Saturday, 29 October 2011

Honey Bee Portrait Grafton Wood

Early in the morning on the previous brown hairstreak trip to Grafton wood , while walking along the main central path through the wood i came across a cold honey bee trying to warm itself in the first rays of sunlight .
This was too good an opportunity to miss , as i very rarely actually see honey bees so had to make the most of the chance to shoot a few high magnification portraits.

It was perched on top of a small white flower, i have no idea what it was!  lol    but i could hold the stem between two fingers on left hand , and then rest the lens barrel of the mpe-65 macro lens on my palm to keep everything steady to shoot the individual frames for the focus stack.

Focus stacking is a method of combining multiple frames, each with a slightly different focus point into a single image with a much greater depth of field than a single frame could produce.  at high magnifications diffraction softening occurs so i shoot each frame at f5 - f6.3 to produce the sharpest image possible.

Even using this method it can be quite difficult to align 5- 7 frames good enough for the stacking software to align properly.  shooting between x4 and x5 magnification is very challenging , a minute movement will prevent the frames aligning causing a doubled appearance!  i some situations , with just three or four frames i can manually stack the frames on layers in photoshop, but it does take a while to do !

here are the two finished images

In this second frame you can see a black background in the left hand side because the flash only illuminates the subject and no light can reach the background .  i always try to place a leaf or something close behind the main subject to prevent this happening.

here is the flash / diffuser set up used for these two images ,  i have added a twin sheet "tent style" diffuser to the front of the lens which spreads the light nicely .

     bee shots taken with canon 5d2, mpe-65 and 430ex flash gun

Monday, 24 October 2011

Grafton Wood Brown Hairstreaks PT2

After the previous weeks trip to Grafton wood , i just had to go back to see the beautiful Brown Hairstreaks again,  the weather forecast was for a very warm sunny day , perfect!
I  knew where to look this time,  so made my way down towards the orchard area, the blackthorn hedgerows on the main path before the old orchard are where i saw them last time.
It was a bit early and still quite cloudy as i walked the main path and there was no sign of any butterflies,so  i continued around and into the orchard to see if there were any migrant hawker dragonflies perched up, i saw quite a few in this area the previous week but could not get any shots.  this time there was no sign of any, after walking around all the apple trees i suddenly spotted a brown hairstreak flying across the open ground!  i quickly followed and she settled under one of the apple trees,  i just managed to shoot 4 frames quickly before she took flight,  i managed to keep her in sight untill she landed in the hedge surrounding the area  before she flew over the hedge!     Wonderful!

 The sun was now breaking through the cloud,  a Brimstone gonepteryx rhamni  few past me and landed to feed on a thistle flower, as i got close i noticed there was carder bee also feeding!

As it was now getting very sunny , i made my way back to the main hedge hoping the hairstreaks would make an appearance,   as soon as i got there i spotted 2 females working along the hedge and soon noticed that they where both laying eggs,  here is a shot of one high up in the hedge.

You can see a small piece missing from the wing where she has been crawling into the blackthorn to lay her eggs on the main stems, usually near a fork in the branch on one or two year old stems.

I followed her over to the hedge, just to the right of the water trough and actually watched her lay an egg on a blackthorn stem only about eight inches off the ground!

Here is the egg, shot at x5 magnification with canon mpe-65 macro lens, it is focus stacked to increase depth of field.  the eggs are approx  0.7 mm diameter!

and a cropped shot of above , isn't the structure amazing?

I then spotted a third female in the same area a few minutes later ,  that was the fourth sighting of the day!

Having shot the brown hairstreaks i decided to make my way into the wood to see if any thing else to shoot,  i soon found a beautiful Red Admiral,  vanessa atalanta

And a few dark bush crickets

I  walked around to the southern edge of the wood and found along the bridleway a few common darter dragonflies perching on the barbed wire fence, shooting from a low angle managed to keep a nice blue sky in the framing!

Then i saw another brown hairstreak and managed a few shots before she flew off, light was very bright but it does show a lot of textures on the wings!

Walking back towards the woods and back down the main path through the woods , i then found a very old looking male brown hairstreak feeding on angelica,  at appeared to have very few scales left on the wings!

and finally a large white pieris brassicae

in total, i saw nine brown hairstreaks this day, which is exceptional!    and i was extremely lucky, the following day i had intended to go back and meet Gill , but there was a bad holdup on the motorway and could not get there,  as it turned out not a single hairstreak was seen that day even though conditions were perfect!     someone did say i must have seen everyone else's share on my trip !  lol



Monday, 17 October 2011

Grafton Wood Brown Hairstreaks PT1

The brown hairstreak is probably one of uks most beautifull and elusive butterflies, like most hairstreaks they are very rarely seen unless you look in specific areas and at a right time!
they spend most of their time either feeding high up in ash trees on honeydew or egg laying on blackthorn bushes. 
the brown hairstreak is only found in localised areas in the south of England and a couple sites in Worcestershire and more recently warwickshire, but that is another story.

I decided to travel a round trip of 284 miles down to Grafton wood in Worcestershire on August 14th  to hopefully see them for the first time!    i had found out they had started emerging the previous week so hoped to see at least one!

after walking around for one and a half hours the only thing i found was a bush cricket!    i have never seen speckled bush crickets so was good to shoot one.

then after finding a clearing in the centre of the wood i found a few brown argus, Aricia agestis   another species i had yet to see.  previously only seen the norther brown argus, a separate species.

i then met a couple who asked me to identify a butterfly they had photographed on their way into the wood, on looking on cameras screen it was in fact a brown hairstreak,  and they kindly told me exactly the area they spotted it.    i had in fact walked past the spot but about two hours previously!
i made my way back to the blackthorn hedgerow near the woods entrance , and within a few minutes saw my first Brown Hairstreak, Aricia agestis.   absolutely stunning !   what a sight shining in the bright mid day sun.

here is the first image , i only managed about four shots  but nailed the first two!

i followed her as she flew over the hedgerow and eventually settled low enough for me to shoot a good close view!

this is the spot where the second image was shot, and this spot becomes very important in the second trip the following weekend which i will mention in pt2.

 here she is in all her glory!  WOW

I think this species has made the biggest impression on me this year , so special to actually see this stunningly beautifull butterfly, especially in this prestine newly emerged condition!  
I could now enjoy the rest of the day having photographed the target species , i walked back towards the wood through the orchard area, where i spotted another three flying around the tops of the blackthorn hedgerow but could not get close to them.

Back in the wood i found quite a few bush crickets,  and shot these on my finger!  which is quite difficult holding camera in  one hand while trying to keep the cricket on finger!   lol

and finally a beautifull small tortoiseshell ,Aglais urticae  , a common but beautifull butterfly which is so often overlooked by photographers in search of rarer species.

and a small copper  Lycaena phlaeas feeding on ragwort

on walking back through the wood , a male brown hairstreak was spotted feeding on angelica, so had to shoot him!  lol

as you can see , the males are not as bright in colour compared to the beautifull females

and that ended the day,  in total i saw six brown hairstreaks, AMAZING !!!!!!   

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Arnside Knot Butterflys july 2011 pt3

The final part of the arnside knott butterfly adventures,   i travelled up to hopefully see yet another new species, the  Scotch Argus, a very rare butterfly only found in scotland and at arnside in cumbria.  a late species emerging end july early august.

firstly though i went down to the lower terrace to see if any late high brown fritillarys were still on the wing ,  but as i got to the lower path this butterfly landed infriont of me, at first i had no idea what it was.   dont think i have ever seen the underwing of a Painted lady , Vanessa cardui.   i managed to get flat on the ground to get a few shots before she flew off!    stunningly beautiful!  it has been a very poor year for this species, only spotted a few all year!

After a long search around the bracken i soon found a few high brown fritillarys , one feeding with nice back lighting

And then a rather co-operative specimen that was quite happy to pose on my finger!!!!   wow!

a few common blues that looked recently emerged finished off this part of the day

Then i made my way over to the northern slopes to see if any Scotch argus ,Erebia aethiops had started to emerge.
this is a view from the area looking towards the cumbrian fells.

Luckily after just a few minutes looking i found a newly emerged scotch argus,  absolutely stunning !
 yet another new species for the year   #36   Wow! 

This one was still drying its wings!

And a finger shot to end with !

They are such a wonderful rare butterfly, it was great to photograph a couple of pristine specimens , unfortunately as with all very dark species they fade quite quickly with age.

and to finish off the arnside adventures,  a few shots of a Northern Brown Argus , Aricia artaxerxes.   shot on the southern slopes  .

Female egg laying

The egg shot at x5 magnification with mpe-65 macro lens  and cropped!

This ends the Arnside knott adventures for this year,  the next butterfly adventure will be .......The elusive BROWN HAIRSTREAK ! 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Wood Ants At Arnside Knott summer 2011

The southern Wood Ant,  formica rufa  is a common species on arnside knott, they are a large aggresive species living in huge colonys,  i first found them near the top while hunting butterflys, so couldnt pass up the oppertunity to observe and photograph these wonderfull insects, even though it ended up with me being bitten numerous times,  all in the obsession that is macro photography !

Here is the path where i found them crossing over , while observing them carrying their victims back from the woods , crossing the path to go back to their nest site.

The ants were crossing the path right near the bottom of this shot,  here are a few shots showing them carrying the insect prey back to the nest.  they dont appear to help each other!!  lol
i had to get very close with canon mpe 65 macro lens,  approx 2 inch focal distance and i found them crawling onto my left hand which was bracing the lens on the ground,  and biting me for no apparent reason!!!  lol

This one is dragging a chafer beetle

Crop from above shot

Think this was a species of rove beetle being dragged

They started to get a bit angry!   so i decided to try shooting higher mag shots of them at another nest site which i found on the third lower terrace below the car park.  a much larger colony with a "run" along one of the paths at least 30 m in length. and even found them assending a large tree hunting for food!    i hoped to find a place to  get a better shooting angle on cleaner ground!

The ants are in the trees at the far end in this shot.

Having to lie on the ground to get these shots, i did sufffer many bites, but well worth it to get shots this good!  but not sure if i will do it again!   lol

And here is one attending to a fallen comrade!

this is the diffuser used in these shots,with an add on twin layer " tent " style diffuser that clips onto lens which appears to work extremly well, but can get in the way sometimes shooting close to the ground with plants and bigger rocks knocking it!