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Posts Tagged ‘insects’

2020 has certainly been a challenging year for so many people throughout the world.

The past year really limited many of my photographic adventures from cancelling workshops to being locked down at home. Fortunately I was able to make my way to Cayman Brac for two weeks in late February. The world shut down shortly after my return in March. During the summer months I concentrated my efforts on extreme macro photography around my rural home, often not even having to leave my property. By the time autumn came around I was able to continue with my Muskoka Autumn Colour Spectacular Workshop and Lake Superior Wild & Scenic Photography Workshop. As a result my top 20 images for 2020 have been selected from my Cayman Brac trip, insect photography at home, autumn colour, and the Lake Superior coast.

I hope you enjoy viewing this selection of imagery.

Here’s to a better year in 2021!

Daybreak on the Caribbean Sea at Cayman Brac, BWI
Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) at Sylvia’s Reef, Cayman Brac, BWI
Spotted Scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri), Cayman Brac, BWI
Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis)
Crab Spider
Baby Garden Spiders
Praying Mantis
Robberfly
Two-horned leafhopper (Ceresa diceros)
Georgian Bay, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada
Late day light on Georgian Bay, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada
Overcast Light on Geogrian Bay, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada
Autumn colour and reflections at woodland pond in Seguin Township, Ontario, Canada
Winter on Lake Superior, Wawa, Ontario, Canada
Snow covered gorge along Lake SUperior’s north shore near Schreiber, Ontario, Canada
Hattie Cove in winter on Lake Superior, Pukaskwa National Park, Ontario, Canada
Winter storm at Sandy Beach on Lake Superior, Wawa, Ontario, Canada
Mink Creek, Marathon, Ontario
Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis) male, Neys Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Sunrise at Highland Pond in the Torrance Barrens, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

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Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Things have been relatively quiet here over the course of the last few weeks as I have been recuperating from a surgical procedure. The recovery has gone very well, however, I will have at least one more month of having to take things easy. I have been feeling well enough to take a couple of walks around the yard each day in search of insects to photograph with the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro Lens.

The final four images in this post are preserved exotic specimens that I have re-hydrated and pinned into position. These preserved specimens offer fantastic opportunities to explore natural-like settings as well as creative edits (a feature for a future post).

If you are interested in learning more about the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro and purchasing the lens please consider doing so by using my affiliate link here.

Spur-throated Grasshopper (Melanopluas ponderosus)

Spur-throated Grasshopper (Melanopluas ponderosus)

 

Jagged Ambush Bug

Jagged Ambush Bug

 

Robberfly

Robberfly

 

Leafhopper

Leafhopper

 

Eupholus cuvieri

Eupholus cuvieri

 

Homoderus gladiator - preserved specimen

Homoderus gladiator – preserved specimen

 

Violin Beetle (Mormolyce phyllodes)

Violin Beetle (Mormolyce phyllodes)

 

Cyclommatus metallifer - preserved specimen

Cyclommatus metallifer – preserved specimen

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Crab Spider

Crab Spider on Ox-Daisy Blossom

Over the course of the last several months I have been using a Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO CA Dreamer lens that has been on loan to me from Venus Optics. As you read through this blog post you will learn my thoughts on this lens. In short, I was impressed enough with the lens that I purchased this loaner lens and promptly sold my workhorse Nikon 105mm f2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor.

Each image in this blog post is a single capture. No focus stacking techniques were deployed. Some images were photographed at 4X lifesize and this was accomplished by adding a Raynox DCR-250 Diopter to the front of the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro lens. All images, unless otherwise noted, were photographed handheld using the Meike MK-MT24 Flash Speedlite with 2.4G Wireless Trigger supported by a Wimberley dual arm F-2 Macro Bracket.

Gray Tree Frog (Dryophytes versicolor)

Gray Tree Frog chorusing at night

First and foremost, the full metal construction of the lens is in-line with the build quality of other Laowa lenses I own making them durable and able to stand the test of time. The CA Dreamer designation refers to the apochromatic design that significantly reduces, if not eliminates, chromatic aberration in both in-focus and out-of-focus areas of the image.

Robber Fly species

Robber Fly species with prey

The Laowa 100mm 2X Macro lens is a fully manual lens. There is no autofocus, no image stabilization, and the f-stop is selected by manually rotating the aperture ring to the desired setting. Being fully manual also means that no information will be transmitted to the camera, such as f-stop used. Do note that the Canon mount does not have an aperture ring as the f-stop can be selected by the camera. If you have grown accustomed to relying on autofocus and/or image stabilization you will have a bit of a learning curve on working with a manual macro lens. My first forays into macro photography were in the days of film whereby I used a Minolta X-700 with a Minolta 100mm Macro lens. It took me a couple of days to get back into the swing of manual focusing for macro work, as I had become reliant on autofocus, which can actually be a hindrance to successful macro photography.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper photographed at 4X lifesize with the Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached

The β€œ2X” designation for the lens refers to the ability to achieve twice lifesize at the minimum focusing distance of 9.7” which refers to the distance from the camera sensor to the subject. No other macro lens on the market today, in the 100mm range, offers the ability to achieve 2X magnification. I have often wished my old Nikon macro lens had the ability to focus closer than 1:1 magnification. At a very affordable price the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro lens provides twice lifesize and superb image quality.

Green Bottle Fly

Green Bottle Fly at 2X lifesize

The lens does come with a plastic lens hood, however, at 2X lifesize I recommend removing the lens hood as it will cast heavy shadow over subjects. I seldom use the lens hood because at infinity focus the front element of the lens is recessed in the lens barrel about 3 inches and moves towards the front of the lens barrel as you get closer to 2X lifesize. As a result, the lens barrel often acts as a lens hood.

Thistl-head Weevil (Rhinocyllus conicus)

Thistl-head Weevil (Rhinocyllus conicus) with Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached

There is an optional tripod collar for the lens that can be purchased. I currently do not own the tripod collar, nor do I have any experience with using it. I have read some unfavorable reviews for the optional tripod collar, however, my thought on the tripod collar is that it may be a useful tool to support two flash units on small homemade brackets to keep the set-up compact rather than using brackets to hold flash units. I will provide an update on this after I have had time to test out my theory.

Baby Garden Spiders

Baby Garden Spiders with Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached for 4X magnification

Venus Optics (Laowa) have clearly created another lens that offers superior image quality at a very affordable price point. I shudder to think what Canon, Sony, or Nikon would charge for a 100mm f2.8 2X Macro lens if they took the time to design one. Let’s compare pricing from Vistek and do note that the Laowa is the least expensive lens, offering superior results with the ability to capture subjects at twice lifesize:

  • Venus Optics Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO: $699.99 CAD
  • Sony FE 90mm Macro G OSS: $1499.99 CAD
  • Nikon Micro-Nikkor VR 105mm f/2.8: $1129.99 CAD
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS USM: $1199.99 CAD
  • Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro: $769.99 CAD

Stink Bug nymph

Stink Bug nymph at 2X lifesize

I am often asked how I am able to manually focus on such tiny critters. It is not as hard as it looks when you practice and perfect good macro techniques. I tend to predetermine the magnification I desire for an intended subject. The next step is to use myself as a human focusing rail and slowly move in and out until sharp focus is achieved. I strongly recommend using inanimate objects placed on the kitchen table as practice subjects.

Green Burgundy Stink Bug (Banasa dimidiata)

Green Burgundy Stink Bug (Banasa dimidiata)

Another techniques I will often use if the subject is cooperative is to physically hold the leaf or stem the subject is on and move it towards the lens until sharp focus is achieved. By utilizing this technique I often find that I am able to support the front of the lens on my left hand for added support, especially when photographing at 4 times lifesize!

Gray Wall Jumping Spider (Menemerus bivittatus)

Gray Wall Jumping Spider at 2X lifesize

The Gray Wall Jumping Spider above was discovered on the brickwork of my home. I carefully encourage it to climb onto a small twig that I could have more control over and move towards the lens until the spider’s eyes became sharp in the viewfinder. After grabbing a few quick images I let the spider go back to its business on the brickwork of my home.

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis)

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle at 2X lifesize

Many of these images were created during self-isolating on my half acre country home. It is quite amazing what can be found hiding in plain sight when we take the time to explore the microcosm

Ambush Bug with prey

Ambush Bug with prey at 2X lifesize

The Ambush Bug above was preoccupied with its prey and the Milkweed Beetles below were preoccupied with each other and this allowed me to use my technique of holding the stem and leaf to take better control of the situation and to focus more easily on the insects.

Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Since many of my images were being photographed at either 2X or 4X lifesize I did select an aperture of f22 for maximum depth of field. I think you would agree that the lens performs very well stopped down πŸ™‚

Lichens

Lichens photographed using ambient light and tripod

Having a lens such as the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro in your gear bag will allow you the luxury of being able to photograph tight details, itty bitty critters, or large animals such as the portrait of the 3 foot Ball Python below.

Royal python (Python regius) - captive bred

Royal Python (Python regius) – captive bred

Below is a single frame at 2X lifesize of a butterfly wing. While photographing the fine details of the butterfly wing, even at f22 it was critical to keep the the sensor plane parallel to the wing to ensure sharp focus throughout the image, otherwise the delete key would have been utilized πŸ™‚

Papilio multicaudata (Mexico)Dead specimen from private collection

Papilio multicaudata (Mexico) Dead specimen from private collection

A couple of nights ago at dusk I lucked out and found a Gray Wall Jumping Spider exploring the lichen encrusted bark of one of my large Silver Maple trees. Rather than go in for the tighter images I deliberately stepped back to create a scene that illustrates the spider’s ability to blend in to its surroundings.

Gray Wall Jumping Spider (Menemerus bivittatus)

Gray Wall Jumping Spider camouflaged on tree trunk

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this post I loved the Laowa 100mm f2.8 2X Macro APO lens so much that I purchased it and sold my Nikon 105mm Micro lens. This is my third Laowa lens that I have added to my gear bag. First was the incredible 15mm 1;1 Wide Angle Macro that allows me to capture my signature frog-scapes. The second Laowa lens added was the 12mm Zero D lens, which quickly became my workhorse lens for both landscapes and architectural photography. If you are intrigued by the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro please consider purchasing the lens through my affiliate link by clicking here.

Leafhopper nymph - Coelidia olitoria

Leafhopper nymph with Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached for 4X magnification

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