7mm & 7 Foot In The Air – An Extreme Macro Challenge.. & A Half!

So there I am, minding my own business, looking for bugs in our, thus far, barren garden. I’ve so far only photographed one live spider with extreme magnification so I was hunting subject number 2.. About to give up, I ambled back to my conservatory door, feeling a tad deflated. Where the heck were all the Spring bugs!? As I opened the door something caught my eye in the corner of the window. I looked up and lo’ and behold a tiny spider, not much bigger than a money spider, sat proudly in the middle of it’s newly spun web. I’d certainly not noticed it before so I’m assuming his/her arrival was fairly recent.

3 Decades, 7mm & 7 Foot In The Air - A Macro Challenge & A Half!

The problem that faced me, however, was several-fold! (yes, I just made up that word but you know what I mean..) If you look at my reflection in the window you’ll begin to see the first problem. I’m just short of six foot and that spider was a good 18 inches above the top of my head.. Hmm.. Then came the next problem:

3 Decades, 7mm & 7 Foot In The Air - A Macro Challenge & A Half!

In front of that window I’ve built a lean-to that houses all the re-cycling boxes, watering cans and doggy poop scoops! It’s as stable as it needs to be but it’s not designed to take my weight and still remain still. Problem 3 was that the wind was fairly brisk and the spider was being blown around in it’s web. TBH, from where I stood the whole idea of successfully photographing it beyond 2:1 seemed fairly ridiculous so I went inside and debated the idea. That spider was small.. 6-7mm across and if I wanted to get the kind of shot I was interested in I’d need to be looking at 2:1 and beyond. At this kind of magnification, 1mm movement after focus means the shot’s gone so I truly wasn’t convinced that there was any point in setting this up. After a couple of mins of self-debate I decided to give it a go. I’d not seen hide nor hair of the last spider I’d photographed since, so I figured I might not get another chance at this one and if I did it’s location would likely be the same..

I attached adapters and tubes in front of the Laowa 60mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro lens totalling circa 110mm, so the lens was around 120mm from the X-T1 sensor which, by my calculations, allowed me up to 4:1. Given the windy conditions I felt I had no chance without a tripod unless I was to use the flash set-up but I needed to set this up quickly and didn’t know whether I had the time to get the full bracket setup on-camera before the spider took off. My X-T1 was already on the tripod in my home studio at about the right height so I just shoved it outdoors and onto the top of the lean-to. In order to try to avoid stabilising myself too much on the lean-to itself I brought out the chair you can see in the picture above. From there it was really a question of focusing quickly, taking 20 quick shots and then hoping one was decent. When I took the SD card back inside my heart sunk as the images loaded into Photoshop. The first 10 were unusable due to subject movement. Finally, however, I came across 2 half decent shots. This is the one, though, that for me, made the whole experience worth-while:

6mm Spider - Laowa 60mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro + Extension Tubes - Circa 2.7:1

Considering this was my second attempt at beyond 2:1 with a live subject and taking into consideration the conditions, I’m happy with this one!