MacroSpheres Musings:

A Fine Young Cannibal

Fine Young Cannibal

Original G+ Post, July 09, 2017

I have been photographing Damselflies for a few years now and have seen my fair share of territorial defenses. One damselfly defending hunting airspace. This ends with the dominant damsel chasing the intruder off and returning to its perch. On Saturday I witnessed something I have never seen before. The intruder was snagged midair by the larger defender and hauled off for a meal. It was a struggle for the blue victor to lift the prey up to a nearby plant. I quickly honed in, drew focus, and fired off a shot. I feel quite fortunate to have captured a decent image as there was a slight breeze swaying the leaf and the damsel took flight right after the flash fired. It strained to fly deeper in the brush. I tracked it through dense vegetation near the edge of the bayou bank hoping to get another shot but the Damsel finally rested on a reed in the bayou well out the MP-E 65mm focal range.

fine-young-cannibal - 0003-.JPG

Image Specs - Canon 1D MKIV, MP-E 65mm @ 1:1, f/13, SS 1/250. ISO200, MT-24EX with DIY diffuser.

Longhorn Beetle

Original G+ Post, May 10 -2017

Rocking, Rolling, and Field Macroing with an Olympus OMD-EM1:
Photographed this past Saturday in a retention pond near the Bayou. I've never seen this type of beetle before. Lovely grey and fuzzy, longhorn beetle of some sorts. Does anyone have an id for this critter? Google image search has some that are close but no cigar.

longhorn on a leaf - eldretbas - fldstk 60 -03-1 (1).JPG

Image Specs - Olympus OMD-EM1, 60mm Zuiko Macro, f/2.8, SS 1/60, ISO 200, available light, 60 image field stack.

My Friend the Dragon II

Original G+ Post - October 04, 2016

I took this shot a couple a months ago when I was experimenting with the Canon M3 and the Metz 40MZ flash. I've been thinking about this image for a while now. Not for the technical merit, as there is plenty of room for improvement. Rather, when I view the photo it makes me smile. The memory is vivid, the time the dragonfly spent with me. It must have been an old one, not timid and shy like the young ones. Front legs grasping the twig, eyes peering over, looking at me (silly I know) with an understanding. Knowing, I'm not out to harm it. Perhaps, too tired from a life well spent to care? Whatever the case, in that time, in the instant when I photographed it, there was an connection. Perceived on my end no doubt. My logical mind tells me there was no thought on the Dragonfly's end. But isn't that what photography is about - to see things we don't normally see, to open our eyes beyond the myopic daily grind? For me it is, and all it takes is a twig, a camera, and a friend, a dragonfly.

my friend the dragon - bckyd headon -01 (1).JPG

Image Specs: Canon M3 w/60mm EF-S Macro and 36mm Tube @ ~ 2:1, f/14, SS 1/125, ISO 100, Metz 40MZ with SCA 3101 M2 Module, DIY diffuser, Compositional Crop in Post.

It's Bee(n) A Long Time

And it's good to be back. Last year my macro pursuit took a step back. I lost all my gear when my house flooded due to Hurricane Harvey.

I was really leaning towards a 5D4 setup but diffenciences in sensor technology, the lack of of a tilting LCD, the native in camera stacking functions and the silent shutter of the D850 nudged me towards Nikon. I've been fiddling with the camera for a few months now and come to the point I would like to share an image.

Shot setup - early morning on Buffalo Bayou. The bees, leaf cutters, seem much more abundant to me post Harvey versus pre. Not sure why, but I now commonly find large groups camped out on vegetation. Pre Harvey, I was lucky to stumble across one or two in the same area.

4 sleeping-bees on twig - d850 - sigma 150 - bw08.jpg

Nikon D850 with Sigma 150mm Macro and tripod rig. 45 image field stack. Initial RAW processing done in DXO PhotoLab, stacking done in Zerene, and touch up in PhotoShop.

Goodbye Google+ / Hello Sleeping Beauty

For the past 4 years I have been using my Google + account as a macro photography blog. With Google announcing the discontinuation of the platform in August of 2019 I will start directing my efforts to this site. I will still post to Google but initial content will be done here. I will also be migrating posts from my G+ account here to provide them a more permanent home. Let’s get the ball rolling with a post from August 05, 2015:

I was at the community garden on Saturday. I like to go there when I expect it to be blistering hot. Plenty of spots to park one’s butt in the shade should the need arise. There is a diversity of beds available. Ranging from heavily shaded areas with rich greens and dark purples. The shaded areas spills into a water garden complete with lilies and other flowering aquatic plants. Dragonflies and damsels populate the sparse reeds while minnows and wild sailfin mollies swim below. The gardens round into an open area filled with blooms, shrubs, and trees that thrive in the Texas sun. Just a bit yonder there are vegetable gardens with standard garden fare, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, hot peppers and the like. At the far end of the gardens are small groves of fruit and nut trees  interspersed between grape trellises. It’s a great place to photograph insects and small critters. Throughout the morning, a master gardener or two will stop by and chat me up. Surrounding the garden is a cow pasture and before I leave I always make it a point to walk the cattle fence. Interesting things happen on the steel cable and at the very least dragonflies perch on it so I practice approaching and photographing them. I was finished walking the fence and about to head to the house but decided to sit in the shade garden, drink some water, and cool off. Eyes scanning the cables for critters, I noticed atop the ~6 foot fence pole a brown blob. The more I focused in, the more I became convinced it was a frog. Indeed it was a frog sound asleep atop the pole. It was too high for me to shoot from the ground so I stacked two 6” high pavers from the garden edge into a makeshift foot stool. Here’s a picture of the little character, no more than 1.5” (40mm long), nestled high above.

frog on pole  -  atmse -02 (1).jpg

Image specs: Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, Sigma 105mm with 72mm of Extension Tubes @ ~1:2, - f/16 - SS 1/80 - ISO100 - 430EX with DIY Diffuser (Modified Circular Cross Stitch Frame with Rag Velum)  - compositional  crop.

Sheild Bug - Nymphs to Adults?

When I first started shooting macro, I stumbled across a batch of true bug nymphs. At the time I had no idea what they were. I thought for sure it was a beetle as I had never seen one before. Researching the insect I discovered it was in fact a true bug nymph, not a beetle. No one seemed to know what true bug it was. I was told the way to find out for sure was to raise the bug to adulthood. Well I can barely take care of myself let alone a brood of bugs so the my question remained unanswered. I ran across a nymph again this past Saturday. It had been a few years since I last saw one. As I looked in the viewfinder I noticed the pits in the exoskeleton, a detail I had forgotten. The shape of the head looked familiar too. The more I observed the bug and subsequently this photo, the more I'm convinced this is a shield bug nymph. 

Image specs: Sony A7 w Fotodiox Pro Fusion Adapter, 60mm EF-S w/72mm tubes @ ~3:1, f/11, SS 1/160, ISO 200, Nissin i40 with DIY Diffuser. 

A plant or two away from the nymph above was another. I think this is also a shield bug instar just further along in the development chain. This one is taking on more familiar characteristics. Head shape and eye placement, and the pitting of the exoskeleton. I actually find this nymph more attractive than adult shield bugs which are handsome as well. 

Image specs: Sony A7 w Fotodiox Pro Fusion Adapter, 60mm EF-S w/72mm tubes @ ~3:1, f/11, SS 1/160, ISO 200, Nissin i40 with DIY Diffuser. 

I believe the adult in this image is of the same ilk as the nymphs, but who knows? The longer I observe them in the field the more I learn. For the longest time I thought shield bugs were herbivorous as I had only seen them feeding off plants. Turns out the brown ones like caterpillar juice too. I found this feeding adult in close proximity to the two nymphs. 

Image specs: Sony A7 w Fotodiox Pro Fusion Adapter, 60mm EF-S w/72mm tubes @ ~3:1, f/11, SS 1/200, ISO 320, Nissin i40 with DIY Diffuser. 

My Friend the Dragon

No bayou adventure tales for this photograph. My friend the dragon took up perch on a stack of twigs and branch trimmings in my backyard. Over the course of an hour or so I watched it and slowly moved closer to the perch to get a shot. It would fly off if I moved too quickly only to return a short time later. I finally got close enough to get a few shots. Surprisingly my friend the dragon was quite comfortable with the camera's proximity (from time to time I stumble across one that doesn't seem bothered) that I was afforded several ~2:1 side profile shots. I'm still working with the Canon M3 but decided to try out an old Metz 40MZ 3i flash with an DIY diffuser. I like the flash as it's squatty and long which equates to the flash head almost reaching the end of the Canon EF-S 60mm lens with 20mm of extension tube. Another neat feature of the flash is the head can tilt down about 10 degrees. It's an old analog flash and when coupled with the SCA 3101 M2 module allows for TTL. I don't use the TTL capability for exposure but it is important when using the Canon M3 as the camera recognizes there is a flash is attached and exposure simulation illuminates live view so one can see the subject/scene. If you try to use an old manual flash without TTL, exposure simulation (can't be turned off on the M3) treats the live view feed on the rear LCD as if there is no flash attached resulting in a black frame and literally no way to focus minus adding some sort of focusing lamp/torch. 

Image specs: Canon M3, Canon EF-S 60mm Macro with 20mm tube @ ~2:1, f/11, SS 1/60, ISO 100, Metz 40MZ with SCA 3101 M2 module, DIY diffuser @ 1/8 power.


Like the photographer this White-tipped Black Moth (Melanchroia chephise) has seen better days. Tattered and worn from a summer well spent. I found it resting on a blade of grass.. As I set up my tripod it would try to take flight but it's tattered wings would only carry it to a nearby grass blade. As the sun waned behind the clouds it settled down posing long enough for me to set up my rig. Several times while stacking the sun would peek out from behind the clouds. This sent the moth on a short flutter to another nearby blade and a resetting of the rig. Finally the clouds held, the wind was calm, and I was able to execute a couple of field stacks. I find it a fitting image as insect field macro draws to a close in my neck of the woods. I don't think I'll run across many more moths this season but next spring I will. 

Image specs: Olympus EM-1, Zuiko 60mm @ ~0.5:1, f/3.2, SS 1/160, ISO 200, Available Light Field Stack (37 images Stacked with Zerene) 

Gulf Breeze

I was lucky to come across this Fritillary on Sunday. I had spent a couple hours in a retention pond and there were hardly any insects out. This time of year the critters are scarce, particularly in the early morning. Having no luck at the pond, I headed to the bayou. I didn't expect much down there but it's off the beaten path. Quite peaceful and I take solace from the weekly grind walking the banks. I headed up the bank-side prepared to head home with an empty memory card when I spotted this butterfly. This day, the cold morning was my friend as the butterfly was still roosting. Winter winds whipped the perch back and forth. Against my better judgement I setup my tripod and camera, hoping the wind would settle down. All the while the critter flapped in the wind but didn't rouse from it's roost. Eventually, there would be lulls in the gusts and I'd snap a few shots. The dappled light peeking through the clouds was pleasant so there was no need to augment with flash. This went on for well over an hour. Finally, the wind died for minutes at a time and the photographers patience was rewarded with some longer exposure high magnification shots and the butterfly rewarded with the opportunity to fly off. 

Image specs: Canon 5D-III w/Canon 180mm @ ~1:4, f/8, 1/30, ISO 200 - Tripod Rig / Available light

Humble Beginnings

My foray into macro photography started on a drive home from the office one evening. I felt a numbing twinge near the bottom of my right rib cage. At first, I thought my pants and belt were too tight. Age and daily helpings of ice cream had seen to a button popping waistline so it was easy to dismiss the sensation. When a larger pant and belt size failed to alleviate the issue it was off to the doctor to see what was wrong. I was finally diagnosed with hereditary hemochromatosis and had a high accumulation of iron in my body. Basically, I am a mutant, who absorbs to much iron from my diet.

By nature, I am an inquisitive person who needs to see the fine details of a problem to better understand it. I was determined to see my nemesis iron (Fe) up close. That's what any normal mutant would do, right?  Armed with Google search, Macro Project 101 was launched - DIY microscope. Loosely based on instructions found on the Fun Science Gallery Website: I headed off to the local Camera Co-Op to find an old zoom lens, success, a Tokina 70-210mm. Coupled with an old binocular objective, a makeshift plywood stage, old LCD TV base, and webcam - behold Macroscope-101 in all it's duct-taped glory:

Macroscope - Version 01

I managed to get a decent picture of rust on some baling wire, take that iron!

Rust on Baling Wire - iPad Photo

The images were good considering the rig build but wouldn't come close to achieving my goals so it was back to the drawing board. The rig went through several modifications - improvements to the lighting, different lens, and binocular objectives before I finally gave up on it as a viable option for macro/micro photography. The project wasn't in vain though, I learned many magnification and photographic concepts but more importantly the macro seed was sown.