I have briefly mentioned that my friend, Mosa, hosts regular MothUP story parties in her living room. What I didn’t mention is what an amazing hostess Mosa is. Each and every time I’ve been to one of her story telling parties, there has been a different kind of cocktail and there’s always a wonderful spread of dips and hors d’oeuvres, and usually something with lots of cheese and some sort of sweet treat like homemade red velvet mini cupcakes. It’s a wonder any storytelling takes place at all, come to think about it.Anyway, it was one of these parties that I met Alex Lee, a docent at the California Academy of Sciences. Yesterday Alex posted some shots of his aquarium, using a macro set-up, on his Facebook page. For those of you that aren’t photo nerds, macro photography is when you’re shooting something extremely close up and generally, the object in the photograph ends up looking larger in the photograph than it does in real life. Most of the time, the entire field of the photograph is only 1/2 – 2 inches in real life so to get good macro shots people sometimes use macro lenses, filters, special camera setting and almost always, a tripod. Most point and shoot digital cameras come with a macro setting. Take a look at your camera, does it have a little tulip as one of the options? If so, that’s your macro setting. A quick Google search of “macro photography” and you can see that it’s a whole different way of viewing the world.
The macro icon, a tulip.

The macro icon, a tulip.

I asked Alex to talk a little bit about the photos, his set-up and the aquarium and here’s what he said:
“My new macro setup consists of a close-up filter, zoom telephoto lens, and tripod. For anyone interested in the technical side, I use the Raynox DCR-150 close-up filter mounted on a Sony E 70-210mm lens. Photos were taken using a NEX-5N camera. Aquarium photography is tricky for few reasons. The lights in coral aquariums are usually bluish-white, which confuses the automatic white balance settings in digital cameras and creates off-colors. I had to manually adjust the white balance in post-processing. Due to using a small aperture, the shutter speed is slow. I turned off all pumps and filters in the tank to avoid moving blurry tentacles. Corals need water movement for oxygen, but turning off the pumps for a few minutes won’t hurt them. Then there’s the piece of light-bending glass between the lens and the corals, so the camera was aimed straight at 90-degrees to avoid distortion. Dealing with these factors greatly improves aquarium photographs. I’ve been keeping corals for two years, and it’s actually an awkward time with my reef tank. I had a nice setup until it started leaking a few months ago, so the corals have been living in a temporary 10-gallon tank since. It’s still waiting until I have the time and money to turn the tank into something special again—something I can relax in front of during breakfast or a stress break. The corals are still beautiful individually, as the macro photographs show.”
In Alex’s ‘Macro Madness’ photo album he said:
“I re-configured my much much improved macro setup and tested it on my aquarium. It should be about 1:1, meaning that across the frame (left-to-right) is about 1-inch. All taken at f/16 and depth-of-field is still too damn narrow.”
I for one, respectfully disagree, I think the shallow depth-of-field is part of why these macrographs are so beautiful.  –S. (Click on images to view full size and for descriptions, written by Alex.)

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