Gear Setup

I got a nice email this morning from a guy called Craig asking what my gear setup is for shooting bees. I replied, but the email didn’t go through. So I’m posting the reply here – thinking that others might be interested. Reply read:

Hi Craig,

Thanks for the kind words. It’s so gratifying to me that what I am able to capture through the lens resonates with others. 

The vast, vast, vast majority of my shots come from a Pentax K-3 (prosumer, 24MP DSLR with an APS-C sensor). Some from my K-1 (Pentax’ full-frame body, 36MP). 

The lenses I shoot are an a Pentax-branded antique 100mm, f2.8 macro, a modern pentax 2.8 100mm macro, and Tamron’s 90mm, f2.8 macro. As far as I can tell, there’s not much difference among those lenses apart from how they handle the bokeh. 

Oh, and a few of the posted shots are from a Tamron 70-200mm that runs at f2.8 from end to end (usually with a 1.4x teleconverter on it). That Tamron’s pretty neat because it has a closer minimum focusing distance than does the similar Pentax-branded one. 

I’d really, really like to find an AF 150mm 2.8 macro, but nobody’s making those anymore and finding a good, used copy of that lens has eluded me so far. I think there might even be a 200mm f4 macro for Pentax, but my memory might be faulty. 

A couple of other things on the setup that aren’t necessarily gear-related:
1. I shoot on TAV mode (meaning that I control the f-stop and shutter speed and let the camera worry about the third leg of the stool, the ISO)
2. I shoot fast – minimum 1/640 while hoping for 1/1250, depending on the light. 
3. I shoot on burst mode. And end up keeping maybe only 1/3rd of my photos.
4. On a good bee day, I might take out two bodies with similar lenses and similar settings – so that when I fill the memory buffer on one camera, I can switch to the other and keep shooting. 
5. Maximum ISO is 1600 for the K-3 and 3200 for the K-1 (because it seems to handle the noise better)

One of the criticisms that I have of my technique is that my depth of focus is always so thin. Turns out to be kind of a signature for the shots, but it frustrates me. If I shoot slower with a deeper depth, I get blur. If I shoot faster with a deeper depth, I get noise/grain that seems unacceptable. And, of course, when you’re right up on one (near-1:1 range), the DoF will be thin almost regardless of the aperture.

I hope I answered what you were asking.