The Light Slide

fun with photography

Baby's First Real Macro + Focus Stack

So I got my macro setup: Jobu base, edelkrone FlexTILT Head Pro, and Nisi focusing rail. Using a set of vintage Vivitar Nikon F extension tubes plus the Zörk Multi Focus swing mount plus a Rodagon Rodenstock 80mm enlarging lens. Plus a shutter release. Plus a handheld LitraTorch 2.0 for light. All shot on the Sigma fp.

Phew, that's a lot of crap I had to research, buy, and assemble.

Here are my first shots (these are single exposure):

Framing is hard…

I was shooting at an angle down to the table, for simplicity's sake, and didn't activate the Zörk swing mechanism, again for simplicity. Focusing was a challenge. My urge is to always reach for the lens to focus, but the Zörk + enlarging lens combo has, like, 3 different rings you think might be the focus ring but aren't, and plus with the extension tubes it just throws my whole muscle memory off.

I struggled with having no sense of how far away the subject had to be and how much I could bring into focus. Again, the extension tubes didn't help. (I probably should've skipped them this time.)

I didn't have anything to hold the flower up, so I couldn't really get the angles I wanted. And because I was so close to the subject, I struggled to see what angles I might want.

Using the focusing rail is very odd. The worm gear is easy to control, but it makes the camera move in a circular motion so the frame is always slightly changing in a way that's actually… kind of nauseating. And I'm also used to being able to make rapid changes and there's just no way!

Combine all those things together and it feels like I'm trying to work a camera with boxing gloves on.

In short: It was a struggle and not super fun. But I'm sure it'll get easier and more fun as I get my macro-legs under me. It's really a very different way of shooting than handheld 1:3 or 1:2, which is all I've done before.

Also I need a specimen holder and tiny tripods for my light(s).

I tried my first real focus stack…

I just guessed how far I should move the camera along the focusing rail for each exposure (conclusion: 1 full turn) and miraculously, it worked out!

3 exposures stacked in Photoshop

I don't love the composition but can't deny how exciting it is to see the level of detail in the dried flower petals and leaves:

In short, I'm really excited by being able to do actual macro… I used to shoot it with a single (1:2) lens back in the day and couldn't figure out, or handle, the complexity to take it further. (There's so much more info available now!)

Macro is enticing especially now, because even if I don't feel well, I can take interesting photos without leaving the house.

Here's hoping it gets less stressful and more fun!