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Focusing on the small things in life... Macro Photography

Tourmeister

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:tab So last Christmas I got my self the Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens. I also picked up a set of Kenko extension tubes. My work makes it hard for me to go places, so I figured I'd get a lens that I could use during spare moments at home. I've been experimenting with it on both the D750 (full frame) and my D7200 (crop sensor), both of which have 24Mp sensors. On the D7200, this lens is more like a 160mm Macro lens. I started out not using a flash, but have now switched to using it almost all the time. My oldest daughter, Sarah (13), has developed an interest in photography and this lets me do something fun with her as well. So this thread will be a sort of chronicling of our learning process.

:tab This first set of shots is from a Wisteria bush in our yard. In mid March, it was in full bloom and swarming with big bees. Sarah and I wandered over to see what we could find. They are shot with the D750.

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:tab The bees were moving fast! It was hard to spot them, get in position, and grab the shot before they were already moving on to the next flower. I was using the auto-focus as well, which was frustrating because it would spend a lot of time hunting. I've since learned to just turn it off and manual focus.

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A different kind of bee
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:tab Just a few interesting shots from the bush itself...

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:tab Sarah is a great spotter. She is able to pick out bugs that I don't see. She found this Lady Bug crawling around on the under side of some branches.

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:tab Two days later a tornado came through our neighborhood. The intense hail completely stripped the Wisteria bush bare. It has since budded out with new leaves, but no more flowers. We lost quite a few trees, had damage to the house, garage, and cars, but everyone came out fine. Now we are just dealing with insurance and contractors.

:tab More to come...
 
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twtex85

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Really like the ones with the bees. The amount of detail is incredible. How close physically were you from the bees? Keep posting .
 

Tourmeister

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:tab These are all single shot exposures. I've not yet attempted any focus stacking. These are cropped, some quite a bit. At this point in my shooting, I was not really thinking in terms of keeping the lens set at the 1:1 reproduction scale. Nor was I really trying to get in tight. Now I just set the lens to 1:1 and focus by moving the camera in/out relative to the subject. This makes the subject fill much more of the frame and results in less cropping. I'll be posting some pics in a later batch that have no cropping at all.

:tab twtex85, I don't really worry about getting close to the bees. They are busy going about their business and don't generally seem concerned with me or the camera. I grew up helping my Dad take care of 13 bee hives. For the most part, as long as you aren't going out of your way to annoy them, they aren't aggressive. Now, hornets and wasps... that might be a different story ;-) Shooting at the 1:1 setting on the lens means getting in within an inch or so from the end of the lens. Then I have to cram the flash right up there near the end of the lens as well. But I didn't start doing that until later. My latest batch of pics came out really good, especially the honey bee I got!
 

M38A1

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What's this 1 inch to the subject thing? My Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 has a minimum focus distance of like 12 inches. :ponder:
 

Tourmeister

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:tab So Easter weekend, we headed up to a family gathering at a cousin's place just outside of Elkhart. He has 50 acres of pastures and woods. I always take the cameras to get family shots, but this time I had the macro lens and Sarah spotted a few critters for me! These are all single exposure hand held shots, no flash, all cropped, and shot with the D750. I will leave it to you guys to identify the critters.

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Common house fly I suppose...
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These last shots were back at my parent's place. Sarah and I had been out riding around in the Kubota RUV and she spotted this TINY spider on the dash.

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My left index finger for scale...
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:tab The thing about shooting macro is that you are working with a depth of field that is razor thin, like a millimeter or two at best. So you REALLY have to work at trying to get the important bits in focus, like eyes. Shooting hand held, you REALLY need something to brace against to help hold the camera steady. Even then just your breathing and heart beat can be enough to cause motion blur even at relatively fast shutter speeds. For the spiders and the fly, I had the camera resting on something solid. For the Caterpillar, I was free holding and trying to shoot at the end of my exhales, like when shooting guns. Stopping way down on the aperture doesn't have a real big effect on the depth of field because the lens is so close to the subject. If you look at the grit on the surfaces under the spiders and fly, you can really see just how thin the DOF really is!

[I must have something screwed up on my LR export settings because the normal EXIF info for camera, lens, settings, etc,... is not showing up!?]
 

Tourmeister

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What's this 1 inch to the subject thing? My Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 has a minimum focus distance of like 12 inches. :ponder:
Whoops... getting my lenses confused! :doh: You are right. With the 105 (and no extension tubes) it is 12". I was playing around with it and a few other lenses with extension tubes and that lets you get the lens right up on the subjects. None of these shots were done with the tubes.
 

Tourmeister

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:tab This next series of images was taken outside our church. I'd never seen these little red strawberry looking thingies before. They are about the size of a green pea. All of these shots were with the D750+105mm, hand held, no flash, and cropped.

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A tripod would REALLY help with the quality of images like these. Even me being willing to get down on my hands and knees would help... :-P
 

Tourmeister

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Thanks for the clarification. Man, I was going "what does he have I don't"? lol...
:tab Yeah, I have been doing a TON of reading as well, and most of those guys use the Canon 65mm macro that does 1-5 magnification. That one gets REAL close to the subject. So I tried the 50mm lens I have with a bunch of extension tubes and that gets me real close. I wasn't using the flash at the time though and I think I deleted ALL of those images! I may go back and try it again with the flash.

:tab When I first started this, my keeper rate was super low. It is still maybe 1 in 25 and that is really just so I have something to keep to gauge whether or not I am improving. Few of the shots so far have the sharpness of focus and DOF I'd like to see (without resorting to stacking). However, I can see an improvement now that I started using the flash. It is amazing what a difference it makes in color and in sharpness.
 

M38A1

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So do I pick up that 50% effect using my crop body over a FF either of which is using the 105mm macro lens? ie: would I be better suited to use the crop body and the macro over the FF and the macro?
 

Tourmeister

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:tab Not being happy with my results thus far, I started Googling for tips on better macro shots. I found one blog in particular that I really like!

Extreme Macro: The Art of Patience

:tab This guy is a Canon shooter. He shoots hand held only, never crops, and never focus stacks!! His results are amazing. You can browse many of his shots here,

https://www.flickr.com/people/dalantech/

:tab I read his entire blog, from start to finish. As crazy as it sounds, reading his blog FINALLY got me to really understand how the exposure works with the flash. I had never been real clear on that. Now I realize that the camera exposure settings really just control the ambient/background lighting and the flash is a separate controllable light source, almost like a fourth exposure setting that works (mostly) independent of the other settings. So while in the middle of reading his blog, I made some changes.

:tab First, I switched to using the D7200 instead of the D750. Then I grabbed my SB-700 flash and extension chord so I could get the flash off camera. I set the exposure to 1/250, F11 and ISO 100. Then I headed out back to see what I could find on a BIG bush just outside our fence that was in full bloom and smelling REALLY strong! Here are the results,

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A starry night
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Cattitude
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:tab The flash helps. I was still having issues and at the time did not realize I had the red eye reduction setting turned on. This causes a few pre-flashes after pressing the shutter release button before the shutter actually releases. That makes timing my movements, focus, and shutter release hard. That gets changed later and makes a big difference in the number of keeper shots. Still, even with the flash related delay, some of these came out nice and the color is much better with the flash. I don't like the black backgrounds, but that also gets fixed later once I finally understood how to handle the ambient exposure apart from the flash.

:tab The light is pretty harsh because I wasn't using any kind of diffuser other than the little pull out flip down piece built into the flash. Later, I started adding the clip on diffuser, which does better, but is still harsher than I'd like. I will probably have to make something on my own. I want softer looking highlights.
 

Tourmeister

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So do I pick up that 50% effect using my crop body over a FF either of which is using the 105mm macro lens? ie: would I be better suited to use the crop body and the macro over the FF and the macro?
:tab Yes, most macro shooters that I have been reading use a crop body with either a DX or FX lens. The guy I linked above uses a crop body Canon with the FF 65mm macro. With the crop body and the FX lens, you basically get more of your subject on the sensor, so if you do crop, you still have more pixels in the final image. This assumes both bodies have the same Mp sensors like mine. If your FF body has a much higher Mp than the crop body (like a D800/850), then it might not make as much difference.
 

Tourmeister

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That's 12 inches from the sensor. So only a couple from the end of the lens.
:tab Okay, that makes more sense. I knew I did not have the end of the lens 12" from my subjects. I was having to push leaves out of the way to make room for the lens.
 

M38A1

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Yellowjackets get a little flustered when you stick that 105mm in their space. More so when it's 80*F outside. Just say'n..... :deal:
 

Tourmeister

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Okay,

:tab So Sarah and I found ourselves with a nice afternoon and decided to do a walkabout to find some decent macro shots. The 105 was on the D7200 body and I had my 70-200 mounted with an extension tube (36mm I think) on the D750. We had the flash (still with red eye reduction on :roll:) with the off camera chord on the D7200 and no flash for the D750. Here are the shots from the D7200. This was the day that finally drove me bonkers with the flash and led me to finding out I had the red eye reduction turned on... after we finished shooting. So I deleted a LOT of out of focus shots from this batch. Even these are not as sharp as I would like where I would like.

:tab We tried heading over to the lake across the street from our house, but the wind was CRANKING and there was no way we were getting any decent shots over there. So we wandered back across the road toward our neighbor's back yard. I shot the following with the D750 along the way,

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:tab The neighbor's yard is huge (like 10 acres) and the dam over flow from the lake bisects it. He has several bridges over the large creek and all manner of flowers and bushes. They are grand parents and love having our kids come over to play and pester them. All these shots are from their back yard.

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I don't know how Sarah spots these things. This guy is maybe 3-4mm from end to end! Getting down on the ground to shoot him was killing my knees, ankles, back... So trying to be steady while focusing was a real chore.

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:tab The flash REALLY brought out the color of what basically looked like a black fly to the naked eye. These guys really flit and flutter about, making it a chore to compose the shot you want, get it focused, and then capture it before they flick away or spin around.

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:tab I was trying really really hard to get this guy's eye focused. No luck. I had the lens and flash crammed in his face and he didn't seem to mind much at all. He flinched once or twice like he might take off, but then changed his mind each time. I had a LOT of shots of him, but they sucked... bad.

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:tab I like these two, but this guy is so small that even with a big crop he is still really tiny. I am thinking maybe those dipoter magnification lens filters that screw into the end of the lens might be worth trying. They aren't expensive and I have been seeing pics taken with them that look really good.

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:tab Sarah and I were on the neighbor's back deck visiting with his wife when Sarah spotted the Daddy Long Leg above the wife's head... She moved. Then I grabbed a few shots.

:tab We both were getting tired and hungry, so we headed back to the house for dinner. I put the flash thing out of my mind for a bit. Next time out though...
 

Tourmeister

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And finally, the most recent shots I've taken.

:tab These were taken at a giant bush covered with white flowers on the edge of our church parking lot. It can be smelled from several hundred feet away!! It also had a ton of wild honey suckle growing all around it. So it was covered with bees and all manner of other buggage. This time I had the red eye reduction setting turned OFF! I was anxious to see how I could do with the camera firing the instant I pressed the shutter release button. I popped off a few shots without the flash to get my ambient exposure up just high enough to get some background color so things wouldn't be so dark. I think I had the camera (D7200+105 lens) set at 1/250, F16, and ISO 400 or so. I was using the ISO to control the background brightness as I moved around in and out of shade and direct sunlight. Then I would cram the flash right up near the subject and start weaving back and forth trying to grab the focus I wanted. All these were shot 1:1 and had minimal cropping.

The eyes are way out of focus but I included this one just because you can see how much pollen is all over this dude. How can he see!?
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Look at the hairs growing right out of the compound eyes!! I had no idea they did that.
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This dude was shy. As soon as I'd compose, he'd usually turn away before I could fire off the shot. I chased him a good while to get these.
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No idea what this is. I was just amazed at how much pollen was on him.
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Is the white dot the eye into his soul...? Check out the little red eyes...
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And a parting flower pic... just because...
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:tab Impressions? Getting the flash set right really helps! Also, on some of these I played around with FEC and got it down to -1.0 and -2.0 occasionally. I was trying to under expose to saturate the colors and then bring things back up in Lightroom later. The light is still harsh even with the diffuser cap on the flash. I think I will make one of those little soft boxes that go on the end of the flash and see how that works. The other issue is that holding the camera in one hand and the flash in the other REALLY wears out my right arm. I need to get a brack of some kind with one of those articulated arms to hold the flash where I want it. That will also make it MUCH easier to hold the camera steady. As it was, I was kind of leaning my lens on the left hand to help stabilize the body/lens.
 

h2000fb

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It was surprising to me to see some of the colors on those bugs. Just beautiful, even those pesky flies! Favorite color combo? The caterpillar with blue, orange strips and beige spots. Spiders? Well, the one with his legs gathered on each side of his head - fascinating.

Time well spent I think.
 

cdc

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If I keep looking at all these 'bugs' I may end up liking them .. .. .. :eek2:
Very nice pictures!!
 

Tourmeister

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My latest effort...

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Just a white foam board tube with a high tech attachment strap! When I first tried it, it was harsh. So I stuffed the clip on diffuser from the flash into the tube backward. That works well. I’ll get the pics up soon.
 
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Tourmeister

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:tab Okay, so once I got the flash tube mounted on the camera, I wandered outside looking for test subjects. These are all shot with the D7200.

Some flowers on our back porch
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Some local residents on one of our fire wood stacks.
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There's a big bush in our yard in full bloom and it is SWARMING with love bugs...
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and among them I found a few other critters as well.

I really liked the color of this guy but couldn't get the shot of his head that I really wanted.
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A little surprise popping up unexpectedly in front of our house under some bushes
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This guy was really cool looking and fast moving. He was back up in the bush which made it hard to get close to him and still be able to even remotely keep myself steady for focusing.
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and the last critter from the bush before I got tired of being mobbed by love bugs and headed inside to see how these pics came out.
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:tab The foam board diffuser helps, but the light is still causing pretty bright highlights.While I was going through these images in Lightroom, the kids started pestering me to go across the street to the lake with them so they could fish. By this time it was early evening and I figured there would be plenty of photo ops at the lake, so I grabbed the camera and went with them.

:tab The shots above were mostly done at f11 and ISO 100. I wasn't happy with the DOF I was getting so I decided to go back to f16 at ISO 400. I also tried backing off the 1:1 focus range a bit to see if putting a bit of distance between the lens and the subject would give me better DOF.

I found lots of these guys, which were maybe 1" long from head to tail.
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This guy was hiding among some flowers that had all manner of little flying critters flitting around. From the holes in his web, I am thinking he's been busy with dinner.
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Another tiny dragon fly
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I think this is Purple Vetch. It grows all over the dam at the lake in our neighborhood. There were so many variety of bees that I could hear the humming as I got closer.
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I chased this guy for a while and this was the best shot I could get of him. I wish the head had been facing more my direction. Still, I do like this one.
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Another bee...
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I really like this shot!
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There were Lady Bugs EVERYWHERE!
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Lastly, I stumbled on yet another spider that just happened to be crawling along a weed and caught my eye.
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:tab I think the f16 ISO 400 setting works pretty well. I like the bee pics in particular.
 

Tourmeister

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:tab So I had some time Sunday afternoon and decided to play around some more. I took some of the foam board left over from my flash tube project and basically made a reflector that I strapped to the lens with one of the girl's pony tail holders. It sticks out about 3" on the bottom and both sides but does not enter into the field of view of the lens. I am hoping it will reflect some of the light from the flash and act like a soft box of sorts. Ideally, the subject will be almost encompassed in the open end in front of the lens. Here are some shots from the back yard.

I revisited some flowers
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A death trap on another wood pile, but I could not find the owner...
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:tab So the big bush in the back yard that was blooming a week or two back has played out. The bees have moved on to sweeter pastures. But the love bugs and a bunch of these TINY flies were still hanging around. So I chased them for a while because they have really cool colors.

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I included this one just because it had three of them in the shot and it was soooo close to being a really cool shot, IF ONLY that one guy in the foreground had been in focus!! This was the best of about 10 tries with one or more of them in flight.
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:tab So while I was messing around with these flies, I felt something on my hand suddenly. When I looked, I realized a small spider had leapt onto to me while I was holding the chain link fence in front of the bush to steady the camera.

That is my thumbnail. He is tiny.
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:tab Moments after the above shot, he leapt onto the lens. Then he started running up the side of the flash tube. I tried herding him back to my hand without any luck. So I decided to just head inside and sit down at the kitchen table with him and see what kind of pics I could get. One thing about chasing bugs for pics is that it is hard on the body with all the squatting, kneeling, and bending over in awkward positions to get shots. My back was already killing me and I needed to sit down for a bit. I also pulled the reflector thing off the lens. It might be helping, but it just gets in the way of me being able to adjust the focus setting of the lens. In retrospect, I should have grabbed some leaves or sticks to put on the table for posing the spider. Maybe next time...

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:tab I REALLY want to figure out how to get good shots of little spiders like this. They are pretty cooperative and not really afraid. They are quite curious and didn't seem too worried about me nudging him here and there in an attempt to get him to move for better shots. When I got tired of messing with him, I let him go on a flower outside. Then it was inside to do the LR thing and see how the shots worked.

:tab All of the above shots are crops. Getting in really close to get the subject bigger on the sensor is great for getting good resolution and detail. But there is a serious trade off in terms of loss of DOF by getting so much closer. Starting at 24 Mp and cropping, I think I can still get a decent shot in terms of detail unless I go nuts with cropping. The shot of the spider on my thumb is heavily cropped. Here are a few before and after for comparisons:

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:tab That last one is really pushing the effective limit of cropping. And lastly, here is the spider on my thumb,

Before
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After
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FCBH

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Scott,

Outstanding images!

The great thing about the macro lens is you can find an endless supply of insects, plants and other critters within your backyard.

...I wander what type of magnification is needed to get a really close image of the "compound eye" of the ant?

Fred
 

Tourmeister

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...I wander what type of magnification is needed to get a really close image of the "compound eye" of the ant?
:tab Better than 1:1, that's for sure. The biggest problem is getting the ant to be still long enough for you to frame and take the shot with any hope of having it focused. A lot of the macro shooters that do the super detailed high magnification shots will chill their subjects to slow them down or just use dead specimens. They also tend to use focus stacking, which requires multiple exposures of the same image with a slightly different focal plane in each image. That is extremely hard to do with an active subject. I chased this one ant for probably 5-6 minutes, blasting away with the camera, just to get this one decent shot. That is typical for things like the bees, flies, ants, lady bugs, and similar active critters. Dragon flies, spiders, and some of the other bugs tend to be still for longer periods of time and it is easier to get lots of shots of them. I tried chasing a BIG ant yesterday and it was all I could do to keep him in the view finder, forget trying to actually compose and focus a shot!!
 

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A lot of the macro shooters that do the super detailed high magnification shots will chill their subjects to slow them down or just use dead specimens. They also tend to use focus stacking, which requires multiple exposures of the same image with a slightly different focal plane in each image. That is extremely hard to do with an active subject. I chased this one ant for probably 5-6 minutes, blasting away with the camera, just to get this one decent shot. I tried chasing a BIG ant yesterday and it was all I could do to keep him in the view finder, forget trying to actually compose and focus a shot!!
How about acquiring dry ice (use a small fan on the side to keep away the frost clouds) and perhaps supplement your lens with a wide magnifying glass?

I wander if you can get an adapter to use on a standard microscope?

RB
 
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Tourmeister

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:tab This next batch of images comes from a small part of our back yard. We had four of those little raised bed garden boxes that are 4' X 4' and 10" high. The weeds have long since taken them over and choked out just about anything we'd want growing there other than a nice patch of Pink Ladies. I had a spare 15 minutes or so the other evening and it was pretty, so I headed out with the camera.

:tab At first, I wasn't seeing a whole lot. So I sat there and just kind of let my focus drift until I started seeing small movements. Then, once my brain keyed in on looking for small movements, I started seeing stuff all over the place!

Spotted Cucumber Beetle
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You can see that nailing the focus is REALLY freaking hard!! It is impossible to hold really still while crouching down. Even if I could, the bug is moving constantly and quickly. By the time I was done and heading back inside to import everything into Lightroom, I had close to 350 images!


Bee Mimic-Beetle
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I have been unable to identify this guy :shrug: I love the slick shiny look as compared to the wild hairy look of so many bugs. It's like this is the dude that is the sharp dressed man!
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This series is a Circle of Life thing...
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Here are some shots of the same kind of bug as their dinner, of the "Plant Bug" family.
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This has to be my favorite bug of the session. I had no idea what it was. Turns out it is a Lady Beetle (Lady Bug) Larva! In contrast to an actual Lady Beetle, these things look ferocious. No doubt, to the little Potato Aphid it devours while I am snapping away, it was ferocious...
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Hors d'oeuvres are served?
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He ignores the little critter... to small to spend the effort?
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Definitely either really brave or stupid...
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Found a few others over the course of shooting.
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Potato Aphid... It's what's for dinner.
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He makes short work of the unfortunate aphid...
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Potato Aphid, these were all over the place
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No idea what this might be... Maybe a transition from the larva to Lady Beetle?
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This guy showed up briefly... a Damsel Fly of some sort
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Metallic Flea Beetle
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And some actual Lady Beetles
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Some kind of mite?
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Emerald Lynx Spider - Daniel spotted this guy after I totally missed him.
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He also spotted this guy, which was climbing around his arm almost faster than Daniel could twist around to keep it facing me so I could get a shot of it! A Black Tailed Red Sheetweaver.
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A Zebra Longhorn - note the red parasite on the back of his neck...
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:tab I reached the point where I thought I'd found most of the bugs in the flower patch and decided to head over to a wood pile on the side of the house in search of spiders. I found this guy, which I think might be the same one I found a few weeks prior in the same general area.


Some kind of Orb Weaver
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:tab There weren't any other spiders I could find, so I moved on around front to some bushes outside our kitchen window and found these.


I've not been able to identify this one.
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And last, bu not least of all, some kind of common fly
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Tourmeister

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These shots are from a church picnic. There is a lake on the property with a trail around it. I figured I'd be able to find a few bugs there.

Sarah handed me a single clover flower. I didn't see a thing until I held it up in front of the camera :doh:
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They were even tucked up inside the flower... just tons of them on this ONE single flower/stalk!
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I didn't even realize this guy had hold of a praying mantis until I got home and looked at the images on my computer :doh:
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:tab These were shot on my back porch. This guy was watching me closely, but he never gave any indication that he was going to come after me even though I got right up in his face and started popping the flash.

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:tab I was ready to run on short notice, hopefully without tripping over something and killing myself and the camera in the process... :wary:
 

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:tab These were all taken just outside our front door. We have a large Holly Bush and a Crape Myrtle. I was amazed at the variety of stuff I was able to find in about ten minutes or so of shooting!

No idea what is going on here... :-?
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This guy saw me coming and quickly headed deep into the bush.
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A Non-biting Midge I believe
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I probably should have included the uncropped image here so you could get a better idea of just how tiny this fly really is. It's maybe 3-4mm head to tail, at best...
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This is a Pine Ladybird
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I haven't got a clue... :scratch: I have never seen anything like this before :shrug:
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:tab This is probably my favorite series of captures yet! It's a Magnolia Green Jumping Spider. They hang out on the underside of the leaves and blend in really well. The two main eyes were rapidly changing color. One would go clear while the other went black, then they would flip flop, rarely being the same color at the same time. This guy was pretty tolerant of me moving leaves out of the way and even moving the branch on which he was sitting.
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It must be a female because it has eyes in the back of its head :-P
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Massive crop
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No idea what that thing above her is? Something caught on some web maybe :shrug:
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Lastly, another incredibly TINY fly...
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More shots from the Holly Bush in my front yard, a seemingly never ending supply of new critters to photograph, and there are still a few familiar faces as well.

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Some kind of "midge", of which apparently there are quite a few varieties.
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Another variety of midge
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Some kind of Orb Weaver
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This spider is TINY, like only a few millimeters across at most. It was hard to see without looking through the lens to magnify it. It was also moving FAST as it was spinning its web, which made it hard to find and keep it in the view finder!! The whole web might have been about 2" in diameter at most.
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This guy is also super TINY. Just look at the cell structure in the leaf for scale! Not the greatest shot focus wise, but I wanted to show the size. If I see one again, I will try to get a better shot.
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A dead June Bug from the back porch.
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This session started in the front yard with the Holly Bush but ended in the back yard in a big bush that only has a few flowers left on it.

That is the pointy tip of the Holly Bush leaf. This guy is really little. The little black dot in the compound eye followed me when I moved... :wary:
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This guy was sitting back up in the bush and getting the flash on him was a challenge.
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An ant. A REALLY tiny ant. Just looked like a spec of dust to the naked eye.
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No idea what this is, but I loved the color of his eyes. It's about 1/8" long from front to back.
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Long Legged Fly, which come in an amazing variety of primary colors and endless secondary colors! They rarely sit still for more than a fraction of a moment, but they tend to buzz away and come right back to the same leaf for several minutes before finally moving on to a new leaf.
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I moved to the back yard to see if I could find anything different. I was hoping to find some jumping spiders, but wasn't having any luck. Instead I found this fly, which appeared dead, but then started moving :scratch:
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That's when I noticed this guy!
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The spider was quite tolerant of me moving the branch around and holding it steady to get better angles. This is a tip from one of the macro sites I've read, look for bugs that are busy doing something and they will be less likely to react to your presence. Eating is a good form of busy because they are rarely willing to give up a meal.
 

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:tab That hard part about shooting such small subjects is getting what you want focused to actually BE focused. At such small apertures, generally f/11 to maybe f/22, and at such close distances, maybe 1-3" from the end of the lens to the subject, the depth of field for the focus is INCREDIBLY thin, like less than a millimeter at times. This can make it almost impossible to get an entire head focused, much less a body. Just the beating of my heart is enough to move the camera and throw off my desired focus. Then there is the breathing, trying to steady myself in often awkward positions while holding the weight of the camera far from my body's center of gravity, etc,... Even the SLIGHTEST breeze can move a subject WAY out of focus. So the keeper ratio of good shots to bad shots is really small. It is not unusual for me to shoot 250-250 images and end up with maybe 15-30 useable images. Even then, most of those are not really what I am happy with, they were just what I was able to use. There have been times where I have just deleted everything! I am getting better though.

:tab I have settled on settings that seem to work fairly well. I generally use an aperture of f/16 and a shutter speed of 1/250 (fastest for the D7200 with a flash). Before I start shooting, I pop a shot to see where my ambient exposure is. If I start with ISO 100, the ambient is pretty much shut down and I get a black screen. If I take it up to 400 or maybe even 800, I start getting the colors of the background without the details. I set the metering to center weighted and I tend to have the subject mostly centered when shooting. I start with the flash set at 0 FEC and will play with that as needed. I may sometimes drop the exposure compensation on the camera to -1 ev just to saturate the colors a bit more.

:tab I use manual focus only on the 105 mm macro lens. Up close, the auto focus is essentially useless because it cannot react fast enough to the slight movements of my body. I generally start with the focus set to 1:1 and will back off that to maybe 1:2 depending on the size of the critter. Backing off the 1:1 also gets the lens further from the subject and allows for a bit, and only a bit, more of DOF for the focus. Depending on the size of the subject, sometimes backing off and cropping to get the final image gives a better result than trying to stay real close and doing as little cropping as possible.

:tab I have tried playing around with some extension tubes and my 24-70mm lens. It will work, but the end results don't seem to be anywhere near as good as just using the 105mm macro. That might be me though as I have seen shots from other people using extension tubes with wide lenses with pretty good results. For natural light shots, I have had pretty good luck with the tubes and using my 70-200mm lens. I've just not put the time into messing with the tubes as I have with the 105mm lens. I probably just need to get more focused about technique :-P

:tab Using a flash REALLY brings out the colors that bugs have which we rarely seem to notice. Those tiny long legged flies are a perfect example. Unless the sun is hitting them when you see them, they basically look like dark flies. However, when the flash pops them, they look like exploding rainbows! Getting the light from the flash to the subject is the challenge. Not wanting to spend more money (yet) on specialty flashes, I threw together the flash tube shown earlier in this thread. It keeps the weight of the flash back at the body instead of out on the end of the lens like many of the macro specialty flashes. However, it needs to be revised. I am thinking some kind of Y shape to split the light off center. Also, it still needs better diffusion. I think I can probably still make something out of the remaining foam board I have at home :ponder:

:tab The flash also helps a lot with getting sharp focus. The closer the flash is to the subject, the less time it has to fire to get the right exposure. If I expose ambient soft enough that any blur from my movement won't matter (which should be minimal anyway at the 1/250 shutter speed), then the only thing left affecting exposure time of my subject is the flash alone. That gives me an effective shutter speed/exposure time of thousandths of a second. I also have the flash set to rear curtain sync. When I started doing this, the images improved noticeably.

:tab The other thing that helped a lot is really paying attention to the orientation of the subject to the plane of the lens. It takes three points in space to define a plane. This means that I basically have three points on my subject to choose how I want the plane of focus oriented. I typically want the near eye in focus, perhaps a wing, and then a near leg or antenna. So I have to consciously look for those points and try to orient the camera (sometimes on a moving bug) to get all three in focus at once, then time my shutter release with all my motion, the bug's motion, and even the wind blowing the plant... You can see how it can take a LOT of shots just to get a small handful of keepers!! However, actively working at doing all of that for every shot really helps!

:tab The biggest obstacle is my own vision. I need glasses for anything within about 20" of my face. Beyond that, I have 20/20. So when I am poking around, I need the glasses to find my subjects. However, the glasses get in the way of trying to look through the viewfinder. I can make the view finder sharp using the dioptre controls for when I don't have the glasses, but the image is still so small that it is hard to tell when I really have sharp focus or not, especially on the really really small bugs. Most of the time I just crank off a bunch of shots while I am wobbling back and forth. Usually, one will come out decent. The ability to see a larger image of the bugs when focusing would help tremendously!! Having good light on the subject other than the flash also helps. I am thinking some kind of view finder magnifier might be worth trying :ponder:
 

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:tab So I moved over to the side of the house where we have a flower bed with a rose bush in it that is growing like crazy. These big grasshoppers recently showed up and they are eating the old growth on the bush rather quickly. I managed to keep Daniel from squishing them long enough to get some shots. My Mom has trained him to kill these guys on sight because they destroy her garden.

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Our neighbor has a cow in their front yard. It seems we always have flies now...
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It was soon too dark to be able to see to focus, so I called it an evening and headed inside to process several hundred images to get these.
 

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Here are some shots from last night. The first bug is apparently the adult version of one I found a few weeks back. Both were found on the Holly Bush in front of the house. The adult version is maybe 3/16" - 1/4" from end to end.

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:tab I wasn't having my typical luck with the Holly Bush, so I wandered over to some Crepe Myrtles on the far side of our drive way. They had these incredibly tiny ants running up and down the branches. They were moving pretty fast, but over the same path, so I was able to follow them. Still, they were super hard to get focused because they were just so twitchy in their movements, rarely being still for even an instant.

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:tab I wasn't "feeling it" with the ants. The above shots are so so, but the best of the many shots taken. So I moved to the back porch and found a beetle with his foot stuck in the window screen. I snapped a few shots before I realized he was stuck, then I managed to get him free. He was happy to hang around while I grabbed a few more shots of him.

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:tab I headed into the back yard in search of more light. It was getting dark on the back porch and hard to see to focus. We have some kind of small tree growing in one of our "garden" beds (they are really weed beds now). I spotted some super small ants running around on the leaves. Again, FAST moving and never stopping.

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The blur behind this one is one of the "larger" winged ants. You can see their relative sizes better in the previous shot above.
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:tab So I have still be taking macro shots, I just haven't been getting them posted here. I'm going to add shot taken in May, June, and early July to get caught back up to my current images. Now that Spring has come and gone, it is getting harder to find the bugs around the house. The Holly bush in the front yard that was so full of bugs has nothing left in it now except for extremely tiny spiders that are simply beyond the ability of my gear to capture. They are hard to even see with the naked eye, even if I wear my glasses. The lake across the street from our house still has a good supply of dragon and damsel flies, the occasional frog, and some spiders.

:tab So, without further ado...

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:tab I love this spider! It's a funny story how we found it. We were getting in my truck to head home after getting lunch on a Sunday afternoon. Sarah (my 13 yo daughter) was getting in the front passenger seat when she spotted this spider crawling on my iPhone sitting in the console between the seats. She asked if I wanted her to catch it so we could take pictures of it and I told her not to worry about it, thinking we'd never be able to keep it contained until we got home and got the camera gear ready. As we pulled away, I forgot about it...

:tab Later that afternoon, after a throne session, I spotted the same little spider crawling across the top of the toilet tank lid! I guess it hitched a ride on my iPhone and then jumped from it to me or the toilet. Anyway, I got it to jump to my hand and stay put long enough that I was able to take it out front and place it on a leaf of our Holly bush. I then ran inside and grabbed my camera. When I got back out front, it was if the spider were sitting there waiting for me! It was very patient and quite curious.

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:tab This first batch of the spider in the web is from the side of our house. This spider has been a resident for at least four months. It's always there when I go to look for it. It is hard to get good shots of it though because it is always sitting on the underside of the web and is in an awkward spot. I was playing around with different flash compensation levels and different ISO settings in an attempt to get a more pleasing background and less of a hot spot from the flash. Not real happy with the end results, but some still came out fairly well.

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One of the higher ISO shots, which lets in more background color at the expense of more noise.
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A better balance of flash and background.
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Spiders sitting in a web are harder to do because there is nothing nearby to reflect light from the flash, which makes for dark backgrounds unless you crank up the ISO. However, that brings in the grainy noise you see in the background of some of the above images. Other critters are usually sitting on leaves or other things which helps a lot. You can see this in the following images, all captured at the lake across the street from our house.

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A two-fer
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And another two-fer
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:tab The damsel and dragon flies are quite curious. If I see them and they take off while I am trying to get in position to shoot them, if I wait a bit, they usually return close enough that I can get the shots. It doesn't take long for them to come back. Spiders are kind of hit and miss. Some flee instantly and don't come back. Spiders on webs tend to want to stay put. The jumping spiders, like the last images above, are very curious and will even put up with me moving leaves out of the way or pruning them with my thumbnail so I can get a better shot. The flash does not seem to bother any of the bugs.
 
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:tab This set is from the lake across the street. My daughter, Sarah, likes to go with me when I look for bugs. She's a great spotter! She also likes to try her hand at getting pictures, but struggles with the patience of taking lots of bad pictures before getting a few good ones. She's a bit of a perfectionist and wants every shot to be perfect :-P She was using my D7200 with the macro lens. I was using my D750 with the 70-200mm F2.8 lens and an extension tube (30mm I think). None of her pics came out well. She forgot to adjust the diopter for the viewfinder on the camera to her better eyesight and it resulted in all of her shots being out of focus :doh:

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If you look closely, you can see what's for dinner...
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:tab While we were shooting, we started hearing a buzzing racket down in some weeds. I poked around and we found this huge dragon fly that was obviously not having a good day. I was able to pick it up. Despite no obvious injuries, it was unable to fly away and was remarkably calm sitting in my hand. We eventually took it back to the house to show my wife and the other kids. It died during the night. These shots were all posed while at the lake.

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My favorite of the bunch
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Look closely and you might see either a cause or a result of its demise... :ponder:
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You might spot it here as well...
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See them now...?
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A sticky situation...
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:tab So it's back to the front yard Holly bush. Right now it is full of these TINY spiders. I can barely see them at all, even when looking right at them. I've tried using both cameras and various lenses with and without extension tubes, but I just can't get a decent shot of any of them! I really need more of a microscope lens that goes higher than 1:1. So the first shot below is the best shot I have been able to manage. I include it mostly to show the lack of detail. The spider is maybe 2mm across at its longest dimension. The entire web is maybe 1-1/2 to 2" across.

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:tab Sarah spotted this little spider, a seriously fuzzy critter! I had a hard time getting any really sharp images of this one, not sure why. It might be that sometimes a setting on the camera gets changed and I forget to reset things, like the dipoter on the view finder :shrug:
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Getting dinner
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This is one of the "big" spiders. You can see relative to the leaves that the web is not real big. The bush is FULL of webs like this one!
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There are also tons of these super tiny flies. To the naked eye, they just look like black blobs. When the flash hits them, the black gives way to amazing detail! If you look closely at the eye, you will see a little black spot about 1/3 of the distance from the top. That spot moves, similar to our pupil. It will track me as I move around trying to get different angles for the shot.
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This has to be the SMALLEST jumping spider I've ever seen. It looks hairless and translucent. The black spots are some of its eyes. Look real close and you can see the two main eyes facing front. They look clear as well.
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I have no idea what this is and have never seen one before, but it is very cool looking! I love the eyes!
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Circle of life :-P
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Tourmeister

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:tab The tiny spiders on the Holly bush were annoying me. There has to be a way to get a better shot of them. These were taken with the D750, the 70-200mm f2.8, and a mess load of extension tubes (60mm total maybe?). Included here are the original uncropped images followed by a close crop. The spider is MUCH smaller than it looks on your screen. It is maybe the size of the head on a straight pen used for sewing. I love how the body pattern looks like a face.

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:tab I like these next photos because they show an important aspect of reality. Whether it is a good day or a bad day really depends on your perspective... :-P (Taken with the D7200 and the 105mm Macro).

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:tab I am not sure the flying ant ever had a real chance... The spider was moving FAST.
 

Tourmeister

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:tab Okay, so my last batch for a bit. These were taken at a friend's house the Saturday before July 4th. They did a big cook out, fireworks, and a massive bonfire. They live out in the woods so there were a lot of bugs. All were taken with the D7200 and the 105mm macro lens.

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This guy was FAST and never sat still for a moment!
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See the ant underneath?
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Under a bush by the garage...
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The wind was making the web flick back and forth like crazy. It was hard to time the release with the moment the spider was in focus. This was the best I could do. It did not help that it was up above my head so I was holding the camera up in the air.
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This is along the side of the concrete of the front porch. It was very tolerant of my moving blades of grass and even poking near it with my finger to get it to move for a better shot.
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A similar spider to the one above, but a different one.
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Note the missing leg sections on the 2nd right leg
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This orb weaver was spinning a web between the chains for the light and fan switches on a ceiling fan over the front porch.
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A similar orb weaver on a fluorescent light fixture.
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:tab I went home about half way through the day to mow our yard and then headed back later for the fireworks and bonfire. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my D750 and the other lenses with me. The 105mm on the D7200 does not work real well for fireworks, especially hand held. This last one just looks kind of neat though, like confetti.

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