Good things happening at the Ellis Bird Farm

The Ellis Bird Farm is a unique location to learn about bugs, macro photography and gardening. The Ellis gardens are always lush, floriferous and vibrant and are a perfect background for the upcoming events. In just over a week’s time, there is the Bug Jamboree, featuring John Acorn and displays by many Alberta entomologists (I will have a photo display). This is followed by a workshop on Macro in the Garden and then, just over a week later, an instructional workshop on Planting for Pollinators by master gardener and designer, Cynthia Pohl. Click on the images below for more details and sign-up for the workshops online!

Posted in Alberta, Alberta, Biodiversity, Bugs, Canada, Children, Display, Education, Exhibit, Family, Fun, garden, Insect, Inspiration, macro, photography, Plants, Presentation, Season, Summer, Technique, Workshop Tagged , , , , |

Book Review: The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-up Photography

Harnischmacher_Macro_and_Close-Up_C1-319x400Have you heard the phrase, “Write the book you want to read.“?  Well, when I first flipped through this book after I received my free copy in the mail,  my first thought was, Someone wrote my book!

The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher sets out to be a, “…comprehensive handbook on macro and close-up photography, offering both ambitious beginners and veteran photographers all the information they need to create great macro photographs.” (back cover blurb) How does the author set out to do this?

After an introduction and inspiring photographs, the book leads off with some essential photographic terminology, lingering properly at the key subjects of magnification and depth of field. There are useful charts for optimal apertures, exposure relationships, depth of field and calculations included. (I found only one error– in the magnification calculation page, the beetle’s size is listed as 12.5 cm instead of 12.5 mm, throwing the whole calculation out.)

After this, the book is arranged much in the same way as my macro workshops, beginning with cameras, equipment, and various means of obtaining magnification; then moving on through electronic flash, the qualities of light and into a useful chapter on studio and table-top photography. Notable is the section on dealing with various types of blur and another on how to hold your camera properly: two basic but essential components of doing photography right.

Electric guitar detail by Cyrill Harnischmacher

Electric guitar detail by Cyrill Harnischmacher

Continue reading »

Posted in Accessories, Book Review, Camera, close-up, Composition, Equipment, Flash, Focus stacking, Inspiration, Lenses, macro, New Book, photography, Review, Studio, Technique Tagged , , , , , , , |

Ant vs. wasp with a spider in the middle.

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Every year I come across a few spider-hunting wasps, but I have yet to see a paralyzed spider actually being pulled into the nest. This time it seemed a sure thing: I first spotted the wasp at the nest entrance and then saw it fly over to the nearby arachnid victim to begin pulling it along. Watch the video below to see what happened…

The ant that seems to dominate the wasp in this video is Camponotus novaeboracensis (Fitch, 1855), a carpenter ant. Eventually the wasp gave up and did not return to recapture the spider, and I left the scene with the ant still spinning its wheels in the sand.

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Thanks to James C. Trager for the ant ID.

(All photos taken on 13 June 2016 at the Halfmoon Lake Natural Area. All photos taken with a Canon 70D and the MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens and exposed with a single, diffused Canon Speedlite 270EX II. Video taken with Panasonic HC-V750 with Raynox 250 macro attachment)

Posted in Accessories, Alberta, Arachnid, Bugs, Camera, Canada, Canon, Equipment, Flash, Formicidae, Habitat, Hymenoptera, Insect, Lenses, macro, MP-E65, Myrmecolphily, Natural Area, photography, Pompilidae, Season, Summer, Video Tagged , , , |

Captured by Calypso

She-who-must-be-obeyed and I had a short break in Jasper in May, and on one of our morning walks, we came across some Calypso orchids. These are small orchids with a circumpolar distribution. Each plant usually bears only a single bloom on a 10 to 15cm long stem that rises out of a single 3 to 5cm pleated basal leaf. The Calypso orchid grows from a single bulb-like corm that has a few slender roots that are dependent on mycorrhizal fungi. The bloom consists of a pouch-like and lobed labellum with five slender sepals and petals. The distribution is circumpolar.

There were a few single specimens sparsely distributed near the trailhead (I will keep the location secret because these orchids are very susceptible to disturbance and subject to harvesting for the international orchid collectors trade), and we were delighted to find them. I struggled to find a good specimen near the path that was not surrounded by grass or other distracting plants or twigs. I was looking for a nice uniform background and eventually managed to get a satisfactory shot of a bloom, despite the wayward breezes.

Fairy slipper, Venus slipper orchid. Calypso bulbosa (L.) Oakes (Orchidaceae)

Calypso bulbosa (L.) Oakes (Orchidaceae), with a background of grey lichen and pine needles.

After that photo session, we moved on. Eventually, we reached a lake and began to explore the rocky shore. While I was taking some bug photos my wife moved on out of sight. Later, as I was trying some intimate landscape images, I heard her calling out to me. Not sure what to expect, I bounded across the rocks like a true hero, expecting to have to rescue a bull moose or grizzly bear from her disapproval. As I neared her she waved me over to a shrubby patch. I tiptoed over, camera at the ready. I cautiously peered into the thicket, and then reeled back in surprise. Rather than the skunk I was expecting, there, on the ground, was a huge …(wait for it) Continue reading »

Posted in Alberta, Canada, Equipment, macro, Natural Light, Orchidaceae, photography, Plants, Pollination, Season, Selective focus, Spring Tagged , , , , , |

Bee-mimic Assassin

I don’t often get the chance to photograph robber flies (Asilidae), so it was nice to have another opportunity this year during a visit to Halfmoon Lake Natural Area on the 13 June.

aphria sp. robber fly.

Laphria sp. robber fly, showing a fine mystax, the bristly hairs on the face which are believed to help protect it from injury when it tackles its prey.

I had just returned to my feet after crouching to photograph an awkwardly positioned jumping spider when I noticed the robber fly sitting on a leaf on the other side of the path. The camera had the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro lens attached, which magnifies from 1 to 5x, and is not the ideal lens for this size of an insect, which has the bulk  (and fuzziness) of a bumblebee. At about 18mm long, I could not ‘fit’ this fly easily onto the crop-sensor camera I was using (Canon 70D), even at the minimum magnification setting, so I opted to frame for a portrait.  I had the chance for two shots only, and the first was hopelessly out of focus. Because all the details required are not visible in this photo, an exact ID is not possible, but Dr Robert Cannings believes it is probably  L. posticata.

Posted in Alberta, Asilidae, Canada, Canon, Diptera, Equipment, Insect, Lenses, macro, MP-E65, Predator, Season, Spring Tagged , , |