Who I am and how I do it?

F02A_0458By education I am an analytical chemist – scientific research worker at the Kraków University of Technology. My professional interest is focused on research in determination of highly toxic substances, especially dioxins.

But entomology, partly botany and photography, are the passions of my life. I try to combine them into one and I spend all my free time photographing nature, especially insects and plants. My favourite field is macrophotography. I take photographs of insects mainly in nature, but I breed many species at home to be able to capture their various development stages. It’s wonderful if something crawls on the wall or the ceiling.

It is no secret that my work has been exhibited many times, both in Poland and abroad.
My current snapshots and videos are presented here in the Gallery and Movies respectively.

I will be grateful for any critical comments and any experience that you might want to share with me; if you have any questions, write to me!

I take macro photographs using extremely light Tamron SP AF 90 mm f/2,8 Di Macro 1:1 as well as Nikkor AF-S Micro 60mm f/2.8G ED. For shooting and filming outdoor I strongly recommend long Nikkor AF Micro 200mm f/4D IF-ED. In my opinion these are the best, multi-purpose macro photographic lenses having  wonderful contrast and sharpness.

For extremely close-ups I use Canon’s sensational lens: MP-E 65/2.8 1-5x, thanks to which it is possible to obtain an image of a 3 x 4 mm object on the whole APS matrix.
To capture less active objects, such as butterflies early in the morning, caterpillars, chrysalises, etc. I use only natural light. If it is necessary to use additional exposure for over 1 s, this is what I do: I measure the light at the A setting and, for example, I get 3 s. I set up 4 s manually, cover the lens with a piece of black paper and – shoot. After 1 second, when everything ceases to vibrate, I remove the paper from before the lens. I don’t cover the lens only when the exposure time exceeds 10 seconds.

> Filming insects <

However, practically every camera available on the market enables filming from a very close angle, to capture the right moment, set the appropriate exposure or focus wherever we want any automation to be eliminated. What’s more, the non-interchangeable lenses are usually wide-angle in the macro setting, which forces us to very close the camera to the object being filmed, and the insects are shy.
Therefore, to seriously work in macro filming you should use either: cameras with interchangeable optics, allowing the use of commonly available lenses of many brands or the use of a SLR camera with the function of filming. A certain bridge are mirrorless cameras with exchangeable optics that are de facto excellent cameras, such as the latest SONY A7 corps – Detail A7S II
However, it should be noted that fully professional cameras are produced for a completely different purpose than macro photography. They have too small a matrix (a fraction of an inch) and expensive interchangeable lenses.
I use the camera for filming the macro: Sony NEX VG-900. providing 1080p recording with a full frame 24 × 36 mm matrix. In addition, at 2160p resolution (4K), I use the amazing Sony A7S II camera with incredible sensitivity, which is invaluable in macro filming (eg with bellows). You can buy a whole range of reductions for both cameras that allow you to connect virtually any lens of any manufacturer. In most cases, these lenses will be controlled manually, because automation in the macro usually does not work. These cameras can be connected, for example, a Nikon macro set with a PB6 bellows, and even microscope lenses, not to mention the cheap, and excellent lenses of independent companies.

These cameras have an HDMI output, which allows real-time control of the image on external monitors. For precise framing and focusing, I use 27 “LED monitors. What I see on it is a copy of what I set and what I record later. This is an undeniable advantage in checking the background, frame, depth of field, flares, etc. Using 256 Gb memory allows you to record several hours of movie in full 1920 × 1080 50p resolution in the VG-900 camera. You can document what happens when you are at work or when you are asleep. That’s how many clips were created on films presented in the FILMS panel. Unfortunately, but the mirrorless (including Sony A7S II listed) allows only registration 29min59s. There is therefore no possibility of continuous registration. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4K is a hope – unfortunately despite the summer unveiling in 2018 it is still unavailable ….
These Sony cameras have one more advantage. They are excellent cameras – mirrorless. A large number of presented photos in the gallery was created using these cameras. The VG-900 and Sony A7S II are equipped with a wireless remote control, which is absolutely irreplaceable in photography.

In the A7S II, you can turn off the mechanical shutter by shooting only when recording electronically. This does not cause the slightest vibration. Even a few seconds exposure does not cause the slightest movement of the camera. I do not remember ever getting (if the object is still) got the picture moved. There are no vibrations here, and the 24 megapixel sensor does its job.

> Lighting <

This is absolutely crucial in macro. Above I described examples of using LED lighting. The key issue is the use of diodes with a high CRI (Color Rendering Index). Small, handy lamps with many LEDs and adjustable color and light intensity are already available. An example is the Prolite LED-209 VC used by me. They are small: 10 × 15 cm and excellent! The effect of their use rate yourself watching my films.

They give cold light which does not irritate insects like incandescent light. White balance – observed on the monitor – can be adjusted in a few seconds with potentiometers on the lamps.

Both mentioned cameras and LED lamps have power adapters for working at home and very efficient batteries for field work. The mentioned LED lamp with full power of about 1000 lumens on one Sony NP-F 7.4V 2200mAh battery shines over 2 hours!
There are many excellent quality LED lamps lately. I can recommend: APUTURE AMARAN AL-M9 or VILTROX L116t RA. Both have an excellent light that gives full color reproduction. The latter also have power supply.

> In the field of macro photography lenses <

First of all: these lenses, in addition to being corrected to reproduce close-lying objects – which gives a high magnification – are calculated so that they cause the least possible distortion. The point is, for example, that when a small postage stamp is taken, there is no barrel or cushion. When taking photos of insects, plants, etc., this problem is not that important. Therefore, you can easily use low-cost but sensationally sharp and contrasting Nikkor 50 / 1.8D with intermediate rings for photos of small natural objects.

Secondly, modern macro lenses contain elements of lenses with variable geometry of settings at a distant and near range (so-called CRC), for which we pay dearly. And we rarely use macro lenses set to infinity. For many years I have successfully used Nikkor 50 / 1.8D with rings for shooting very small objects.

Third, etc.: The resolution of macro row optics 40-80 lp / mm (pairs of lines / mm) is – yes – excellent (although there are constructions allowing to obtain over 100 lp / mm in the center of the field, such as some Zeiss optics – in a certain simplification this phenomenon), the differences in the quality of the lenses (those with 40 lp / mm and 100 lp / mm) are noticeable on the measuring instruments, not on the pictures! On a 30 × 45 cm printout viewed from a distance of 1 m, we do not notice such a difference at all. Well, OK, if we take such a big picture and start to look through the magnifying glass, it’s obvious. But that’s absurd. So let’s not go crazy in the pursuit of Zeiss or Leica, spending on a standard macro-lens 6000 PLN or even twice as much while the above mentioned Nikkor 50 / 1.8D costs just over PLN 500 at a resolution of 80 lp / mm for f = 8!
What would not say, it is more convenient to use dedicated lenses for macro photography. Noteworthy is Nikon’s unique zoom-macro design (real zoom-macro! 1: 1) AF-D Zoom Micro-Nikkor 70-180mm f / 4.5-5.6 ED. Here we will pay not only for absolutely sensational optics, but for the extremely functional zoom range of the focal lengths, as well as a tripod bracket with the ability to rotate the horizontal / vertical body.
There is one more Nikon manual design. Also sensational: Nikon PC-Micro Nikkor 85mm f / 2.8 D, or with perspective control. The lens “bows”, allowing you to achieve an unprecedented depth of field. It is rather a design designed to work with a tripod and for patient people.
My favorites are incredibly light, relatively inexpensive but brilliantly sharp: Tamron SP AF 90mm f / 2.8 Di Macro 1: 1 and Tokina AF 100mm f / 2.8 AT-X AF PRO.
I highly recommend them


The panel arrangement in the Gallery does not have anything to do with insect taxonomy. I only wanted to provide as much information as possible in a most accessible manner, while keeping it in a reasonable order. The site will be updated on a regular basis with new photographs and movies. I will be grateful for any comments on its content.

And one more thing (as I’m often asked about it):

All the photographs that show species mentioned in the Polish Red Book of Animals, that is ones which are protected by law, have been taken in the field or – in some cases – at home, but then the insects were released to the natural environment where they had been found (e.g. Arctia villica). In this case, I took butterfly eggs or larvae from the plants which were later mowed or from the area burned by the farmer.

Adam Grochowalski

Address: adam.grochowalski@pk.edu.pl

Copyright 2001 - 2020 Adam Grochowalski