Edward Ingold , Jan 08, 2007; 01:09 a.m.
There are a number of tools that make various aspects of macro photography easier.
A particularly useful item is a focusing rail (http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/specialty/index.html). You will notice that the focusing ring on your lens is less effective the closer you are to the subject, and tends to change the magnification significantly. With a focusing rail, you set the magnification ratio and achieve focus by moving the camera back and forth with the rail.
Putting the camera where you want it for composition is another issue. Tripods with tilting columns can help. The ultimate tripod is arguably a Benbo, in which the legs and column can be set to any angle. You hold the camera where you want it, kick the legs into place one one foot and tighten the clamp down. Many tripods, including Gitzo and Bogen, have legs with adjustable angles. This is handy in the field, and they can open to put the camera nearly on the groung (using a stub column).
You can use a three-way head, including a geared head (good for table-top work), but a ball head is generally more useful. The RRS focusing rail fits into an Arca-type clamp on a ball head.
A right-angle viewfinder is handy for working close to the ground or when copying documents. There are a number of devices that attach to the eyepiece for this purpose.
For my own use, I have a Gitzo G-1227 tripod with a stub column and an Arca Swiss B1 ball head. I use a 6 inch, beveled RRS plate with a clamp instead of a geared or screw-drive focusing rail ($$$), which doubles to adjust the pivot point for stitched panoramas.