aberrations (CA) which tends to be minimized with a higher f-stop. Thus, shooting with a higher f-stop often improves sharpness.

However, the Nikon 105mm VR micro lens is an exception. Its CA gets worse with a higher f-stop. Again, it is only wise to check out the CA chart when choosing a lens for that tells you how a lens behaves at various settings.
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