I have been following Mike Moats for quite some time. One of my favorite themes of Mike’s Macro Nature photography is his macros of rock slabs. I’m pretty sure I contacted Mike to find out where he was getting the slabs. I ordered some slabs from dandyslab.com and this piece was added as an extra gift in my order.
Because we’re shooting in macro land (the long side of the photo is around 1/4 to 1/2 an inch across) perfect focus across the entire tiny area is critical. The hardest part of creating these photos is making sure they are sharp all the way to the corner of the photo. Things to keep in mind:
The depth of field is tiny
You can’t really crank up the aperture to make up for focus being off because lens refraction will start to creep in and reduce the sharpness. A problem for any photo, and magnified in macro land
If you’re not perfectly parallel to the slab the corners will be out of focus at any usable f/stop (f/4 to about f/16)
After many failed attempts I finally came up with a simple way to make sure your sensor or film plane is perfectly parallel to the slab without using a level and making painstaking adjustments. You will need a tripod with a center column that allows you to move your camera up and down.
Here are the steps:
- Set the slab on a table close to the edge of the table. It needs to be close enough to allow you to move the camera, mounted on the tripod, directly above the rock slab
- Do not mount the camera to the tripod yet
- Set the camera on the lens hood, on the table, directly over the rock slab
- Be sure the bottom of the camera, where the tripod mount is, is pointing away from the center of the table
- Now move your tripod next to the camera, line up the tripod head with the mounting screw on the camera and carefully attach the camera to the tripod head. You don’t want to move the camera or you will lose your parallelism
- Adjust the center column on your tripod, with the camera now mounted, up away from the rock slab. Be sure to raise to at least the closes focus distance (a little more than that makes it easier for final focus)
- Now you can look through the camera and move the rock slab until you have a pleasing composition
- Adjust your focus manually and create your photo. The setup you went through in the previous steps insures your sensor or film plane is still parallel to the slab
If you’ve ever tried to set something like this up with a level you know how difficult it can be to keep everything parallel. This seems like a lot of work when you read it, but when you do it once you’ll see it really is very fast and easy.
~ Daniel Kmiecik