My Workflow - How to Make Your Wife Question Your Spending Habits


When I first started uploading to Calflora it was nice to finally have a cheap hobby. Just an iPhone and cost of gas to a trail is all it takes. That is no longer my opinion of iNaturalist as a hobby. As an engineer, I perhaps got carried away with getting expensive gear when something a tenth of the cost would produce the same scientific value.

The primary setup I have produces spectacular results for macro photography at the costs of mediocre photos of anything farther than about a meter way. It consists of a Sony a6300 camera , Sony FE 90mm macro lens, and a Sony Twin Flash. I also have a GoPro Hero 4 Black which I use underwater (a mistake, an Olympus TG 4 would have been much better) and a Sony HX400V which I don't use much anymore but occasionally bring when I want photos of birds.

Lastly, I have a Browning Strike Force Elite Sub Micro Trail Camera. I have not had much luck figuring out where to put this, but it is at a very promising location in the San Bernardino National Forest at the moment so hopefully it is now producing good observations.


The first thing I do when I get to the location I want to search through is turn on the Trails app for the iPhone. This records my location while I walk. Some of the older iPhones will need cell phone service for this to work, but the last couple iPhones have had in-built GPS which does a good job of getting location.

Then I proceed to find as many different species as I can and photograph them. Since I typically have two toddlers along for the hike I rarely make it more than a mile or two and am almost always on established trails.

At Home:

I download all the photos to my computer then put them on Lightroom. I email myself the GPX file from the Trails app then use Lightroom to geotag all my photos. In lightroom I adjust brightness of photos as well as white balance to try to fix the camera settings.

Once done, I drag and drop all the photos for the day into the new submission tool. I have learned that I need to let it sit and wait until all metadata is loaded before touching anything which with 300+ photos can take a while. Once metadata is loaded, I drag and drop photos until each submission is one organism, add names, then hit submit. If any observations include multiple species I then go back and use the copy/paste commands to make the last few observations.

Once species are loaded, I try and go back to add entries for "Second Associated Species" "Eating" or a few other related species associations. This data seems much harder to get than species location data so it seems good to add. 

Publicado por glmory glmory, 27 de setembro de 2016, 07:09 PM


Well I'm sure you save money by using a reusable water container :)

Publicado por fake_id quase 6 anos antes (Sinalizar)

My boys have an odd attraction to their reusable water bottles. They often manage to carry them for miles despite it being much easier to make me carry them.

Publicado por glmory quase 6 anos antes (Sinalizar)

I'm in the market for a new camera and just had a few questions: currently I use a Canon Powershot SX40 HS plus a raynox DCR-250 macro attachment, more or less a cheap point-and-shoot, and I don't really have any experience with "real" cameras. With larger bugs I don't have any real problems, but with the very tiny ones (1-3mm total length), my main issue with my current setup is in regards to depth-of-field. If either I or my subject moves just ever so slightly, it will fall out of focus. Shooting handheld means that my hands are probably always shaking at least a little, and shooting critters that tend to hang out on leaves means that even the smallest breeze messes with my focus. Usually I have to take quite a few shots before I get one in decent focus. With your setup, is there more leeway so that these slight movements don't cause subjects to fall out of focus so easily? Additionally, what is your usual distance from camera to subject when shooting small things (ie psyllids)?

Also... why are flash units so expensive? Your flash is more expensive than all my gear combined. Does it really make that big of a difference?

Thanks for any guidance... I may know a thing or two about bugs but I know very little about photography.

Publicado por psyllidhipster cerca de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

The issues are somewhat different with my setup. I am using a flash, so I have a much faster shutter time. This means that tiny movements of my hand are unlikely to make the photo blurry. However I am working with even less depth of field than you. So again I typically take at least ten photos of a small insect. However if I get it in focus, it is almost going to be sharp.

About 95% of the shooting I do of insects is at the absolute minimum focus distance of my lens. At this focus it is maximum magnification, although at the expense of depth of field. The lens I have is the sharpest at f5.6 so I usually start there, and if I don't have enough depth of field go up to f9. With the macro flash I would often go as far as f16 with large insects but the sharpness is reduces a lot by there. I never go less than f5.6 because with my lens I lose both depth of field and sharpness if I do.

To be honest, flash units are so expensive mostly because they are low volume. There are three schools of thought when it comes to macro flash. The first is a dedicated twin flash, the second is a ring flash, and the third is a speedlight with a large diffuser(a google image search of macro diffuser gives hundreds of good examples).

I used to use a dedicated twin flash before it broke (it was under warranty, but they refused to repair it and refunded instead) It produced really good results but at a high cost both in money and time fiddling with it to get it right.

Right now I am using a Sigma ring flash. It is half the price, but I really do miss having the improved image quality of the old flash.

Next time I will probably try the speedlight and diffuser route. It seems like the best quality at the lowest cost. It gets a bit DIY though as it seems like there are down-sides to the bulk of the options available.

Before bothering with a new camera, might be worth experimenting with a macro diffuser and the on camera flash. Something like:

If you are getting a new camera, I would consider getting an off camera flash. Nothing too fancy, just make sure it has TTL, high speed sync, and good reviews. Maybe something like:

Then experiment with diffusers, maybe something like

Assuming you get a DSLR/mirrorless camera with a 90-200mm macro lens capable of 1:1 magnification (the image on the sensor is the same size as the real object) and you should be set. Unfortunately that is the expensive part, you wouldn't benefit much from a top of the line camera but even used lenses are not cheap.

Publicado por glmory cerca de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

Thanks for the insight. I think I may take your advice and experiment with a lower cost flash diffuser before deciding if I want to shell out the big bucks for completely new gear quite yet. I have so much to learn in this area.

Publicado por psyllidhipster cerca de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

Unfortunately a lot of what you pay for in a high end camera is completely not relevant to this type of photography. You are usually using manual focus and moving the camera rather than using auto-focus so the high end focusing systems are meaningless. You are limited by flash refresh time so the ability to shoot 12 pictures a second is of little value. Even the larger sensors mean little if you are cropping out a tiny insect at the center.

High mega-pixels, sharp lenses, weather-sealing and a fast flash sync are relevant but aren't exactly the most expensive part (although sharp macro lenses may not come cheap). It might be possible to find a very sharp manual focus macro lens on a budget though.

From what I have seen learning to use a flash effectively is the hardest part. It really does seem like a camera like yours with proper flash diffusion should be able to do quite well. Unfortunately it likely cannot use an external flash limiting your options.

Another thing to think about with the flash is taking some time to determine the sharpest lens aperture and using it for any insects small enough to fit in the depth of field. Usually it is a few stops short of the widest open, for example mine is sharpest at f5.6 when the lens can open up to f2.8. If I had to guess it would be f5.6-8 on your camera.

Publicado por glmory cerca de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

Apparently I've been shooting at f2.7, which is the lowest it goes, and I don't remember the last time I even changed this setting. I will experiment with slightly higher apertures and compare results. Thanks!

Publicado por psyllidhipster cerca de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

Here is the problem. Two things decide sharpness, shutter speed and lens sharpness. The lens is the sharpest somewhere around f5-10 but the shutter speed is the fastest at as wide open as possible.

So, if you aren't using a flash (or a tripod for stationary subjects) shaking of your hand will probably limit your results at higher f numbers. With a flash though, the difference in sharpness is likely to be notable.

This article has some examples of sharpness vs aperture:

Publicado por glmory cerca de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

This article may be of interest:

This guy is getting world class results on a Nikon 5200. That makes it pretty clear than any low end APS-C camera is an appropriate. A Sony a6000, Sony a-68, Pentax k-70, Canon T5 or so on would be fine. My bias is towards the a6000 as it is smaller and can use lots of old lenses with an adapter. They are probably less durable than some similar price dslr cameras though.

For a flash he is using a nissin DI700 flash with a home-made diffuser. Again not cheap, but cheaper than a dedicated macro flash.

The trick seems to really be the 1:1 macro lens 90-200mm. Those just don't come cheap. Manual focus is fine so maybe something good can be found on the used market.

Publicado por glmory quase 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

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