Dragonflies (Two Photographs) and a Note About Black and White

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I have noticed that compositions are more impressive in black and white when there is sufficient contrast to set out the subject and where the background is or can be made less intrusive. If you look at these two photographs you will see that the first works very nicely while the second marginally meets both criteria. I like both photos or I would not post them, but the second is a challenging shot in B&W.


Dragonflies (Three Photographs)

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As I never manage to get going really early or stay out late, most of my photos are taken in the middle of the day. This runs against most photography books prime contention that the golden hour or blue hour for that matter is best for photography (which I am not disputing). It’s just that interesting light and nature doing its thing happens all day and bright sunlight keeps my shutter speed where I like it. Working with daylight runs the risk of backlit subjects more highlights and shadows. However I cope and it works for me, especially with animals.



Grasshoppers (Three Photographs)

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It’s fair game that farmers and gardeners have some issues with grasshoppers. I have found them in meadows, in nature reserves and they are fun to shoot. A grasshopper defense is to jump and freeze in motion after that first jump. The trick is to watch where they jump and land. Assuming you move slowly, they catch your eye and move to take a closer look at you while hanging on to their refuge. That’s when I start shooting. From experience I know that they will stay put for some time and you are likely to get bored before they do. If you see a grasshopper there are usually many more around. They like the edges of paths and so you can stay on the path and still get shots like this.




The Last of My Bees (Three Photographs)

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These are the last of my 2016 Bees and I will have to wait until the new hives are active in the summer. The first bee looks like it was taken in a studio but I can assure that the last thing I would want in a studio is a bee. In the field they really don’t seem much of a problem. I may overreact when they buzz by me and I may stand back from the larger more menacing ones, but I have yet to have a problem with a bee. Those I see are hard workers.



Macro and Depth of Field (Four Photographs)

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Many people, including myself, do not shoot true macro when we shoot insects. True macro is when the subject fills the frame at 1:1 or greater (that is the object fills the sensor or is larger than the sensor). Even with macro lenses and extension tubes I am still not at 1:1. What does concern me is the working distance between the subject and my lens, the longer the lens (e.g. 100mm) the farther away I am from the subject (100mm gives 10 or more inches of working distance) and still be able to see enough of it. Short lenses mean having to get very/very close to the subject and makes the need for artificial lighting almost inevitable. So what does this have to do with aperture? The closer you are to a subject, the more limited the depth of field (sometimes only a few millimeters) at any depth of field. Going from F4 to F11, can have a small effect on depth of field, so the temptation is to use very small aperture like F16. Photos taken at apertures above F16 can suffer from diffraction adding fuzziness to the photograph. Unless you want to focus stack (take multiple photos at different apertures and combine them later) you will want that working distance I spoke about between you and the subject. It will give you a slightly larger depth of field because of the distance. Even then the depth of field will be narrow and you will have to decide how much of your subject and background really needs to be in focus. As for these photos, they were all taken at either F13-F14 and depending on how close I was to the subject you can see what is in focus and what is not. The ant is by far the most dramatic example of depth of field and I was very close. Sometimes circumstances dictate what we can have in focus, the damselfly photo illustrates this. Most macro tutorials tell you to take your photo so that your subject is side on to get the maximum in focus. They say not to take photos face on where the back-end can go out of focus, but as you can see I don’t always ascribe to the common wisdom.




A Bald-Faced Wasp Nest (Four Photographs)

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We parked the car where we normally do and as I was setting up my camera I noticed this incredible nest hanging high on a branch over the road. The nest was itself amazing, and it was maintained up until the colony died in late September. While I was interested in the patterns of the nest, the bald-faced wasps (I hope I have the name right) were also interesting and I focused on them coming and going from the nest. Over three or four days I took as many shots as my arm holding the heavy camera and lens could take. I picked these four because they had the best detail. As the nest was high up it was hard to get shots of the relatively tiny insects but then one does not want to get too close to a nest like this, as the wasps will defend it to the death.




Grasshoppers (Three Photographs)

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Just to be clear grasshoppers are one of my favorite subjects in insect photography they are playful and inquisitive. To repeat something I have said before, I think science fiction movies get a lot of their ideas for monsters from entomology. In this series I set out to do something a bit different and I may be seen to have been less than kind to my subjects, but drama was what I was after, it is what I think I have achieved.