Two Lenses Become One: A Trip into the Microcosm



Put on your safari hat, stick two lenses together, and let’s go hunt for some tiny creatures! Wait. Did you pack a suitcase? Your flight into the microcosm leaves….



No Need For A Hotel


Everyone ventures down their own itsy-bitsy alleyway. The microcosm is a vast and busy place—you can spend a lifetime exploring it—and never step beyond your front door.

Do you like spiders? What about ants? No? Lady beetles? Red wasps? Black wasps? Yellow jackets? Bumblebees? Leafhoppers? Weevils? If you often find yourself imaging six-legged creatures—this post is for you. If not, well, locate the ‘x’ toward the top right of your browser. Click it. Now.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Six Legged Friends


Reverse coupled macro photography greatly magnifies any subject, including biological entities. Don’t have the cash to spend on a premium macro lens? Do you already own a few decent lenses? Why not stack them together and increase the overall magnification.

If you’re interested in standard reverse macro photography—watch this video.

I’m far from an entomologist, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I photograph insects, bugs, caterpillars, and any other creature of ill repute. Thomas Shahan’s video (watch the clip) visually explains why reverse macro photography is a viable option, especially when imaging live creatures.

The video doesn’t explain reverse coupled macro photography, so read these posts: here and here.


Get On With It


Stacking together Canon’s EF 100mm macro lens and 50mm EF macro lens provides a decent magnification increase. I believe the magnification is a 2:1 ratio, but I’m probably wrong. If you own these two lenses and want to image tiny creatures—you’re in luck!


** All of my images were taken with the following **


  1. Camera—Canon Rebel XSi

  2. Single frame (no image stack, focus stack, or exposure blend)

  3. ISO—1600

  4. Aperture—f/32

  5. Lenses—Canon EF 100mm Macro USM / Canon EF 50mm Macro

  6. Handheld (no tripod)

  7. No flash


Let’s take a look a rogues gallery of tiny monsters. I’ll spill my dark secrets on what was going through my mind as I took each photograph. Does that seem like a grand ole time? Of course!


** Some Kind of Weird Fly **


  • Direct sunlight can be useful. Depending on the subject, the extra light may not necessarily wash out any detail. You never know until you try, so don’t be discouraged by unflattering light. This fly was only a few millimeters  and lacked highly reflective colors which normally would have washed out detail.

  1. Look for subject in harsh light

  2. Zoom-in as much as possible

  3. Cross your fingers


** Gaze Of The Jumping Spider **

  • This image of a jumping spider was taken with a low angle light source. You don’t need direct natural light, which is always risky, but could be utilized. Take note of the sun reflected within the jumping spider’s eyes. When a jumping spider is sitting on a wall, try to get underneath and use the wall as a foundation.


  1. Low-angle sunlight can flatter your subject

  2. Try to achieve a subordinate angle of view

  3. Use the wall as a foundation



** Nasty Caterpillar-Worm-Like-Thing **

  • There is such a thing as too much magnification! Don’t underestimate how large a many-legged creature can become, such as a caterpillar, or inchworm. Take note of the purple fringing around the rocks. The Canon EF 50mm macro tends to exhibit minor color fringing.

  1. Magnification could be too much

  2. Watch out for color fringing

  3. Don’t be afraid to use less magnification!


** Tiny Spider No One Likes **

  • Some spiders are approachable. Take advantage of the arachnids that don’t care! You’ll have plenty of time to expose your image and won’t have to worry about an early retreat. Pay attention to the background! Darkish colors may lower the overall contrast, depending on the hue of your subject. Allow this image to haunt you. Forever.


  1. Be on the look out for approachable spiders

  2. Take the time and find a viable composition

  3. Pay attention to the background


** Gratuitous Stink Beetle Portrait **

  • Stink beetles can be approached, but they also tend to be paranoid. If you encounter a stink beetle—never look at them in the eyes! You may inadvertently intimidate them. Trust me. A stink beetle’s head is pretty flat: try to position yourself directly face on (if you want the head in focus).

  1. Approach seemingly approachable stink beetle with caution

  2. Never look a stink beetle in the eyes!

  3. Position yourself head-on or you risk losing depth


** Huh? **


  • Do you want to take a guess at what this is? Well? Do you give up? Fine—it’s a smack-in-the-face view of a moth wing. Moths are a gamble: approach with caution and never breathe on them. They hate that.

  1. Take advantage of sunbathing moths / insects

  2. Try to figure out your shot before you approach!

  3. Maintain a direct angle of view toward wings / subject (illusion of greater depth)


** Absurd Monster **

  • What the hell is that? Hmmmcould be an acorn weevil. I found this weevil while it was resting on a bench, which was weird. Weevils are a gamble: some of them are cooperative and most probably don’t like you.

  1. Set the primary lens maximum aperture (f/32)

  2. Use the camera’s 2 second timer, and brace yourself before the image is taken!

  3. Raise the ISO (1600 and up)


Lens Of Opportunity


This particular set-up is not the best quality, but it certainly works. Despite the lack of premium glass, the results are honorable.

I don’t know if I’ll ever write about this topic again. Who knows. There are a few more details worth delving into, but nothing too important. My main objective was to show that the Canon EF 100mm macro lens and EF 50mm macro lens could be successfully combined.

If you have any questions: leave a comment and I’ll try to address the issue. No promises.

** Related Content **

Two Lenses Become One: Reverse Coupled Macro Photography

Two Lenses Become One: Stacking Macros


Published by FlyTrapMan

I have no idea what I'm doing.

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