This image of the pedipalps (sex organs) of a male Latrodectus hesperus (Black Widow Spider) was taken in just a couple of minutes with a Canon MP-E 65mm Macro 1-5X zoom lens, and a Canon Macro Twinlite MT-24EX.
The quality and convenience of the MP-E 1-5X zoom macro lens, when coupled with the Canon Macro Twinlite MT-24EX cannot be understated. This combination simply makes a mockery of the technology I previously used for macro images over the last 30 years…..
The cost of this gear is high, but bear in mind the following scenario: About 15 years ago, I set about capturing a similar image. I was using a Canon F1-N, Canon bellows, manual extension tubes and the 35mm f2.8 Canon macrophoto lens (see details here - about halfway down page). An incredibly long, unwieldy rig that was a pain to focus because the viewfinder was so dark, even with the lens wide open. For lights, I used 3 x Canon 300TL’s, all connected via the old TTL adapter. Note that I wasn’t using TTL – it wasn’t available on the F1-N, but the cord connections facilitated convenient triggering of all the flashes. The whole setup was on tripods and light stands, and pretty much impossible to move. I would then take a flash measurement using a Minolta Autometer IVF (A tried and trusted friend of mine for many, many years) with the mini (macro) receptor attachment, and adjust the aperture of the macrophoto lens manually. Bringing the spider into the field of view meant maneuvering it and its habitat in front of the lens, while peering through the viewfinder. This is really easy if your arms are several feet long, else impossible. So, I would move the spider, come back to the viewfinder, check location and focus, find that the spider had moved, and repeat the process. Of course, in order to focus, I had to have bright continuous lights on the subject, just to see anything through the viewfinder. Now, spiders are arthropods. Arachnids, in fact. Very simple creatures. You warm them up, they go faster. Hot continuous lights warm up spiders really well, such that they do not want to stay still for a second. So this comedy act would continue for hours. Yes, hours, and my wife will testify. She will also testify that I created many of my own new cuss words during these sessions. Once or twice, I would finally get to press the remote release and snap an image. If I had 4 shots in a single session, I was amazed. I would forfeit the rest of the images on the film roll, race down to the local lab, and pay a fortune for next day processing. Upon receiving the slides on the following day, I would utter a whole new series of cusses, having forgotten that the mini receptor attached to the Minolta Autometer IVF had the habit of reading about a stop too hot, and they would be badly underexposed. So the entire performance would be repeated. Jumping spiders (Salticidae) were and are my favorite photographic subjects, however many a piece of my photographic equipment has been close to becoming thrown out of the closest window when attempting images of these. I managed a few good ones over the years, but that sort of photography wasn’t for the faint of heart (or wallet).
The image above is a juvenile Euophrys frontalis – a jumping spider, about 1.2mm from front to back. This is one of my all time favorite images – not because it is a great picture – far from it. No, it is a favorite because I remember it took seven hours of trying before I hit the shutter button for the first time. Yes, SEVEN hours. My girlfriend at the time heard a plethora of new cuss words that day. Circa 1991, shot with an arsenal of Canon macro gear – T90, bellows, tubes, macrophoto lens, 300TL flashes, Metz 60CT series flashes and a boatload of patience. Or frustration. Can’t remember exactly which.
Nowadays, things are just downright simple. Hook your camera up to the Canon 65mm macro, attach the Twinlite, put the camera into idiot mode, set your magnification, move the entire (now handheld) rig in and out until the subject ‘pops’ into focus and hit the button. Overexposed? Just dial down the flash compensation and shoot another. Done. I think it is called cheating.
This image of a Drosophila melanogaster (Wingless fruitfly) was created a cool 5 minutes after I unpacked my Canon 65mm Macro 1-5X Zoom lens and Canon MT-24EX Twinlite Macro Flash from the box it arrived in from Adorama. Right then and there, I knew I had made a wise purchase. The fruitfly is about 2mm long….