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First Dragons ... < Pics added >

Discussion in 'Macro, Flowers, Insects, and Greenery' started by Thymen, Aug 9, 2008.

  1. Thymen


    Jun 18, 2007
    The Netherlands
    Hi Folks,

    I've seen the beautifull dragonfly photographs of people like Jukka and Spectre here, and so I looked for these creatures on my weekend walks. I was surprized to see there are soo many of them..!

    So I thought I might try to capture them on the sensor myself. I do not have the proper gear, nor the skills, but hey! Gotta start somewhere!

    Just to see if it is something I enjoy, I put my 18-200 VR on my D300, since at 200 mm it gives the largest reproduction ratio of all my lenses, put my flash and home-made diffusor box on it, and went to the spots where I knew the dragonflies would be. Below are some of the shots I took the last couple of days. Bear in mind that they are just first tries: background, focus, noise, posture of the insect.... all need improvement....

    Now I know:
    - one needs time and patience, to learn where, when and how to find them;
    - one needs the proper skills in capturing them, which can only be acquired by doing;
    - one needs the proper equipement

    About the equipment, I have some questions.

    Ofcourse, a 18-200 VR at 200 mm, closest focusing distance is surely not the proper lens for this kind of work. It is soft, small aperture wide-open which is not good for focusing, and most of all, the focusing ring is far too sensitive. I am seriously considering a dedicated Macro lens, but I am not sure which one.

    I noticed that camera movement causes most of the blurr. Handheld shots, even with flash, gives a low yield. I tried with a monopod, but that was only slightly better. Flash duration is short enough, but in order to balance ambient light / flash shutter speeds are too long at 200 ISO. I need to boost ISO considerably, but that gives more noise. I would like to keep ISO as low as possible. But that requires using a tripod..

    Handheld, it's relatively easy to approach the dragonflies.. up to a certain distance. When I get too close, I start touching the green they are perched on. Then they're gone.. And if they're not gone, either camera shakes or focus drift makes the captures blurry.

    As far as equipement is concerned I am thinking about (is order of cost):

    - Sigma 150/2.8 macro ("Bugma")
    - 105 VR/2.8 Macro
    - Sigma 180/3.5 Macro
    - 300/F4, with extension tube
    - 200/F4 Micro

    All, save the 105 VR, have a tripod collar, great for balancing the camera on a tripod. I consider this a must. The 150 Sigma is both cheapest, has a collar, relatively large apepture wide open.. sounds great. BUT: is the focal length OK? When using a tripod, one needs to keep distance in order not to disturb the flies, and I wonder if 150 mm is not too short.

    So I wonder, what is the approximate "working distance" for each of the lenses above? Which one is is most comfortable to work with? I would consider buying used, just to keep the budget acceptable...

    I already searched the forum, but..anyone able to give some sound advice?

    Kind regards,


    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2008
  2. cleoent


    Dec 21, 2007
    San Jose, Ca
    I dont know what's up with the first one, but the rest are very impressive, especially considering the equipment and that it was your first time!
  3. 3 and 5 are real nice, if you were using a d200, I would ask why the 400 ISO, but I am not familiar with the 300. Keep them coming.
  4. Thymen, I agree with Leo about the first one but I am impressed with the shots you have with your setup. If you look around at different Macro forums you are going to see many setups for macro. One setup you are going to see with some frequency is using the Sigma 150 f2.8 with a 1.4x teleconverter. This is my setup on my D-300. It will give you a decent working distance and is pin sharp. If I am on a tripod I have no problem with a 100% crop. Even hand held it is very possible. I use this for Dragons, small bugs10mm or so, Floral and it is also an excellent lens for candid as well as portraits . The background is creamy and even with the TC the focus is snap fast. I have used this setup for about a year and a half now and will never go into the fiels without it. Let me know if you have any ques., Vince
  5. Jeff Lee

    Jeff Lee

    May 16, 2006
    Nice series, esp. with your equipment. As Vincent said a 150 with TC1.4 is one option, but for me the 300 AFS with TC1.4 or TC1.7 is a real dragon slayer. They are large for insects, but really like to have you at a distance.

    I'd spend some time using you 18-200 and get a sense for distance. You might even try something like tubes or a KenKo Pro TC on your zoom....or try and go shooting with someone that has one of the options you are considering.
  6. Thymen


    Jun 18, 2007
    The Netherlands
    Thanks for the replies!

    I WOULD like a 300 with converter, because the working distance will allow for seting up a tripod without scaring the creatures away (sometimes....), but... I am afraid it will be difficult to find something within my budget. I will look around though.

    I can afford a Sigma 150, new. I think it is best that I visit my dealer and have all possible lenses demonstrated.

    In the meantime, I'll keep on practising with what I've got.

  7. SpoonFed


    Jul 19, 2008
    Bay Area
    wonderful colors but man do they creep me out haha
  8. Spectre


    Feb 20, 2008
    First of all, thank you for the compliment at the beginning of your post.

    The lens questions are very similar to ones that I was asking Jukka and Torben not too long ago. I initially shot with the 105 micro VR... results...not good. I just didn't have the working distance. I usually ended up scaring the dragons away.

    I ended up shooting the 300mm AFs, the same as Torben and Jukka. It provides enough working distance to get the job done without having to be right on top of them. I personally don't think that you need a TC for dragons with the 300, but others may disagree. For damsels I also took Jukkas advice and added an extension tube, the PN-11.

    I have seen really nice results here from others with the 150 & 200mm so I have nothing bad to say, and I know that your budget might not allow for a 300...but, I just haven't tried them myself.

    Have you considered getting the 300mm AF instead of the AFS? It is far cheaper.... the optical quality is equivalent, just the AF is slower. For dragons... we manually focus anyway... well I do, and I believe the others do as well.

    You shouldn't need a really fast lens either, typical aperture that I shoot dragons with is between f/8 - f/10 to get enough DOF.

    Few tips to stop the blurring....
    1. If possible, always use a tripod.
    2. Use the Mup on your D300... it is your friend.
    3. Use a shutter release if you have one.

    Those three things will help a lot....

    Good Luck, I hope to see more Dragons from you.
  9. Thymen


    Jun 18, 2007
    The Netherlands

    I've already been looking for a used 300, but here in the Netherlands the offer of used equipment like this is not as wide as in the US. It may be a while before I find a good one.

    But it takes more then equipment. It will require quite some time to be able to distinguish all the different classes and families of dragon- and damselflies. I think my first investment should be a good indentification book, and lots of time (and perhaps a cheap extension tube with my 105/2.5 AIS first, for the 18-200 is awful to focus manually...)

    Actually, my main objective is to be outdoors more often. When I was young, my parents had a boat, I spent almost every weekend and holidays sailing, fishing and swimming. All my childhood memories are green and wet. I've been missing that so much, and I just re-discovered that a few square meters of swamp can provide hours of stress-relieving fun. There is just so much to be seen..

    I'll let it mature slowly, and not rush to the shop just to satisfy my gear lust. Until now, every year has had a summer, and I'm pretty sure next year will not be different. Until then, I'll peek at wonderful sites like Jukka's.


    PS: read all your equipment was stolen. Happened to me a few years ago. I think I know how you feel....

    PPS: Boy, somebody should beat me over the head with a Sigma 70-300 D F1:4-5.6 APO .... This lens has been stashed away for a few years, because I found it to be too soft and too plasticky, but... it gives a RR of 1:2 at 300 mm! Completely forgot I have it!

    Plenty of gear available now: tripod, wired release, flash, camera, lens. Too bad it's raining today...
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2008
  10. tojor


    Jul 27, 2005
    Hi Thymen.

    The Sigma 70-300 is fine cheap lens for dragonflies. About the pictures. They are very nice. It bothers me in the first one of the male Enallagma cyathigerium that the OOF area is in the front though.

    Otherwise very nice compositions and sharpness but some of them look a little oversharpened and noisy on my monitor but excellent shots for a first try. I wish my first try was that good.
  11. Thymen


    Jun 18, 2007
    The Netherlands
    Pics added

    Taken this afternoon, with the Sigma 70-300, tripod, wired release, mirror lock-up and flash. ISO 200, some at 400. It was wet and windy, but I think these pics are better then the ones I posted in this thread before.

    Thank you guys for your patience and kind advice.


  12. Nice work. I too can thank/blame some of the posters here for my newfound dragonfly addiction. Today on the kayak I was torn between a night heron posed beautifully and dragonflys! I have had some micro/tripod success (flickr) but they have to be real perchers and what I did was grab my safety shots and then just start leaning the tripod closer. You are really only on two legs but still ten times better than handholding a macro.

    I have yet to do this but I am sure that you could set up close, real close, and just wait. I have found that the same or even other dragons will return to the exact same spot over and over. I saw my first tiny Easter Forktail and really want to snag one closeup
    BTW check out the tamron 90 micro in threads.
  13. Spectre


    Feb 20, 2008
    Nice work on the second round....
  14. Excellent images, crisp and sharp, lovely colors and contrast.
  15. Nice work. The second series is much better. If you consider a 300 f4 later, keep in mind the older lens (AF) does not focus as close as the AF-S version. The AF only focuses to approx. 8 to 9 feet. The AF-S focuses under 5 feet, I believe. Just something to keep in mind. Thanks for sharing your photos. Very nice start
  16. Oh Those are great I really like #2. You are a good dragon hunter:smile:
  17. My goodness Thymen those are amazing with that lens.

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