Friday, July 3, 2015

More of my Illinois Bug Buddies!

I'm way behind in posting stuff - life just doesn't allow you to catch up sometimes! Last Summer I posted about some of the amazing insect life I followed day to day in our Midwest stay. Same with this last trip - most anytime there was a spare moment, grab the camera and macro and beat the bushes to see what you can see!

However, a new wrinkle this trip - I brought the new-to-me 300mm lens I got last winter. The interesting thing is that it focuses down to about 4 feet, and the combination of close focus, long focal length, and autofocus and image stabilization, it is a powerful platform to chase down shy subjects like dragonflies, butterflies and the like. It was time to put it to use. And since the intent was in chasing down small game, I gave up the infinity focus and added another 15mm of extension tube, so that it would focus from about 2 feet to 15 feet - a great range.

I think the first day of our trip, a modest search revealed a common whitetail dragonfly in our day lily patch, shown here at left and close-up at right. While you might ask why it's tail isn't white, it is because it is a female! Taken with the 300mm, it provides plenty of detail, the limitation being the narrow depth of focus of the telephoto, but similar issues would be apparent with the 100mm macro too. Since the 100mm macro doesn't have image stabilization (IS), I felt the 300 w/IS from the monopod was a great combination as demonstrated here. About the limiting factor was the wind blowing plants and insects, as the IS does nothing to help you there!

In more images with the 300mm, I was searching a patch of prairie near the Fox River, and some motion in the tree got my attention - a pair of Eastern Chipmunks! Here, only the one in the foreground is in focus, but the dark shadow in the rear is another. They thought by holding still they would stay concealed, but all that happened this time is their portrait was taken. Note that in most of these images, the on-camera flash was used to help illuminate the shadows a little. Another target at right is a male Eastern Forktail Damselfly. It is easy to image prey like this while they are distracted feeding - in this case, a large fly or bee of some sort. I really liked the contrast of the green thorax and spot of blue at the end of their tail.

Of course, I used the 100mm macro too. Anyone who follows the blog for my nature shots knows I like the effect of raindrops on leaf surfaces - where they act like little magnifying glasses. On one rainy morning, once the worst of the showers stopped, I walked to the back of the house to a redbud tree where the raindrops were beading up nicely. The flash perhaps lit up the drops too much, but I still like the emphasizing effect the flash provides. In the image at right, I also like how the drops congregate in the veins of the leaf...

Continuing with the 100mm macro, at left is one of the few insects from last year I was able to locate again - the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). Looking at the link above gives more information, but is a pest unknown only 15 years ago, but imported from China is now a widespread agricultural pest. Here is a head shot (single exposure) to go with last year's rear-angle view... I like the red eyes, as well as the secondary eye spots above them. They are slow movers, and I've never enjoyed their "stink bug" attributes, so for now, I like 'em!

And to dissuade you that I know everything about everything, I can't identify everything, believe it or not! At right is a dragonfly that for the life of me, I couldn't identify... There are a number of yellow dragonflies, but not with clear wings, nor with tan coloration near their heads...

More mystery objects, at left is another unknown, though it shows similarities to a squash bug. This is the second picture of it - the flash of the first must have scared a little poop out of it! At least it left me a little surprise for the subsequent pictures. I think the red eyes and shoulder horns are sooo attractive!

And at right another damselfly I couldn't find, but is attractive enough to include in a post on macro shooting in the yard... The banded structure down the abdomen is quite striking, yet didn't see anything like it on the Google images...

And while we're at it, I was able to get a couple 3D macro images too! Mostly these are done with small baselines, much less than eye separation. At left is an interesting seed pod that had interesting structures that I thought would look great in 3D.

And at right is a closeup 3D shot of the common whitetail dragonfly seen above. It was content to pose, so I took 2 shots in quick succession with a slight offset between.

So as you can see, the close-focus telephoto seems to work great as a long-distance macro.  I'll likely continue to pack both for our future trips to the Midwest.

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