One of the more successful plants in our garden is the white Martagon lilies we bought many years ago. They appreciate light shade and do well as a woodland plant. They will self-seed when happy with the conditions. Not a native though, but they hold their place in our garden because they do draw bees and flies occasionally, and they look elegant and natural, unlike many of the cultivated lilies with large blooms.


Crab spider Misumena vatia with a syrphid fly.

(Photos from July 2014, Edmonton, Alberta)

Posted in Alberta, Canada, Diptera, Edmonton, garden, Insect, macro, Predator, Season, Summer, Syrphidae, Thomisidae Tagged , , , |

Nature will have its say

I guess this is a food blog’s equivalent to posting an image of moldy bread…

1000 fungusbee20150324_0001

Bombus rufocinctus worker.


Instead of discarding this moldy specimen, I decided to give it some recognition. The hyphae of the fungus was very cobwebby, enough to provide some resistance when I pulled the pinned specimen from the tray. The pale-yellow dots look like sporangia, which means it may have already infected the other specimens. This bee will stay out of the tray, and I’ve added a canister of silica gel in the hope that lowering the humidity will stop the spread of the mold.

This is a focus stacked image made with 41 photographs, assembled with Zerene Stacker.

Posted in Alberta, Apidae, Apinae, Canada, Collection, Hymenoptera, Insect, macro, photography, Spring Tagged , , , , |

Twin Flash Rig



After the demise of my  Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite Flash, I needed an alternative flash set-up for the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens. While twin flash is not always necessary for this high-magnification lens, I wanted to see how practical using two wireless 270 EXII flashes would be.


(In the photographs the MP-E 65mm  is fully extended for 5x magnification, and the diffusers have been removed for clarity)

On the left side of the camera is a Custom Brackets CB Digital-SB bracket with a 7″ articulated arm. It holds a 270EX II, as well as a LED spotlight, which has the battery strapped to the bracket grip. On the right side is an 11″ articulated arm with the second 270EX II. Both will be triggered wirelessly by the 90EX Speedlite, which is not shown. The articulated arms make this set-up very adaptable, much more so than the old MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite. The first test shots leave me very pleased! More on this rig and diffusion, later.

Posted in Camera, Canon, Equipment, Flash, Lenses, macro, MP-E65, photography, Season, Spring Tagged , , , |

How to make a simple macro flash bracket

Search “macro flash bracket” on Google and you will pull up over 390 000 results. Switch to ‘Image’ search and you will see hundreds of photographs of different commercial and home-made variations of brackets designed for use with macro photography. They vary in degrees from the basic to the bizarre, but they all are meant to achieve one thing: moving the flash off the camera and placing it closer to the subject. In an earlier post, I covered many of the different commercially available units. This time I want to show how to make a simple single-flash bracket.

You need a few parts:


The articulated arm has a removable flash foot. Remove the foot and the knurled spacer until only the 1/4″ screw and tightening-disk is left. Screw this into the end of the straight base bracket (or the cool base bracket) and then tighten the disk securely. If your base bracket has no tapped 1/4″-20 hole, remove the tightening disk, place the screw through the base plate and then tighten on the disk from the bottom. Now add the cold shoe to the top of the articulated arm and tighten. The finished result should look something like this:

untitled20150318_0010 untitled20150318_0008

If you have integrated wireless flash, just add the flash to the bracket, pop-up your built-in flash and change the flash menu settings in your camera, and you are ready to go. If you don’t have integrated wireless, you can use a flash cord.

Another option if you don’t have integrated wireless is to purchase wireless transmitter/receiver kits. Slide your flash into the wireless receiver, and attach that to the cold shoe. Attach the wireless trigger to the camera’s hot shoe, position your flash over the focus point, tighten the articulated arm, and you are ready to begin. If you have a macro lens with a tripod mount, you can skip the base plate and go directly to attaching the articulated arm to the tripod mount. Just loosen the mount and turn it so it is on top of the lens, thusly…

Pictured with Yongnuo wireless transmitter/receiver kit.


Don’t forget that flash and flash brackets are just the beginning of gaining more control over lighting. The next step is getting good diffusion, and that will be the subject of another post.





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Posted in Accessories, Canon, Equipment, Flash, macro, photography, Season, Spring Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Just mildly interesting.

I’ve known for a several years about the famous (in Holland, anyhow) Dutch ecologist and botanist Dr. Jac P. Thijsse (1865 – 1945) who gained his reputation through his naturalistic park designs. Although my father (W.A. Thijsse) knew of no family connection, I have always been a bit tickled by the similarity in our names and interests†.

Now this.

'Flowers and their Friends' by Jac P. Thijsse

‘Flowers and their Friends’ (1937) by Jac P. Thijsse,

Not macro photographs, but a book with pictures showing a variety of insects visiting garden blooms. I discovered the book on the site Memory of the Netherlands just this morning. It is the cover of a style of book quite common at the time (1930’s), produced with lower quality paper but including colour images that were pasted into the book. The images came in product packages, in this case, those manufactured by the company Verkade, that still produces bread, rusks, biscuits and, of course, chocolate today. Like hockey cards (but far more interesting) this style of book was popular with children and adults and seemed to be a successful marketing technique. Dutch friends of mine have given me three similar books by Verkade from the same period, one on cacti (Cactussen), one on succulents (Vetplanten) and one on natural history under the title, Hans the Tower Crow (Hans de Torenkraai).

Butterflies by day and night.

Page 60/61 Butterflies by day and night.

The book is interesting because it does not only features butterflies and bees, but also reveals other potential pollinators such as parasitic flies, wasps, beetles and more.


Page 10/11  Click to enlarge.

The illustrators for this edition where C and H Rol, and J. Voerman Jnr.

Jac P. Thijsse created the “J.P. Thijsse Park” in Amstelveen and founded Vereniging tot Behoud van Natuurmonumenten in Nederland (Society for the preservation of nature monuments in the Netherlands).  His personal natural garden at Thijsse’s Hof is open to visitors. More on his life and work can be found in the open access paper (pdf), Jacobus P. Thijsse’s Influence on Dutch Landscape Architecture by Jan Woudstra.

†Although mine are more low-brow. For those not aware, I am a trained horticulturist and landscape gardener, who has naturalized his own suburban property. ‘Thysse’ was how my father attempted to Anglicize ‘Thijsse’ when he emigrated to Canada from Holland in 1959.





Posted in Art, Bugs, Coleoptera, Diversion, garden, Habitat, Insect, Inspiration, Lepidoptera, Urban Planning Tagged , , , , |

Presentation at the Central Alberta Photographic Society

Blue-eyed Bee

Blue-eyed bee, possibly Diadasia australis (Cresson), photographed at Dry Island Buffalo Jump, not far from Red Deer.

I spent an enjoyable evening in Red Deer yesterday, as a guest of the Central Alberta Photographic Society. I did a one-and-a-half hour presentation on Macro Nature Photography: The Joy of Bugs and other small pleasures. There was a good group size of about 40 people, and the presentation was well received. This was a new format of presentation for me, and it timed out 15 minutes early, but that was balanced by the question period after, and the huddle around the camera bag as members came to have a look at the type of macro equipment I use.

As an aside, Powerpoint 2013 worked well (except for one embedded video that did not play) in the Presenter View with an HDMI projector. Mac users take this for granted, but on my PC laptop it was nice to finally be able to see my notes with the current and next slide visible on the laptop and the audience only seeing the full-screen projection. However, because this failed me at a presentation last week (the system was still on Ppt 2010), I did not take full advantage of the presenter notes this time! The benefit of Presenter View is that it allows the audience to see a view less cluttered with text and allows the presenter to make fuller use of imagery.

Thank you, CAPS, for the invitation!

Posted in Alberta, Canada, Equipment, Insect, Inspiration, macro, Photo Life, photography, Presentation, Season, Shameless self promotion, Spring Tagged , , , , , , , |