Teeny Weeny Worlds – Macro Photography with Igor Vyvey

The Fuji X Aus Facebook group has some incredibly talented members that shoot in a broad range of styles and genres. One such genre has a very unique and patient group of photographers that are happy to work in the minute world of Macro! The most appealing part of macro photography to me is that we are given a really unique and rare view of plants, insects and animals that we would otherwise take for granted. Spiders are creepy and in my opinion part of an alien race! Who needs 8 eyes? But I do have to admire their beauty and form when captured in macro by someone with a knack for it. One such person is fellow Fuji X Aus community member Igor Vyvey. One other thing I love about Igor’s work is that he is not shy to take a shot (pun intended) at any photographic genre. So, let’s have a chat to Igor about what it takes to have a significant impact in a minute world.

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Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

I hail from Brussels, Belgium where I spent half of my life before migrating to Australia as a foreign correspondent. I have since made a career in the APS. I started photographing film and slides as a teen on my dad’s Nikon then on my own FA I got as a wedding present. These days photography is my main hobby and escape, which I combine with other interests, be it travel, nature hikes or festivals. Between my quite busy day job and family responsibilities, time devoted to photography is, unfortunately, subject to a lot of compromises.

The closest I got to being a pro – that is to be paid for photographic work – was in the late ’80s when as a journo I had some of my shots of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Ceausescu published in the newsmagazine I was writing for. I had, however, a limited understanding of photography, so the equipment gathered dust and mould. I became more serious about it when I picked up my first decent digital camera. It was a Fujifilm Finepix 96500S, a bridge camera with an impressive zoom. I stuck to Fujifilm ever since, picking up another couple of superzooms before acquiring my first X series, the X100S. Although I was impressed with the image quality, I was missing not only the ability to close up on birds and wildlife of the superzooms but also their uncanny their ability to focus at just 1cm away. Unavoidably I then progressed through many interchangeable lens bodies in the X series as well as most lenses to serve very varied purposes, including macro.

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One of my first efforts at extreme macro resulted in lots of noise – Fujifilm HS50EXR – 1/60 sec, F/5.6, ISO500, 185mm

You photograph lots of flora, fauna and insects up close. Do you have a preferred species that you want to capture in macro? What is it about that species that draws you in do you think?

I will shoot whatever I come across, be it flowers in season or any insects or spiders I come across when minded to do macro work and the light and setting inspire me. I have a weakness for magnolias, dragonflies and mantas though. I love their almost alien nature and their incredible beauty that close-ups reveal. I am green with envy with the photographers based in tropical areas who have access to an abundance of exotic and incredible looking creatures and salivate at their Instagram postings but if you take the time to observe close up you are bound to find unexpected beauty and wonder in your own backyard.

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Spider on native hyacinth orchid – No flash in shady areas will require high ISO to maintain reasonable depth of field – X-T1 – XF60mm – 1/125 sec – ISO4000

Do you have a favorite location where you know you can capture a broad range of shots?

The garden or the patio is always a good place to start as you don’t have to carry a lot of gear and can always go back inside to grab whatever else may suit the shot. But for diversity, nothing beats the great outdoors, be it a reserve or local bushland. Anywhere near fresh water will often have an abundance of potential subjects. Some are obvious like bees on flowering shrubs or a spider web, but for others, it may be luck or patience. If you walk by you will most likely miss it but if you sit down and look what happens on the ground, lift a few rocks, leaves or bits of tree bark you are bound to find more treasures.

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Bee photography in constant movement is challenging but rewarding – X-T1 + XF60mm – 1/125sec, f/22, ISO200

What photographic equipment do you typically pack for a macro shoot?

I must confess to being a tinkerer when it comes to gear, particularly when it comes to macro. I feel like I never get close enough and have been trying a lot of combinations. I started by getting surprisingly effective snap-on solutions such as the Raynox DCR-150 and DCR-250 on my bridge cameras which had no interchangeable lenses. I may test a variety of lenses from my collection with extension tubes and teleconverters. For example, did you know that you while you can’t fit directly fit a Fujifilm TC on most lenses it suddenly becomes an option when mounted behind a sufficiently wide macro ring? This opens interesting macro possibilities for the XF90mm for example. Typically though, I would pack my X-T2 or X-H1 and one of the dedicated Fujinon macro lenses XF60mm and XF80mm, possibly with an MCEX-11. I would also often pack one of my Godox speedlites or even a strobe, a macro ring light, a diffuser of some description, occasionally a small reflector and a tripod or monopod.

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X-T1 + XF60mm 1/500sec f/11 ISO800

What practical non-photographic equipment do you pack for a macro shoot?

It depends on the location and weather, but one essential thing is protection against stings and bites. Long trousers and sleeves and of course insect repellent funnily enough. Some sweet snack or fruit is also useful not just for my own comfort, but I may keep a bit of it to attract some critters, and get them to stay long enough for a shot.

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You don’t always need a macro lens to get close – X-T1 + XF18-135mm – 1/40 sec, f/5.6, ISO200, 135mm

Which is your favourite Fujifilm body and lens combination when it comes to shooting macro? Can you tell us a little bit about why this combination is effective?

My favorite body for macro so far would have to be the X-H1. The IBIS comes in very handy with macro as the slightest vibration or movement may ruin focus point and depth of field. To maximise depth of field, I tend to use smaller apertures, which in turn will reduce shutter speed that IBIS will help to keep stable. I recently acquired an X-T3 which looks promising in terms of AF performance but haven’t as yet tested it for macro. In my endless and still unsatiated pursuit to get ever closer to that full frame shot of a fly’s eye, there is no doubt that the XF80mm as the only true x1 magnification lens, stabilised and ready for the TCs comes as the best in the available line-up. But I would not get rid of my XF60mm, which I see as a very portable, sharp, bright and versatile lens. I will look at comparing them in more detail in a future review.

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The XF50-140 is a very sharp and bright lens which makes a great macro combo with extension tubes. Here it has been mounted on a MCEX16 ring. X-T2  + XF50-140mm – 1/200 sec f/8 ISO 200 140mm

What advice would you give to people interested in getting into macro photography?

Go for it, it’s a wonderful and endless discovery journey. Start with shooting fairly static objects like flowers or mushrooms in various lighting conditions to appreciate the dramatic shallow depth of field at those distances. Learn to use manual focusing with all the wonderful tools like focus peaking at your disposal on most Fujifilm cameras. Grab yourself a second hand XF60mm and/or at least a macro ring (the MCEX-11 is best but a cheap third party will do the same job on lighter lenses). Stabilise your camera somehow and take multiple shots to maximise your chances to get the one perfectly focused one. Avoid windy conditions and progress to critters that move slowly.

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The 80mm is the ultimate macro tool in the Fujifilm lineup. Wish it was a 120mm as originally slated but with the 1.4xTC 112mm gets pretty close. X-H1 + XF80mm, 1/160sec, f/32, ISO200, 112mm

If people wanted to view your work online where can they find you?

I post some of my work on Instagram (@fujioui) and on Facebook, including on the Fuji X Aus group. One of my new year resolutions is to develop a blog website but this is still in the research and project stage, so watch this space!

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Another example of the X-H1 + XF80mm + 1.4x TC combo – 1/125 f/8 ISO200 112mm
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A final example of this combo showing a tiny native bee – X-H1 + XF80mm + 1.4TC 1/250sec, f/20, ISO200 – 112mm

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