No, not those kind

I have been trying to get a good photograph of a horsetail for the last few weeks. I tried all kinds of compositions, exposures, lighting, and so on.

I finally took some shots with a macro lens and it has made a huge difference—the photo above finally captures the way that the horsetails looked to me.

Technical info: there are a few differences that are specific to the lens, but I was also trying some new approaches:

  • The macro lens is the sharpest lens I have ever used, and not just a little bit. It is astonishingly sharp, and I’ll be using it for both macro and normal photography more that I have so far.

  • Sharpness has two components: actual resolution of detail, and contrast. This macro lens has both qualities.

The new lens enabled me to do what I had been trying to do: separate the horsetails from the background, and from each other, to reveal their fascinating structure. Given that these plants were in fairly deep shadow (quite typical for horsetails), the contrast and detail are simply amazing.

Another new thing was to try photographing them from above:

These were all shot at 1/250th of a second, as ISO 200 and f/4 (the widest aperture on the macro lens). The lens itself is a Schneider-Krueznach 120mm f/4. When I was buying it, I asked the salesman if he was willing to go through the lenses in his stock and find the best of the best—this is known as a super-sharp lens, but…there’s always one that’s just a little better.

He photographed a dollar bill with about half a dozen lenses, and this one really stood out. It’s pretty much a dream-come-true lens, I’m going to enjoy using it for a long time.