Field macrophotography of plants: a technique for capturing the flora in nature

This article is a full translation of my previously published post “Полевая макрофотография растений: техника для съёмки флоры на природе”, © Gregory A. Pozhvanov, 2011.

I am going to describe in this article some technical features and approaches that I consider important and use in macrophotography of plants in wild nature. The picture I got during my last photosession in Lehmalahti shows how you can photograph macro on location.

Equipment for plant macrophotography: Canon EOS 40D camera, Sigma 150 mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG HSM telephoto macro lens for Canon, Manfrotto 190 XProB tripod, Manfrotto 488RC4 ball tripod head, Manfrotto 454 focusing rails, Pentacon angle viewfinder, Canon TC80-N3 wired remote control, Matin reflector with aluminium holder. Resin boots, tweezers and a nice mood are beyond the picture frame :)

camera and lenstripod, tripod head and railsangle viewfinder and remote controlaccessories for lighting setupwork with background: tweezers and scissorsphotographing from the ground level: philosophic and technical aspects


Camera: Canon EOS 40D (out of production for at least three years). Class of the camera is not really important. The main features you should consider are mirror lock-up and live-view mode for precise manual focusing. All that exists in almost any modern digital SLR camera.

Photographs are taken with Canon EF-S 60 mm f/2.8 Macro USM (1,2) and Sigma 150 mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG HSM (3) macro lenses. When photographing plants, you can freely select what kind of macro lens to use. But when photographing insects, it's better to have a telephoto lens with longer working distance to leave the subject in peace.
Photos: autumn crocus flower, Crocus autumnale (ISO 100, f/5, 1.3", 60 mm); tulip flower (ISO 100, f/11, 2", 60 mm); butterfly with transparent wings, fam. Heliconidae (ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/30", 150 mm).

Macro lens: Sigma 150 mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG HSM. It is one of the best lenses for macrophotography considering its price. I have not found any disadvantages of it yet.
Being a telephoto lens, Sigma 150 mm allows the photographer to create a beautifully blurred background and has its working distance long enough not to frighten insects. The lens has dedicated tripod mounting foot that is very useful in shoot – it allows you to easily change from landscape to portrait format without loosing contact with the subject. The frame stays in the center, what is not the case when the camera itself is attached to tripod.
Though I think that for some subjects a shorter-focus lens like Canon EF-S 60 mm f/2.8 Macro USM could be more suitable. This lens is also very good, especially for those who just start their steps in macro. Its angle of view is wider than one of Sigma 150 mm and resembles an attentive look of a human eye. That's why photographs taken with EF-S 60 mm appear as natural as if the viewer kneeled down to look intently at intimate macroobjects. Sigma 150 mm gives a picture with pronounced telephoto perspective.
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