Puzzling tripod configuration needs

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Troutnut, Feb 28, 2005.

  1. Troutnut

    Troutnut TPF Noob!

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    I'm working on designing my macro studio to photograph insects at magnifications from 5:1 out to about 1:3 with a Canon EOS 20D. Beyond 1:1 I'll use a MP-E 65mm 1-5X Macro lens, with a working distance of a few inches. At less than 1:1 magnification, I'll be using the Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, which has a working distance of 1 foot or more. I'll be using the MT-24EX Macro Twin Light flash with both lenses. The camera/lens/flash combined will weigh about 1.8kg / 4 pounds.

    I'm shooting in a semi scientific context: I mostly need to shoot flat side views and flat top and bottom views of each insect. This is sort of a convention in fly fishing entomology work, as it provides the most useful information for identification and imitation of aquatic insects. About half my subjects will be dry (mayfly adults, etc) and half will be aquatic nymphs and larvae in petri dishes or a tiny aquarium.

    So here are my criteria for my tripod assembly:

    -Great stability. I'll be tripping the shutter with a remote for sure, but vibration could still be a problem at the 5X magnification I'll need for some species. I need a tripod that will fix that.

    -I need to take pictures looking straight down at these insects from above, in addition to regular side shots. My assembly needs to be stable in both positions while holding my camera/lens/flash. I should be able to move the camera up and down to focus in fine increments while pointing it straight down, without anything slipping.

    -It should be easy to quickly move my camera between the side and straight-down viewing positions, because I'll be taking shots of each insect from both angles, and often doing 10-20 insects a night.

    -My subjects will be alive and scurrying around in a petri dish or on a branch. I take pictures when they cease their scurrying for a moment. So to follow the insects around (and to focus) I need to be able to fine-tune my camera position in all 3 axes in both side and top viewing configurations.

    From what I've read so far, it seems my best choice will be to get a tripod with an accessory arm to hold everything out away from the tripod legs, and use a counterweight to balance it. It sounds like I need micrometric plates to follow the insects around. Maybe I should have one end of the accessory arm configured for side-view and one for top-view, and use some kind of quick release attachment to make it easy to move my camera from one to the other.

    I'm pretty unfamiliar with the equipment available and I'll really appreciate any comments about the general setup I'm describing, specific models/types of equipment to look into, any big things I seem to be forgetting, etc...

    Thanks!
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    Something you may want to look into would be a rail system. You would mount the camera on the rail and then mount that onto your tripod. It will allow more precise focusing by moving the entire camera rather than you trying to focus just the lens.
     
  3. Rob

    Rob TPF Noob!

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    I'm sorry for this answer, cos it's a bit lame, but it might be something you haven't thought of:

    How about using ether? A friend of mine is a genetics and bio-technology grad and did lots of 300x macro-photography on genetic abnormalities in drosophila melanogaster which was only really possible if they were dead or anesthetised. Obviously you can't kill them all to study the genetics, so he got pretty good at just knocking the little fellows out. I believe that a very small quantity of amyl nitrate will have a similar effect on squiggly red things (the latin or common names escape me).

    Good luck.
     
  4. Troutnut

    Troutnut TPF Noob!

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    Mike I'm hoping to have the functionality of a rail system in my assembly too... so I can move closer and farther form the subject to focus, as well as moving back and forth to follow it around.

    Thanks for the ether suggestion Rob. That's actually a really good idea I hadn't thought of for some of my other applications (I'll be taking some pictures through a microscope, too.) The purpose of this tripod assembly is going to be to get full-body, life-like shots of both nymphs/larvae and adults ranging from 3mm to about 3 inches in length. They've got to be conscious to pose properly and "look" alive for this, though maybe on the dry forms I can use a small amount of ether to kind of calm them down. Definitely worth experimenting with! And I'll definitely try using ether to temporarily knock them out when I need to do closeups under the microscope of specific tiny parts for taxonomic purposes.
     
  5. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    I'm not an expert on tripods, but I'd like you to be aware of a few things. If you want a very sturdy tripod, it's going to be big and heavy, and clunky in a way, so speed and ease of changing positions may not be as easy as you think.

    Everything you could possibly need though I'm sure is available here:

    http://www.manfrotto.com/

    Question is, how much do you want to spend?
     
  6. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    If you look around you can still find copy stands. They were designed to take big cameras for photographing flat art work in the days before scanners. They come in several sizes from desktop to floor standing.
    The other option - it works in the same way - is to modify an enlarger. Take the head assembly off and replace it with your camera. Some enlargers are actually designed to do this. It gives you precise vertical movement.
    Hope this helps.
     
  7. Troutnut

    Troutnut TPF Noob!

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    Heavy and sturdy is what I'm looking for. This tripod won't leave my studio; in fact, it will rarely move from where it sits on the studio floor.

    As for budget... I want the lowest that can get the job done right. I'm spending way more money than I should but it's all a moot point if I've got a weak link somewhere that's making for crappy pictures despite the great camera, lens, flash, etc. So I want stable, sharp pictures and safe, fine-tuned adjustment. I'll spend what I need to do that, but I don't want to be paying for the novelty of having the latest & greatest of whatever if something else will perform just as well for my specific needs.

    Copy stand is an interesting idea--all I've heard about them is that they're generally a lot more expensive than tripods, but maybe one of them would be more versatile and less expensive than a tripod for all the things I need to do.
     
  8. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Bogen has a tripod where you can remove the vertical center post and mount it horizontally for shooting directly down on subjects. They also have a device called a "magic arm" or something like that. It's sort of like a human arm with an elbow in the middle, a tripod head at the hand end, and a clamp at the shoulder end. It's very adjustable.
     
  9. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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  10. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    It sound like for most of you work, a copy stand is what you'll need. The Bogen that Matt spoke of might be what you'll need for the few location shoots. I have one that allows the center post to be inverted.

    If you have a BUNCH of this to do, consider treating youself to a 90 degree finder to go with the copy stand.

    -Pete Christie
     

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