Archive for the ‘Macro’ Category

Spring Bugs

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Yesterday was very pleasant, so I got out the Sigma macro lens and the “ring flash” and started looking for bugs. The first thing I found was a small spider on some big rosemary plants. He seemed to be repairing a web.

As usual I have no idea what sort of spider that is. The bright orange mark is what caught my eye. I think I’m going to send the photo in to What’s That Bug to see if they know. (Well now I know: it’s a Leucauge venusta, an “orchard spider”. This morning the web is looking very nice and neat.)

The Monarch Butterfly thing this year is weird. They’ve been all over the place, and in particular they found the newly-emerging milkweed in our back yard.

This one is getting started on a whole new milkweed plant, since he and his friends ate the leaves completely off the other plant. They and the black swallowtails are pigs.

Green beetle in a rose:

Bee on some marjoram:


Friday, March 21st, 2008

wasp photo

I hooked up my homemade “ring flash” Amazon box the other day and took some pictures of emerging flowers. I wasn’t happy with any of them in the on-camera preview, but I finally got around to uploading them. This wasp one looked terribly blurred and over-exposed on the LCD, but it looks fine to me now.

The pear blossoms in which this wasp was cavorting have since dropped off the tree; it only takes a couple days. It’s not our tree; it’s in the neighbor’s yard. It produces a tremendous number of pears. They don’t taste like anything at all when they’re ripe off the tree (July), but my brother-in-law told us to put them in the refrigerator for a couple weeks. After such treatment the pears get a lot sweeter.

This wasp was a little thing; the blossoms are at most an inch across when they’re open.

I got an OK picture of a mutabilis rose blossom too. The background is black because the ring flash doesn’t cast enough light to expose stuff not really close to the lens.

rose photo


Saturday, February 16th, 2008

I planned something maudlin. This rainy day swept into my head on a sharp cold wind, and there roiled bleak clouds of pathos. I wanted to write about the ephemera of memory, of tattered recollections I’d pay dearly to restore, of Friday parties, of lazy trips to Grapevine, laughing drives along the Secret Back Way, cuddling up with boxes of beer. I wanted to capture a thousand memories of a thousand moments, a thousand smiles.

I decided that was all dust, blown away. I won’t fail to take that sort of thing seriously when it’s happening any more. I’m a coward who hides behind a cheap cynical mask. I’m not an interesting coward so that’s not worth writing about. I stifle my desire to appreciate and wonder because I’m afraid about what happens when it ends, but I’m the only victim of that.

So, no more blah blah blah.

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere
anstimmen, und freudenvollere!

From somewhere came into our house a potted Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis. (There are various sad legends associated with the flower, but I don’t want to get into that now.) It started blooming a few days ago, so I carried it up to the improvised studio and took a bunch of pictures.

The leaves and flowers contain all sorts of scary-sounding chemicals that have something to do with heart attacks. I’m not sure if that means you should keep the plant around so that you can stuff a handfull of it into the mouth of a quivering patient on the floor. Somehow, even if it’d be effective, I can’t imagine how you’d explain it all to the paramedics.

With the lights all set up I got some good pictures of the kids too, but I’ll save those.

Amazon Ring Flash

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

OK so here’s the home-made ring flash. Ingredients:

  • One small Amazon book box
  • 2 Quantaray slave strobes
  • 2 plastic strap ties
  • 1 rubber band
  • 1 piece of random white-ish cotton cloth
  • Aluminum foil
  • Duct tape

(Credit to Pat for most of the assembly photos.)

Holes are cut in the back of the box, one in the middle for the lens and then two on each side for the strobes:

The strobes fit on the back such that the flashy part kind-of pokes into the holes. Plastic strap things hold them in place:

On the front is some cloth. It’s got a frilly pattern woven into it, but I don’t think that’s important:

The lens pokes through the back, and the box fits more-or-less snugly over the filter:

The lens hood is screwed on (yes, screwed) and a rubber band holds the cloth flaps:

Here you can see the catchlight from the contraption:

That’s all there is to it. I can shoot at 1/160, f10 to f16, depending on how close I am. That gives more depth of field than I’ve gotten with daylight. Gallery from this afternoon, immediately following the (re-)assembly of the ring flash:

(That’s a “Batfaced Cuphea” flower; I didn’t notice the aphids until I saw it on the screen.)

For Melissa, tourmaline with amethyst:


Dioptase (I think; might be diopside but the crystals seem too big):

Galena (perhaps with sphalerite but I don’t know):

Big Bugs

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Actually just the pictures are big.

These were taken with the Sigma 105 and a home-made “ring flash.” The flash consists of an Amazon book box with the flaps cut off. Through the back (well, the bottom of the box), two holes were cut so that the flash “windows” of two Quantaray cheap-o slave flash units can poke through. The flash units were strap clamped to the box. There’s a round hole in the middle of the box that just fits over the end of the lens (actually it’s over the UV filter). The lens hood holds it in place, sort-of. Then there’s a piece of thin cotton fabric duct-taped over the front (top) of the box, and through a hole in the middle of it pokes the lens hood. Maybe I should take a picture of it.

I don’t know what either of those two things are, exactly. I’ve seen that species of dragonfly a couple of times however, and I have another good picture I got with the Olympus 50mm lens.

Sigma 105mm EX DG macro

Friday, October 26th, 2007

The UPS man delivered my new Sigma 105mm macro lens this afternoon, and I immediately set up a simple facility to try it out. I put an old Weston light meter down on a counter, and next to it I arranged a cheap Quantaray slave and my old Oly T32 on an optical slave hot shoe around it, both pointed up at the ceiling. I set the E-500 flash to 1/64th power and held the camera by hand.

For the coin, I set up a tripod and focused (manually) as close as I could get. The camera was not directly over the coin so it’s not in focus all the way across; I need to rig up a “ring box” so that I can do real close-up planar macro shots.

Danaus plexippus

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Plant some milkweed, and you’ll get some monarchs.

Caterpillar photo

Several caterpillars hatched out pretty late in the year, almost certainly past the time at which they should have left for Mexico. There’s plenty to eat here however so maybe they won’t mind.

Chrysallis photo

The kids found this chrysallis on the fence, quite some distance from where any milkweed is planted.

Butterfly photo

Two adults, including this big one, were all over the garden this afternoon.


Thursday, June 21st, 2007

A spider on a mint flower spray

I don’t have any idea what kind of spider this is. Strangely, I could find no good spider identification site on the net. There are a couple, but they’re not easy to use, and in any case I couldn’t find anything close to this one.

Taken with my E-500, 50mm lens, and a cheap-o off-camera Quantaray flash with a Photoflex umbrella diffuser. It started to rain while I was taking the picture, so the umbrella was handy. The background is dark because it’s relatively distant dirt unilluminated by the flash.

I want to see if I can find a good simple optical slave hot-shoe trigger, so that I can use my old OM series flash instead of the wimpy Quantaray. That’d let me crank down the aperture a couple of stops (I think) and give me a little more depth-of-field.

Belated Update

The spider, apparently named “Samson”, with some sort of flying ant creature.

Papilio polyxenes

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

We planted dill and fennel in our butterfly garden, and almost immediately the plants were targeted by the local Black Swallowtail population.

The butterflies like dill, fennel, parsley, wild carrot, and lots of other stuff apparently. The caterpillars hatch as very tiny things, and then they eat like pigs for a while. Local hornets seem to like the caterpillars a lot.

The butterfly pictured here hatched out inside our house. He had been brought inside while a caterpillar to protect him from aforementioned wasps.

There are actually two caterpillars in the photo. One is pretty small, and the other is about half as big as they get before they form a chrysalis.