Friday, 31 January 2020

Preying Mantis Macro shooting Jan 2020

 I have decided to started keeping Preying Mantis again , they make superb photographic subjects and  Macro is one of my favourite styles of image making, very technical and fascinating at both taking and editing the final images. It must be about 8 years since I last kept Mantids.

I ordered four different species from Mitch at Unseen Universe website, and I even got an extra few nymphs.   They are all l2 to l4, so very small at the moment, between 12 and 18mm in length.  Its a real challenge to shoot their portraits at this size ,using the mpe-65 macro lens between x4 and x5 magnification and focus stacking to increase depth of field.

This is my set up, a fold up light tent with led lights which give good light for focusing and to give good light behind the subjects so flash falloff doesn't produce a black background which I don't like, unless specifically wanted for certain images.

Using a large piece of bark for the mantis to stand on, I try to get them to stand near the end so i can get the lens really close at eye level , at x4 magnification focal distance is about 1.5 inches . I rest the lens barrel on my left hand fingers, and then slide my hand on table to keep very steady and shoot a series of frames each with a minute difference in focal point.  These images are then combined in Zerene stacker software to produce the final image with much greater depth of field than a single frame can produce.

       This is a Thistle Mantis , Blepharopsis mendica about 12 mm in length, shot at x4 magnification  f7.1   iso 100   1/200th  , 6 frames focus stacked .

Here is the same mantid , shot on a piece of yellowish coloured card,   Canon 5dsr with 100mm L macro lens ,  again sliding my hand on table to shoot 27 frames, starting with the nearest foot and taking frames focused progressively through the subject to the furthest side from me, and then shooting another series from the back to the front, hopefully to cover any areas i missed in the first series.    Yes there will be slight movement of the legs ect, but that is easily edited in Zerene software using the retouch tool.  The flash diffusion needs to be fairy efficient so the recycle time is very short between each frame taken, so I can quickly shoot what I need before the subject moves too much.  waiting for the flash to charge between frames ruins the series, so batteries need to be freshly charged frequently.

Managing to get this one sitting on the end of the bark, I can get a couple of images while it stayed almost motionless. This image is just 3 images at f7.1 , I did shoot a 32 frame series but there was just too much movement to combine the individual frames.

                    A portrait shot at x5 magnification, 17 frames at f6.3  Shooting at these  higher magnifications I always use either f6.3 or f7.1 aperture , any lower and diffraction softening occurs.
Sliding my hand on the table, using a focus point in the viewfinder on a easily recognisable part of the head, I can make sure most of the frames are almost aligned.

Here is another species, Stagmatoptera femoralis , I am going to shoot this one on A4 size glossy photographic paper to try get a reflection, using a piece of yellow card behind for background colour, the join will blur out due to the shallow depth of field I get shooting a small subject and a decent distance behind the subject with an aperture of f8.

        The finished image, only a single frame  , as this specimen was constantly swaying side to side.
                                                         Shot with 100mm L macro lens

This is a Dead leaf mantis ,  Deroplatys lobate .  Perched right on the end of the bark so I could get the lens level with the head, this is just 5 frames focus stacked, shot at f7.1 , enough to get both eyes in focus.
The out of focus bark has produced a nice background in this image.

This is a  Orchid mantis, one of the most beautiful of all species, fist a single frame shot on the yellow card, I didn't quite get the correct angle as the background has darkened near the top.

         And sitting on the bark , this is about 8 frames focus stacked .

Now i am going to shoot a female Orchid mantis ,and try to get a reflection directly under it using the black granite kitchen worktop.    I am using the light tent behind to the right and my diffused flash on the left.   I will have to take a large number of frames to be able to get both the mantis and reflection in focus, as long as it will stay almost motionless!

                     I managed over 20 frames before she moved,   enough for this image.

  This is a single frame shot with 100mmL macro lens , it is too big a subject even at this small size with the reflection to use the mpe-65 lens!

                              A portrait, 3 frames focus stacked at f7.1 with mpe-65 lens
                                       Best I could get as she was not standing very still!


The other female has just moulted so I will try a reflection shoot again, should be easier now she is a bit bigger.  A bit more colour than the smaller specimen.

This is the final reflection image,  15 frames focus stacked with 100mm L lens shot in portrait at f13  with flash on left side and back lit from back right with the light tent lights.  It is very hard to prevent the whites blowing out shooting these against a dark background. Again I rested the lens barrel on my fingers and slid hand on the worktop very slightly between each frame shot, front to back and then in reverse again to make sure all areas are in focus.  Frames stacked in Zerene stacker after initial adjustments to highlights in Lightroom. Finished off in Photoshop.

That's a great start to photographing the life cycle of these Mantids.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Marchlyn Mawr & Llanberis Jan 19/20 th 2020

My first trip out this year , a walk up to Marchlyn mawr reservoir in the mountains near to Dinowig , Llanberis.     The weather is looking very nice, clear blue sky and very light winds, which is not good for photography though!
Parking up with the route straight up the road ,which goes directly up to the reservoir. It is a steady climb all the way.

               There is not much snow on the tops , it has been a very warm winter so far.

A great view across to Anglesey, I can see Penmon point lighthouse over to the far right , and Newborough and Llanddwyn island over to the far left in the distance.  Holyhead mountain is also clearly visible in the distance.

                                          Lovely light down there, but not up here unfortunately.

 Having reached the reservoir, a quick phone pic and now time to get the drone in the air for a few images.

                     All  9 frame panoramas  from the maximum height allowed which is 400 ft

                Time to walk back down now, there are no more compositions to be shot here.
The next day I have brought the Terrible Twosome out with me, Ozzy pup needs a slightly longer walk now he is 5 months old and growing fast .   A walk along to Dinorwig quarry early in the morning .
Both posing fairly nicely , it will take time to get him to pose like Mol did, but he is doing  pretty good already .

                   A 3 frame hdr merge of the old quarry buildings high up on the slate mountain.

This quarry must have been amazing when actually in use, there are disused buildings everywhere dotted around the mountains .

Leaving the Quarry, I have driven around to Llanberis and stopped of at Dolbadarn castle .There is quite a lot of cloud building up over the mountains on my right approaching this direction, so I need to get the drone up quickly as there is a clearing of the clouds which may allow the sun to break through to illuminate the castle.
After a couple of minutes the sun did exactly what I wanted ,  I managed just two sets of frames for these 2 Vertorama images before the light went .   perfect .

                                                                  5 frames merged

                                                                   6 frames merged

Time to move on , and just down the road near the bottom of Nant Peris I have stopped to take this panorama image of the lovely light on the mountains.

            Now to give the boys a run,  stopping of on the beach on the way home ,  happy pups.

The end of a couple nice days out …………………..