This is the setup that I used to make the photos of Xenox tigrinus that appear below. The camera is a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 180mm macro lens. The flashes are two Canon 580EX II Speedlites in master/slave mode. Both flashes have Gary Fong diffusers, though the two Speedlites have different diffuser models on them. Since I shoot in RAW mode I do not require filters. I use Auto White Balance (AWB) most of the time and color corrections are rarely necessary, but if they are called for I apply them in Apeture.
The master Speelite (Speedlite A in the Canon wireless-Speedlite scheme) is on the light stand to the right and it connects to the camera by a 10-meter cable from Syl Arena’s OCF Gear. I also have the OCF Gear 5-meter extender, but in this instance the 10 meter was closer to hand. I loop the excess length and secured the loop with Velcro and hang it on the light stand. The second flash (Speedlite B) is attached to the plastic foot which Canon supplies and which owners joke about, but which performs quite adequately the light duty for which it is intended. Note that Speedlite A is brighter than Speedlite B. Canon makes it possible to control a master flash and unlimited slaves from the camera’s menu without having to touch the Speedlites (which may be in inconvenient locations). In this photo I adjusted the power ratio of A:B to 8:1 for illustrative purposes. The incandescent lamp seen above Speedlite A is an ordinary shop lamp that I use to illuminate the subject just briefly for focusing.
Tripod and light stand: The tripod is Gitzo GK2550EXQR carbon-fiber ultra-light that is ideally suited to macrophotography; it has no cross braces or center post as such, but a post that mounts on the side. This makes the tripod very versatile; the legs can be splayed without limit, placing the camera nearly at ground level for wet-belly photography. This tripod is not inexpensive, but it is a great tool for macrophotography of objects that are not moving very much. I should note that this is not a suitable tripod for moving targets or for most general use; making adjustments to camera position is easy enough, but it cannot always be done quickly. For general use I prefer a Manfrotto fluid-head video tripod. The light stand is an older Manfrotto that is no longer available without wheels, alas. It has a sturdy and well balanced boom.
The subject is in a Rubbermaid storage container that is covered by a piece of ⅛-inch thick glass. I have several such containers in varied sizes and several pieces of glass, each of which has finished edges so that it can be handled without risk of cuts. I had been using high-quality plastic for this purpose, but the plastic quickly becomes scratched, even with careful use. The Speedlites are positioned so that their light is not reflected from the glass into the camera lens.
Photo of the setup by David and Leona Illig using a Canon 40D with a 24-105mm zoom lens. David tripped the 40D shutter in a hand-held one-second exposure in the dark, then Leona tripped the 5D and flashes immediately upon hearing the 40D shutter. I suppose we could have put the Canon 20D on a tripod with self-timer and photographed us photographing the setup, but then we might have wanted to put one of the Nikons on another tripod to photograph the three Canon DSLR’s at work and then used another Nikon to show the Nikon photographing the Canons, but where would it all end—how much does it cost to buy an infinite number of cameras, and how much time is required to set up and make an infinite number of photographs?