Focus On: Underwater Macro Photography Part 2 – 105mm

Following on from Mondays 60mm macro underwater post, today I’d like to showcase some of the photos I’ve taken with the 105mm macro + Nikon D300 and highlight some key differences.

Equipment:

  • Nikon D300 + Subal Housing for D300 (£2000)
  • 105mm VR macro lens + Subal 105 port with manual focus knob (£925)
  • 2 Inon z240 strobes (not for sale)

As Vincent so rightly points out in his comment on my previous post, the 105mm takes a bit of getting used to. Its a wonderful lens but as with all camera gear it has its pros & cons. Pretty much the only con of consequence for me personally is the weight. Its a much heavier lens. If you too are struggling with this I’d recommend the StiX floats buoyancy collar that they developed to combat this issue. It encircles the port and balances it all out a little. Don’t forget to cable tie it on though as you may see it float off when you tip the lens upwards! There are quite a few pros, the main one being the extra working distance you get. Both the 60mm and the 105 are 1:1 lenses but to have the critter the same size in the frame you can back right off with the 105 giving more room for lighting and more distance for shy critters. And of course you can more easily get that nice blurred background (bokeh) which can help to lift your subject from it’s surroundings especially on messy backgrounds.

Here are a few shots I took in Bali at the end of last year (click images for larger)…

This tiny shrimp was difficult to see so having a nice clean background was essential for the shot. It is nice to have the second part of the coral blurred out in the  background for some context though.

This little toby was very small and very shy, I would not have been able to take a good shot with a 60 without him just swimming off.

Another very shy critter:

Its good fun and games trying to get shots of garden eels, when you approach they disappear into the sand. This is another shot which would have been almost impossible with a 60mm’s reduced working distance.

You have to be careful where you focus when the DOF is so shallow, getting only the tail in focus would have ruined this shot:

Pygmy seahorses are notoriously shy and they hate the light of the flash & spotting torch (it can stress them so much that they would die so responsible underwater photographers take the pygmy pledge – to only take a maximum number of 3 or 4 shots per seafan).

Dreamy bokeh can give a different atmosphere to a photograph than a straight on ID shot.

The lens can ‘hunt’ for focus if the subject is not contrasty enough, this little guy was quite contrasty but so close to the seabed (which is the background in this topdown shot) that the camera would constantly back focus. The manual focus knob on the port is worth its weight in gold in these situations.

I took this little guy’s photo back in 2009 on a night dive, you can understand how small he is by considering that the huge boulders he’s sitting on are sand granules!

I hope you liked my stroll down memory lane with my 105mm VR macro set up for the Nikon D300. As I said at the top of the post I’m currently selling that set up. Buy for only £2875 (camera, lens, housing and port)! Click here for more details & the full list of equipment for sale or email me at scubasuzy-sellingnikongear@yahoo.co.uk. Thanks for supporting my work!

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