I've been getting more into macro photography lately. It never fails to amaze me how magnification reveals all these things you were never aware of about stuff you see everyday. I think that's a big part of why most serious macro photographers eventually make their way to shooting insects. It takes The Amazing Reveal to a whole other level. Everybody's seen a million flies, but you blow one of these poo-munchers up and it becomes absolutely extraordinary, like some strange alien lifeform.
Not that I'm a serious macro photographer. I'm just a dabbler.
I haven't caught the bug (see what I did there?) to photograph insects for the same
reason I don't do much wildlife photography ‒ I'm not keen on being at the mercy of a
capricious animal to get a good photo. Come to think of it, that's why I don't do wedding photography either. But perhaps one day the motivation to get killer insect photos will overcome my reluctance to deal with the vagaries of it.
Another reason I like to dabble in macro is because it appeals to the perfectionist in me. The technical challenges of narrow depth of field and the precise ways you have to set up shots satisfies my latent OCD tendencies. I also like that, for static subjects like plants, there's a very deterministic way to achieve good results.
Macro is also a great way to practice artificial lighting on a small, controlled scale with no human models or expensive studio strobes required. That’s what I did here. I was experimenting with a DIY bounce reflector I made to embiggen my speedlight and comparing it to my old Lumiquest Softbox III, which is pretty good at macro.
As an aside, I was surprised to learn that most macro photographers use homemade flash diffusers like the one I made. There's actually a relative dearth of good commercial diffusers designed for the unique requirements of macro. Contrast this with the absolutely bewildering array of ridiculously expensive light modifiers you can buy for people photography. The best commercial macro diffusers are from one-man operations that have no retail distribution – you have to send the guy an email, pay him via PayPal, and then wait for him to handmake your diffuser and send it to you. The business model is like being transported back in time 30 or 40 years. I think there's a seriously under-served, yet well-moneyed (macro photography ain't cheap) niche market here...
Anyway, my DIY contraption worked well lighting-wise, but honestly the Lumiquest works a bit better, is more rugged, and is easier to transport. I think adding some diffusion to the bounce would probably improve it, but it's still going to be fragile and hillbilly looking. Unless I can improve my design immensely, I’ll probably be sticking with the Lumiquest for now.