The Signature Artists’ Cooperative will be exhibiting in Holland, Michigan this summer. Signature In Summer will be at the Holland Area Arts Council from June 11 - August 31, 2013:
I’ll be exhibiting two prints from the Visitation Project, which I have been quietly loading up in another blog here. First physical prints ever from this series. I will also be at the opening reception. Learn more about Signature at signature-artist.com
Here we are in June already. Despite the cold spring, by now the dragonflies must be out. Last weekend - the last weekend of May - I visited a familiar field looking for the winged devils. I found a few, and took their pictures. This morning, first weekend in June, I noticed a common whitetail buzzing around my house. It kept landing on my car which I took to be a suggestion that I should get out to the country and look for dragonflies - so I did just that.
Here is a roundup of my first 2013 dragonfly photos - for each, click on the image for a lager file. All photos taken with a Pentax K-5, A*200mm macro lens, and DIY macro flash bracket.
Here is a female Twelve Spotted Skimmer from last weekend, first dragonfly shot of 2013. You may know that I go to great pains to get these shots, and in this case it was more painful than usual. The insect settled down in a clump of eastern prickly pear cactus, and despite all my best precautions I wound up sitting on a cactus, landing my elbow in a cactus, and pressing my hand on a cactus as I went to stand up. Prickly pear is more annoying than dangerous - the needles just stick in your outer skin till something happens to push them straight in, and then they just make for a tiny annoying prick. But for several days after taking these shots I’d settle into a chair or put on a garment and feel that annoying prick as a needle finally found its way home.
So - two shots in the prickly pear:
Here is another dragonfly form last weekend - I am not sure what it is. Body markings look like a Spiny or Beaverpond Baskettail, and it did have some green in the eyes like a Beaverpond. But, I don’t see any indication in my field guides that either species has brown tinted wings.
Then, this afternoon, I returned to the northern edge of the Allegan Forest looking for more subjects. As soon as I stepped out of the car I encountered several blue dashers. Let’s start with males showing the characteristic blue abdomen:
And some females or immature males (they are similar in appearance):
These Clubtails (family: Gomphidae) are typically abundant in these northern fields in the spring and early summer.
I’m not sure what species of Gomphidae these clubtails are, but they are fierce hunters. Here is one devouring an Eastern Pondhawk - itself a large species that also preys on other dragonflies.
As a parting shot - a female Common Whitetail, perched above dried leaves from last fall:
I travel a bit for my job and this week spent a little time in West Virginia. They got deer there like Carter’s got pills. Yesterday evening I took a few snapshots of some of the deer on the grounds where I was staying, they were fairly tame but wouldn’t really let me get all that close.
I got the Pentax Q to use for business trips and have put together what I think is a pretty nice kit that covers everything form an ultra wide angle to a 280 telephoto, and still fits in a bag that at best would hold a DSLR and standard zoom.
These shots were taken with the Q and the 06 Telephoto lens, which is really a remarkable optic. I must confess that I introduced an element of incompetence in that I accidentally enabled the build in 2 stop neutral density filter in the lens - great for allowing wide open shots in bright sun but not so great in end-of-day light. So the shots were taken at a little higher ISO than they could have been and are not as sharp as they could have been… Well, I aint so good at showing off this fine camera, but I do love shooting with it.
Click on the pictures for larger ones.
Worldwide pinhole photography day came and wnet about a month ag0 - April 28th. It was a rainy cold day and I made a desultory trip out to a nearby geographic formation called the Devil’s Soup Bowl. Old Scratch didn’t shine any light on anything and I wound up just taking a snap of an old guardrail in the woods, and then went home. Here’s the pinhole shot:
Here’s a picture of the pinhole camera:
Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day website:
I arrived a little late to the party for wildflowers this spring. Three weeks ago I scouted some areas and saw little happening - a few wild leeks and harbinger of spring, but otherwise no flowers were out. Given the cold weather since then I expected that the early spring flowers would just be peaking by now - but to my surprise I arrived in the woods today and found the hepatica and trout lilies gone, and bloodroot and other earlier flowers long gone. I guess 3 weeks is a considerable period of time in early spring.
But not everything was finished - here are a few images from this afternoon’s trip. Click on the images for larger files.
Showy trillium were the first flowers to grab my attention, and the woods were thick with them today. Some trillium were even starting to fade. Here’s a standard issue trillium, and close up of another specimen below it:
Next I stumbled into some dutchman’s britches - a flower that I usually think of as an earlier spring wildflower. As you can see, this specimen was a little old and worn around the edges - but hey, many of us are…
Spring beauty was everywhere..
And with fronds like these, who needs anenomes?
And a little bellwort to round out the day:
This will probably be it for my 2013 spring wildflowers - not sure if I will be back in the woods before the party is completely over. All of these shots were taken with a Pentax K-01, which is proving to be quite a useful camera for closeup work. Lens was an SMC A* 200mm macro. A diffuser was used in some shots, but the soft light form high overcast clouds and the flowering canopy above reduced the need for the diffuser. For the first time I used an IR remote to trigger the camera, and have to say that is one piece of gear I should have gotten a long time ago….
Looking out of my window this evening I thought I saw an unusual sparrow and went outside to check it out. I steeled down in the passenger seat of my car, parked in the driveway, hoping to get a closeup view of the bird - but it apparently departed when it saw me coming out. In a few minutes the house sparrows, grackles and jays came back and started feeding, and then this mourning dove. Here it is, shaking its head after a drink form the bird bath. Click on the image for a larger file.
Pentax K-5, Tokina ATX 400 f5.6.
Spring has been slow to come to west Michigan this year. Yesterday temps hovered around freezing and the sky spat out a mix of snow and rain. Today started the same but in late afternoon the clouds broke and under a warm mid April sun the temperatures rose quickly, even into the mid 50’s. I toured my little backyard looking for some photographic subjects and found a few tiny midges sitting on the fence.
The midges were small - maybe 3 to 4 mm from toe to toe. It was breezy, but I thought I’d give the Pentax Q another test. Initially I shot with a 50mm macro lens, but the magnification was not enough for these tiny insects. So I changed up to a 100mm macro, added an extension tube to get beyond 1:1 magnification, and took a crack at it using the Bolt LED ring light. Here is the best shot out of about 100 tries - after about an hour the temps got even warmer and the midges flew off into the late afternoon. The bushy antenna suggest that this is a male midge.
Click on the image for a larger file.
Gear used to make this photo was a Pentax Q, D-FA 100mm macro, 25mm extension tube, LED ringlight and a tripod. taken at f4 and ISO 125. The image is not cropped.
As I mentioned in the prior post, I try get a few shots of honey bees in crocuses each March. I think of it as a little spring training to get ready for more serious insect shooting in the warm months to come. The crocuses are later this year but I managed to spend a little time chasing bees this weekend. This time I used the tried and true Pentax K-5 and A* 200mm macro setup, along with a conventional flash.
I have to try to teach the bees some new tricks, because they all did the same thing - dive into the crocus head first, rummage around, spin ’round counter-clockwise and then buzz off to another flower. That made it easier for me to practice. Here are the better shots from Sunday afternoon (click on the images for larger views):
The thing that gets me excited about the Q is not that it is a great do-it-all pocketable compact (because it isn’t) but rather that it is a great interchangeable lens KIT and I can carry a small bag and have tremendous capacity.
With that in mind, I wanted to come up with a macro setup that would compete with my DSLR / A* 200mm macro rig but be small enough to fit into a little camera bag. My choice for the macro lens was a Pentax SMC M50 f4 macro - a lens that I know to be remarkably sharp - on a generic Q to K mount adapter, and a Bolt VM-110 LED ring light (continuous light source.) I had to go with a continuous light source because the electronic shutter on the Q combined with a generic K to Q adapter will only flash synch at 1/13th of a second.
While the Pentax SMC M 50mm f4 macro lens is somewhat slow, I have used it in snow crystal photos in the past and know it to be remarkably sharp even wide open. It is also pretty small and light for a 50mm macro. Mounted on the Pentax Q it is the equivalent of a 275mm lens on a 35mm (a.k.a. full frame) system. The maximum magnification is only 1/2 life sized, but since the Q’s sensor is only about 1/4th of an inch across that still allows for some full frame photos of pretty small subjects…
The Bolt Ring light arrived earlier this week and I assembled the Q macro setup. Overall, it is a really sweet little outfit. Here is a photo of the Q, M50 & adapter, and Bolt ring light. While it is not tiny it certainly is quite compact:
OK - On to test the setup. I fired up the Bolt light and did a few tests on a $20 bill. Here is a test at maximum magnification:
An actual pixel crop:
That image was taken with the front of the lens / ring light about 5 inches from the bill. The Bolt ring light kicked out enough light to allow hand holding of the camera at ISO 400.
So far so good. In reality, though, I don’t expect to take hand held macros of 1/2 inch items on a casual basis, so here is a more likely scenario - a shot taken with the front of the camera about 1 foot from the bill. Again, it looks good to me:
Again with an actual pixel crop:
Now to try it in the real world…
We have had a late spring and the crocuses are just starting to bloom. The crocuses draw honey bees and my routine spring training involves going after the bees with my insect macro setup which hopefully gets me into shape for summer insect shooting. This spring I decided to try the Q setup…
Unfortunately, things did not go entirely as planned. I took a bunch of test shots, none of which were any good. But I immediately noticed weird artifacts popping up in the shots:
Arg… So this is the dreaded “rolling shutter distortion” I’ve heard about…
Here’s what’s going on: the Q does not have a physical shutter (i.e. - metal louvers that open and close to expose the sensor.) Most dedicated Q lenses have a leaf shutter built into the lens, but when using the Q to K adapter there is no shutter. In this case, the camera uses an “electronic shutter” where it turns the sensor on, reads the light levels, then turns it off. But it can’t do it all at once, so it turns on parts of the shutter sequentially. While it is still very fast, things like bee’s wings are faster and so they create distortion. You can read about this on Wikipedia.
So where does that leave me… I was quite excited about using the M50 macro on the Q. The native Q lenses are very impressive and versatile - the 01 is a fast normal prime, the 02 is a solid normal zoom (equivalent to a 28-85mm full frame zoom), the 03 fisheye is a very sharp ultra wide angle (17mm equivalent) and the 06 telephoto is a remarkably good telephoto zoom equivalent to 85 - 250mm).
The 50mm macro is a good idea and equivalent to a 275mm f4 macro, but falls short in the narrow category of flying insects. It still works great for taking pictures of $20 bills, flowers, and other stationary or slow moving items. Here are a few bees, and one fly, taken with the 50mm that illustrate that:
So for the next step I think I will try a Raynox 250 close-up adapter on the 06 telephoto zoom. It is not too expensive and would be generally useful on setups other than the Q. Alternately I might get the official Pentax Q to K adapter which has a built in shutter and would overcome the rolling shutter distortion - but would also require manually setting the shutter and shooting in TAv (ISO priority) mode.
Going back to my opening point about the Pentax Q (or Q10) - the beauty of this system is not that it is simply small but rather that it is versatile and small. My biggest frustration with DSLR’s (and before them film SLR’s) is that short of carrying a very hefty bag I could not tote a serious macro setup or broad range of lenses. To be able to cover everything from (in 35mm equivalents) 17mm to 275mm in one small bag, and to have the equivalent of a 275mm macro lens in that small bag is itself quite exciting. And while many online reviewers can’t get over the Q’s small sensor size. At lower ISO’s the output from the Q meets the most demanding standards, and at higher ISO’s it is fine for non technical applications. The small sensor size does mean that you are limited if you want shallow DOF, but if you are a macro shooter like me you will still be hungry for DOF in high magnification shots. In fact, given the image quality, the enhanced DOF from the small sensor, and compatibility with existing lenses, I’d expect the Q / Q10 (and beyond) to become a cult classic of serious macro photographers who also appreciate portability in their gear.
The weather is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you’ll get. Here it is, the first day of spring, and it is 18F, cold and snowing lake effect snow. I spent an hour or so outside hoping for some snow crystal images, but the snow is effervescent and not photogenic. Here is one photo from tonight - maybe the last for this season:
Click on the image for a larger file. I am not sure where the green tones come from - never got those before with this setup - but maybe it is just the power of the first day of spring.