Monday, March 21, 2011

The honeydew hungry ants

These ants feed on the nymph's honeydew drops, the nymphs get it from the vegetation and feed the ants in exchange of protection, I believe the honeydew even increase the ants agressiveness as they become more active and prone to attack when near a scene like this.

My ambition was to capture a image with the ants at the moment of feed and this group of nymphs produced small drops in relatively frequent quantities, the site for the capture was selected in base of this.
Side view of a honeydew hungry ant at the moment the nymph released the honeydew. This photo is with Canon MP-E 65mm macro at almost 2x magnification on Canon 7D and is a stack of two photos. The main photo is with f/7.1, effective aperture of f/21 with a estimated DOF of about 0.4mm. This was the best photo at iso 100 Photo by Gustavo Mazzarollo available for license on Alamy

Macro photography favour stop motion usually with flash photography, there's a balance where the challenge is to produce the best possible frozen moment, at the magnification that give at the same time detail and surroundings information (usually increasing the magnification results in huge light losses) with the less possible flash time. Macro photography also favour low iso.

Unfortunately in this first photos where affected by motion blur to some extent (longer flash times to work with the small apertures needed to capture two subjects interacting in one frame photo).

Usually the macro technique for insects involve reduce movement by the photographer side and by the subject side, reducing the subject side usually is done by the use of sugar, some substances that work as anaesthetics, or taking the shoots at cold hours where the insects are motionless. Unfortunately the objective of wasn't to take the pictures of ants, or of the nymphs, but photos of the interaction of them so reducing subject motion is not desired in this circumstance.

The best I could imagine for this is reducing the flash duration time while at the same time using narrower apertures to increase depth of field, this time raised the iso to 500 (proved to not harm this much the pictures, noise still under control)  and was possible to reduce the flash time. This increased the rate of keepers and proved to be a good solution for a situation where the subjects where relatively unpredictable.

For reducing the motion at my side I used a monopod (not used in the first photos) to reduce the fatigue waiting for a moment in a relatively uncontrolled scene This scenes were in a bush at 1.20m from ground so the monopod helped with the need to keep the gear lifted for longer time.

Ant waiting for the honeydew from the nymphs, this one is more magnified, with Canon MP-E 65mm lens at almost 2.6x magnification. Same nominal aperture of f/7.1 but more extended lens result in a effective aperture of f/26, as the magnification increased the depth of field decreases I estimated to about 0.3mm. Photo by Gustavo Mazzarollo available for license on Alamy

Looks the difference of exposure and aperture to not be that big among these two pictures, but the second one have better histogram distribution and a much smaller flash time than the first resulting in a more detailed capture. Personally I prefer the moment of the first photo, but the second I consider better technically, even at 200% magnification the noise differences weren't noticeable (the same amount of noise reduction was used in the two pictures). As a disclaimer, raising iso's at macro photography is a techinique of exception, most of the time the subjects weren't this active to require raising iso's and the flash itself do a good job stopping the motion.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wasp portrait above nest

With the temperatures starting to drop is time to the return of these small yellow ones always in the species of tree of the last year.

This photo is called a single frame image, just one shoot not stack,
f/9 | 1/100s | iso 100 | manual flash at about 1/4 power
Canon 7D with Canon MP-E 65mm @ 5x.
580 EX II flash bracket mounted with a LumiQuest Mini SoftBox diffuser

Many compositive things come into place to make the image more acceptable

This green background is the leaf were the nest is suspended, is possible to see it in the second photo. The wasp not always was positioned with the leaf behind the face, get the right moment of it demanded patience and was harder than the wasp portrait by itself. I strongly rejected a black background for this photo.

The use of f/9 and with the lens fully extended resulted in a effective aperture of f/54 and a calculated depth of field of about 0.15mm (canon booklet info) the DOF start to transition to out of focus between the antenna, I believe the part behind this could remain out of focus in this particular position.

 The use of sharpening in post processing ruined middle of face, became really cartoon like, so used very mild sharpening

The eyes were an obsession, some frames took the one at right focused and some others the left one, this frame have the best equilibrium of focus of the two sides of compound eyes a very important thing when shooting a single frame image.

Feedback is important, and previous feedback demonstrate the jaws (mouth) is considered interesting, is better to place it at least in focus there's not detail that demands high resolution to be acceptable, as the eyes so the aim of the focus is a little in front of the eyes to give eyes first priority and the jaws the second, but still readable.

These are very small above their nests comparatively.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Black bumble bee portrait

Not sure if the black ones are friendly or ferocious, but this one wanted to jump to my finger for a little of heat. Not we are with the first relatively cold nights in the year. The photo is late afternoon with canon MP-E f/2.8 @ about 1.5x magnification.

Focus stack of two shoots combined in GIMP by a layer mask.

Interesting to note that the subject obligated me to keep the hand reversed and in a concave position, this was uncomfortable to left hand the lens, but the concavity of my skin worked like a reflective surface with the reflections of the skin present in the lower parts of the face.


       Scenic view above a lantana flower: