Category: "Macro Photography"
Yesterday I visited a favorite pond in the Allegan Forest. For years I knew the pond as a seasonal marsh which went dry every summer, but over the past decade or so it has steadily filled up with water and no longer goes dry. It is host to an enormous number of dragonflies and also frogs, toads, turtles and more. Periodically, a huge number of these tiny toads flood the grassy savannah near the pond:
This is an Eastern American Toad, Anaxyrus americanus. It was quite small, roughly comparable to a US one cent piece in size. Here is a very crude comparison shot:
The field was teeming with these little toads yesterday, something that happens now and then in late spring or early summer. There were literally thousands of these tiny creatures making their way through the fields and into the adjacent woods.
The fireflies (a.k.a. Lightning Bugs) made their appearance here in SW Michigan in the past week or so. Here is a closeup:
Seventy stacked images in two passes. Magnification of approximately 7x lifesized. Pentax K3, SMC K 24mm f3.5 reverse mounted on extension.
I try to make at least one improvement with each of these super macro sessions. In this case I changed how the mounted insect was supported. I had been mounting the insect on a pin and then sticking the pin into a ball of putty. This allowed for easy positioning of the subject, but it could move slightly (specifically - sink slowly) and that has become more apparent at higher magnification. In this case I simply positioned the mounted subject into surgical clamps, which held it tight without the gradual sinking, but made positioning the subject a bit more fiddly. I also used 3 flashes, all manual, for illumination, changing from the two flash setup I had been using.
A few weeks ago, these Four Lined Plant Bugs (Poecilocapsus lineatus) and their smaller nymphs started munching on a patch of feral spearmint that is growing along the side of my yard. More recently they have taken up on of the Gray Coneflower that is one of the core plants in my little wildflower garden. So, I grabbed a few of them to use for photos:
This was a real bear to photograph! I worked through a few specimens over the course of several days, experimenting with different optics, lighting setups and stacking / post processing techniques. Having multiple identical subjects allowed me to take the time to systematically work through various alternatives - though this subject was a little far gone in this final stack.
This was taken at roughly 5.5x lifesized. I worked through a few specimens and initially tried a couple different 28mm lenses reverse mounted on extension tubes. I first tired an older Ricoh XR Rikenon 28mm f2.8 and then a Pentax SMC A 28mm f2.8. In both cases, the optical quality was good but not excellent. I then switched over to using a reverse mounted Pentax DFA 50mm f2.8 and increased the extension by adding a bellows to the tubes. Obviously, I had to double the extension to get comparable magnification, and so the setup (close to 300 mm of extension) was pretty awkward to work with, but not as bad as I expected. Illuminating the subject purely by flash helped minimize any motion blur that was taking place.
The insect's very shiny wings were another challenge - the first several photographs had intense hot spots on those shiny wings. These were finally tamed by filtering the flash first through a DIY diffuser (a slightly opaque sheet of plastic) a few inches from the flash head and then through a sheet of copier paper. The second flash, used for fill, was bounced off a piece of 8 x 10 mat board. The main flash was above the subject, slightly to the right and the fill light was slightly below the subject and hard to the right.
This subject was over 48 hours old by the time I made the switch to the 50mm lens, and just as I was starting the first stack a slight nudge of the now dried insect resulted in the front legs falling off, leaving only the first leg segment attached to the body. I was pretty tired of this bug by then and just continued shooting, but have cropped the image by about 30% to hide the missing legs and also some of the edge artifacts from the stacking process. There are other signs of wear on the specimen as well.
All in all this was a lot of work with a subject that seemed to grow less interesting with each passing hour - but I learned some new things that hopefully will be put to good use with other subjects in the future.
This final image was made with a Pentax K3, DFA 50mm f2.8 macro reverse mounted on on approximately 300mm of extension. 55 stacked images - Zerene Stacker, PMax and DMap methods blended and retouched in Photoshop CS6.
Aside from its impressive eyes, this Snipe Fly had stiking silver and black bands along its abdomen - click on the image for a larger view:
I would tentatively identify this as an Ornate Snipe Fly, Chrysopilus ornatus. About 3.5x clifesized, 162 stacked exposures. Pentax K-3 with DFA 50mm macro reverse mounted on extension.
My seventh attempt at a focus stacked studio macro photo and the first attempt simulating a natural setting.
I am not thrilled with this photo - after taking it I realized that the two hind legs are in an unnatural position and I also managed to damage the spider's right palps (the "boxing glove" like appendage.) I also did not get him cleaned up enough. But, it is still a step forward from my last attempt. This is a focus stack made from 153 separate images combined in Zerene Stacker.
(Click on the image for a larger view.)
I found the centipede dead on my porch last month - it probably ventured out during an unusually warm spell that we had and then was caught in the open when temperatures dropped back to their normal sub freezing levels.
I don't think this technically can be described as "extreme macro" since the magnification was actually somewhat less than 1:1.
The condition of the subject is a major limiting factor in this shot - in a few months I should be able to find invertebrates that in much better condition. But for now - January in frozen Michigan - I can only work with what I find... I did stumble into another stinkbug and may give it a go soon.
This was shot with a Pentax K-3, A* 200mm f4 macro lens at f5.6, Vivitar extension tube (with contacts) and AF360FGZ flash. The tube served primarily to allow the camera to get clear of the focusing rails and the lens was set to less than its 1:1 maximum magnification, so the actual magnification was about 1:1 or even a little less.
This is 37 stacked exposures. I have been using both Zerene Stacker and also stacking in Photoshop CS6. The results seem to be equally divided between the two - in this case the the nod went to the stack merged in Potoshop CS6.