Thursday, 25 June 2020

Silver Studded Blues at Prees Heath 10 th /17 th June


It is now 10 th  June, the Cornonavirus lockdown restrictions have been partially lifted so i can now drive any distance for leisure/exercise  purposes.  Except Wales and Scotland.  so still cant go into Snowdonia .  But the Silver Studded Blue butterflies  should be emerging now at Prees Heath in Shroposhire . So with very light winds and a cloudy forecast i have driven down to see if i can photograph a few.
These butterflies quite often emerge in huge numbers, and unlike most species don't actually move very far so they are always to be seen flying low around the Bell Heather





It didnt take long to find them ,  they are roosting in the heather,   all males which are blue underwing, whereas the females are brown.  They always emerge first.




It is an old airfield , the Bell Heather has been seeded on the old runways over recent years to increase the habitat for these fairly rare butterfly.






 I have found a nice fresh male , probably emerged in the last 24 hours ,  placed it on a nice colorful dead  heather stem .  held in a small clamp.  i can now lie down low to shoot with a nice clean background .





                                            Shot with Canon 5dmk2  100mmL macro lens
                                                                f7.1  iso400  1/125 th




                                               Beautiful colours of the dead heather stems.




All the butterflies seen so far have been males ,  but after half hour of searching i have found a newly emerged female still on the heather but low down out of sight , it is cloudy and fairly cool so the males are not flying around looking for the females yet.

                                                            Female Silver Studded Blue
                                                                 f8  iso 400  1/125 th





                    Male sitting on a grass stem ,  5dsr  100mm L macro on a tripod for this one.
                                                                  f7.1    iso 500  /1/80th




It is now just gone 10 am , and the sun is breaking through the clouds and the butterflies are becoming more active.   opening there wings to the sun .




                                                               One last image of a male .




A week later on the 17 th i have come back to see if a bigger emergence has taken place , we have had quite a few thunderstorms over the last couple of days so that may have had an impact on them.  It is a bit breezy today, but much warmer than last week when i arrive and immediately i notice how much more active they are, the numbers have increased dramatically also with plenty of females spotted already , considering i only found about 6 last week.   Unfortunately most of the males are roosting but take flight as soon as i get close !









A Small Heath , there are plenty of these flying around and this one stayed motionless to allow a 4 frame focus stack.   





                           A picture clearly showing the difference between male and female.






                                                      Female on an old heather flower
                                             5dsr   f14  1/5 th sec  iso 100   tripod used





         One of dozens of females that i have found , all the males seem to be very worn already with scales missing all over the wings.

                                                        5d mk2   100mm L macro
                                                           f7.1  iso 400  1/60 th




It is just too warm now , they are all too flighty but i have just shot this beautiful female on a heather flower to finish with.   I have not found a single butterfly emerging with the ants which is disappointing.







Thursday, 11 June 2020

Preying Mantis pt 3 April/May 2020 Lockdown


The Mantis species are all growing , some faster than others.    The Dead leaf is still very small and slow ,whereas the Orchids and , Giant Rainforest and  Stagmatoptera are growing fast!    its hard to keep enough food for them at times .  I now have a Wide armed mantis (Cilnia humeralis) and two spiny flowers (Creobroter gemmatus)


Firstly the Orchids , they have become Adult.  They get their wings in the last moult which is always a dangerous time, they need added humidity to prevent mis moults and damaged wings that don't expand properly.   

                                 Male Orchid  21 frames focus stacked canon 5dsr  100mmL





The female is sub adult, the wing buds are very clearly visible and it wont be long before she becomes adult.  Here is the old moulted skin next to her.









                                                                 23 frame focus stack.




April 22 now , I decided to shoot one on an actual Orchid flower , had to use a tripod for this, something I rarely do for macro.    Natural light and the 100mmL macro lens





                                   Single frame ,  almost ready to moult to adult.




May 24 th , she has moulted successfully overnight , I have waited a few days before taking her out to photograph , all her legs and wings needed time to harden properly.

                                    17 frames handheld focus stack , 5dsr  100mm L






                                                         And on black , 9 frames.

                                                The final Adult Orchid mantis 

                            Hymenopus Coronatus





                                                  Fabulous to see her as adult at last.


                                        Pre Sub adult female Stagomaptera femoralis









As a comparison , here is the female Giant Rainforest mantis, shorter ,wider abdomen ,more stocky and with a larger head .








                     Stagmatoptera   Sub adult female     12 frames handheld with the mpe-65 lens






                         and as a comparison   Hierodula majuscula    Giant Rainforest mantid
                                                               16 frames mpe 65





Now for the two new species ,   this is Cilnia humeralis l3. already at this small size feeding on a greenbottle ,  very aggressive hunters!











                            Portrait at x4 magnification  mpe 65 lens    20 frames focus stacked





Here are the flower mantis ,Creobroter gemmatus  ,  only a very small species just over 1-1 1/2 inch as an adult.   this is about 1 cm in length  30 th April










May 5th and they have just moulted , changing colour now and are pre sub adult with tiny flat wingbuds now showing.













                         May 15 th and they now look like this , up to about 15- 20 mm in length.





                                                         So cute , with loads of character





                                                And now up to date at the end of May




                                                    5 frames focus stacked portrait.







Almost forgot , the Cateye mantis ...............

                                           30 frames handheld  100mm L macro




                                              10 frame focus stack handheld. mpe 65




Still in lockdown at end of May , hopefully we will be able to start getting out a bit more soon.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Mantis shooting under Lockdown Feb - March 2020


The world is in Lockdown due to Coronovirus!   its like something out of a sci-fi movie !  virtually all shops and businesses closed and we can only go out for one walk a day or to go food shopping.


Its lucky that I decided to start keeping Preying mantis again as it has given me something to do while we cannot actually go outside, except to walk the dogs!

Here is the progress of the Mantis I started shooting in the last blog,  unfortunately the pair of Thistle mantis have died, and they where probably going to be the most interesting to photograph.   Any how starting with February and the small mantids have moulted and got a bit bigger.


This is my set up,  a simple light tent for additional lighting on the backgrounds,   glossy white photographic printing paper and yellow or pale brown backing sheets to prevent black backgrounds.  and a shiny black wall tile for reflection shots.




                           This is a Stagmatoptera femoralis feeding on a tiny fruit fly.
                                   Still only about 10 mm in length at this stage




This is a male Orchid mantis portrait,  19 frames focus stacked shot with canon 5dsr and mpe-65 macro lens.  a 430 ex standard flash gun off camera with two mini ball heads to adjust angle and a home made diffuser made from polymorph plastic .




This is my set up , the mpe-65 extends quite a lot so I can move the flash bracket and ballheads to keep the diffuser as near to the subject as possible. usually 2-4 inch     my diffuser was made specifically for use with this lens,   but works ok with the longer focal length of the 100mm for indoor studio type shooting like this .




                           17 frame focus stack of the same male on the black wall tile.

                    You can see the wing buds on the body now, will be adult soon. still tiny in comparison to the females which will be huge in comparison.




                This is a Dead Leaf Mantis,  Deroplatys lobate ,  5 frames focus stacked  mpe 65

This species seems to have much more pronounced detail on the eyes compared to many other species.



                           A natural light 13 frames with 5d mk2 and 100mm L macro lens




                                20 frames Orchid Portrait  mpe 65 at about x2.5 magnification

The frames , each with a slightly different focal points are stacked in Zerene stacker software, which produces a final image with much greater dof than a single frame could do.





     Now to shoot the newly moulted  Female Orchid mantis,  17 frames focus stacked natural light, 5dmk2 with 100mm L on tripod.   No wingbuds showing yet, so she will be pre sub adult next moult.





                                                      23 frames in this natural light image.





Moving forward to mid March , both Orchids have moulted again, so are getting to around 1 inch in length now . Small wingbuds are now visible so she is a pre sub adult, next moult the buds will become much bigger ready to form the adult wings.

  Using a yellow card behind the Glossy photo paper I try to get some images of the female with the yellow background.

                            All shot with 5dsr and 100mmL lens with the flash. handheld focus stacks.

                                                                     21 frames




Just the white glossy paper in this image, using the fallout from the flash which does not reach the behind to gradually darken the background in a gradient.

                                                                              11 frames .



This is one of my favourite images I have shot of this female,  36 frames handheld to get the entire insect in focus.

Note she has lost the clasper on her front right leg, which maybe a problem for next moult.




                                    Now to try on the black wall tile for some reflections.    
                                                 28 frames in this image f7.1 iso 100mm
        which are my standard settings for the mpe , but forgot when I changed over to the 100 mm , with less magnification you can use smaller aperture to get a little more depth of field , f10 to f14 without any diffraction softening.





                                                  Now with the mpe-65 lens , 22 frames f7.1




          Classic pose , 20 frames , they are getting too big to get the full reflections in now,  and i have been unable to get a much larger black glossy tile!





          I will finish off March images with my Giant Rainforest,    Hierodula majuscule feeding on a greenbottle.

10 frames focus stacked , was very difficult with the mantis moving constantly while munching !




                                                                         Single frame f14






              Next blog will be Aprils continuation of their growth as they become nearer to adult.