With macro photography, there is clearly a difference in technique between photographing moving or static subjects.
By static subjects, I mean flowers, seedpods, fruit, details of leaves, mushrooms, etc. Even photographing butterflies or damselflies early in the morning, when they are still too cold to move, I consider static subjects. Often they are still covered with dew, and this can sometimes present a wonderful photo opportunity.
Moving subjects are, of course, all manner of creatures like butterflies, dragonflies, other insects, spiders, frogs, salamanders, and even lizards.
If you want to photograph these creatures in their natural environment, you’ll quickly notice that setting up a tripod is an excercise in futility. By the time you are set up, your subject will have moved, and as you reposition your tripod, it will move again.
The answer is to shoot hand-held, only then can you adapt to a quickly changing situations. To maintain a reasonable distance from your subject, I recommend the use a a 100mm, or better yet, a 180mm lens. The only downside of such a lens is that the point of balance moves forward, and it becomes more difficult to hold the camera steady during the exposure.
To prevent this, and keep the camera steady during the shot. I use a home-made shoulder brace, sometimes called a gunstock brace. One advantage of using this with the 180mm lens is that the lens-foot, rather than the camera, becomes to point of connection, for better balance. With my left hand, I pull the brace tightly to my shoulder, and with my right hand I hold the camera, so I can easily and quickly change any necessary camera functions, while I keep the the subject in the frame. By the way, the function I find most important is choosing different AF focus point, but I can also quickly change the shutter speed or aperture.
There are commercially available shoulder braces, that use a pistol grip with a built-in cable release. But you’ll need to move your hand from the grip to change camera functions, and back to the grip to take your shot, often losing valuable time, and sometimes losing your shot.
If you’d like to make a shoulder brace like mine, or have someone make it for you, I would be happy to send you a free set of drawings and photos via e-mail. Please go to the Contact page, just put the words shoulder brace in the body of the e-mail and I’ll send it to you. Of course, any comments are always welcome
For a description of the photos, please scroll down..
Top photo: the shoulder brace with a Canon 5D mk II, with a 185mm f/3.5 L macro lens, and the Macro Lite MT-24EX flashes. On the shoulder brace, there is a Really Right Stuff quick-coupling, not inexpensive, but the very best available. The two pictures of the lizard clearly show why it is necessary to move quickly when photographing moving subjects. By moving slightly up and to the left, I created a much better picture. The bottom photos show how I hold the shoulder brace.