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macro photo tips

Chrysoritis orientalis, the Eastern Opal, a beautiful and rare insect from the Southern Drakensberg.

I first heard of Chrysoritis orientalis many years ago when I first became interested in butterflies. My friend, Harald Selb, spoke of the Opals as if they were at the top of the butterfly chain of beauty. I would argue that he is not far wrong. I would have to wait a while before being introduced to this beautiful family of butterflies, a genus fairly common in the Cape but less so up here.

Anyway, the insect under consideration was discovered by Swanepoel in the Bushmans Nek area of the Southern Drakensberg in 1975.  My first trip after the insect was in December 1992 when I made the trip up the the colony with Clive Quickleberge and Harald Selb. Despite finding interesting insects such as Neita lotenia and Seradinga clarki we did not meet the beautiful opal.

Over the years I made a number of trips up with my, then to be, wife, Tracey on these trips I collected a few specimens. Later, in 1996 I climbed the hill with Alan Heath and Tracey and I found larvae of the insect and we were able to identify the ants associated with it as well as the food plant. I also had the unique privilege of thing the first person to see one of these insects emerge from its pupa.

Since the collecting trip with Alan I have wanted to photograph the butterfly. A trip up with Clive Curtis in Dec 2013 resulted in our seeing one tattered female.  This year we hoped would be different.  Clive wanted stock video footage of the insect and I was after images of the insect.  We planned a trip up in early November, it was very dry but the area had seen snow recently and we hope that this moisture might wake everything up.

The area is prone to thunder storm activity from mid day so we decided to meet in Howick at 05h30 and get up the hill as early as possible.  We got to the Bushmans Nek Hotel just after seven and were at the colony at half past eight.  On the way up I received a text message from Steve Woodhall asking for male upperside images for his upcoming e-book. We checked all the ridges and came across Aloeides penningtoni in a number of spots.

Aloeides penningtoni (Clive Curtis)  
While at one of these spots filming and photo the A penningtoni we were treated by the appearance of a pair of the rare Bearded Vulture that flew low over us, I suspect two blokes lying on the ground might look very appetizing to these birds. This was a real treat.

The Breaded Vulture (Clive Curtis) 

 
On arriving at the colony we began searching for the insect. Within minutes we had the first sighting and the fun began. The colony was in full flight. We spend the next three hours filming and photographing the butterflies. Here are some images.

Male C orientalis upperside (for Steve W) 

 
Male underside 

 
Female underside 

 
Myself photographing the insects (Clive Curtis) 

 
Clive wondering around with video gear searching for more insects to film  

 

The view from the colony looking South.

 

A very successful day was had by both Clive and I, the sore! Tired legs were worth it!


A few more orchids in flower

This time of year sees a lot of my orchids in flower. Rather than loads of words this time just a few pictures of some of my plants that are in flower.

The first, Ansellia africana, the Leopard Orchid, this one showing a lot of West African genetics with the dark spotting.  
Then a dainty Epidendrum, E radicans.

  

 Then we have a very interesting Pahiopedilum, this time P hirsutissimum. 
An inter generic hybrid, Rlc Husky Boy

  
Then a local plant, Polystachya pubescens

  
And finally Oncidium Moon Shadow ( apologies to Cat Stephens)

  


Paphiopedalum Leeanum

The slipper orchids are very interesting plants. Real oddities with lower petals being fused to form the “slipper”. I have a number of slippers and currently have Paphiopedilum Leeanum in flower ( this hybrid is an old cross between Paphiopedilum insigne and Paphiopedilum spiceranum). P Leeanum is easy to grow and this really is a grea hybrid to grow. 

This plant is young with only one flower but more mature plants might see up to ten flowers on a plant.

Anyway, no more other than the 100mm f2.8 diaphragm died and somthese were taken with a non L zoom lens. All are four or five stack images combined in Zerene Stacker. 

       


Some unique and beautiful flowers…..now the orchids

Last week I posted a blog on some recently opened Stapeliads. These are interesting succulent plants from Africa, Arabian Peninsula and India. Now it is time to post a few recently opened orchids.  No more words just photographs.

The first is Zygopetalum James Strauss, a rather interesting little plant with lovely flowers. 

the next is Miltonidium Bartley Schwartz, a rather leggy flower spike but smells lovely. 

 and then we have one of my favourites, one of the slipper orchids Paphiopedilum leeanum, a cross between P insigne and P spicerianum. Really lovely compact little plant and interesting flower 

  


Some more rather unique, odd and beautiful flowers.

The last two weeks have seen some interesting plants flower in the garden. A number of Stapeliads that were collected in a garden in Springbok (WC) have flowered (eventually) and we have some orchids popping up flowers as well.

First the Stapeliads, here in the first one, an Orbaea, species unknown but most likely a hybrid. Take a close look at the tiny hairlike structures on the edge of the petal. 


The next is another Stapeliad ided as S asteroidea, or a gracile variant of S hirsuta. Lovely little flower. 

 Next is a favorite, two images of Stapelia granduliflora (one posted recently) 

  

 the orchids will be posted this weekend.


This weekends macro work

There is no theme for this weeks blog as I simply had a go at a few opportunistic subjects.

I have been working on photographing the life history of a butterfly called Charaxes varanes (if you follow this blog you will see the imagine in the next six weeks). I have always been fascinated by the head shields of the Charaxinae butterflies and they make fantastic subjects for portraits.  A few years ago I bred a number of local Charaxes butterflies and got the entire life history on camera. Ch varanes is a common insect and I have bred it a number of times however never had the chance to catch the hole thing on film.  The third and fourth instar head shields are spectacular. Here is the third instar portrait. 


The second image that I worked on this weekend is that of a Stapeliad, S graduliflora. I blogged on these plants recently and discussed the fact that they attract flies to fertilize them (their foul smell attracts the flies, large flowers can be smelt from quite a distance, the smaller are inoffensive). This plant has never flowered for me. I received it from a friend who travelled to Springbok in the North Western Cape. This is a stack of 10 images stacked to obtain a greater DOF (using Zerene Stacker, Canon 100 f 2.8) 

  


Some portraits

A while back I spent some time photographing a series of images that reflected the creatures in my garden. Entitled “Garden Portraits” here are three of my favourites. 

The first is a female rain spider on her egg sack. A very caring mum looking after her babies.  Canon MPE65 and MT24EX flash system

  

The next is a Lynx spider, the first spider that I found in my garden. Similar gear was used to the above.

 

The last one is a little Salticid spider, again the gear used was similar to the above. 

  


Landscapes and things

I have to say that I have been silent for an embarrassing period. There is no excuse. Anyway, this Christmas we all headed off to the Drakensberg (Bushmansneck) for a five day break at the beautiful Farraway Farm. The insect life was shocking but the biking and other photography superb. Here are just a few images from the trip to get things going again for this year

After the storm. 5 Image panorama stitched in CS6

After the storm. 5 Image panorama stitched in CS6

Garden Castle Panorama.  5 image panorama stitched in CS6

Garden Castle Panorama. 5 image panorama stitched in CS6

Early afternoon. 5 image panorama stitched in CS6

Early afternoon. 5 image panorama stitched in CS6

African Stone Chat (Male)

African Stone Chat (Male)

Ant eating chat.

Ant eating chat.

African Stone Chat (Female)

African Stone Chat (Female)

Black Shouldered Kite

Black Shouldered Kite


A flurry of frogs!!

I have never quite known what a collection of frogs are called…a croak, a pond, a flurry? Who knows, anyway I recently came accross a beautiful young Natal Tree Frog (Leptopelis natalensis) and it allowed me to photograph it. Here are a load of uncaptioned photographs, enjoy..(all taken with the Canon, 100mm f2.8 macro and 430EX Speedlight)

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And now for non macro work!!

This last weekend I was fortunate enough to spend three days at the Nambiti Private Game Reserve near Ladysmith. I shall not say any more and rather share images of some of the beautiful animals that we saw. This will take a few posts so here are the first couple of photographs. More are to follow over the next few days.

The first photograph is a pair of white rhino, beautiful muddy giants in the Sunset
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The next is the first of one very handsome male lion introduced from Kalahari stock.
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And another of the same young man.
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And here, a young Kudu cow, could not resist photgraphing this!
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And finally a young bull elephant dismantleing a tree!
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I have loads more photographs and will post them over the next few days.


Some interesting images!!

This last weekend has been wet and I have needed to get some work done on my butterfly talk. It is scheduled for next Saturday and I wanted to get some wing scale shots to include in the talk. I shot Junonia oryhthia madagascariensis, the Eyed Pansy, Junonia oenone oenone, the Blue Pansy and the Ioulaus sidas, the Saphire. The images were hard to get with the lighting being very tricky but I shot these few photos at between 3 and 5 x with the MPE 65.

The first photograph is of the wing of the Blue Pansy, J oenone oenone. Part of the blue flash is visible.

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This next one is a wing eye spot of the Eyed Pansy, J orythia madagascariensis. Again the scales are fascinating.

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Thid is the anal fold on the hind wing of Iolaus sidas, not the long hairlike scales near the fold.

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And to add a something a little different, a Salticid

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And a first instar (a few hours old) larva of Dannaus chryssippus, the Monarch. Notice the lumps on the first and fourth segments that will eventually become very elongated.

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An egg, some interesting portraits and a beautiful butterfly

I have, for a while now, been photographing butterfly eggs with my MPE 65. The most recent egg that I have done is that of the Banana nightfighter, Moltena fiara. This egg was found on the leaf of the host plant, Striletzia nicholai, here in my Wembley garden. It never ceases to amaze me how beautifully structural these eggs are with the ribbing to add support and allow a thinner wall.

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These next two portraits of a fly and an antlion were great fund to do, just battled with the DOF.

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Finally, a while back I noticed this mint Colotes annae annae (Scarlet Tip) male in the garden. I never thought that I would see one here as this is a bushveld bug but here it is feeding on my Pentis!

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Recent close ups of butterfly larvae, adults and others!!

I have recently been breeding a number of butterflies and been able to either get macro images of the larvae or of the adult. This first photograph is of Charaxes candiope, the Green Veined Charaxes, third instar larva. The head shield is approximately 5mm accross. This was shot with the MPE 65 @ 2x

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These next two photographs are head shots of Junonia oenone, the Blue Pansy. I bred a number of these recently and was able to take a number of photographs of the head of the butterfly as this one was drying its wings. These two were taken with the MPE 65 3x

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This final photograh is a robber fly, not the classic full frontal that I wanted but still OK. This was also taken with the MP65 at 2x

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Damsels, flies and portraits

This Christmas holiday has been great fun chasing things and getting used to the MPE 65. I have always wanted to shoot those classic portraits of insects and finally for to this holiday. Here are three portraits and a less “macro” shot. Again these were all taken with the MPE 65 and MT24EX setup attached to the Canon.

The first photograph is a fly.
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Fly portrait
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Damsel portrait
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A second damsel portrait
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Some rather big Carpenter Bees and other stuff!!

This Christmas holiday has either been extremely wet or fiendishly hot and having just moved into our new house I have been unable to get into the field to photograph much. That said we have a new garden and I have been chasing all sorts of creatures around it.
The first, Xylocopa caffra, a fairly wide spread carpenter bee was a real challenge. They rarely sit and when that do are almost impossible to approach. These are large bees, approximately 45mm long, so the rig used was the Canon 100mm f2.8 USM and speelight set up that I usually use for field work.

The next series of photographs are of the egg and first instar larva of Junonia oenone, the Blue Pansy. The eggs were seen beeing laid on Asystasia gangetica. These photographs were taken with the MPE 65 and MT 24 EX set up. To gove an idea od scale the larva is 3,5mm long.

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Eggs and Architecture

As everyone knows, I am a butterfly person. In the last year I have been able to get upclose with the camera and been able to photograph the eggs of a number of species of butterfly. Here are a few of the more interesting eggs that I have photographed this year. What fascinates me, from an architectural and structural perspective, is the structure of the wall of the egg to support and strengthen the entire thin walled egg. Anyway, enough geek talk, here are the photographs,a few are re-posts but interesting nevertheless. Shot with the faithful MPE65 and MT24EX combo.

The first photograph is of Eretis umbra, the Small Marbled Elf, A rather drab little Hesperid.

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The next photograph is the egg of the Common Mother of Pearl, Salamis parhassus, a spectacular Nymphalid found in the area (and my garden)

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The third photograph is the egg of the Common Black-Eye, Leptomyrina gorgias a Lyceanid that breeds on a number of our Crassulas and other succelents.

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The last egg for the time being is that of Orachrysops subravus, the Grizzled Blue, another Lyceanid and cousin of two of our rarest butterflies O ariadne and O niobe.

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Another meeting with the eight legged creatures that I share my home and garden with!!

After a very wet Spring, the wettest that I can remember, it has not dried up so I am unable to post any recent butterfly (in field photographs). So, tonight I shall post a few more Salticid spiders, the first two are awating confirmation of a provisional ID of Veisella durbani, male (thanks to Galina Azarkina again!!). The others await ID and I have thrown in another weevil that I would love my South African ento’s to ID for me (v common here in Maritzburg).
Anyway, the photographs are all taken with the trusty Canon rig of MPE 65 and MT24EX twin flash.

The first two are of a very frisky Veisella durbani

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And here is a Salticid that requires ID

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And a final weevil that also requires ID…

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A sneaky visitor and a weevil.

This last Friday I visited Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal to attend a Christmas lunch.  While on the way up I stopped off at The Aloes Nursery and brought a few plants.  I loaded them up, had lunch and then drove home.  When I was offloading the plants I found that I has an unexpected visitor, a female rain spider complete with a large egg sac.  I was able to keep her still and fire off a few photographs before putting here in a safe place to wait for the little ones to hatch.

Here are a few photos of her (portraits) all taken with the MPE 65 and MT24EX twin light set up on the Canon.

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Yesterday I was wondering through the flowers at home and found a mating pair of weevils, the in copula shots were rather dissapointing however here are two, one taken with the 100mm f2.8 USM and the other with the MPE 65 at approximately 3x.  Both shots are lit with the MT24EX twin light. 

 

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Birthday parties and spiders

This weekend we celebrated my middle daughter, Stella’s, birthday.  She invited a number of her friends over for a swimming/sleep-over party.  I made breakfast for the eight girls in the morning and one pointed out a little Salticid spider on the table.  I picked it up and put it on my arm so that I could photograph it later.  This caused a number of eleven year olds a lot of stress but after it climbed up my arm, over my shirt and onto my chin I took it off for a few photos and they relaxed.  Anyway, here they are, all taken with the usual rig of MPE65 and twin flash unit.  Shot inside on a piece of white board. Special thanks to Galina Azarkina for the ID (Thyenula species)

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Many thanks for the visit folks….more to come!


Back at last!!

After a rather hectis three weeks of packing, moving house, unpacking and trying to get all my butterfly collection, cycads and other plants safely into their new home I am finally able to post these images of a lynx spider and ant, the first crawlies found at my new house.  All shot with the MPE.  Nothing more now, I have an exam tomorrow but will post more little creatures from my garden soon…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Some more fun wih Spiders

I have recently been posting a lot of macro images taken with the MPE 65. I have always thought that the MPE would be a lens stuck away and used occasionally. I have however found that it spend a lot more time attached to the camera. It is not a field lens but is great fun under controlled conditions. This latest set of photographs was taken with the subject (a Salticid Spider) on a piece of paper and instead of the up close and personal photographs I tried a few full body shots. The attached were all taken at either 4x (portraits) or 1,5x (full bodies). All with the MPE and MT 24 EX flash system, minimal crop.

 

 


A weekend of blues and some macro geek stuff….

 This last weekend my friend Clive Curtis and I spent some time at Wahroonga, a special piece of grasslands between Howick and Boston in the KZN Midlands.  Our hope was to film species such as Lepidochrysops pephredo (the Mooi River Blue), L tantalus (the tantalising blue), Aloeides susanae (Susans copper) and Orachrysops subravus (The Grizzled Blue).  We got to the farm at around 09h30 in the morning and there was a load of activity with specimens of O subravus and A susanae a plenty, the latter being hard to photograph as they rarely settle.  Anyway, after a few hours we had the last two on the list ticked off, along with Leptomyrina gorgias (the common blackeye) and some eggs.  We missed the first two on the list.

Anyway, here are some photographs of the insects and eggs.  The eggs were taken with the MPE 65 at maximum zoom (5x) with very little DOF so I stacked three images in each using Zerene Stacker.

The first series were takes with the Canon 100mm f2.8 USM with the 430 EX Speedlight

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 Orachrysops subravus, the Grizzles Blue, female 

 

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 Orachrysops subravus, the Grizzles Blue, female  

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Aloeides susanae, Susans Copper, female 

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 Leptomyrina gorgias, the Common Blackeye, female.

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 Orachrysops subravus egg, stack of three images usinfg  Zerene stacker. MPE 65 at 5x 

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  Leptomyrina gorgias egg, stack of three images using Zerene stacker. MPE 65 at 5x


Some more photographs of Smaller Things

Some more photographs of Smaller Things As you all know I have been trying to master the MPE 65 lens that Canon produce and have been using it along with the MT 24 EX light system. This lens can get amazingly close and the 1,5 to 2,5X range is wonderful for smaller ants and things giving you reasonable DOF and a full image. Last weekend I decided to have a go at some ants and ladybirds. I was successful with the first and will have to go back to the ladybirds. Anyway, here are two shots of an ant on paper. I was chuffed with them.

But before we carry on I need your votes, please see http://photo.getaway.co.za/2012/03/01/salticid-red/# and vote for the AFROmacro spider

Ant shot at 1.5 x MPE

Again at 1.5x and with the MPE

And now for a few hoverflies.  The first two were shot at 3x and the last at 1 x


Chasing bees with the new Canon MPE 65 Macro Lens

 

Since the purchase of the Canon MPE 65 and the twin flash set I have been having a lot of fun learning how to get the best out of the setup. Last weekend I chose to continue chasing bees.  Nice and big and interesting subjects.  I was able to get a few co-operative little fellows and here are the results.

One thing that you have to remember with this flash and lens setup is if there are deep backgrounds they will be black (no light) so choose the subject (and backdrop) carefully.

MPE 65 1.5 x f 13 flash (1/250)

MPE 65 2 x f 13 flash (1/250) 75% crop (25% off)

MPE 65 1.5 x f 13 flash (1/250) 75% crop

MPE 65 1.5 x f 13 flash (1/250) 75% crop

MPE 65 1.5 x f 13 flash (1/250) 75% crop