“…mysterious and little known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions.”
E.O. Wilson (Biophilia)
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- Note on photography: unless otherwise mentioned, all subjects are photographed live and 'in-situ'--in the field. White-background images are taken without added cooling, freezing or other manipulation.
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© Adrian Thysse and Splendour Awaits, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Adrian Thysse and 'Splendour Awaits', with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
DISCLAIMERI am a photographer, not an entomologist. I do my best to have professionals assist in identifying the subjects of my photographs. However, positive identifications can not always be done unless the specimen is dead and viewed under a microscope. If you do find an error, or have doubts about the identification provided, please let me know in the comments or by email.
Tag Archives: Digital single-lens reflex camera
Matt Cole first brought this book to my attention, and with his recommendation, (and having borrowed the first edition from our local library a few years ago) I did not wait long to order a copy of Digital Macro & Close-up Photography through Amazon UK.
Ross Hoddinott is a professional nature photographer hailing from the Cornwall/Devon border area in south-west England. He is well-known for his landscape photography, but also–as you can tell from this book–for his excellent close-up and macro work.
In Digital Macro & Close-up Photography he opens with chapters on digital cameras, the benefits of DSLR‘s, lens choices and accessories. The chapter on technique is solid, working on the basis that macro is a very precise style of photography and then providing lots of information on how to achieve that precision. It opens with the essentials of understanding exposure and moves on to offer helpful tips on depth of field, composition, orientation (horizontal or vertical) and perspective (lens choice and the relative position between the camera and the subject).
The section on lighting is useful, beginning with methods of using and enhancing natural light, and moving on to advice on flash use, which now has much more detail than the first edition. There is a new chapter on the Outdoor Studio which is delivered with the very able help of Matt Cole, who provided some striking Meet Your Neighbours-style photography.
In Still Life section covers common items and techniques: food, colour, B&W, cross-polarization, flowers and water droplets–all illustrated with excellent photographs–but it left me wishing (perhaps due to the long winter that is looming ahead here!) that there was a more thorough exploration of ideas for indoor close-up and macro photography.
The following two sections–Natural-history subjects and Texture, detail, shape and form–are the heart of the book, providing pertinent information on macro techniques for bugs, plants, fungi, mosses and lichens. As an example of the approach taken, I’ll take a closer look at just one chapter: Spiders. In this chapter he covers how to approach spiders in the web, how to align the camera, watching for intrusive backgrounds, photographing from both sides of the web, taking advantage of natural light, getting to eye-level and where to focus. There is a fine image of a Dolomedes water spider on the water surface, and a spider’s web bejeweled with dew, set in front of a mauve background. There is one inset ‘Pro Tip‘ advising to be careful when photographing potentially venomous species. The other chapters are delivered in a similar way, with subject-specific advice and supported by outstanding images.
The last chapter, Post-production, provides a basic introduction to some of the most important aspects of any type of photography: image processing, workflow and archiving. He offers basic information on RAW workflow, cropping, adjusting colors, focus-stacking and producing B&W images–all with just enough detail to get you started on your own path.
The new and larger format of this revised and expanded edition greatly improves presentation of the photographs. The chapter Close-up Top Tips, in which Ross uses prime images to illustrate important skills, is particularly striking (although, as one butterfly image reveals, I would not want to see bright-red backgrounds become a fad!). Digital Macro & Close-up Photography has a strong leaning towards natural subjects and is rich with inspirational photographs. Anyone beginning to enter the fascinating field of macro photography will not go wrong if they select this book as a guide. This revised edition is a step-up from the first release and is now a real stand-out guide to macro–definitely a book that I will recommend to new photographers.
Sometimes it pays to take a step back from our subjects and place them clearly in their environment. A compact or 4/3 camera would have no problem taking a similar shot, and even with a DSLR no macro lens would be required–a regular kit zoom with 1:3 or 1:4 ‘macro’ capability will be enough, and if not, a small extension ring added to the lens will do the job quite well. Be sure to keep your aperture fairly large to limit the depth of field so the background does not distract. And , of course, having a bright and dapper subject on display–a scarlet malachite beetle in this case–will certainly will add to the success of the image!
(27 June, 2013. Canon T2i with 70-300mm F4.5 L lens. ISO 1600, 1/4000 sec. @ f5.6)
Summer is beginning to burn-out into Fall, the nights are becoming pleasantly cool, and Splendour Awaits will change with the seasons and return to The Week on Sunday.
♦ Spiders in the News? Nora Bryan spins an article on spiders in the garden, giving them the PR they deserve! Check out her article and the slide-show in the Calgary Herald.
♦ And speaking of spiders, go and check out Sean McCann’s post on Spider Fieldwork at Island View Beach, Part 1. He has some fascinating photos of one of the most feared (and misunderstood) spiders in North America – the beautiful black widow!
♦ There has been a lot of attention paid to the approach of certain photographers in Asia who are manipulating their subjects in unnatural ways and then promoting the images as natural. The practices of many of these photographers have been exposed by a Chinese photography site, and then translated into English at Within the Chronicles’ Frame in the article Pseudo-nature Photographers. Alex Wild has also pointed out some of the macro-trickery that can be seen online in his posts This… I… um… What? and A Fake Makes it to the Smithsonian’s Photo Contest Finalists.
♦ And speaking of Alex Wild… Over at Compound Eye, Alex triggered a debate on insect photography and the ethics of bug killing. I have been asked many times to provide specimens of insects or spiders I have photographed so that the correct ID can be determined. I have yet to do this because…
1. … a lot of my photography is done in National, Provincial Parks or Natural Areas where bug collecting can’t be done without a permit (never mind that my car has probably blitzed dozens, if not hundreds of bugs on the drive to, and in the park)
2…. I don’t particularly like the idea of deliberate killing! This is a personal foible – I love and respect the collections built-up by entomologists, and I understand their importance†. However, as one who appreciates them for the fantastic beauty and complexity of their lives, I find it hard to bring myself to remove the light from their eyes! Just call me spineless…(but that’s not an insult anymore)
But he laid out some scenarios, and here is my response to each:
- The insect is a mosquito, and you are photographing her as she feeds from your arm. After snagging a decent shot, do you squish the mosquito? If not, do you typically avoid swatting mosquitoes?
Ans: I don’t squish mosquitoes – I perform a mercy-killing to save them from the agony that would result from dining on my chocolade-laced Dutch blood! (Actually? I flick them off.)
- Your insect is so active it makes Speedy Gonzalez look like a Sunday driver. Yet, your project requires a close-in face portrait. Do you kill the insect to arrange in a lifelike manner so the resulting image appears alive? Would your answer change if you were being paid for the image?
Ans: I don’t photograph dead insects, and I definitely would not pass them off as live if I had done so!
- You receive an inquiry from a pesticide company’s marketing department requiring a photograph of their product killing a cockroach, so the point of the photo is to show the death of the insect. Do you accept the assignment?
- The insect is a species you have never seen before. Do you kill it to take a specimen for easier identification? After all, specimens are usually preferable to photographs for identification.
Ans: I might
- The insect is a species you recognize, but you suspect it might not have been recorded from that particular location before. Do you take a specimen as a physical record of the observation, even if you already logged the coordinates of the photograph?
Ans.: If I have a definitive photograph or photographs of the species, I would not then kill it for a record.
- The insect is a species you recognize, the location is new, but you also know this species is especially long-lived and may take three or more years to reach maturity. Does the biology of the animal affect your decision?
Ans.: Yes. If I had such knowledge I would not take a specimen.
- You know enough about your subject to suspect it may be a new, undescribed species. Do you kill the specimen for taxonomic research?
Ans.: Yes. In the unlikely event that I would ever have enough knowledge to ascertain that a bug is an undescribed species, and that it is not possibly subject to the biological limitations as mentioned in #6, I would take the photographs first, and then, if I could collect the specimen properly, I would indeed kill it for taxonomic research.
I don’t know if any of these responses are good enough to prevent me being struck down by the God of Invertebrate Macro Photography, but I am pretty sure the God of Entomologists will go easy on me.
♦ From Why Evolution is True: one of the most amazing optical illusions ever:
I should mention in closing that August was a good month for me:
♦ On August 10, I participated in the Bug Jamboree at the Ellis Bird Farm, Lacombe County, Alberta.This is an afternoon festival celebrating all things buggy. Along with John Acorn, Dr. Charley Bird, Dr. Ken Fry, Joe LeBlanc, Joey Temple and Margaret Stevenson, we shared our particular buggy specialties in this family-oriented event. Read more about it in the Lacombe Globe.
♦ Then, on August 24, and also at the Ellis Bird Farm, I held the Macro Photography with DSLR workshop This was my first ‘class-size’ workshop (rather than my usual ‘small-group’ workshop), with 11 participants attending. The location was perfect – the visitors centre was in the centre of lush, blooming gardens, and farm was closed to the general public for the day. Although my drive down from Edmonton had a portent of doom, with overcast skies and scattered showers, the day soon opened up to be fine and sunny with partially cloudy skies. The participants ranged in experience from DSLR newbies to veteran photographers all of whom were eager to learn more about how to get ‘closer to nature’. After a slide-show and introductions, I gave a presentation on the different ways of making macro, how to use natural light as well as the use of macro flash. Then I worked on setting-up every participant with the ability to focus closer and use diffused flash, creating diffusers on the spot. Later, I shared lenses and flashes to let all those interested so that they could try different set-ups. After lunch I made a presentation on how to approach the subject in terms of the photographic frame, followed by advice on composition and technique. Then there was more practical photography time outside. I tried to spend time with each participant – helping solve problems and showing various little tricks and techniques that make the craft easier. Later in the afternoon we closed with another slide show and some parting advice . As the evaluation forms indicated, the workshop was very successful, but it still needs elaboration and expansion in certain areas. I want to thank Myrna Pearman for inviting me down and for all the wonderful support she has given. She captains a great ship with a great crew at the Ellis Bird Farm, and it is a pleasure to be associated with them.
A Marbled orb weaver, Araneus marmoreus, snug in the relative protection of a dried leaf, binds her prey.
The prey item seems to have a mottled abdomen not unlike the spider, but two red marks stand out. Does anyone recognise the prey?
(28 July, 2013 – Elk Island National Park. Canon T2i with Canon EF 100mm f2.8 macro lens and diffused Canon MT-24EX twin flash. ISO 200, 1/200th sec @ 13)
Here are some of the upcoming public events that I will be participating in this summer:
Drop by for a look and a chat. I’ll have some of my equipment with me and we can discuss macro techniques, bugs or gardening!
I will also be doing another out-of-town workshop:
I’m looking forward to these events: it’s always great to meet fellow lovers of nature and photographers who appreciate the little things in life!
For a half-day outing (or a full day that requires a lot of walking) this mid-level equipment kit has more depth, and opens up more opportunities. Still using the essentials and the light kit - however, I swap out the Canon T2i for the full frame Canon 5D Mk II, and then I swap the travel tripod for the more robust Manfrotto 055 CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod.
The Medium Kit includes the following:
- Canon MP-E65mm 1 – 5x macro lens
- Canon 16 – 35mm f2.8 L wide-angle lens
- Canon MT-24 EX Macro Twin flash and diffusers.
- Canon 530 EX II with large diffuser
- Wimberley Plamp
- White Acrylic background
- Sheet diffusers
- Large pooter (can be home-made)
All this goes into a LowePro backpack (the old Nature Trekker AW II), except for the tripod which I carry in hand.
The disadvantages? We are definitely heading towards a bulky kit here. If I need to scamper off after a bug, this backpack can be a nuisance, and I will usually remove it before stalking begins!