Saturday, April 16, 2011

Should I flash or just go au naturel?

Yet another superb Kentish spring day heralded the early arrival of a very strange beetle, the  HAZEL LEAF ROLLER WEEVIL (Apoderus coryli) 
May-June is the expected time for these and so I was very pleased to find a couple today, just a little more than a week after the hazel leaves themselves appeared and before hearing the first cuckoo of the year.


Apoderus coryli (A Leaf-rolling Weevil)






Overwintering adults emerge in spring to feed on the leaves of the host plant. Eggs are laid in May-June, usually in or near the mid-rib of a leaf.
The weevil then cuts a section of leaf that rolls around the eggs and hangs from the mid-rib in a cigar-like shape.
The larvae develop within this leaf roll and then pupate, with new adults then appearing by late July(ish).

I'll try and remember to look out for a leaf-roll and larva a little later on in spring, if I do find them, I'll post photos here.

What, if anything I hear you ask, has this to do with the blog title? (I did hear you ask didn't I?)
As a keen macro photographer, I find I'm tormented by one thing above all else.
The lack of light? The lack of DoF? The huge expense of macro equipment? The constant stares from bewildered by-passers who  have no idea why I am on my hands and knees in the middle of a patch of stinging nettles? 

No...none of these things (although, anyone who is similarly afflicted by the macro-bug, will no doubt identify with all or most of these) I am by the way, aware that perhaps using 'macro-bug' is verging on word play, but it wasn't intended for humorous effect.
I've lost my thread now! Erm, Oh yes...my torment, should I concentrate on flash photography that yields by far the best quality and detail for my invertebrate shots? Or should I follow my heart and use natural light?

The above shot was taken using an off camera flash unit, as was the photograph of another species of weevil below, the Nut Weevil.


Curculio nucum (A Nut Weevil)
Compare these two photos with the next one and I think the differences will become obvious to you. This one (below) was the same species of weevil as above and taken at the same time but utilising just ambient light.

Nut Weevil (female)

You can see how the light is much softer here. There is however a loss of detail, especially in the eye of the weevil. It's detail of course that the naked eye wouldn't ordinarily see anyhow, but, having been spoilt by the amount of minute detail flash shots can reveal, it's always hard not to compare the two mediums like for like.

There are other associated problems around natural light macro work,probably more so than using flash, the main one being the issue of light.
I don't intend to get into the techy stuff in this particular blog entry but perhaps, somewhere along the line I'll return to the subject.

For now I'm quite happy continuing to experiment with both flash and natural photos. There are times when either one can be the best suited approach. Flash will always win out over natural for detail (unless you are lucky enough to have some top-drawer kit and don't mind lugging around tripods et al) and even then, to get the very best out of the medium becomes kinda impractical in the field.

Natural light macros will always have more appeal to me aesthetically. I personally find the softer light and fantastic backgrounds that it can achieve, so much easier on the eye. Bokeh is often missing from flash shots due to the light fall off.

Having affirmed my preference for the latter technique, I'll stick with it for the remainder of this blog entry.


Lacewings (Chrysopidaeare delicate little insects with a wingspan of up to around 65mm. 
A little known and fascinating fact is that they have hearing organs (a kind of membrane) in their fore-wings that allows them to hear well.

It's usually the green variety that I see and even that's not a regular sight, these are nocturnal, or more correctly 'Crepuscular' meaning primarily active during  twilight hours.They can been seen also on moonlit nights but rarely are they about daytime.

Micromus angulatus is one of several rather small and similar brown lacewings. Flying May-October in well vegetated habitats but it is not a common species.
A double treat today then, firstly it's still April and so once again an early sighting. Secondly, it's not one I've ever seen before.
  
Micromus angulatus (A Lacewing)


It's not a huge leap from Lacewings to Alderflies (Sialidae) not to be confused by the way with salticidae, which are a species of spider. Alderflies are weak-flying insects that rarely move far from water. The species that I spotted today was perched on the edge of a local pond that I've been inspecting for signs of emerging damselfies.


It's location tells me that it's probably our most common species as this is the one that prefers still, muddy water. The other two species preferring running water.


Sialis lutaria (An Alderfly)


Snakeflies (Raphidiidae) are probably the strangest of all from this little group of insects.I've only ever been fortunate enough to see one of these intriquing insects 
There are only 4 species here in the U.K. I managed a shot of one a couple of years ago and include it here as the likelihood of coming across another is slight.

A Snakefly (Flash photo)



Logically next in line would be Scorpion Flies. These will be along any-time now though, and so I'll refrain from adding photos until I can use an up to date shot.




Weevils are a great favourite of mine and I've been considering devoting a blog entry entirely  to this huge group of beetles.
There are 60,000 weevil species world-wide, in several families. I began this entry with a photograph of one and it only seems right to end it with another.


It can be really tricky to pin down an exact identity for some of these weevils. Especially for an amateur like myself. My last offering today I belive to be Phyllobius species and possibly P.maculicornis but I wouldn't like to gamble my life on that being correct.



P.maculicornis (A Weevil)


Well friends, that's another entry done and dusted. I hope you've found something of interest or perhaps learned something about the fabulous wildlife that surrounds us all but we give little thought to for the most part?


Right now is just the best time of year for me. So much going on, so much change and everything to look forward too.
 My photography and my invertebrates are my salvation and time spent out and about in this fantastic county is totally absorbing. Every day something new. A friend of mine who lives in London town once asked me "Aren't bugs just bugs, wherever you find them"? He couldn't have been more wrong.There are so many (estimates vary from 750000 to one million) and that's just insects.
There is so much diversity in, and even within species that it'll always be a wonderland for me to explore and marvel at. I shan't live long enough to even see more than a few, let alone identify or photograph them.


But.... I'm doing my best!


Until the next time then.




As a postscript to this entry, and in particular, weevils. If you've been wondering why you haven't seen any yourself. Here's an idea of how they appear size-wise to the naked eye.











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