This is a photograph of one of a water drop on one of my new dahlia flowers taken with my Nikon D200 and 200mm f/4 macro lens equipped with 64mm of extension tubes and a +4 diopter close-up filter. I have the 200mm lens, which is pretty heavy, mounted on a rail with a scale for both precise focusing and better balance on the tripod. I use a remote shutter release with the mirror locked-up for this kind of photograph.
To take this picture, I set the lens for maximum depth-of-field and exposed a series of captures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 of a second to 8 seconds. (This exposure was pretty much in the middle of the shutter speed range.)
Even at maximum depth-of-field this close, there’s only a thin range of subject that is in focus, so precise focusing is critical. I use a magnifying eye piece to help make sure that I have focused where I want.
From a practical viewpoint, given the water drop, the equipment that I have described, and a photographer who knows how to work the equipment, there are two problems to overcome with a photograph like this. The first is movement in the water drop—and for sure it will vibrate and wriggle in the slightest breath of a breeze. Short of going to macro flash, the only remedy for this issue is patience—and seizing the second of stillness when it does occur.
The second problem is a little less obviously a problem unless you’ve been there and done that. Extreme macro setups have a narrow range in which they can be focused. It’s hard to find that range, hard to know what you are looking at, and hard to find your subject. The whole process reminds me of navigation in unfamiliar terrain. Some of the shapes and contours seem familiar. Then finally you see something and know where you are. Now you can navigate relative to your landmark.
Funny, isn’t it, how my experience navigating the vast world of mountain wilderness can help me steer through the puzzle of extreme close-ups in my backyard?