View Full Version : Mantis II

WIlliam Maroldo
10-21-2010, 11:40 PM
Sony A850~ Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro~Sony HVL-F58AM~ISO 200~1/125 sec~F/32~HH~manual exposure~10-20-2010~Houston Arboretum~CS5

It is appearing quite obvious that using a flash as a main light source, especially near sunset, can easily render the background very dark, or black. I could see disadvantages as well as advantages; it certainly takes care of distracting backgrounds.
I could easily make the background solid black with this image. I was wondering about pros and cons of such images. In avian images I am a big fan of high-key, but not everyone is! This may be the case with low-key as I assume this would be.
Also the advantage of two flash units has become apparent as well.
Also I would have expected more of a negative effect at F/32 on image sharpness. Sony rebranded Minolta glass and it could be the nature of this lens, which seems particularly sharp. Then again, it could be that all macro lenses are sharp. Comments and critique welcomed. regards~Bill

Ken Childs
10-22-2010, 11:19 AM
Hey Bill, as you have already found out, using flash with darkish BG's will very often have the BG go black. I actually like black BG's but there are many that don't so it's up to you to decide whether or not it's worth taking these shots. You probably would have had to drop the SS quite a bit to get the BG to show up which means you may not have been able to get the shot at all. In this case, I would go ahead and take it all the way to black.

A better looking angle might have been had with a small step to the right but then you run into DOF problems with these larger bugs. Even at f32, there probably would have been some problems towards the rear end. The abdomen is a bit bright so you should try to tone it down just a bit. I would also clone or paint away the bristles under the stick that appear to be floating in air. The antennae are disappearing into the BG if you have a steady hand, try painting them back in. Overall this looks good and a few editing tweaks will easily take it up a notch or 2. :)

Roman Kurywczak
10-22-2010, 11:54 AM
Hey Bill,
Ken is getting good at this because he didn't leave me much to say;). I tis amazing how quickly you are seeing both some advantages and disadvantages of the flash.....that is where digital shines! I too am OK with dark or black BG......I will always try for a lighter one though but at f32 often difficult. You could have pushed the ISO to 400 and even drop the SS some (1/60 is as low as I go HH....always with flash) but it does require impeccable technique and you do lose a few due to camera shake. Try pushing the body's limits with cooperative subjects....perhaps ISO 800 to see how it handles the noise.....then you will be ready for the situation to make a choice the next time out in the field in which direction you may want to go. If the subject is very cooperative.....do both and debate the issue when you get home! Some food for thought and Ken's tweak suggestions will only improve a fine image!

Steve Maxson
10-22-2010, 02:20 PM
Hi Bill. After Ken and Roman, I don't have lot to add. :) I like Ken's suggestions for tweaks though I will say that I'm not a big fan of black backgrounds for insect photos and I try to avoid them (though not always successfully). Roman has some good suggestions to try to get a lighter background. Also, given that you were pretty perpendicular to the mantis, you might have been able to use f/16 and still get sufficient DOF - this gives you 2 more stops to use to try lightening the background. You have good sharpness on your mantis and if you could have convinced it to turn its head toward us this image would jump up about 3 notches. :) If you haven't seen it - you might want to check out this thread in the Tutorials and Educational Resources forum: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?12287-Handheld-Macro-BG-control-basics

Julie Kenward
10-22-2010, 09:21 PM
William, I like the image quite a bit. I do think it would have been stronger if the stick had been more diagonal instead of straight across the frame but that's personal preference to some degree. I actually like how bright the abdomen is and would suggest not toning it down but lightening the rest of the bug to match that area.

The BG works for me as is but if you printed it I think I'd go for all black. IMO it would make for a stronger print that way.

WIlliam Maroldo
10-22-2010, 10:23 PM
Appeciate the advice and observations!! I am quite aware of how to avoid the black or dark background, and I quess the question boils down to if successful macro images can result from techniques that create dark backgrounds (on purpose), and the answer is the same as with high-key; personal preference of the viewer. Its funny that I like, and purposely shoot, high key avian images while I don't like avian images with dark backgrounds. It seems the opposite is true for me for insects, at least at this point.
Roman made the point about using higher ISOs to avoid the dark background for this image, which certainly has merit, yet that was not my intent. I was exploring the dark background idea, and it seems that a darker background needs to exist in the actual scene, and the flash supplies just enough light to illuminate the subject. As far as ISOs go, up to ISO1600 with no problem, and with avian I rarely go below ISO1000. However, with a dark or black background use of higher ISOs is a real problem, since noise exists to a large extent within these darker pixels.
The use of a greater DOF that would seem necessary on a side view doesn't consider that the legs, especially the rear ones, extend quite a bit from the body (toward the viewer) and can easily extend beyond the DOF and thus be OOF. I've noticed this not just on mantises, and certainly F/32 may have not been necessary here, but it is a DOF consideration that is easily missed while looking through the viewfinder.
Ken; good suggestions on the bristles, antenna, etc. One of those cases that seem obvious when pointed out!
Thanks Steve, I do have images with the head turned toward me as well, but most of these have the OOF leg problem I just mentioned since I used F/20.
Julie; actually I leveled the stick quite a bit, and I'll try some more diagonal placement. Thanks everyone! regards~Bill