A blog about what I love….photography and bicycles!

photography

Some cats….. Part three

We are heading off on our road trip to Cape Town tomorrow so here is the last of the Phinda blogs for a while ( the next few will be road trip). Tonight’s is Lions. Some lovely ladies from Zululand… 

    
   


Some cats……part 2

After yesterday’s leopard posts I thought it appropriate to post this, a young cheetah having a huge yawn after waking up with its family after a long night sleep…..tomorrow some lions, more cheetah and leopard and others before we start posting on our two week road trip around the cape!! 

    
    
 


A weekend in the wild!

This last weekend was very special as we went to one of the beautiful private game reserves in the province, Phinda.

Phinda Private Game Reserve is situated just north of the town of Hluhluwe in Northern KZN. It is typical bushveldt and this year extremely dry after the devastating drought.  Anyway, it was extremely rewarding as fat as sightings go and over the next few days I shall post a number of images of the animals that the were able to spend time with.

The reserve is home to the big 5 and we were able to spend time with all of them. Here, as starter, are a few images of elephant and cheetah.

A young tired cow after a long day… 

 She was a member of a larger herd, here are a few of them… 

 and then we have our old friends, the Giraffes 

 and then those lovely cats, the cheetah, some youngsters drinking

And a portrait of one of these beautiful animals 

   


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 

  


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. 

  


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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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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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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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


Chasing the Cliche (and hopefully eventually catching it)

 

 

For years I have been amazed by Salticids (Jumping Spiders) and have been wondering how other people get these amazing close ups.  Then I discovered the Canon MPE 65.  As you all know I purchased one three months ago and started working.  Eventually last weekend I found the first Salticid of Spring and had a go at getting the full frontal that everyone else had (hence the title of this post). This little fellow is approximately 7mm from toe to toe.  These were all taken with the MPE 65 and MT 24 EX combination.

MPE 65, 3X

MPE 65, 3X

MPE 65, 3X

MPE 65, 3.5X


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

 

 


The Kiln Gallery has a new Exhibitor

It has been a while since we had a new exhibitor at the Kiln.  Sarah van der Bank is not exhibiting at the Kiln building yet but her work is available on the Kiln FaceBook page and may be ordered directly from us.

Sarah is a born and raised Midlands lady. She grew up and was schooled right here in Howick and now lives in the Mkhuze Game reserve with her conservationist husband, Lance, and young son, Meryck.  Here is a taister of some of Sarah’s work. 

Like most of us at the Kiln, Sarah’s work may also be viewed and purchased through The PictureBox in Pietermaritzburg www.picturebox.co.za


A new series of Scarabs

I have, for a long while, been asked to photograph more Scarabs.  The problem has been finding specimens to photograph.  After much searching I found these.  This post is extremely short.  I just want feedback on the very simple “draft” photos of these four insects.  Please ignore the imperfections.

 Goliathus albosignathus, the Goliath Scarab.  One of the largest Scarab beetles on earth and found from Limpopo up into Central Africa.

Eudicella smithi, Smiths Scarab. Another interesting insect from Burundi, Central Africa.

Ranzania burtolinii, Burtolini’s Scarab, male from Tanzania, East Africa

Ranzania burtolinii, Burtolini’s Scarab, female, from Tanzania, East Africa.


A day in the Kranskloof Nature Reserve (Part 1)

Three weeks ago Steve Woohall, Chairman of the Lepidopterists Society of Africa (www.lepsoc.org.za), organised a day trip to the Kranskloof Nature Reserve in Durban.  He invited me along.  I have to say that I have always been someone who would rather fly solo, I love being around people but when it comes to working on butterflies I prefer to work alone.  I agreed to attend.  I got to Kranskloof early and, on arriving at the car park, noticed that there were a load of folks there already.  I recognised a few people (some work colleagues, others butterfly mates) and started chatting with them and new folks.  I met Ryan Edwards, one of our environmental lads who had recently moved to our PMB office and is a very keen and talented photographer, Kevin Cockburn, Greytown based Lepsoc seniority very keen and knowledgable butterflier and super bloke to spend “bush time” with, Rob Dickinson, a very interesting and interested bloke who travels Africa in his professional capacity and has a very keen interest in all things small (have to add great company and no slouch with the camera!!), Steve Woodhall, “nuff said”, and a large group of interested and interesting people.

I made it known that I had little time on the day (as I had to study etc) and Steve graciously suggested that I walk ahead and do what I had to.  We all drove to a lower car park and while waiting Rob D suggested that he and I move down to a nearby stream to look for damselflies.  He noted that he has done very well there recently.  If he had done better than we did in the 10 minuted that we were there then well done Rob.  It was very rewarding with many damselflies being photographed.

After a brief period photographing the damsels we had to move off to the real focus, Charaxes karkloof karkloof, the Karkloof Charaxes.  My old mate Wolter Kaspers had found them in the area 20 years ago and I had found them there regularly, most recently two years ago with Steve and Co.

This first part of the blog covers the walk to the Ch karkloof spot.  The walk is short and very quick through typical coastal bush.  Here are a few butterfly photos………

Pseudagrion hageni, Hagens Sprite.  Photographed with Rob Dickinson at the Kranskloof Nature Reserve.

Chilades trochylus, the Grass Jewel, a very pretty little Lyceanid.

Hypolyceana philippus philippus, the Purple-brown Hairstreak.  Rather lovely!

Euchrysops barkeri, Barkers Smokey Blue.

Colotes erone, The Coastal Purple Tip, Male.  This has to be one of my favourite “Tips”

Colotes erone, The Coastal Purple Tip, female, feeding on Leonotis sp

Colotes erone, The Coastal Purple Tip, female

The next part………………part 2 covering larvae, Charaxes and things will be posted shortly.


The Kiln welcomes Rob Caskie

Talk PosterA month ago, well known story teller and historian Rob Caskie approached Fran and myself to use the Kiln to present talks.  We naturally thought that this was a great idea and Rob presented his first talk on Tuesday night.  The talk was on Rorkes Drift, one of the great Anglo Zulu battles and was a fantastic success.  Rob’s next talk is completely different and the focus is on the great continent of Antarctica.  The first quarter of the 1900’s saw great expeditions.  Some successful, others not.  Successful expeditions generally saw heros come home.  Unsuccessful ones saw heros remain entombed in the ice.  Very occationally you saw unsuccessful expeditions return home.  Rob’s next talk on Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton demonstrates this very well.  Scott raced Amundsen to the South Pole, Amundsen won, Scott remains there.  Shackleton was caught in the ice, his ship was crushed and his story is epic.  His entire crew rowed to Elephant Island afterwhich he took a small whaler and travelled to South Georgia.  He returned and rescued the entire crew from Elephant Island.  The trip has been recorded as a great feat of mountaineering, leadership at the highest level and the greatest exhibition of navigation skills ever.  The talk is on the 17th April 2012 at the Kiln.

I am not going to go through Rob’s resume again as he is very well known.  All I wish to add is that he has recently addressed the Royal Geographic Society and was flown to the continent of Antarctica to present the talk he will at the Kiln. 

Future talks include the battle if Isandlwana amd other great African stories….

And now a photo or two..

Rob and Fran at the Kiln.

Rob and Fran at the Kiln

Rob Caskie

Rob Caskie

Rob on the ice pack immediately prior to delivering his Scott and Amundsen talk.

Rob on the ice.  Who on this great lump of rock would talk in shorts on the ice pack ?(except Rob C of course)