aken early on a cool Saturday morning with high humidity. This is an ambient light, 25 image field stack of a dew laden Anole. The lizard was motionless for the most part but there was eye movement as it watched the water drop in the lower left portion of the frame slowly move down the twig. There was also rib cage movement from inhaling and exhaling. I ran the stack in Zerene and as expected the movements caused issues. Faced with the task of manually correcting the eye and rib cage I remembered an article written by Don Komarechka
I gave the Photoshop technique a whirl and was pleasantly surprised with the results. It handled the areas of movement much better than Zerene. For the few trouble spots that remained I found masking original frames with the merged image an easier way to correct stacking errors. I don’t think PS will replace Zerene in all instances, it does take more time to crunch the stack, but for smaller stacks it may become a go to solution.
Shot Specs - Canon 5D-III, Sigma 105mm Macro @1:1, Ambient Light - f/7.1, ISO 200, SS .4 Second, 25 image stack.
The critter was quite patient with me. I’m sure the cool weather helped matters as these insects are usually quick to flight. Since it decided to be cooperative I took the time to replace the Sigma 105 with the Zeiss 135mm Sonnar. I’ve been wanting to use this lens more but haven’t taken the time to do so. I was struck by the wings of the fly so I decided to do a stack from behind and above. It’s not a perfect stack but overall it came out well. Fully extended, the Sonnar is to long and heavy to use on tubes. I had to be careful every time I turned the focus ring so that the lens wouldn’t move on the vertical axis. I need to come up with a support bracket to eliminate this issue. I really like the focal throw of the lens as it is very precise and allows for very small increments in the focal plane.
Image specs: 5-D3, Zeiss 135mm APO Sonnar, w/91mm tubes @ ~ 1.5:1 f/4.5, SS 1/8, ISO 200, 20 image focal ring stack with available light. A small silk diffuser was used to knock down specular highlights.
On the Fence
I just couldn’t wake up this morning for my Saturday hike. When I finally rolled out of bed, it was too late (8:30) to hit the trails but I still had the macro itch. So, I headed to the backyard. I was busy shooting leaf hoppers when I noticed a bumblebee on the fence. I had hopes it would be an opportunity to get a couple single shots before fit flew off. Took a couple pops and it didn’t move. Time to give a "handheld" stack a whirl. With the fence to lean on and help stabilize my arm/camera I shot 7 stacks. This was the best of the lot. For the most part the frames lined up. I had to ditch the start of the sequence due to the antenna moving. The movement was just too drastic to recover in post. Throughout the stacking sequence there was slight movement in the antennae that required touch up in Zerene. Flash placement was less then ideal and the right side is a bit too dark for my liking. Some touch ups due to noise were required there as well. Overall an acceptable image worth sharing.
Post processing included stacking PMax and DMap in Zerene. Substacking (slabbing) of the antennae was required. DMap was used as the base image and halos touched up with the slab and PMax outputs. Noise reduction in NIK DFine2 and sharpening done in NIK Sharpener Pro3.
Image specs - 12 Image Stack with cedar picket fence for support - Canon 5D-III, MP-E 65mm @ ~2:1, - f/5.6 - SS 1/40 - ISO400 - MT24EX- @ 1/16th powerwith DIY concave hardbox @ 20 degrees and off center of the subject.
The Mimic - Pyrgota undata - Waved Light Fly
First noticed this charcter on the leaf of a wild onion stalk. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen one before. Then again, I may have seen one in passing and thought it was a brown paper wasp. I know, at first I thought this was a wasp. Focusing in with my macro lens, I imediately noticed the halteres and realized it was a wasp mimic. The shape and size of the eyes, along with the antennae were other indicators. It’s a docile fly and seemed oblivious to the setting up the field stacking rig. I even went as far as securing the base of the onion plant with a plamp. I sat photographing the fly for well over an hour. It seem quite content blowing bubbles the entire time. Photographing this proved to be a challenge, particularly when it came to exposure. Background was sandy banks of the bayou and light green vegetation coupled with a dark subject in the foreground. At first I tried to use a 12” reflector but the canopy from the trees wasn’t allowing enough light in for proper illumination. Finally had to resign myself to using the MT-24EX with DIY diffuser to augment illumination.
Subsequent research has shown the critter in question is a Pyrgota undata, Waved Light Fly. It's a parasitic insect. Females lay an egg under the elytra of June beetles. The fly larvae consumes the host and then pupates inside the remains to emerge the next spring.. Nasty little buggers.
Image specs: 20 Image Field Stack on Tripod Rig - Canon 5D-III, Sigma 105mm w 68mm tubes - f/5.6- SS 1/15 - ISO200 - Canon MT-24-EX with DIY triangular diffuser. Processed in Zerene with clean up in Photoshop and Lightroom.
Common Thread Waisted Wasp
I walked upon this sleeping early Sunday morning. I see them in the fields working flowers for larval prey. As I understand it they paralyze the victim, deposit eggs, and bury the victim. It’s only the second time I’ve stumbled across one clamped to a twig sleeping. First time was a few years ago and I relied on small aperture, fast shutter speed and a heavy dose of ring flash to capture the image. For my skill level I was quite pleased but like all endeavors in life we should constantly try to improve and hopefully the results reflect the effort. I carry a small tripod on my backpack at all times now, for situations like this. I set up the field stacking rig. The result is much better than my image from a few years ago. I would like more illumination on the forward antenna. Something to work on the next time I encounter one of these wasps asleep. Perhaps a reflector down to the left….
Image specs: 11 File Field Stack - Olympus OM-D E-M1, Sigma 150 - f/5 - SS 1/20 - ISO200 - puff of flash from Diffused Nissin i40
A pleasant surprise landed on my office window. So I set up an impromptu platform out of boxes and stacked it through the window. Natural light on a dreary overcast day.
Image Specs: Canon 5D-III, Sigma 105mm f/5.6, ISO 100, 14 Image Stack, processed in Zerene
I noticed the Blue Bonnets were blooming early so I returned on Sunday with a proper lens to photograph one. A very dear friend, Helgi, loved Blue Bonnets. She was always very supportive of my passion for photography. I printed and matted one of my first decent macros for her. She went on and on about the photograph when I would stop by for a visit. Helgi passed away last year and I was a benefactor of her estate. I used a portion of the money to purchase a Zeiss 135mm APO lens. I thought it a fitting tribute. A beautiful lens to remember a beautiful person in my life. As I stared through the viewfinder photographing her favorite flower, I smiled and remembered how special she was to me. Thank you Helgi for all you did for me, how you always supported me and how you taught me to be a better person.
Image Specs: Canon 5D-III, Zeiss 135mm, f/2, SS 1/1600, ISO200, 20 frame stack with ambient light.
Green Shield Bug Nymph shot down the bean pod. I liked this angle but it proved to be difficult shooting in natural light as the camera shadowed the subject. After several unsuccessful attempts with very slow shutter speed (1/4), I resorted to diffused flash. I used a second flex arm and clamp to place a large leaf in the background to give it color.
Image Specs: Canon 5D III, Sigma 105mm / f8 / ISO 200 / SS 1/125/ MT-24 EX w/triangular diffuser / 16 frame stack.