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True Teamwork

Advice To The PhotoLorn • Going Beyond 1X • Power To The Time-Lapse • Going Really Long

One fine fall afternoon in the Chicago Botanic Garden, George and Kathryn Lepp were photographing, he with an infrared camera and she with her Canon EOS 5D. George passed by this scene of willows reflected in a pond, but when he looked back to see Kathy photographing it, he acknowledged her excellent composition and asked to borrow her camera. No one will ever know whether it was Kathy or George who captured this definitive image they both love, so a 40×60-inch print in their home bears both signatures.

Advice To The PhotoLorn

Q My husband and I once enjoyed our photo outings, but he has recently become very involved in our camera club competition and now sees me as a photographic rival rather than a pal. As a professional, the competition you face must be much more intense. How do you and your wife Kathryn operate as a team when you work together on photo expeditions?
Name Withheld For Obvious Reasons
Via email

A When we’re on assignment, it’s about getting the job done. Each of us has different work to do with different cameras, we’re gathering background for the written story, we know what the objective is, and we support each other as much as possible. We have limited time to complete the work, sometimes in a remote location, and it’s all about cooperation.

But it’s interesting that people ask Kathy (not me) a version of this question at every seminar. They typically begin by asking her if she’s also a photographer and she replies that she is, but that she usually chooses different subjects than George does. This opens the door to the real question, which may be about competitiveness, or about one partner’s indifference to, jealousy of or attempts to control the other’s photographic activities. These issues are complicated by conflicts over shared equipment, financial investments, vacation destinations and artistic vision. It would be easy to say that couples approach photography in the same way they approach all the other activities of their partnership—that is, as a team, or as two separate players. But it’s not really that simple.

The difference with photography and other artistic pursuits is that there’s an end product one can own, that represents a highly personal experience, that can be evaluated by others and that may have monetary value (!). The photographer’s partner might be an enabler, a critic, a fan, a muse or an obstacle.

The most frequent complaint we hear is, “S/he doesn’t take his/her own photographs, but s/he is always telling me what I should shoot, so that I can never concentrate on what I want to photograph.” But S/he would say s/he is only trying to be helpful because you’re looking through that teeny, tiny little window thingy, and s/he can see the BIG picture.

On the other hand, we know a sweet man whose self-determined purpose in his retirement is to enable his wife’s (quite excellent) photography. He carries her gear into the field, sets it up as directed and stands by, silently, until she needs him to move it again.

Then there are photographer couples who are so independent that they maintain complete photographic systems from different manufacturers so they never, ever have to share the gear.

A few professional teams co-credit most or all of their images. If you want to see spectacular examples, check out the website for the work of our friends Wendy Shattil and Bob Rozinski.

And, although Kathy and I are in complete and constant agreement, when it came to answering your specific situation, we quickly concurred that we needed to give two separate responses.

George: A little competition is good! Keep your images separate from capture to storage. If you share camera bodies, use separate cards marked “His” and “Hers,” and enter your images separately in your club competitions so that each of you receives the feedback and recognition you need for your own work. Oh, yeah—be collegial, too.

Kathy: Teamwork is good! We’re all too concerned about credits and honors. It’s the experience of taking the photograph that matters! Enter the competitions as a duet, build on each other’s strengths and observations, make photography another representation of your relationship with each other and the natural world you love. That’s what really matters.

Alert readers will note that Kathy has had the last word.

Going Beyond 1X

Q My 105mm macro lens goes to 1X without any problem. Now I want to get more magnification. What are the best ways to get to 2X and beyond?
J. Campbell
Via email

A A lot of lenses will give you a 1/4 life-size image in a so-called “macro” mode. But any magnification less than 1X is considered to be “close-up” photography. Macro really starts at 1X (life-size) rendition on the film or sensor.

Getting beyond the 1X threshold takes a bit of work and some equipment. The first (and least expensive) course of action would be to use extension tubes. These are hollow tubes (no glass) placed between the camera body and the lens; they move the lens farther away from the film or sensor. This increases the lens magnification by an amount equal to the extension divided by the lens’ focal length. Another way to look at it is that the millimeters of extension need to equal the lens’ focal length to achieve 1X of magnification. A 100mm lens needs 100mm of extension to achieve 1X; 200mm of extension will give a 2X result. A 50mm lens only needs 100mm of extension to achieve 2X.

Another way to increase magnification is to add a 1.4X or 2X tele-extender to the macro lens. A 100mm macro at 1X is doubled to 2X with a 2X extender.

There’s a special high-magnification macro lens available for the Canon system, the Canon MP-E 65mm ƒ/2.8 1-5X macro lens. It won’t focus to infinity and is designed only for 1X to 5X imaging. I’ve added a 2X tele-extender to this optic for excellent 10X imaging.

Finally, a consideration in working at higher magnifications is the loss of light to the film/sensor. Most likely, you’ll need to employ flash in order to stop the lens down for depth of field and to minimize any camera movement.

Power To The Time-Lapse

Q While trying to create a time-lapse of a flower that was going to bloom, I ran into the problem of inadequate power. The lithium-ion battery lasted about four hours, and the AA batteries in the flash didn’t even last that long. What can I get to provide power to the camera when photographing a time-lapse that will take awhile?
P. Roullard
San Diego, Calif.

A There are a lot of different time-lapse scenarios, from the controlled studio environment to a remote mountaintop or African plain. If you’re completely away from any power source, you’ll need to monitor your camera and change batteries as needed. If you can’t monitor the camera (as in nighttime on the African plain), you’ll need to extend the sequence with a battery pack such as a Quantum (, which has cables to run either cameras or flashes—or both at the same time. If you’re careful with the output voltage, you can make your own systems using deep-charge batteries purchased from BatteriesPlus ( and numerous outlets on the Internet. Again, make sure you have the right voltage and amperes so as not to destroy the camera or flash electronics.

If I’m making a time-lapse close to where I can park my truck, the vehicle’s electrical system makes a great battery pack when used with an inverter and AC inserts that are available from the camera manufacturer. I run an extension cord from the inverter and plug into that.

When I create flower time-lapse sequences in the studio over a long period of time (sometimes several days and nights), the camera or cameras can be powered from an outlet. For light-
ing, I’ve used LED lights on clamps (originally designed as reading lamps). They’re inexpensive, stay cool, last a long time, give a reasonable amount of light, and the color temperature is close to daylight and can be tweaked in your image-processing software. Lightroom 4 works great.

Going Really Long
Let’s say that you’re photographing on a sunny day along the ocean shore and want a really long exposure to render the water and waves with a foggy surface. One option is to reduce the available light by adding a polarizer or neutral-density filter to the lens, but typically these won’t drop the exposure by the needed four or more stops. I’ve talked on numerous occasions in this column about variable ND filters. I use the Singh-Ray Vari-ND (, a rotating ND filter that has two high-quality polarizing filters offering a range of 2 to 8 stops of light suppression. Now Singh-Ray has added a new accessory for the Vari-ND in a 5-stop or 10-stop additional ND filter (Mor-Slo) that fits on the front of the Vari-ND. The combinations give you 13 or 18 stops of neutral density to work with! The Mor-Slo filters also can be used on their own and come in 77mm and 82mm sizes, as well as squares for Lee and Cokin filter holders.

Keep in mind that thick (dual polarizer ND) filters shouldn’t be used on telephoto lenses as they affect the focus. Use a single thin ND filter like the Mor-Slo alone on lenses beyond 200mm for best sharpness.

Follow George Lepp‘s exploits, see his latest photographs and be part of the discussion on his Facebook page: And Lepp is now a part of the OP Blog on our website,

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.