It has been quite awhile since I have posted here on my blog. I lost my best friend March 22, 2018 and just haven’t taken the time to get back to it. Gary wasn’t an entomologist but love seeing my pictures and also reading my blog. I know I will see him again when I am called home in death or the Lord’s return.
I have never had much money to spend on photo equipment. (I use a Canon camera). I started using the xTi with the 18-35mm lens. My pictures just were not sharp. I realized I had a 50mm prime lens (the cheap plastic one) and my pictures were now sharp, but the smaller insects were just not big enough in the frame. A trip to the photo store helped me take the next step. The clerks usually want to sell you expensive equipment, but this photographer said I was on the right tract. She sold me a set of macro lens filters (1+, 2+, 4+) that fit my 50mm lens. They helped me with the small subjects. Now, all this time I have learned that I like the settings: 100 iso, 1/200 sec, f22. I used the on camera flash to take my pictures. From my settings I was using manual and turned off the auto focus on the lens.
After my second cheap 50mm lens broke, I went to a camera shop that sold Canon lenses. He showed me the 100mm prime, the 60mm prime and others (all are macro lenses, but expensive) and none would work for my way of taking pictures with the on camera flash. The lenses were too long. he I saw the 24mm pancake lens. I tried it and compared it to my 50mm lens. I took the same photo with each and the colors with the 24mm were night and day better than the 50mm. That is now the lens that I use for my close shots. The disadvantage is that I have to get very close to my subject (within 3-4 inches) to have the insect in focus. The lens is also very fast in focusing and I have been using it set on autofocus. All my other settings are still the same (100 iso, 1/200 sec, f22). I have also purchased a cheap 10+ macro filter and use that attached to the other 3 filters. I also purchase a flash ring Canon’s flash ring costs $300-500 (too much), but I got a Japanese made one, YONGNUO, that works the same and I have had very little trouble with it (LED screen acts up some times).
During the time mentioned above, I purchased a new camera, the Canon 4Ti. With 18 MP, while zooming in on the tiny subjects in my photos on the computer, I saw an improvement in clarity of my subjects over 10.1 MP. In 2016, I purchased another camera, Canon 5Ti, so now I would miss fewer subjects while changing lens (40mm with macro filters to the zoom lens and back again). Now I have the 5Ti set up with the macro lens and the YONGNUO flash and the 4Ti holds the zoom lens.
How I take photos with the macro set-up:
When I take my photos, I am getting close. The longer prime lenses allow you to stay further away. I knew from the start that the round “eye” of the lens means predator in the mind of animals, so the approach is very important. The best way to get close is to have the camera already up in front of your face when you decide to try to photograph the subject (I never, never use a tripod). The camera in this position takes away the side to side movement. Decreasing the distance between you and an animal is harder for animal to notice than side to side movement. Any contact by you or the camera with plant life around the insect can cause a quick escape of your subject or any other creature that you haven’t seen yet. I have missed many insects that I have never sen before, and some since, because I bumped a blade of grass that was in contact with a longer stalk that was touching a branch that was touching a leaf that was attached to the stem that held the leaf that the insect was on. Sometimes it can’t be helped. Sometimes you can catch the insect sleeping and it doesn’t matter also, but most of the time I mess things up.
With that said, consider the basic….good footing. Try to plan your approach (don’t take too long, most insects aren’t there for long). Check where you can step, what is in the way, etc. Don’t do what I do and hold your breath. You can get light headed and start to sway just before you pass out. 🙂
Work on keeping your balance. As I am getting older, now 66, I notice it is harder to keep a steady balance. Keep your arms (elbows) tucked into you sides. Baggy clothing will catch onto your surroundings, but is also cooler to wear on hot summer days. Baggy short sleeves may catch you by surprise more that baggy long sleeves. Making slow movements, keeping your eyes moving to see what is around you and being observant will help a lot in getting close. I have missed many easier and more unusual insects by being too focused on just one subject. Attached is a photo I took in Florida at the Apollo Beach Manatee Viewing area. The Lady beetle larva is on the top of a closed sprinkler head. I never noticed the creature to the side of it until I put the photo on my laptop. I wish I had gotten a picture of the smaller creature. (Note: The picture will show here as soon as I figure out how to post it here. Still learning)
I am not a professional photographer. I may not even take pictures correctly, but I have taught myself how I take my photos and sometimes I am pleasantly surprised when I look at them later. I can get discouraged when I look at other photographers work and compare my results to theirs. Then I remember and remind myself why I take pictures. 1) It is to try to take photos that can help in identifying insects, for myself and to help others. (That is why I have begun to upload many photos to FieldGuide.ai) 2) I like bugs, I see bugs, and want to share them with those who don’t.
And the most important: 3) I believe that God, created all the kinds of creatures we now see. (And all the kinds of creatures we no longer see.) I want to show all who look at what I see, the artwork and creativity of a loving God (Jesus), who made these creatures for us who enjoy them.