Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bee

Found this Carpenter Bee Sunday morning. I’m used to finding the odd honey bee that camps out on a flower overnight but this is only the second time I’ve run across one of these. I remember the first time. It was 4 years ago. I was still enamored with my MR-14EX ring flash. Up until then I had good luck with the unit but when I shot the bee I got the dreaded donut highlights in the eyes. I tried for weeks to reduce the effects in post processing but it wasn’t to be. The highlights bothered me so much I never posted the images. After that experience, I decided to try other forms of illumination and finally settled on a speed light with a DIY concave diffuser box. For this shot I had the luxury of setting up the tripod rig as the bee was immobile for a long time. It’s always a risk doing this. Does one go in for the handheld photograph good for a few shots or does one gamble setting up the rig in the hopes of getting some natural light shots. The bee was in the shade so I suspected it would be a while before it gathered enough warmth to fly off. The gamble paid off as it took close to two hours for the bee to stir and fly off. Shooting exclusively in available light was a no go as there wasn’t enough illumination (even with reflectors and such) to shoot the frame at a reasonable shutter speed/ISO. I decided to augment the available light with diffused flash. Overall the images came out nicely but several were blurred due to wind. After a couple of hours watching and photographing the bee it finally flew off. 

Image specs: Tripod mounted 5-DIII, Sigma 150mm w/91mm tubes @ ~ 2.5:1  f/13, SS 1/25, ISO 100, 600EX-RT with DIY concave diffuser. 

Honey Bee Exposure

Honey Bee Exposure

I had the pleasure of running across this honey bee  which decided to camp out on a flower stalk. Photographing bees like this with diffused flash can be hit or miss. If they are in a deep sleep the photographer often has the luxury to pop off a few test shots to gauge proper exposure. If the bee is starting to wake, often you will only have 1 or two chances to get the shot off before the bee takes flight. Body position is often a clue as to which state the bee is in. If the legs and body are tightly wrapped around the supporting flora  chances are the bee is in a deep sleep and not easily alarmed by the flash. If the legs are loose and quasi-supporting the body, the bee is most likely in the process of waking up and will be quick to flight. It sounds obvious but in the rush and excitement of trying to get the shot, these are important cues to note. In the case of this bee, I determined the latter was the case. I adjusted flash settings to what I thought was appropriate for the subject and then photographed a nearby flower stem (same type as in the photograph) to test for exposure of the foreground and the background. On light greens and in the case of this flora, white buds, it is easy to clip the lighter colors when trying to properly expose the darker bee so it is best to get a good exposure reading on the flora. In the case of dark flowers, reds, purples, oranges etc. the exposure of the subject and the flower are close enough that simple metering off the subject will suffice. 

Image specs: 5-D3, Sigma 150mm `w/72mm tubes @ ~ 2:1  f/13, SS 1/160, ISO 200, 600EX-RT with DIY concave diffuser.
 

Cottonwood Borer - (Plectrodera scalator)

Cottonwood Borer - (Plectrodera scalator)

A very rare find for me. It’s the second one I’ve seen in my life. My first encounter was as a young boy.  A housing development was being built near the bayou and many of the trees were cleared out. I found the beetle on a nearby bush.  I was completely enthralled with the insect and decided to adopt the critter. I took it to school and showed it to my science teacher. She could only narrow the identity down to a longhorn beetle. We kept it in the classroom until it died. She preserved it in a jar filled with rubbing alcohol so I could have it for future study. I kept the jar for years, showing it to friends and family. All agreed it was an impressive specimen but few had the enthusiasm I did. After several years the specimen deteriorated. The colors ran, limbs and antenna segments broke off to the point I finally threw the jar away.

This past Sunday I was under the shade of a massive Cottonwood tree and noticed a large black and white beetle on a nearby tree… Could it be? I sprung up with an excitement reminiscent of the young boy who found the longhorn beetle many moons ago. Could it be, could it be? It is, it is! Oh the excitement, must get the shot, must get the shot. Photographing the beetle ended up being anticlimactic. It was preoccupied chewing the bark of the tree and ignored my fumbling around. I am pleased with the photographs I took. Happy to finally have digital bits to review far in the future, not broken faded bits swirling in the bottom of a jar.

Image specs- Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, MP-E 65mm @ ~3:1, - f/14 - SS 1/60 - ISO200 - MT-24EX @ 1/4th powerwith DIY concave hardbox @ 45 degrees.

  Robber flies are interesting insects. Fierce predators that snatch prey in mid-air or steal booty from other predators. It is a beneficial insect in that it hunts common agricultural pests but it's not your friend. Bites from these beasties are quite painful. They don't go out of their way to do this but threaten one or mishandle it and a nasty welt is often the repercussion. This female fly has mistaken the steel cable as a suitable place to deposit her eggs. I rather doubt the larva will find the hatching grounds suitable. Hopefully they make their way to the ground where they will survive to adulthood.    Images specs: 5D-III , Sigma Macro 105mm @ 1.5:1, f/13, SS 1/200, ISO 100, 430-EX II w/DIY Concave Diffuser          

Robber flies are interesting insects. Fierce predators that snatch prey in mid-air or steal booty from other predators. It is a beneficial insect in that it hunts common agricultural pests but it's not your friend. Bites from these beasties are quite painful. They don't go out of their way to do this but threaten one or mishandle it and a nasty welt is often the repercussion. This female fly has mistaken the steel cable as a suitable place to deposit her eggs. I rather doubt the larva will find the hatching grounds suitable. Hopefully they make their way to the ground where they will survive to adulthood.

Images specs: 5D-III , Sigma Macro 105mm @ 1.5:1, f/13, SS 1/200, ISO 100, 430-EX II w/DIY Concave Diffuser   

 

 

Tiny Anole

Tiny Anole

I never tire of photographing these. Early morning shot of an anole waking up from it’s evening slumber on a blade of grass. It’s a wee one no more than 3 inches long from head to tail. 

Image specs:  Olympus OM-D E-M1, Sigma 180 - f/8 - SS 1/10 - ISO200 - Puff of flash from Diffused Nissin i40  

Bee-Doo

Bee-Doo

 I was at a retention pond that holds rain runoff until the water can drain into the bayou. It’s a good place to shoot macro. The bottom of the basin is filled with weeds, wild grasses, and scrub flowers. Depth of the Basin is a good 6 feet and has a nice 45 degree slope to the top. The slope makes it much easier to shoot at eye level to the subject. Upper banks of the pond have a narrow path which melds into tall brush and flowers and eventually forms a dense thicket. As I was making a circuit around the bank path I noticed a glint on a Tall Goldenrod (Solidago sp.). A closer look-seeshowed a honey bee that spent the night out. I could see the dew glistening on the wings and initially thought it would be a good stacking candidate. Raising my camera to the bee revealed a face that was badly distorted. At first I fought it was burned by a chemical or insecticide. Closer observation through the macro lens showed the face was smeared with grime and dew drops. I got out my field stool, propped my elbows on my knees and watched through the viewfinder as the bee awoke. It started preening itself. It used it’s legs to wipe the grime and water off it’s face. The bristles on it’s legs served as a comb to clean and straighten it’s hair. I was reminded of bath night as a young boy and combing my bangs straight down. This picture is about 40 minutes into the process. I don’t think it was real happy with me taking picture of it’s bad hair day and expressed it’s displeasure by sticking out it’s tongue ;-) The preening and drying out went on for another 30 minutes or so before it finally flew off.

Shot specs: MP-E 65 @ ~2.5:1 / f11 / SS125 / ISO125 / MT-24EX Flash w/DiY triangular diffuser.

  Orange Blister Beetle - (Zonitis vittigera)

Orange Blister Beetle - (Zonitis vittigera)

One of the first beetles I ever photographed in the field was an Orange Blister Beetle. I had been out all morning and couldn’t find an insect to photograph. It was nearing noon so I decided to head back to the house. Cutting through a drainage basin filled with thigh high weeds I spotted the beetle on a cone flower. At the time, I had no clue what type of beetle it was nor did I know that touching one released a toxin that causes the skin to blister. Luckily I avoided contact with it but a couple of times when my camera got too close I noticed an acrid smell followed by a burning sensation coming from the sweat on my brow. I can only guess the insect sprays the toxin when threatened. Not to be deterred, I photographed the beetle for the better part of an hour in the sweltering heat. They are good subjects, steadily sticking to the task of feeding on flowers, not overly concerned with the bumblings of this macro photographer. The photos were my best to date but looking back on them there was a lot of room for improvement. Every year since, when I see Cone Flowers I look for blister beetles and ply the macro trade. It is interesting to go back and compare how the current batch of photos stack up against previous efforts. This time the beetle threw me a curve ball and was feasting on an Indian Blanket bloom. It was a pleasant surprise and produced one of my better results to date. I hope I see more this year as I’d like to see if I can do better. 


Image specs: Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, MP-E 65  @ ~2:1  - f/13 - SS 1/100 - ISO200 - MT24EX  with DIY concave hardbox, Compositional Crop.

Old Blue Eyes

Old Blue Eyes

 I have been trying to photograph these for the better part of 3 summers with limited success. The main problem I have is trying to go in for frame filling eye shot and not shooting further back. My big diffuser scares the dragonfly off before I can press the shutter. I got the 105mm Sigma in an effort to increase my distance from the subject and also have the ability to focus out further, i.e. less that 1:1 ratio. This new approach has yielded some decent shots. My approach is to first shoot from further out and slowly inch my way closer to the subject, snapping frames as I go along. Not quite sure of the ratio on this shot as my eye was glued to the viewfinder. My best guess is the end of the lens was ~ 12 inches away. After this shot the Dragonfly had enough of my foolishness and took flight. 

Exposure was good, so I was able to do a heavy square crop and still get some nice detail. The shot was exposed to the right so I had to add some contrast and saturation in post to bring back the color. This is unfamiliar territory for me as I typically tend to expose slightly to the left with the Canon. This year I hope to photograph more dragonflies and damsels…

 Image specs: Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, Sigma 105mm with 68mm of Tubes  - f/13 - SS 1/80 - ISO200 - 600EX RT with DIY concave hard box cocked 45 degrees, heavy square crop.
 

Eastern Boxer

Eastern Boxer

Found this fellow rummaging in the leaf litter on the bayou trail a couple weeks back. It was a long hot morning. So hot that there weren't many insect's out to photograph. I’ve been pleasently surprised this year as I have encountered several box turtles. In my youth I saw them frequently but the past few years, nary a one. This turtle wasn’t too startled with my presence. Younger ones will close up and not allow a photograph to be taken. With slow deliberate movements this one was all to happy to pose for the shot. I laid on my belly and slowly scooted along with it as it foraged in the litter.

Image specs: Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, Sigma 105 on 72mm of Tubes ~1.5:1, - f/16 - SS 1/50 - ISO100 - 430EX with DIY Diffuser - slight compositional crop.


Blue Bee

Blue Bee

This weekend was rather disappointing macro wise. Cool front blew through on Thursday night and the insects have been scarce since. I was out on the back patio when I noticed a bee walking across the concrete. Earlier in the day I was reading posts on John Kimbler’s G+ page. Of particular interest was how he photographed bees on the tip of his finger with honey bait. I didn’t have honey on hand so I extended my index finger in the bee’s path and it climbed on. Since there was no honey the bee continued up the back of my hand and unto my forearm. I quickly put a piece of rotting wood in it’s path. It climbed on it and settled down in a groove. I ran into the house and grabbed the camera and took a few shots before it flew away. Thank you Mr. Kimbler for the posts, without them I would have never got this shot. For those of you interested in macro and haven’t visited John’s page it’s well worth the visit. It is full of exceptional macros and loaded with tips and advice:

 Jumper Meal Ticket

Jumper Meal Ticket

I meant to post this a several weeks ago but never got around to it. In the past I haven’t had the best luck photographing jumpers. Well, I thought I hit pay dirt when I discovered one had taken up residency in the tubing of my outdoor gas stove. I tried, unsuccessfully, waiting for it to emerge from the hole in the tubing but moving the camera towards the subject would frighten it back into the tube. Analyzing my failed shots I noticed the fine silk strands outside the nest entrance. I wondered if the spider was monitoring the silks for vibrations, to sense insects. I have seen this behavior in Long jaw Orb Weavers, they rest on a twig or stem close to the edge of the web with one or two legs on a silk strand. When an insect flies into the web the spider springs into action, subduing the prey. To test this thought, I strummed the silks by gently dragging a fine piece of thread, knotted at the end, over the tube and silks. Sure enough, after a few seconds the spider would emerge from the hole. Not certain if it was the vibrations picked up by the silks, the metal tube or a combination of both. It didn’t matter, I had a way to ring the spider’s doorbell.   I setup the camera on a tripod, focused on the entrance and dragged the thread on the tube. Voila, the spider answers the door and I got the shot. I thought this setup would be a windfall of jumper photo ops. It was not to be. Within a week the spider had disappeared from the cooker never to be seen again. Rumors going around, say it was tired of the paparazzi hanging outside it’s front door.

Image specs- Single Shot on Tripod- Canon 5D-III, MP-E 65mm @ ~3:1, - f/13 - SS 1/80 - ISO400 - 600EX-RT @ 1/4th powerwith DIY concave hardbox @ 15 degrees.
 

Git Along Little Dogies

Git Along Little Dogies

On my Monday macro ventures I noticed a  discontinuous  brown blob on the branch of a plant. Closer inspection revealed 4 ants tending a herd of aphids. I have read about this behavior, seen videos and photographs but never witnessed it in person. Very entertaining to watch through the macro lens. For the most part the aphids were still but the ants moved along the herd keeping them in a tight knit mass. I gained new respect for those who photograph these scenes as the ants were in constant motion. To make matters worse the wind picked up. Tired of constant branch jitter I propped the camera on my left knee and secured the branch with my  hand. Wind jitter problem solved, ants still quick as all get go.  I fired off 20 odd shots and this was the best of the lot. In the viewfinder, I could see the ants had a glossy exoskeleton but wasn’t expecting much glare with my diffuser. I was mistaken, as you can clearly see on the ant’s head. Next time I will aim the diffuser a smidgen higher. That may necessitate increasing flash power. I’ll have to see if the trade off is justified. 

Image specs:  Single Shot Hand Secured on Human Tripod - Canon 5D-III, MP-E 65  @ ~4:1  - f/10 - SS 1/160 - ISO400 -  600EX-RT, DIY concave hardbox with EPE Foam Diffuser Face, Compositional Crop.
 

ant and aphids - eldres  - 1500px x 72dpi -02.jpg
Creeper Ants

Creeper Ants

When I first started macro photography, this green horn stumbled across ants on Trumpet Creeper blooms and buds. It was a real eye opener, as I had only seen fire ants and the occasional black carpenter ant. I fired away with my T2i and a crude diffuser. I managed a few good shots that I kept reviewing with delight - very, very proud of my efforts. Over the course of a few months I noticed flaws that my exuberant eyes missed when I first processed the photos. No amount of post processing could correct the errors to my satisfaction. Valuable lessons were learned and new techniques and hardware explored to correct the deficiencies. I eagerly looked forward to summer so I could try photographing the scene again. It wasn’t to be, I didn’t find any ants on the creepers that summer. This year the quest continued and I once again found the ants tending to the creeper buds and blooms. This go around I took my time, observing the ant’s behavior through the viewfinder. Hoping to glean some insight to time my shots. I think the ants are extracting nectar from the buds. They will park over the welts on the for minutes at a time. Occasionally the fine feelers under the jaw splay out on the bud. They also lower their antenna onto the bud and drag them across, like they are laying down a scent. The photographs came out better this time but after reviewing them, I look forward to doing this again.

Image specs: Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, Sigma 105mm with 72mm of Extension Tubes @ ~2:1, - f/10 - SS 1/50 - ISO100 - 430EX with DIY Diffuser (Modified Circular Cross Stitch Frame with Rag Velum)  - compositionalcrop.

  Bark Lice - (Cerastipsocus venosus)

Bark Lice - (Cerastipsocus venosus)

Case of a common name conjuring up disdain. These insects have nothing in common with the parasitic namesakes. In fact they are beneficial to trees. Their diet consists of lichen, fungi, dead bark, etc found on tree bark. In effect they are tree Hoovers. 

An interesting critter to observe as they cluster together and when frightened move en masse, like a herd of animals. I found a cluster this past weekend on branch of a bald cypress tree in one of the many oxbow lakes that dot the bayou. I look forward to a future encounter as I’d like to document the herding behavior. 

Image specs: Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, MP-E 65  @ ~2:1  - f/11 - SS 1/80 - ISO200 - 600EX RT with DIY concave hardbox. 

Big ole Bee on a Sunflower

Big ole Bee on a Sunflower

I had not been out shooting much macro this past month. Things have been hectic and the weekends when I could go out and shoot have been preempted by rain. I finally got to go out on Saturday and could tell I was out of practice. Just couldn't pick up fine details in the viewfinder. I was surprised to find the bayou blooming with sunflowers. It made for some easier shots as the bees were more interested in drawing nectar than some odd fellow snapping pictures.  Normally I'm not a big fan of overhead shots but there are times the composition lines up and makes for a pleasant shot.

Cross Orb Weaver

Cross Orb Weaver

A bit of a challenge capturing this female as it was on a tall (~5 foot) weed stalk that was gently swaying in the breeze. Very nice details on this docile subject.

Image specs:  Canon 5D-III, Sigma 105mm - f/13 - SS 1/125 - ISO100 - 430EX-II with DIY concave hardbox. 

Cucumber Beetle

Cucumber Beetle

I’ve been so busy working on a new diffuser that I have neglected to process photos I have taken  over the past  few weeks. This was taken two weeks ago when the Striped Cucumber Beetles  were frolicking in the bush,  playing Cucumber Beetle games.  This was one of the few I found without a potential mate. From the looks of it he took the high branch looking for another lonely soul among the scrub. 

Bushes these critters inhabit are fairly tall, ~ 4 feet, so I was able to get low to the subject and shoot at an upward angle. Blue background is actually a bright dull gray sky from and overcast morning.. It produced a blue tint which I further enhanced in Lightroom. 

Image specs: Canon 5D-III, MP-E 65mm @ ~3:1, - f/13 - SS 1/60 - ISO 200 - MT-24EX with DIY  hard box - compositional  crop.

Flower Fly

Flower Fly

I live in an area where there are miles and miles of public green space. For the past two years I’ve been hiking the various trails and cutting my own foot paths. One day, I was heading to the house and I noticed a small cut in some dense vegetation at the bottom of a steep slope leading to the bayou. I traversed the slope and worked my way through the vines and weeds. About 10 feet into the cut the vegetation gave way and the sky opened beaming down on a macro photographers dream layout. Various flowering plants with gentle wild grasses that eventually give way to thick woody brush. The slopeto the top is steep (~60 degrees) but plants populate it all the way to the top. This is advantageous for the macro photographer as it allows one to shoot from below the subject offering angles not available on a flat plane. This photo was taken in this manner.

Image specs: Canon 5D-III, Sigma 105mm w/72mm Tubes @ ~2:1 - f/13 - SS 1/125 - ISO100 - Canon 430-EX II With DIY Concave hard box - slight compositional crop in post.
 

Pole Frog

Pole Frog

The community garden is a great place. 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 ares spills into a water garden with 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 treesinterspersed 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 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.

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)  - compositionalcrop.

Frog on the Wire

Frog on the Wire

Another frog photographed at the community garden. This Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)  decided to take a break on the steel cable of the cattle fence. Possibly waiting for an unsuspecting dragonfly to land close by, an easy snack perhaps

Image specs: Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, Zeiss 135mm Sonnar with 72mm of Extension Tubes @ ~1:2, - f/8 - SS 1/100 - ISO100 - 600EX-RT with DIY Diffuser  - compositionalcrop.
 

Smarter Than Your Average Grasshopper

Smarter Than Your Average Grasshopper

Threat of storms loomed so it was a nice overcast morning. I like days like this as I can work on tripod/available light macro.  For the time being I have resigned myself to the fact that, I’m not skilled enough to do high magnification tripod work. So I have been working on 1:1 to 2:1 photos. When I first hit the field I noticed a ladybird and a chafer that camped out on grass stalks. As I was surveying the scene planning out the angle of attack and setup I looked down between my legs and noticed this small hopper. I slowly backed away and setup the rig. The commotion put the critter on alert and it decided to play a game of peek-a-boo you can’t see me, rotating to the side of the stalk away from the camera. I moved the rig into a new position and again it hid behind the stalk. Not to be out smarted by a grasshopper, I stood up, backed up and slowly walked to the other side of the stalk. Presto, little guy scooted to the other side almost perfectly lined up for the shot. I wanted to shoot available light but the shutter speeds were just too slow, so I compromised and augmented with a light puff of fill flash.

Image specs: 5-D3, Sigma 150mm `w/72mm tubes @ ~ 1.5:1  f/13, SS 1/6, ISO 200,  primary illumination - available light with a puff of diffused fill flash. 
 

Deep in The Weeds

Deep in The Weeds

Came across another Green Lynx spider today. Second one I have seen in the past few weeks. I think they are more prevalent than I though I just don’t notice them as the camouflage themselves well. I probably wouldn’t have notice this one but I happened to be photographing wild grass seed heads and this one just happened to be on an adjacent stalk. Heavy cloud cover made for a very nice overcast day. Thick white clouds radiating a nice, even, and clean white light. Time to break out the tripod rig and have a go at available light macro. Glad I did as the illumination provided an even exposure over the subject and perch. The one bad thing about overcast days, the light is so even that often the background has the tendency to look flat and there is little hue/tonal variations. 

Image specs: Tripod mounted 5-D3, Sigma 105 w/72mm tubes @ ~ 2:1 f/11, SS 1/13, ISO 200, ambient light. Slight compositional crop in post.

Lady Bird on a Seed Head

Lady Bird on a Seed Head

Lady birds are quite abundant this year. They were last year as well. In 2014, not so much. With the abundance comes opportunities to practice shooting them and hone techniques. Originally, I attempted to field stack this scene at lower magnification with ambient light. I wanted get the entire seed head, glistening with dew in frame  but there was just enough of a breeze to cause havoc with the fine bristles and dew drops. I really didn’t feel like playing the shoot between the the breeze(s) game as that almost always ends up in misaligned frames due to mid-shot gusts, bumping the rig because one is in a hurry or the subject/plant not settling back down into the original position. Time to change the shooting strategy to better accommodate the environmental constraints. I dialed in the magnification to ~2:1  and turned on the flash. Overall, I think it came out well and was a reminder to always be ready for change when the original plan doesn’t pan out.    

Image specs: 5D-3, Sigma 105mm w/91mm tubes @ ~ 2:1  f/13, SS 1/80, ISO 200, 600EX-RT with DIY concave diffuser, square crop...

Brave Little Aphid

Brave Little Aphid

This little aphid showed more bravado than brains as it toddled by this ladybird. I like the way it appears the beetle is eyeballing the snack to be almost in disbelief. It must have been dumbfounded or more likely already had it’s fill for the morning as it continued to watch as the aphid strolled right past it and up the plant. 

Image Specs: 5D-III, MP-E 65mm @ ~3:1, f/13, ISO 100, SS 1/160, 600EX -RT with DIY concave diffuser - Square crop.

Walk the Line

Walk the Line

Ladybirds are still plentiful in the fields near the bayou, so I’m using the abundance to fine tune my diffuser setup.  I ordered another segment for my Wimberley macro arm so I can attach the the arm on the right side of the camera and still have access to the shutter  button.  New setup is nice - nothing in the way of accessing the focus ring.   I can rotate my diffuser to either side of the lens, before the addition, diffuser placement was limited to the left side or almost directly over the lens. With the new range of motion I am able to adjust diffuser placement  to best suit the angle I want to photograph  versus adjusting my angle of approach or rotating the camera to best suit the subject.  So far so good and I hope the ladybirds are abundant for a few more weeks so I can work out the potential kinks with the new rig. 

Image specs:  Canon 5D-3, MP-E 65mm @ ~3:1 -  f/13 SS 1/200 - ISO100 - 600EX-RT with DiY Diffuser.

  Lizard Beetle - Languria

Lizard Beetle - Languria

These beetles infest clover patches, or so I have read. In the fields along the bayou I have seen on wild grasses with seed kernels. There’s plenty of grasses on the bayou so these critters don’t have a significant impact on the native flora, just part of the ecosphere. I’ve been trying to get a decent photo of one for the past few years with no luck. These are rather dull to observe as they really don’t do much and are quick to scurry when the camera approaches. That said I really like the color scheme. 

Image specs: 5-D3, Sigma 150mm `w/91mm tubes @ ~ 2.5:1  f/13, SS 1/160, ISO 100, 600EX-RT with DIY concave diffuser. 
 

Lizard Beetle II

Lizard Beetle II

 I’ve been wandering the bayous since my youth and had never seen one before. Now I have seen and documented two in the course of a few weeks. This beetle was on the banks of holding pond several miles from where I spotted the first one. Typically, the beetles I run across stick to the same type of fauna. So far this one seems to be more diverse. I discovered the first one on a seed head of a wild grass stalk, while this one was on a cone flower. I’m going to have to do some more research on these  and keep an eye out for them in the fields. 

Image specs: 5-D3, Sigma 150mm w/72mm tubes @ ~ 2:1  f/13, SS 1/200, ISO 200, 600EX-RT with DIY concave diffuser,  compositional crop.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Even though it was a cool morning it didn’t stop things from heating up in the weeds. These two seemed oblivious to the popping flash of this macro paparazzo. I enjoy photographing these beetles, the shells are rich with details, the black compound eyes show up well with diffused flash, there is plenty of hair to offer texture, the claws an antenna are well defined and there are enough translucent bits to capture the light and attract one’s eye. Not the easiest subject to photograph as they are quick to flight or scurry behind a leaf. However when preoccupied with the basics of survival. like eating and reproduction they are much easier to photograph. 

Image Specs:  Handheld - Canon 5D-III, Sigma 150mm w/72mm tubes @ ~2:1, f/13, SS 1/160, ISO200, 430EXII with DIY Diffuser 

  Robber Fly - Head On @ ~3:1

Robber Fly - Head On @ ~3:1

I found a spot on the bayou Where the Robber Flies Are (apologies Mr. Sendak). The area is brush and thickdewberry briar. Often the robbers perch just out of macro working distance. A cruel fate for this macro photographer so eager to photograph them. Saturday morning my fortunes took a turn for the better as the one pictured landed a foot away, well within leaning distance. I took a couple of overhead and side profile shots to dial in my flash power and diffuser angle/distance. I then positioned myself for the head on shot and worked through the magnifications - 1:1, 2:1, and 3:1. When I approached and 4:1 the critter had enough and flew away.

Due to the translucency of the legs I think this is a younger fly. Typically, the flies have darker brown legs and much more hair. A good looking specimen nonetheless.

Image specs- Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, MP-E 65mm @ ~3:1, - f/14 - SS 1/60 - ISO200 - MT-24EX @ 1/4th powerwith DIY Concave Hardbox @ 45 degrees - square 1x1 crop in post.
 

  Robber from The Side

Robber from The Side

.Same Robber Fly from the head on shot  but one of the exposure test pops I took before I photographed it front and center. I thought this came out well. I'm always amazed at the detail one can expose with a well illuminated shot. These flies are like the competitive body builders of the insect world. Exceptional hunters too and a joy to watch in the field. 

Image specs- Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, MP-E 65mm @ ~2:1, - f/13 - SS 1/60 - ISO200 - MT-24EX @ 1/4th powerwith DIY concave hardbox @ 45 degrees - compositional crop.

Translucence

Translucence

This Sawfly larvae won’t win any beauty contests. That said,  I found the opaqueness of it’s body most fascinating. I first noticed a few on the bayou banks last weekend. Efforts to photograph it with my sheet diffuser didn’t produce the result I was looking for. I returned this morning with a concave hard box hoping the wrap around properties would give me the illumination I wanted. I was happy to find the banks bursting with caterpillars and much happier with the final photographic result. 

Image specs: Single shot handheld - Canon 5D-III, MP-E 65mm @ ~2:1 - f/13 - SS 1/50 - ISO200 - Canon 600RT-EX flash at 1/8 power with DIY concave diffuser - compositional crop. 

  Glassy Winged Sharpshooter - Homalodisca vitripennis

Glassy Winged Sharpshooter - Homalodisca vitripennis

To the persistent goes the macro photograph - case in point this Glassy Winged Sharpshooter. I noticed these hoppers two summers ago and have been trying to get a decent photograph ever since. They are rather shy critters. As the macro photographers nears the lens towards the subject, they play a game of ring around the stem. Hiding on the side opposite of the photographer. I have had many go arounds with these. The other problem, when the photographer does manage to get a shot, the glossy exoskeleton doesn’t reveal much texture or detail. Diffused flash is a must. I finally landed a used Sigma 150mm macro (Non OS). I really like the working distance and the weight is quite manageable on long hikes.  The working distance certainly helped with this subject. I used a diffuser I designed for the MP-E 65. Distance from the subject wasn't optimal, hence ISO400. I think I can improve in the illumination department with a diffuser tailored for the 150.   

Here in Texas the insect is benign, feeding on native plants like the wild grape vine in the photo. I have read it has made it’s way to California and is an agricultural pest in the Southern California Valley.

Image specs: Single Shot Handheld - Canon 5D-III, Sigma 150mm with 68mm of Extension Tubes @ ~1.5:1, - f/10 - SS 1/125 - ISO400 - 600EX-RT with DIY Hardbox - compositional  crop. 

Bayou Skipper

Bayou Skipper

Milkweed has gone to seed on the bayou. I was surprised to see this skipper in the middle of February. I took the opportunity to collect a few tufts. I plan on planting it in my backyard in the spring with the hopes of attracting butterflies and such. During my collecting I stumbled across a pleasant surprise, this skipper butterfly. Perhaps spring is on the way quicker than I thought, fingers tightly crossed.

Shot specs: Olympus OM-D E-M1 - Zuiko 60mm - f/8 - ISO 200 - SS 1/20 - A gentle puff of fill flash with OlympusTF-22 @ 1/128