Jeff Kida, Photo Editor

JK: You’ve put together an innovative photo kit (below) that allows for a lot of latitude in the field. How did it come together?
I really like and appreciate my long telephoto lenses. But all of them are heavy, and hauling around a backpack full of gear in the field takes its toll on me physically and mentally. I’m constantly looking for ways to up my game, and I recently came across a 100 to 400 mm zoom lens made by Canon. It’s not the fastest lens made by Canon (f/5.6 to f/8), but it’s super sharp and can focus to under 3 feet at 400 mm, allowing me to essentially use it as a macro lens. 

Photograph by Bruce D. Taubert

JK: Tell me about this flash and how it helps with your vision.
Generally, your flash sits pretty high on your camera, and when it comes to macro photography, getting any light to a subject 2 inches in front of your lens can be difficult. I found out about a Florida company called AK Diffuser and had them make me a diffuser that diverted the light, in a concave fashion, to the subject. It forced the light right down in front of my lens. That was my first setup. After I’d been using that setup for a while, Canon came out with the macro flash, with two wires, that you see on my camera here. The two flashes mount to the front of my 100 to 400 mm lens, which means they move when the lens moves. I contacted AK Diffuser and had them make diffusers to fit these flashes. When I’m in the field, I mostly use the flashes to fill in harsh shadows, such as on an insect or flower. I don’t generally use them as the primary light source.

JK: What are the advantages of something like this?
It’s very lightweight and versatile, and it enables me to get a photo of just about anything I come across. For what I do, which goes all the way from insect legs to elephants, this is the camera I want to have with me when I’m walking around. I don’t have to carry a bunch of extra gear and change lenses all the time. In the past, I’d be walking around with a macro lens, looking for macro subjects, and miss a good photo opportunity that demanded some type of telephoto lens. With this, I’m able to be creative without a ton of gear hanging around my neck. It’s also relatively unobtrusive, and I can get into thick brush to make photos without much trouble.

JK: Are there any improvements you’d like to make?
This has worked like a dream so far, but at some point, I might look at a wireless flash setup, which would give me a little more flexibility. I’m in no hurry to do that, though.