Posts Tagged ‘macro photography’

A reader asks:

I also have a MP-E lens with the MT-24EX flash unit. I was curious to know something I didn’t see you mention in your recent blog post about this setup.

Could you share any technical points regarding how you achieve the visible backgrounds with that lens? In general, I get very nice shots with everything beyond the focused subject completely blacked out.

Since dark areas in photographs are the bits that aren’t sending light to the camera, it follows that getting a visible backdrop means applying light behind the subject. (more…)

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Yesterday afternoon, perhaps tired of keeping up with the subzero temps, our furnace up and quit. We were able to keep the house somewhat above freezing until the repair guy installed the replacement bits this morning.  We’re all fixed now. But the outage wasn’t without a bright side: the ice crystals on the windows grew especially wild:

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For those of you accessible to central Illinois, I will be hosting a free insect photography workshop next Sunday at the University of Illinois Pollinatarium.  The workshop is offered in celebration of the 3rd annual National Pollinator Week. Details are as follows:

Insect Photography Workshop
Free to the public
2:00 pm, June 28th, 2009
at the University of Illinois Pollinatarium (map)

Bring your camera, as this is a participatory event!

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Solenopsis geminata, the tropical fire ant.

Solenopsis geminata, the tropical fire ant

The latest upload concerns three species in the subfamily myrmicinae that have been traveling about the globe with human commerce.  Solenopsis geminata, the tropical fire ant, is the most worrying of these tramps, but the other two, Pheidole moerens and P. obscurithorax, are rather poorly known and probably merit more study than they receive.  Click to visit the gallery.

Incidentally, if I’d known at the time that Solenopsis geminata confers hero status on their collectors, I’d defintely have spent more time pointing them out to everyone within earshot when I photographed these in Durban, South Africa last year.

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Odontomachus meinerti trap-jaw ant, Argentina

One perk of being at a research university is the opportunity to shoot the various study organisms on campus.  These subjects are interesting– they have to be, or they wouldn’t be studied- and when the research goes public I get the chance to disseminate my photographs with the science media outlets that cover the story.

Among my favorite campus animals is the Odontomachus trap-jaw ant, one of the focal taxa in Andy Suarez’s lab.  The researchers are looking at the biomechanics of the jaw, one of the fastest recorded appendages among all animals, and how it evolves to suit the differing ecology of the dozens of species in the group.  One of Andy’s students works on the structure of the mandible itself, recording where the chitin is the hardest, thickest, and heaviest.  I thought it’d be useful to have an image that really draws attention to just the mandibles, and not the ant attached to them.

This is a different sort of image than my usual fare.  Most macro work takes place at the small apertures of f/11 to f/18 or so.  These settings are pretty standard for insect photography, as they extend the depth of field and bring more of the insect into focus.  But every now and then I have reason to go the other direction.  Here, I opened the aperture to f/5.6, bringing the mandibles into very sharp detail while the rest of the ant blurs away. Perfect for an illustration of  the dense chitin along the jaws’ leading edge.

Oh, and here’s a shot of the whole animal, at f/13:

Odontomachus meinerti, Argentina

Odontomachus meinerti, Argentina

photo details (both images): Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D
ISO 100, 1/250 sec, twin flash diffused through tracing paper

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