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.
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!