ARTICLE

Inside a macro photographer's kitbag: Oliver Wright's essentials

A macro pro on moving to the mirrorless system, including the game-changing Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM.
"Macro photography has changed the way I view the world," says England-based pro photographer Oliver Wright, who specialises in wildlife, macro and adventure photography. "When you look through a macro lens, you see things very differently because you see more detail."

For years, photography was a hobby and a way to document Oliver's passion for rock climbing. But when an accident in 2010 left him with a severely injured ankle, he was forced to slow down. "I had this void of time and I learned to use my camera properly," he says. "I spent the time at local nature reserves because I wasn't quite so mobile – and I discovered macro photography."
A close-up of a snake's head, with its forked tongue sticking out and curling up.

"The Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM focuses super quickly because it has Dual Nano USM motors," says Oliver, who captured the fast movements of an Amazon tree boa's tongue. "Traditionally, macro lenses struggled to go from infinity focus, which is focusing on things far away, to things which are very close, but this lens actually has two motor systems, so it can jump across that range really quickly." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/500 sec, f/4 and ISO6400. © Oliver Wright Photography

Since then, Oliver's photography has received top accolades in the British Wildlife Photography Awards and been published in magazines and newspapers including BBC Wildlife and The Observer. He now splits his year between summers focusing on wildlife macro and winters in northern Sweden, leading groups photographing the wilderness landscapes.

"I've been asked to photograph everything from rare lizards in Ecuador through to King Carl XVI Gustaf in Sweden," he says of his career. "There's a huge range of photographic situations I've found myself in, through following a passion."

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV has been his stalwart over the past four years, often paired with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens. Since the release of the Canon EOS R5, Oliver has moved to the mirrorless system and he was one of the first photographers to use the L-series Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM. Here, he shares his experiences using the lens and discusses his other macro kitbag essentials.
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A close-up of a butterfly's head, antennae and part of its wings.

"I've been photographing butterflies with the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM and if you look at the full image, you can see that it's an abstract of a butterfly's wing," says Oliver. "But when you zoom in on that with 1.4x magnification and 45MPs, you can see the individual butterfly scales. I could even see the iridescence of the hairs on its wing. It's really quite staggering." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/50 sec, f/4.5 and ISO3200. © Oliver Wright Photography

A close-up of a crested gecko's head.

Oliver captured incredible detail in a crested gecko's eye by using focus stacking. "Focus stacking is a tool I use a lot in macro photography," he says. "It allows you to take multiple images and then blend them together to create a bigger depth of field without necessarily throwing lots of light on things and using smaller apertures." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/80 sec, f/6.3 and ISO3200. © Oliver Wright Photography

1. Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM

"The Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM allows you to do things quite differently," says Oliver, who photographed insects, reptiles and amphibians inside a butterfly house. "It allows you to go all the way to 1.4x magnification, whereas the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM has a 1x magnification. You're 40% more zoomed into the image. That might not sound much, but it makes a huge difference to macro photography. When you combine that with the resolution of a Canon EOS R5, it's pretty staggering."

An advanced stabilisation system and f/2.8 maximum aperture produces stunning image quality, even in low light, while Dual Nano USM motors offer fast and silent focusing, ideal for both stills and video. "This lens is super sharp and really well controlled," says Oliver. "You can zoom right in and see the veins in a gecko's eye. I've also photographed butterfly wings and when I zoom into those, I can see the individual scales."

The Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM also introduces a variable Spherical Aberration Control mechanism, to adjust the look of out-of-focus bokeh areas and produce a soft-focus effect on subjects. "This is going to have really exciting opportunities from a creative perspective," says Oliver. "Whether it be macro, product or portrait photography."

Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM

The Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM is a professional macro lens with class-leading 1.4x magnification and a variable spherical aberration control to adjust bokeh. It’s a superb L-series lens for close focus and portrait work, inspiring creativity.
A photographer takes a picture of a tree frog, the shot showing on the camera's electronic viewfinder.

"Previous 100mm lenses such as the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM tend to go to a 1x or 1:1 magnification – this lens allows you to go to 1.4 times magnification," says Oliver, shooting a White's tree frog with the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM. "The difference doesn't sound that much but it's actually really significant."

A tree frog stares into the camera lens, its two eyes in sharp focus.

"The weather sealing on the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM feels very solid," says Oliver, who photographed snakes, frogs and insects inside a butterfly house. "I've been in a very humid environment with it and it's got sprayed on. The weather sealing is of the quality you expect in a Canon L-series lens." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/4.5 and ISO6400. © Oliver Wright Photography

2. Canon EOS R5

"Moving from a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV to a Canon EOS R5 has been a game-changer," says Oliver, who particularly appreciates the electronic viewfinder of the mirrorless system for its instant view of how his photograph is going to look.

The viewfinder also offers other key benefits to Oliver's style of shooting, such as focus peaking and focus guide. "For a lot of my macro photography I actually have the focus system turned off," he says. "With focus peaking, as I move backwards and forwards, I can see which part of the subject is going to be in focus.
A Canon EOS R5 camera.

Canon EOS R5

A sensational full-frame 45MP sensor with up to 20fps and an advanced AF system enables the Canon EOS R5 to deliver a high-performance shooting experience.
"The Canon EOS R5 also has incredible noise control," he continues. "I can be shooting at ISO6400 and not have much noise, and it produces high resolution 45MP files. The final piece is its in-body stabilisation. Before, we were always relying on stabilisation within the lens, but the body itself has stabilisation and works with the lens to give you enhanced stabilisation, so you can get away with slower shutter speeds when handholding."

On his recent shoot, this allowed Oliver to pair the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM with his Canon EOS R5 to capture high-resolution 8K video clips and 4K slow-motion of a snake's tongue weaving through the air – all handheld.
A dragonfly shows off its metallic blue body and iridescent wings.

A banded demoiselle – a type of dragonfly – at the side of the River Aire in Yorkshire, UK. "Even after doing macro photography solidly for 10 years, I can go to my local nature reserves and discover things that I've never seen before," says Oliver. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/40 sec, f/5 and ISO800. © Oliver Wright Photography

3. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Packing both high speed and high resolution, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a formidable macro partner and remains Oliver's back-up body.

"It has been a superb camera for macro," he says. "Because it's full-frame, you get these huge files out of it, with really good noise control – especially for the kind of shooting I'm doing. I tend to use natural light, so I'm often shooting at fairly high ISOs, but don't want much noise in there."

Oliver's taken the camera into extreme environments, including temperatures as low as -38°C, and it's always stood up to his demands. "I've never had a single error message," he recalls. "I've taken hundreds of thousands of pictures with it. It's been a superb workhorse."
A Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Designed to perform in every situation, the EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR camera is beautifully engineered and a thoroughly accomplished all-rounder.

4. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

Oliver's worked with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM for a decade and says it's his most used macro lens. "The 100mm focal length is a really good working distance for macro. If you have subjects that are quite skittish, you don't have to get too close to them. It gives you a reasonable working distance with a nicely compressed background."

Over the years Oliver has relied on its crisp focus and 1:1 magnification to capture incredible detail in everything from snakes in the jungles of Costa Rica through to jumping spiders closer to home. "It's one of Canon's sharpest lenses," he says. Its Hybrid Image Stabilizer system further counteracts both regular angular shake and lateral shift-shake, making it perfect for photographing small subjects.

"The new Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM feels very similar in the hand to the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, so if you're moving from one lens to the other, it's going to feel quite familiar," says Oliver.
A Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

The Hybrid IS, f/2.8 aperture and fast USM autofocusing system combine to make this a unique lens that performs exceptionally well.
A close-up of the hairy legs and four eyes of a zebra jumping spider.

Tiny jumping spiders, which are less than a centimetre in size, are one of Oliver's favourite subjects – he took a high magnification stacked portrait of this zebra jumping spider at Skipwith Common near Selby in Yorkshire, UK. "You can often find them in the UK, but they're challenging to photograph," he says. "If I need to photograph subjects beyond 1.4x magnification, I use the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo lens because I can go all the way through to 5x magnification." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo lens at 1/160 sec, f/4 and ISO3200. © Oliver Wright Photography

A photographer shoots an insect with a Canon EOS R5 camera and a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM lens.

Ready for its close-up… For Oliver, the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM lens is similar to the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo, as both are capable of incredible magnification.

5. Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo

This high magnification lens allows Oliver to capture extreme close-ups at up to 5x life size, without the need for extra accessories. With UD-glass elements to suppress chromatic aberrations, which often become apparent at high magnifications, it offers crystal clear detail of tiny insects.

"If I see a butterfly and it's covered in morning dew, I'd take some photographs with a 100mm macro lens, and however I compose it, they'll tend to be of the whole butterfly," he explains. "If I want to do a high magnification portrait, mainly made up of its eye or shoulder, I'll use the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo for the much higher magnification.

"The Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM overlaps with the Canon MP-E 65mm, so there will be more times when you can keep the new lens on rather than having to swap lenses in the field, but this goes way beyond in terms of magnification."
A Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo lens.

Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo

A specialist manual-focus lens designed exclusively for macro shooting with magnification 5x larger than life size to capture detail beyond the human eye.

6. A leave-no-trace clamp

On an early-morning macro trip, Oliver usually packs a focusing rail, tripod and his trusty three-legged stool, to ensure he can take his time composing shots. But there's one item which he values above the rest – a foam-lined clamp.

"I'm very conscious that I want to leave the environment as undisturbed as possible. I have a clamp on a bendy arm with foam inside it. It's super delicate and wouldn't damage even a blade of grass. If I've found a butterfly on a blade, I can use the clamp to move some grass to provide a tiny bit of separation. When I undo the clamp, it goes back into position.

"When you're approaching a living macro subject, the key thing for me is the animal's welfare," he adds. "One of the things I've found with photography is I am always learning, and always learning is a good place to be."

Written by Lucy Fulford


Oliver Wright's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Oliver Wright’s kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.

Cameras

Canon EOS R5

A full-frame 45MP sensor with impressive AF performance. "I've been using this pretty much exclusively since it came out," says Oliver.

Lenses

Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM

An L-series macro lens combining Hybrid IS, f/2.8 aperture and a fast Dual Nano USM autofocusing system. "The image quality is mind-blowing," says Oliver. "Every macro, portrait and product photographer is going to love this lens."

Accessories

A leave-no-trace clamp

"I can use the clamp to move some grass to provide a tiny bit of separation," says Oliver.

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