I’ve always loved shooting pictures of insects, spiders, close up things that we can’t see with the unaided eye. Revealing details that are hidden by the sheer diminutive size of the subjects. I’ve got close-up lenses, macro lenses, extension tubes, you name it. I chase bugs with a virtual arsenal of optics and accoutrements.
When you pursue images this way, you frequently get nothing usable. The depth-of-field is measured in millimeters, working distance in centimeters, and the slightest breeze can make shooting an image frustrating beyond all belief. Take this lady for example -
She was about 1/4” from toe-tip-to-toe-tip. She’d spun a web between a couple of the fronds on our shrubbery (no Monty Python comments). There was only the slightest breeze, but I shot fifteen or twenty images to get *this one image*. Notice that the very top of her abdomen is blurry? That’s because she’s thicker than the depth of field at this magnification (around 1:2).
Or a couple of days ago - I slipped out the back door at lunch time and went looking for this bug that I’d seen on the wife’s Hydrangeas a few days before. Bright orange abdomen, shiny black legs and body. Moved very, very slowly, but also very shy. Found one after about ten minutes of hunting:
Tried to coax him out from under the leaf, with little luck. Took twenty or so images to get this one with the ‘face’ intact. Turns out it was an assassin bug nymph, just as I’d suspected. Twenty shots to get one that seemed worthwhile. Look at that fang!
Some shots are easy, though. You point your camera at ‘em, and voila, you get an image you like:
This flower is maybe 1/4” across. I’m not sure what it goes to, but I thought it looked pretty cool all protruding from the green. It was standing in the middle of our yard.
Then, sometimes, you just get lucky. I’m selling off a bunch of lenses I don’t use, and one of them is an old Tamron 80-210 f4 that’s never been a stellar performer; just ok, and I’ve got much better glass now, so it goes on the chopping block. Anyway, I was testing it - stuck it on the K-5 and took it out in the back yard to make sure it worked before I sold it to some unsuspecting eekbay shopper - and while I’m shooting random items designed to illustrate the lens’ performance, I got lucky. Normally, I’d have my D-Xenon Macro lens, but this time, the butterfly appeared and posed for me, and all I had was a crappy old zoom:
Like I said… Sometimes, you get lucky. :D
I’ve been chasing a pair of cardinals around my back yard for a couple of weeks, and they kept avoiding me, no matter what I did. Until a couple of days ago. Out walking around with Bigma looking for bird-photo-ops, the male landed ten, maybe fifteen feet from me. And he stayed. So I got this picture:
He looks so fierce. Then his girlfriend came along, and they teased me for a while, but eventually she posed for me, too:
I’ve explained to people that I’m really a photographer who loves to look at and photograph birds, not a birder that loves photography. So I frequently don’t know the names of the birds I photograph; I indulge myself for the sheer beauty of the little creatures.
Spent a while playing with focus stacking. With the K-5 and Photoshop, it’s possible to do hand-held focus-stacked macros! However, this is not possible on a windy day :D Even photoshop becomes confused when the items it’s supposed to be aligning change shape between frames.
When I get it going right, I’ll have some more macros to post!
Lenses I love, part two…
This is from my Pentax DA* 50-135 f2.8. It was fairly expensive, as lenses go, but not all that expensive as f2.8 zooms go. Of all the zoom lenses I’ve ever owned (in over 30 years of photography), this is the best, with a bullet.
This lens has contrast, saturation, and resolution in spades. Images from it have that… almost “3-D” appearance that’s so sought after (for good reason). That’s partly a function of depth of field, but also partly a function of local contrast. Show me a lens with good saturation and high local contrast (that is, high contrast where there are edges in the image) and I’ll show you a lens *someone* loves.
BellaDonna adopted us some 12 years ago. I was sitting on the front steps and this little calico creature walked straight down the middle of the sidewalk; she stopped and turned and walked straight up the middle of our sidewalk, up the steps next to me, with a cheery “Mew!” as though she were saying, “Ok, I’m home now.” She was, too.
I love these little flowers. They’re always all over the yard, and they’re just as much pretty as you can get into 3/4 of an inch. Shot some macros with the K-5; my first of the year, first with the camera. The Schneider D-Xenon 100mm f2.8 (It’s a re-badged Pentax made for Samsung’s KAF2 mount cameras that were re-badged Pentax machines) is scary sharp, and the colors are saturated and rich. The bokeh is smooth but not remarkably so. The last six or eight images in my flickr photostream really highlight why I love Pentax glass so much.
I know the lowly robin is unremarkable in the midwest, but this fellow was posing so regally I had to take his portrait. Using a Pentax FA 100-300 f5.6 that my cousin was kind enough to loan to me, I was in the backyard testing it. I love my 50-135 DA* - in fact, it’s one of the sharpest, most contrasty zooms I’ve ever used - but it just doesn’t reach out quite far enough. This was one of the images that made me a believer. At 100% enlargement, you can see the tiny hairlike feathers around the base of his beak.
I sometimes fancy myself a photographer of some skill. Like many, I use flickr as a place on the web to put and share my images with friends and family - and the general public. Every now and again I go to the flickr explore page. I don’t go often, because it can suck me in and hold me for a long time. There are so many beautiful photographs on Flickr that you can lose yourself in hours of browsing visual art that’s stunning and poignant and beautiful in every way. It’s a humbling experience.
Sometimes I drill down on an “explored” image that’s breathtakingly beautiful, and find that it’s a standout in a photostream of unrelenting mediocrity. The photographer in question nailed it that time, whether through luck or a visit from some muse, but that time, it was just right. This gives me hope, that some day I might capture an image of such transcending beauty.
So I wait, and I shoot. :D
Here’s another one of that same squirrel, grinning at me from the tree. He was cussing at me at the time, so I’m not sure why he’s smiling.
This was taken with my ancient Tamron 180mm f2.5 + 1.4x TC. I love that lens. It’s still incredibly sharp, even today, although it’s got a little more flare than I remember (wide open). Stop down one stop and it’s contrasty and sharp, though.
Finally got my Pentax K-5. It’s been so cloudy here since I got it that it’s been hard to get any snaps that aren’t flat. It would be great for set-up portraits, but for nature photographs you need some contrast to give it that pop, to highlight the detail in the image. You can only get so far with Photoshop.
Anyway, we have these gorgeous squirrels all over our yard. I went out and sat quietly on the patio in hopes of snapping a few tree-rat portraits, but they all ran away. This tiny fellow chattered at me from the tree for five or six minutes, then began sneaking down the backside of the oak. He would grab an acorn and run back up the tree, perched, chewing on it. When he finished, he’d cuss at me a bit more, then sneak down and grab another one.