MacroSpheres Musings:

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.

Tattered

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: http://www.funsci.com/fun3_en/uster2/uster2.htm 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.