Focus Stacking Update II

Stinger at the ready... Bombus vosnesenskii , the yellow-faced bumblebee.

Stinger at the ready… Bombus vosnesenskii , the yellow-faced bumblebee.

I think I have the lighting figured out now. Still some work to do on cleaning, but on the whole I think a satisfying focus stack. Pin and some dust and fibres have been removed with software. This is a 24 image stack was completed in Zerene Stacker. I let the far end of the wing fade into a blur to give it a more authentic look and used a dappled background to avoid that poster-board flatness that is found in many images. Currently working on the same bee with a 50 image stack to see how they compare.

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Posted in Alberta, Apidae, Apinae, British Columbia, Canada, Edmonton, Focus stacking, Hymenoptera, Insect, macro, photography, Season, Spring, Studio Tagged , , , , |

Return of The Week on Sunday

Despite my best efforts to ignore what’s going on around me, and to make a vocation out of macro nature photography, I can no longer restrain myself on sharing the some of the fascinating and inspiring articles and blogs that I come across during the week. Because it does take time to assemble, and because I cannot always be at the computer, I won’t attempt to make this a regular feature, but I will occasionally share some of the things that resonate through the Week on Sunday at Splendour Awaits.

♦ What could be a better tag team? Mozambique Diary: The House of Spiders written by the somewhat arachnophobic E.O. Wilson and with more amazing photographs by Piotr Naskrecki.


Image by Ilze Wagenaar.

♦ Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science regularly covers the latest research on his science blog, and he has not failed us this last week. Here he is with new science on carpenter ants and the zombifying fungus called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis,

♦ I have featured a few of Sam Droege’s photographs on this blog before. Here is a video for the the netting techniques he uses to capture bees and wasps. No doubt ‘old hat’ for most entomologists, but this is something I will have to learn this year as I begin to find out more about solitary hunting wasps.

♦ My go-to website for learning focus-stacking is Extreme Macro, and that sites author and photographer, Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel was featured in the South China Morning Post! I think that counts as exposure…


Image by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel

♦ Bee deaths are a concern around the world, and the European Commission has recently released Europe’s most comprehensive study on honeybee colony deaths. Included with a BBC article is a good infographic on the many factors that stress bees.

It’s complex…

♦ This post from the Bug Lady at Charismatic Minifauna, on Giant Predatory Ants.
Mega minifauna! Then check out Alex Wild’s photogaphs of Dinoponera species. (Dino-ponera,,,get it?)

♦ And finally, this video featuring Cristina Mittermeier, who speaks about conservation photography and pursuing your passion. Included with this information on the latest RAVE  (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) including the oil pipeline threat in British Columbia:

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Posted in Apidae, Bugs, E.O. Wilson, Hymenoptera, Insect, Inspiration, International, Links, macro, photography, Research Blogging, Science, Season, Spring, Web LInk, Week on Sunday Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Bristle Fly?

Hystricia abrupta (Wiedemann, 1830)

Not a housefly undergoing acupuncture…

The flies in the Family Tachinidae could very well take the common name of ‘Bristle Fly’, due to the many stiff hairs that cover the abdomen of many species. My dismal April Fool’s post was indeed a Tachinid Fly, and BugGuide has just come through with more accurate identification. Yesterday I found out that this is the common species Hystricia abrupta (Wiedemann, 1830), which is found across North America.

While I was unable to find specific details for H. abrupta, like other Tachinids, is a parasitoid whose grubs commonly feed on Lepidopteran caterpillars or the adult or larval stages of beetles. A Host-parasite Catalog of North American Tachinidae (Diptera) (by Paul Henri Arnaud, United States. Science and Education Administration, California Academy of Sciences 1978) lists hosts as a Chrysomelid beetle, a Geometrid moth and various Arctiids . An excellent website to visit for more general information is the Tachinidae Resources site, which also has excellent ‘zoomable’ focus-stacked images of this species, that are well worth a look.


Hystricia abrupta (Wiedemann, 1830)

(Photographed in Elk Island National Park, Lamont, Alberta, Canada. August 2, 2013)

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Posted in Alberta, Amateur Entomologist, Arctiidae, Bugs, Canada, Chrysomelidae, Coleoptera, Diptera, Geometridae, Insect, Lepidoptera, macro, National Park, Parasitism, Parasitoid, photography, Season, Summer, Tachinidae, Web LInk Tagged , , , , , |

Day of Pink


No pink to wear, but I offer this Bumblebee (Bombus cryptarum) with Bleeding Hearts as recompense…


This is the Day of Pink, the International Day against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia and Transphobia in schools and communities. I would have ignored it if it wasn’t for the news this morning, and my daughter’s reaction to it.

She was exasperated, angered that most Wild Rose and Conservative party members at the Alberta Legislature had shot down a motion (put forward by Calgary Liberal MLA Kent Hehr) that would have made gay-straight alliances mandatory in schools where students have requested one. These  alliances consist of students working together to combat homophobia and bullying, and they have been considered life-savers by many. It’s hard to understand the reluctance to support it.

Could this possibly be in any way related to the fact that Alberta still  funds faith-based education?

It was.



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Posted in Alberta, Apidae, Canada, close-up, Diversion, Edmonton, Education, garden, Hymenoptera, Insect, Season, Selective focus, Spring Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Focus-stacking Update

Thanks to Gary Anweiler, who donated a variety of bumblebees and moths, I have been able to continue with focus-stacking . The first bee I tried was a Yellow-faced bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii  from Gabriola Island, British Columbia.I am working with the Canon 5D Mk II and the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x macro lens, using the Canon MT-24EX Twin Lite Flash for light. I’ll photograph the full set-up and lighting once I am happy with the results, but for now I’ll just give my general impressions of the process and the results.


The above image is the result of combining 41 images, stacked together in Zerene Stacker. My camera settings were ISO 100, shutter speed 1/180 sec @ f4, with the flash set on manual at ¼ power. The camera is set on the StackShot focusing rail, and the lens, flash and subject are inside a white box with the flash heads pointing up to reflect off the sides. The ISO is low to minimize noise, would otherwise be increased by the stacking process. Using the flash at ¼ power not only gives a faster discharge to freeze vibration, it also allows the flash to recharge quickly for the next exposure as the StackShot rail runs through its paces. An aperture of f4 lets in more light to account for the shorter flash output , and it also keeps the aperture in the sweet zone of the lens where there is no diffraction. Looking at the image, you can see some of the problems that I had to deal with. There is a burned-out zone on the upper left eye, and some soft focus areas in the hairy pile above the eyes. While I used cloning to remove some of the pollen, fibres and particles, I have left some small sand particles on the left side of the clypeus (the black area below the yellow hair on the face) because it would be too difficult to clone-out such densely packed grains without changing the features of the clypeus.

What I have learned so far is that the most difficult part of doing focus-stacking is not setting up the equipment, taking the images or performing the post-processing, it is cleaning the subject! I have already turned to Extreme Macro for more ideas on how to do this for my next attempts, which I hope will take place soon. For now I will say that I am really excited about the results that focus-stacking can produce, and this will definitely become a regular part of my photography routine, particularly in winter when I have no hope of finding subjects in the field!

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Posted in Accessories, Apidae, Apinae, British Columbia, Camera, Canada, Equipment, Flash, Focus stacking, Hymenoptera, Insect, Lenses, macro, MP-E65, Season, Spring, Technique Tagged , , , , , , , |

Winter Focus-stacking Prep.

Lots to learn…


Incoming hoverfly– my second and last Stackshot subject of the winter…

One of my winter projects was to get to know the Stackshot focus-stacking system. However, this was difficult due to two problems: lack of subjects and too short a winter (you won’t hear Canadians saying that often!). Embarrassingly, I had only two specimens to work on, the first was the dried husk of a tiger beetle larvae (which was taken-out by the cat) and the second was this hoverfly, a late season victim of my car’s rear window on a sunny day. Because I am not an insect collector (yet…), I lack subjects. So this is a call out to entomologists and insect collectors around Alberta: if you have any unneeded or damaged specimens to donate, that have at least the head (and all attached parts) in pristine condition, I would be interested in getting hold of some. I will use these specimens to develop my focus-stacking technique over the next winter. I can pick them up myself, or pay for postage if you are from out of town. I am presently looking only for Alberta insects, with a special interest in the solitary hunting wasps (Families Crabronidae, Sphecidae, Pompilidae…) but I will take any arthropod I can lay my hands on, particularly if it has a charismatic appearance. Please use the contact form to get hold me if you have anything to share. Thanks!


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Posted in Amateur Entomologist, Bugs, Focus stacking, Hymenoptera, Insect, macro, photography, Studio, Technique, Winter Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |