Monday, September 28, 2009

The Kluge

When I first started this macro project I would have been super proud of this fly image. But I have moved on to the Kluge. Or more accurately the Kluge and a more commercial version now that I've added another flash to my collection.

My 35-70 mm Vivitar mounted directly on the camera give me images with magnifications that varies from a 1/10 (40mm) to a 1/4 (70mm) life size. Add extensions tubes and I can push it up to lifesize or greater imagery. With all the problems.

I don't 'hate' tripods. I just prefer not to be bothered with carrying one around. So if I'm doing 'studio' work in the family room I'll set a tripod up, mount the camera and xy stage on it and shoot away.

Shooting bugs out in the fields and gardens is a different matter. My old manual lens aren't image stabilized. I'm certainly not either as I lean forwards and backwards to bring the bug in and out of focus. And the bug (always) and the flower (with any breeze) are moving.

The one time I tried a tripod in the field or more accurately my back yard I followed advice I'd read in a manual. Find a flower that a bug will love, set up tripod , focus on flower, and wait patiently for bug to strike a pose. Took awhile but once one did, I snapped off five images before it flew away.

Woopee, golly gee. Bound to be keepers since the bug was twice as big as the tiny yellow flower I picked.

I ran in the house to examine my macro masterpieces on the computer. OOPS. Big HEAVY bug on TINY little flower bends flower stem and move everything out of focus. So much for the How-To-Take-Buggy-Pics-In-Your-Backyard manual. Time to think up Plan B.

The problem reduces down to light and speed. With a dash of focus thrown in. With the fly image I had bright sunlight. And a stationery bug for once or I wouldn't have posted the image. Something I didn't have in the roughly 100 other shots I took before I captured this keeper. My success to failure ratio wasn't good.

The obvious solution is a flash to freeze all motion--flower, bug and camera shake. Even better I could have the light I needed. Could shoot with a full stack of tubes for magnification and a tiny aperture for depth of field.

The D60 has a built-in flash with both TTL and manual mode. Unfortunately the lens with extension tubes sticks out so far it blocks the light when I move in close for the shot.

I could have also mounted my best flash on the hot shoe to raise it higher--a dedicated Canon flash unfortunately but the garage sale price was so good I couldn't pass it up. It works fine in manual mode on the hot shoe or with my radio controls and I can dial down the power from full to 1/128 power. Be perfect if I could have tilted the flashead downwards.

So I built the Kluge. Three feet of 1/8 by 1 aluminum strip, a metal switch plate, some hardware and tubing gathering rust in the garage. Add some sawing and drilling and tapping and there you have it. Not exactly something I can fold up and put in a camera bag but the flash mounts beneath the camera so the flash tube and the lens axis are in the same plane.
With it I took the Bee image. And I didn't have to take a hundred plus shots to get it. With good detail too as you can see with the 100% crop of the bee's eye.

Then just as the bee-buzzing--blooms season was ending I found another flash at a garage sale. A Sunpac 322 with a head that can be tilted down. It can't be mounted on the camera; the discharge voltage would fry the electronic, but with my second radio receiver it works fine on top of an old flash mount I had hanging around.

And since the mount folds up to fit in a camera bag, I suspect it will compete with the Kluge come spring when the bee are buzzing blooms again.

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