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Getting enough shots for a large stack with live subjects

 
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bulletsie



Joined: 14 Aug 2014
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 4:17 am    Post subject: Getting enough shots for a large stack with live subjects Reply with quote

Hi folks,

I've been trying a bit of macro work and have got some shots I'm happy with but they dont even come close to the standard of some of the amazing shots I've seen other macro photographers do.
I'd like to improve my ability to get better shots (and more shots) to use for stacking.

A few of my shots are here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/116522624@N04/sets/72157643205987234

at my disposal:
Zerene (Best money I've ever spent on software its so much fun to use)
Nikon D5200
Sigma 105mm 2.8 macro lens
68mm extension tubes.
Raynox 250 (I've not used this much)
Manfrotto 055 tripod with junior geared head
Manfrotto 454 macro rail (would love a stackshot to replace this)


I keep seeing amazing shots where people are using stacks of over 200 shots and from looking and it looks like
the subjects are live subjects (rather than dead/pinned/chilled)

Could somebody explain the workflow behind actually aquiring so many shots to obtain enough for this kind of stacking ?
Outside handheld I will only ever manage to get 4-8 usable shots for a stack.
Inside on tripod+macrorail slider with a dead subject using wide open apature I tend to get about 25-30 nearly always under 50 usable shots.
Inside I've tried cooling a subject without killing it and managed to get 15-20 shots for a stack.
Inside I've tried freezing a few subjects killing them (which I dont really want to do) but then limbs etc are all dead looking and will ruin shots.

My questions would be:
When the subject is alive and moving about the place how on earth do you manage to get over 200 shots to use in a stack ?
Are subjects for large deep stacks (that look alive) really alive or have they been killed and carefully posed?
Dead subjects: what are the tricks of the trade for posing how to get rid of a crumpled up mess that legs tend to become or how to stand them ?
Dead subjects: how to clean them up get rid of dust etc before taking the shots? (or is this done via touch up post processing)
Alive subjects: how do you deal with movement/alignment. (Luck? rising at the crack of dawn when they are asleep ?)

ethics wise, Id prefer live subjects and dont want to kill anything just
to get a photograph but I have popped the odd insect into the freezer
without too much guilt or will collect any dead insect I see or am given.

Best regards
Bryan.
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All Ex



Joined: 20 Jul 2015
Posts: 167
Location: Greece Thessaloniki

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello bulletin, it's my aporia too and we have the same questions. How on earth they manage to take so many frames of a live and moving speciment? Could anybody solve that mystery for us? I would be very pleased if you can provide any update on this. I will, of course let you know if something comes into my knowledge on that subject.
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zzffnn



Joined: 22 May 2014
Posts: 1090
Location: Texas USA

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am only guessing here as I am not a macro guy:
microscope stage (with 1-2 micron fine focus) placed horizontally and lidocaine as immobilizing agent.
Cleaning dust off dead subject has been discussed many times. I personally don't know how. But search within this forum will tell you.
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All Ex



Joined: 20 Jul 2015
Posts: 167
Location: Greece Thessaloniki

PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some kind of procedure you can find there, just a way of dealing with the problem. I personally don`t believe it applies in all the cases...if something else comes in your knowledge let me know. Rolling Eyes
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bulletsie



Joined: 14 Aug 2014
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies,

Did not think of trying to photograph a spider in the dark.
The jumping spiders I've tried to take photo's of dont react too much to the flash going off (which is good) but still move about. I might try the tricking them into night mode or maybe its because they cant see me moving about and cant track me.

~B
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 17396
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2015 12:40 pm    Post subject: FAQ: How do you shoot a deep stack of a live subject? Reply with quote

Bryan,

Your questions are frequently asked, in one form or another, and I'm considering turning this post into one of our FAQ's. As a result, the "quotes" below aren't exactly your words, but I hope that I've captured the intent.

Quote:
I'm really impressed by what appear to be deep stacks of live subjects. When the subject is alive and moving about the place, how on earth do you manage to get over 200 shots to use in a stack ?

You don't. Subject movement ruins most stacks. Some improvement can be made by working quickly -- even stacking from video -- but it's rare for a deep stack to be made from an active animal.

Quote:
Are subjects for these stacks really alive or have they been killed and carefully posed?

At the 200-frame level, most subjects that normally move are dead when photographed.

Quote:
Dead subjects: What are the tricks of the trade for posing? How can I avoid the crumpled up mess that legs tend to become, and make the subject stand up like it did when alive?

It's very hard to set up a full body shot of a dead insect and have the insect look alive. That's an exercise in small scale taxidermy, and it's not much easier than the large scale taxidermy that is used to produce museum dioramas.

With hard shelled insects like beetles, you can sometimes hold all the appendages in place with pins and props while they dry and the body becomes rigid. This does not work with soft-bodied insects like flies, which shrink when they dry out. In that case, I think the best odds are to mount with glue and work fast so you get done before the beast shrivels.

Having the eyes look lifelike is often one of the biggest problems. Even with beetles, it's common for drying to result in changes in appearance due to separation and cracking of structures beneath the surface. Working with a freshly killed specimen is by far the most reliable method of getting eyes that have a natural appearance.

Typically, a deep stack will show only part of the subject. That part can look very lifelike, while outside the frame of the shot, the subject was probably glued, pinned, or clamped to hold it in place. A "how it was made" picture that reveals the whole setup usually shows a mass of equipment surrounding a small subject that is obviously not going about its normal life activities.

Quote:
Dead subjects: How can I clean them up get rid of dust etc before taking the shots? Or is this done by touch up in post processing?

Many insects are fastidious about keeping themselves clean, so one effective approach is to confine a live insect in a clean container and let it do the job itself. Cleaning an insect yourself is at best tedious and at worst impossible. You can look up a large number of different techniques involving surfactants, solvents, brushes, blowers, and even ultrasonic cleaners. They all work to some extent, but none of them are completely effective at both removing debris and leaving the specimen looking natural. Images that look completely clean often result from retouching in post processing. This retouching may range from a few minutes of cloning to remove a few big chunks of debris, to many hours of "beauty brush" treatment similar to what might be done for a human portrait.

Quote:
Live subjects: How can I avoid subject movement? (Luck? Rising at the crack of dawn when my subjects are asleep?)

The best way to keep a live subject still is to find one that is already doing that, then avoid disturbing it.

Shooting with natural light in the cool of morning is a common and effective approach. Other approaches are to focus on ambush hunters like web-forming spiders, or caterpillars that eat for a while and sit for a while, or camouflaged subjects that "hide" by sitting still, or something else with similar habits. The vast majority of photogenic subjects do not fit in this category, so it's a matter of choosing what you can shoot, instead of what you might want to shoot.

Quote:
Is there some way to force a subject to be still, if it's not naturally inclined to do that?

Not really. A common suggestion is to chill the subject. That works, but only as long as the subject stays chilled. Some insects can be quieted with CO2 (carbon dioxide), but there is huge variation in sensitivity and in how long the effect lasts. Likewise for anesthetic gasses like ether and the more recent synthetics. All of these techniques are likely to produce an animal that stays still, but changes posture or even falls over so that it does not look alive. Chilling is pretty safe, but any chemical treatment involves some risk of death or long-term damage.

If ethics are a concern, all of these techniques should be avoided because at best they involve taking a big chunk of time out of the animal's typically short life span.

-----

I hope this helps!

--Rik
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bulletsie



Joined: 14 Aug 2014
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 6:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheers for the info Rik,

It answers a lot of questions I had, I'll try a few things out next time I manage
to get something interesting to photograph.

There's a macro photographer in Scotland called Iain Lawrie who somehow manages to get 50-60 shots to stack hand held using natural light of live subjects and his work is fantastic, I'm always amazed he's able to get so many useable shots so thought there may be other tricks of the trade besides luck & practice.

~B
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 9:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bulletsie wrote:
There's a macro photographer in Scotland called Iain Lawrie who somehow manages to get 50-60 shots to stack hand held using natural light of live subjects and his work is fantastic, I'm always amazed he's able to get so many useable shots so thought there may be other tricks of the trade besides luck & practice.

Yes, marvelous work! He shoots hand-held, too, which is even more tricky.

Iain Lawrie has posted some work in this forum under the username Insect-O-Saurus. At one time he pointed us to a video of how he works his magic. See his collection of hand-held stacks and follow his link to the video.

The video shows a perfect example of "find a subject that is already staying still, then avoid disturbing it."

--Rik
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All Ex



Joined: 20 Jul 2015
Posts: 167
Location: Greece Thessaloniki

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 4:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For once more Rik, thank you for your precious advise.
I`ve always thought that there was a trick behind these stacks...
A construction with a standard metallic or aluminum foil as a standing plate and ice cubes underneath it (as a freezing agent) sound good for you ? Idea
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ChrisR
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could try a Peltier cooling pad with a large heat sink on the hot side?
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The depressing truth is that I cannot point to even a single post that describes a successful use of artificial cooling during a shoot.

I think that fact was lurking in my mind when I wrote "A common suggestion is to chill the subject. That works, but only as long as the subject stays chilled."

I regularly use chilling as a way of calming some of those hide-by-not-moving critters so that I can manipulate them to sit on a background I want. But then I let them warm up to room temperature for the actual shoot, and rely on their natural inclination to stay still.

The challenge in keeping a subject chilled during a shoot is to keep the animal cool while still allowing it to be seen clearly by the lens. Chilling the entire room and all the equipment in it would do this, just like shooting outdoors on a cool morning. But when there are strong temperature gradients, it is very easy for either warm air to reach the subject, or for glass surfaces to become chilled and develop a fog of tiny dewdrops.

I would welcome a "This is how I chill live subjects" post by somebody who knows how to make this work in practice.

--Rik
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All Ex



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I`ve just finished a box made from maquette carton covert inside with aluminum foil, in order to shoot there my first attempts, it has holes to accept two powerful spotlights that I found (2000 lumen each) and a hole for a flash. I`ve already placed two big corks to stick any necessary needles for my pined specimens. Now I`m thinking of some kind of cooling establishment, to help me avoid the ugly effects of death on my themes. I am totally with Rik`s thoughts but everyone of us has to act according to his thoughts and to make his own mistakes, in the straggle to achieve a convenient for him workflow.
In case of find something, which do you thing are the most profound ugly effects of cooling insects?

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TheLostVertex



Joined: 22 Sep 2011
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rjlittlefield wrote:

Iain Lawrie has posted some work in this forum under the username Insect-O-Saurus.


His work is great. Another person that comes to my mind that does stacks of live specimens is John Hallmen (Also a user on this forum), https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnhallmen/ I think I have seen a few live shots in the 200 range if I remember correctly.

In his case he has early mornings and bitter cold to thank for his subjects staying still, as far as I know.
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All Ex



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2015 1:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He does indeed good work, if I had the mobility of a normal person I think I would give it a try, since I `m doing my efforts sitting on a bed, I `m thinking of cooling my little box with ice packs in the begging, before I ask the aid from a refrigerant. ? Of course my photos would not be something ideal in my starting point but afterword's who knows. Thank you anyway for pointing me to that wonderful pictures , have a nice day.
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