Tips for transition from BIF to Macro
While I was fortunate enough this past winter to complete all of my desired equipment upgrades and purchases in hopes of photographing our winter bird migration, serious health issues took me completely out of commission before I was even able to put any of my equipment together for evaluation. As I am still slowly recovering, I am trying to turn my sights to spring flowers which I used to shoot handheld in previous years.
I would like to work off of my tripod this year, but could use some advice as setting up a tripod for BIF seems relatively easy in comparison to doing macro work. My Gitzo GT3541LS is the perfect height for BIF when the legs are fully extended, so it requires almost no thought other than to make sure that everything is fully secure.
I realize that macro flower work is going to require significantly more thought and patience, especially since I am used to shooting handheld in past years. Furthermore, I am still extremely fatigued from my medical treatments, and therefore have a very limited amount of energy which I do not want to consume "fighting with my tripod".
Any suggestions as to how you streamline or minimize your efforts (i.e. tripod adjustments) as you work in a setting with multiple photo opportunities would be greatly appreciated. I just do not have enough time clocked working with the Gitzo with a full load, and with my present fatigue, I would hate to see equipment come tumbling down because of a stupid decision. I will primarily be using my D300 with my 105VR and an L-bracket (and possibly a TC on occasion), but I recently updated my profile so it should have a current list of my equipment if you have any additional suggestions or comments.
#1. "RE: Tips for transition from BIF to Macro" | In response to Reply # 0Wed 11-Apr-12 12:59 PM
In terms of stability I think the GT3541LS and M20 are ideal. That won't be a problem. In this sense, what is good for BIF is good for macro and I suspect both applications can stress a tripod more or less equally.
Where I think macro is "unique" is that the close working distance demands a precision in setup and alignment that just doesn't matter with BIF. With BIF, for me it is more a matter of comfort while spending many hours waiting for that bird that I can't queue on demand . And articulating around as the bird passes by.
I know that this may sound like heresy to some, but the best thing you might do is to add a center column. My thinking is that you may have some physical difficulties with the constant fine adjustment of the legs and whatnot to get things framed at macro distances.
A center column, extended less than 3" or so, won't likely make any difference in stability, especially if you use Mirror Up, as you should do for any macro shot. The center column would allow you to make crude height adjustments with the legs, and then fine tune with the center column. My 3" suggestion is an attempt to put that in context. You don't want to get too lazy with the center column .
The main drawback of the center column is the resulting inability to get very low, lower than the height of the center column. You can at least partly solve that with a short center column and that works well with using it for fine tuning only, and not as a replacement for a too short tripod, which is where most people get into stability troubles.
The other thing you can do is to use one or, even better, two focusing rails of some sort.
You can get a fancy (and expensive!) focusing rail like the RRS rail, or the Kirk FR-1 (which I use). You can put two together, at right angles, in order to fine tune both working distance and side to side composition without moving the tripod.
Alternately you can get one or two long rails, with Arca-Swiss style clamps, to do the same thing for much less money but giving up the fine tuning ability.
If your typical macro is more around, say, 1:3 then simple long rails and clamps should provide enough precision. If your interests are more along 1:1, or even tighter with tubes, then the extra expense of the focusing rails, and especially the RRS rail with it's very fine "micrometer adjustment" may be worth the extra expense.
The Kirk FR-1 has a more crude focusing rail mechanism which may actually work faster if time is of the essence, but apparently does not have the Swiss Watch precision of the RRS rail. I generally find the Kirk rail good enough and I bought it for something more along the lines of 1:2 on a copy stand where I wanted fast response. Plus RRS, at the time, had indefinitely suspended production of their rail (this was many years ago).
One of the drawbacks of most Nikkor macro lenses is that they change focal length as the working distance changes. The effect is that without a focusing rail to easily change the working distance it can be very frustrating to do a simple composition. That because moving the tripod changes the composition (to what you want), but then refocusing changes it again, to something other than what you wanted .
The final conclusion is a series of iterative attempts and without a focusing rail that can be very frustrating and tiring. Particularly when working close quarters where it takes some thought and effort to move the tripod even a fraction of an inch. One you've used any sort of focusing rail to do this without having to move the tripod you will never look back . And that is true even when in the best of health.
One thing I really like about the GT3541LS for macro work in the field is the short legs (fully retracted) that result from the short folded length. It lets me get the camera in position without undue fighting with longer legs. My 30" long folded length G1410 Series 4 alloy was problematic in that way, where finding room for the 30" legs was often a problem. For that reason alone I used to use my ~20" G1228 (now GT2542)for tight macro work. The GT3541LS is the best of both worlds, very stable but with short easy to place legs.
If you do not already have spikes for your GT2541LS you may consider that. One of the problems with macro is that your desired shooting height is in between leg latch notches. In that case you can go in between the notches, digging in the spikes to keep the legs stable when outside the notches.
It is interesting that we rarely talk about this aspect of support (macro composition) here. Good thread .
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#5. "RE: Tips for transition from BIF to Macro" | In response to Reply # 1Sun 15-Apr-12 09:50 PM
>The final conclusion is a series of iterative attempts and
>without a focusing rail that can be very frustrating and
>tiring. Particularly when working close quarters where it
>takes some thought and effort to move the tripod even a
>fraction of an inch. One you've used any sort of focusing
>rail to do this without having to move the tripod you will
>never look back . And that is true even when in the best
Sorry for the delayed response to your informative posts, and a big thank you for providing some of the "missing puzzle pieces". I have been thinking about your suggestions these past few days, and now have a better understanding of how others avoid the frustrations that I briefly experienced last year when I tried to do some macro work on my tripod. It seems that focus rails are less of a luxury than I initially thought, assuming one wants to maintain some sanity and a working back while using a tripod for macro work.
Unfortunately, my wallet is a bit tapped out right now, so my plan is to work hand held this year, and look at acquiring a center column and some type of rail system as budget permits. I am assuming that when looking at center columns for my 3541LS, I need a column that contains all of the hardware necessary for installation. Some of the columns for sale looked to be (drop-in) replacement only, and assumed that the user already had the pieces necessary to lock and adjust the column.
#7. "RE: Tips for transition from BIF to Macro" | In response to Reply # 5Mon 16-Apr-12 12:01 AM
I think you want the GS3511S, which is a Carbon Fiber Rapid Column for the Systematic series.
If you have not already done so, download the 2009 catalog (latest available) here.
The GS3511S is described on page 56.
Page 90 lists various replacement columns that I assume you would drop into a Mountaineer or Systematic. That may be where your confusion lies. In all cases I would talk to a dealer to make sure you are getting what you want since the catalog can sometimes be confusing.
my Nikonians gallery.
#2. "RE: Tips for transition from BIF to Macro" | In response to Reply # 0
One more critical but often overlooked advantage of a macro rail that changes working distance...
One of the difficult aspects of macro with a collarless lens such as the 105 VR is that the camera is very nose heavy. Even a fine head such as the M20 works far better with a balanced load, especially when a high level of precision is involved.
A long rail in the axis of the lens not only allows you to fine tune the working distance but if it is long enough it also allows you to place the camera body behind the ball head clamp, at about the right distance to properly balance the lens. Then you can work the M20 at much lighter tensions, retaining smooth movement at the lightest possible tension, but without the setup drooping, as it would tend to do in a nose heavy configuration.
This alone might warrant a 3rd rail, if necessary, to supplement the focus distance travel of the "focusing rail". This depends on the configuration of the rail(s) you buy and how much working distance adjustment you want after balancing the lens. And, of course, changing the working distance changes the balance too so there is no easy free lunch here .
Just something to think about, or to evolve into. It's actually hard to figure all this out the first shot while picking things out from a catalog. It may take an evolution or two to get all this exactly the way you want it for maximum comfort and ease of use.
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#4. "RE: Tips for transition from BIF to Macro" | In response to Reply # 3pablopalma Registered since 31st Oct 2010Fri 13-Apr-12 01:57 PM
Hello, I saw that you have the angle finder DR5, let me ask you: I can not screw the DR5 d700 to the eyepiece so that exactly matches the above, I'm afraid to break the thread of the d700 viewfinder, it is normal is hard to screw?, thank you and excuse the bad English translated by google.
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