It’s July so I am out trying to get insect shots… Last week’s cool snap - oh wait, we call those Polar Vortex’s now - (everything is bigger than life in the XXI Century) - well, the cool snap put a damper on things and the weather is still cool now. So I haven’t seen many dragonflies at all.
Today was humid but cool, cloudy and dark. I wandered for an hour through familiar fields in the Allegan Forest, down to a hidden pond, up through the oak savannah. Everything is lush and green and the iron weed is in bloom, big time:
(Click the image for a larger file.)
Walking down to the pond I saw only a few green darners and no other dragonflies. The air over the pond itself was still - not a dragonfly to be found - it should be swarming with them!
I trudged back to the car. Taking a shortcut through the woods I stumbled into three meadowhawks. Here is the one that was the most cooperative with regards to photos:
Here is one that allowed a good dorsal shot - maybe a red meadowhawk jsut now adopting mature coloration? Maybe, but there is no telling:
I said I saw three meadowhawks and of course, one got away. It was the best of the three.
And lastly, here is a robberfly from last Saturday. I felt that the trip to the woods was such a wasted effort that I did not ever bother to remove the memory card from the K-3 and review the photos I took (all 15 of them.) Turns out that this closeup of an ugly fly came out rather well, technically at least:
That image is an extreme crop…
The Ricoh /Pentax K-3 paired with the A* 200 macro continues to perform well.
Last summer I tested a couple of rolls of Arista Edu Ultra 200 (widely rumored to be a re-brand of Foma Fomapan Creative 200) from Freestyle Photographic. First impressions were good and I ordered a 100 foot roll for further testing… And here it is, a year, later, and I am finally getting to it. This is a quick shot of a mortuary statuette taken in northern Michigan. I really like this film!
Pentax Mz-S, FA 28-105 f4-5.6 zoom, Arista Ultra 200, Rodinal 1+50 for 10 minutes (20C).
A familiar subject:
Click on the image for a larger file.
Playing around with an old Super Ricohflex, flash and zone focusing… I thought that such a simple system would produce technically poor images, but found that at f 11 and f16 they are actually reasonably sharp.
On the Ricoflex TLR I used a Pentax AF360FGZ flash set to “auto” mode (set the aperture and ISO and the flash shuts itself off when it thinks the exposure is correct.) Film was AGFA APX 100, developed in Rodinal 1:50.
I really could not see a thing on the TLR’s ground glass screen find and even the “action finder” on the TLR was pretty useless. So, it was point and shoot and compose by cropping… Since the 6x6 negative produces an image file that is about 68.9 megapixels, you can crop pretty severely and still have a decent size image. At full size, this image is just over 11x14 at 300 dpi.
I’ve been experimenting more with stack focusing… One of the challenges that frequently comes up in photographing insects is that they perch just a few inches (or less) above the ground. This makes getting a nice, smooth, out-of-focus background almost impossible. If you stop down enough to have enough depth of field to cover the subject, then the background starts to coming into focus and looks distracting…
So… stack focus to the rescue! While dealing with this problem last weekend and again today, I realized that by opening the lens up and working with an extremely shallow depth of field, and then stacking only the shots that cover the subject, you can have both the out of focus background and a nice sharp subject. Here are a few test shots…click on the images for a larger file.
From last weekend - a Dot Tailed Whiteface dragonfly that was perching on a stick about 3 inches over the soil. Taken with a the Pentax K-3 and A* 200mm macro at f 4.5, 8 exposures stack focused:
And here is a male and female Calico Pennant. These were perching on grass stalks earlier today, probably sensing the rain that was heading our way. Both were shot with the K3 and A*200 macro wide open at f4. Fourteen and eight stacked images, respectively. In the shot of the male (top shot, the more orange insect) the blade of grass beneath his lower left wing shows how shallow the depth of field was and how quickly it drops off - but by stacking enough shots to cover the dragonflies’ bodies and wings, they come out sharp and to some extent the background is less distracting. In the shots of the male he was scarcely an inch above most of the grass blades in the background, and stopping down to even f5.6 would have made them much more distracting.
The first meadowhawks of 2014 have appeared over the last week or so - still in immature colors but I am hoping to see some of the summer’s red dragons soon…
I’m letting the bull thistle grow here and there, for the sake of the goldfinches. Here is a thistle head as it was today, July 8, 2014 - not ready to flower yet by a long measure. An insect is upon it - probably a grasshopper or katydid nymph. Click for a larger image.
This image is made form 18 exposures, stack focused together, taken with Pentax K3 and A* 200mm macro lens.
Just a few dragonflies from June 14, 2014 - first, a few shots of a Carolina Saddlebags:
I am reasonably sure there are Carolina Saddlebags and not the very similar Red Saddlebag Dragonfly based on the red pattern on the lower wing - BUT - there is the possibility that this is a Red and not a Carolina.
And here are a couple of documentary shots of Dot Tailed Whitefaces - mature males, showing the Dot Tail and White Face markings clearly:
Taken with Pentax K-3, A* 200mm macro, flash, etc.