Monday, June 08, 2009

Bugging out


I was taking some trash out to the bin behind my garage yesterday when I saw a rather interesting looking bug. After I dropped the trash in the bin, I told the bug not to move and I ran inside to get my camera. I placed a +7 stack of closeup filters on a 55-200mm zoom and headed back out. The bug graciously had stayed put, so I took several shots in the available daylight, but none of which made me happy.

The problem was that even with the ISO pumped up, I couldn't get a shutter speed fast enough to counteract the shake from hand holding the camera. The extremely shallow depth of field from a wide open aperture also made it hard to focus. I ran back inside and attached a flash bracket to the camera and oriented the bracket and the adjustable flash head to train the light just past the end of the lens, then headed back out.

The flash allowed me to shoot at a more respectable ISO setting (200) at a very small aperture (f32). The shutter speed almost became a non-factor and I was able to capture several insects fairly easily. You almost wouldn't know that all of these photos were taken with a flash.

Fly with a gasmask
Fly with gas mask

The only thing that bugs me (sorry) is that the closeup filters are really no match for a dedicated macro lens, of which I have none, and don't have the thousand dollars or so needed to acquire one. The 200mm/filters combo gets me closer than I've ever been able to get to a bug, but I pay for it in color fringing away from the center of the photo. Since my whole compositional game is to place subjects off-center, that doesn't bode well. I suppose I could partially solve the problem by backing off a bit or shooting larger bugs.

Fly with back hair

Speaking of larger bugs, I was in a garden center earlier this spring and came across packages of praying mantis eggs. The idea is that the mantises will hatch out in the garden, then eat all manner of pests throughout the summer. I picked up a package -- as much for future photo opportunities as insect control. The package consists of an egg case (about the size of a golf ball) in a plastic net, which is hung in a secure place in the garden until the eggs hatch. The label assured me that approximately 300 mantises will hatch out once the outdoor temperature remains consistently above 75 degrees, which, with the looney weather we've had lately, has yet to occur.

Stay tuned.

Macro focusing tip: If you're shooting super closeup shots and can't use a tripod, try this: lock the focus on your camera and rock slowly back and forth while framing your subject in the viewfinder. Your photo will go in and out of focus while you are rocking. Press the shutter just as the subject comes into focus.

Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.


Sandy said...

wow, great bug photos. I love looking at bugs...

Wanda said...

It's really a "Bug's Life" on your blog...

Great photos!