Categories: Michigan, Allegan State Game Area, Allegan Forest, Jordan River Valley
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.
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…
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.
Back to an old project… A few years ago I experimented with B&W film exposures of sunlight in the woods, usually in the middle of the day and by definition in full sunlight. The project had mixed results but I feel a call to get back to it and to try to capture what I see and feel at those times. A couple of weeks ago I took another run at it and took a few rolls of 35mm B&W film in lush green foliage using an #11 (XI) green filter. Films is so slow - developing, scanning, printing to a digital file… I have more to go but here is a promising photo:
Pentax Mz-S, FA 20-35 f4, TMax 100 (expired 2010) stand processed in Rodinal 1:100 for 1 hour.
Pam and I took the Hidden Kalamazoo tour today, peering into some seldom seen aspects of Kalamazoo’s architectural past. It was a fun afternoon… Here is a grab shot of the interior of the State Theater, a “palace theater” built in 1927, originally hosting silent movies and vaudeville acts. (Click on he image for a larger view.)
The theater still brings in a great mix of live performances. It was designed to simulate a Mediterranean villa where you are sitting under the open sky, and the ceiling is adored with stars in an dark blue sky like you’d see at late twilight. I recall going to shows there in the mid 1980’s and they used a cloud projector to create the image of high overcast clouds gently rolling by.
Pentax K-3, DA 17-70 f4 zoom. Hand held 1/8th of a second at ISO 3200.
Spring 2014 is advancing ever so slowly… Here it is, late May, and there are still many trees just starting to push out leaves. At long last, a few days of warm temperatures have finally brought out some spring dragonflies.
Dot-tailed Whitefaces (Leucorrhinia intacta) are usually the first to appear around here, and this season is no exception. Here are a few from the Allegan Forest (click on the images for larger files):
A Frosted Whiteface (Leucorrhinia frigida):
These Clubtail Dragonflies (Gomphidae) are usually abundant in May - I have never gotten a positive identification on them. Today I only say this one - hopefully more are on the way:
Lastly - an unidentified Bluet Damselfly:
All images were made with a Pentax K-3, SMC A* 200mm macro lens and AF360FGZ flash. Come to think of it… this was my first excursion into insect photography since purchasing the K-3 last November. I think it passes muster!
I visited some old haunts in the Allegan Forest today. This late spring… no leaves on the trees and here it is, almost May.
Here is an infrared photo of a some twisted little trees that always seem appealing to me (click on the image for a larger view):
And here is a nearby group of walnut trees, a place where I have whiled away many an afternoon:
Both photos were taken with an infrared converted Pentax K-10 and Pentax DA 17-70 f4 lens.
I’m repeating myself a little bit here - the twisted little trees were the subject of another IR post in 2008, “Trees in October.” In that case the image was taken with Kodak HIE. And one of the walnut trees was the test subject for a comparison of the IR properties of RM90 and R72 IR filters, in 2007. So I’m repeating myself a little bit here.
My Pentax K3 arrived earlier in the week, so this weekend is my first chance to give it a test drive. All I can say is that the more I use this camera, the more impressed I am. Here are a few shots from this weekend - ordered by how well I like them (favorite first) -click on an image for a larger file. These closeups were all taken with the Pentax K3, A* 200mm f4 macro, tripod mounted. Live view, with focus peaking was used to take most of these shots.
This morning I visited the Allegan Forest, which is crawling with hunters this time of year. In a field that reliably hosts Halloween Pennant and Calico Pennant dragonflies in the early summer, I took a few intimate landscapes. This moss shot is a stacked focused composite of several images.
Yesterday was a very windy day and lots of sprigs of berries, like this, were littering the ground. Not sure where they came from. Unlike the previous shot, this is a single exposure.
Another stack focus shot - a different kind of moss.
Didn’t want to adjust anything here…
Eastern prickly pear is pretty abundant in the forest - you gotta be careful where you drop down to take that bug photo.
Berries on moss. These almost look like grapes…
Another stack focused shot - some random leaves on the ground in November…
And lastly - during Saturday’s windstorm my wife and I went to South Haven in hopes of seeing big waves crashing against the lighthouse. Well - you gotta have high winds and they have to come from the right direction to make those big waves. But here is a snapshot of the lighthouse - again in the mode of test driving the K3 - with a Sigma 70-200 f2.8 EX lens. This is the earliest version of the lens, non-macro and non-DG - but it seems to work OK with the K3:
Pentax K3, Sigma 70-200 f2.8.