Saturday, September 13, 2014

A sluggish slug that isn't even a slug...

When I go out looking for extreme macro photo opportunities, I tend to take the whole shooting match in terms of kit. I'll usually have the DSLR with hand-grip and off camera flash unit, with a fairly large home-made diffuser attached. I'll probably have my second camera in the bag as well with a separate macro lens for slightly larger subjects.

All this can deliver great quality images but is cumbersome and can also be restricting in some ways too. That's why I recently decided to ditch it all and take just one camera and lens for the day. The 100mm macro can be challenging to use with just natural light at 1:1 mag as there is not much light working that close and of course depth of field is limited too, there's no IS on my old version of this lens and so I need to keep the speed up at 100+ to be sure of sharp(ish) images.

Anyhow, excuses over...time to share some results of my day....

These carabid beetles were the first thing I encountered and as they seemed....distracted, I was able to spend a little time photographing them. I am not sure of species here but it was unusual for me to see them up on the seed head like this, they were quite large too.

Next up was this female Common Snout-Hoverfly, or 'Heineken' fly as I have heard it called.  

Rhingia rostrata

Rhingia rostrata

These are quite easily recognised amongst the hoverflies by the orange abdomen and long snout. As I can't see any back margin to the abdomen on this one, I think it is the less common Rhingia rostrata. R.campestris being the other possibility. The plant it's feeding on is scabious.

A Speckled Bush Cricket

This bush cricket seemed to have a deformed back leg. I have seen many crickets and grasshoppers with injuries to their legs and even missing limbs. They seem to survive okay, although it will slow them down of course and that can mean less food.

A Meadow Grasshopper

The grasshopper pictured above was sitting right on the edge of a spider's web. As you can see we had a shower of rain around the time of this photo. I think the ID is right with that broad brown stripe but I am always willing to be corrected.
It does serve as a good example of the differences between crickets and grasshoppers though, with the much shorter antennae on the grasshopper.

It also links in nicely with this next image...

Another meadow grasshopper but this time, I got a bit adventurous and so this is comprised of 17 separate images stacked together. The idea being to give more detail and have a better depth of field. 

Here's a crop from the same image...

I was quite pleased with how the stacking software dealt with these images as they were not at all well aligned being hand-held. Here's a little sequence showing the movement between shots...

You might also have noticed that this individual actually does have a missing limb. Well, if you're going to be stupid enough to attempt these stacked images, at least choose a subject that is less lightly to hop off immediately.

I'll tempt you with this next photo of a pretty bug before I introduce 'the slug' then?

Corizus hyoscyami
Corizus hyoscyami is a rhopalid bug that I usually find in the garden each year, although this one was in local woodland. About 9mm in length.

              Are you ready for the slug then? If it helps any, it isn't a real slug...

A Pear Slug Sawfly larva (Caliroa cerasi)

This is actually the larva of a sawfly and they cover themselves in this dark green slime to become unpalatable to predators. When the larva are fully grown, they drop off the plant they have been feeding on and pupate in the soil.

Elasmostethus interstinctus

This little birch shieldbug instar dropped onto my hand when I was turning over birch leaves to see what I could find. There's another shieldbug nymph in this next photo if you look hard enough...

 Close-by I came across this dock bug that had freshly moulted and was still very red looking...

Coreus marginatus nymph

Coreus marginatus nymph

The final challenge I set myself on this particular day was to try and photograph some brimstone butterflies in flight. I failed miserably with the macro lens but enjoyed trying. I think next time I'll try again with a different lens, maybe a longer one to give me a better chance of keeping the butterfly in frame long enough to get a picture...

I'll leave you with a shot of the great early morning light from the same day...

Until the next time...


  1. I found it very intresting to read about the proses you go through to take such stunning photos, I have a bridge camera which I just point and shoot and hope for the best most of the time... I often marvel at your photos, now I know it takes time ( and the right kit) and effort, they don't just happen.
    Amanda xx

    1. Thank-you Amanda, nothing wrong with a bridge camera. I sometimes take my small point and shoot camera with me instead of all the 'proper' kit and it's quite nice to be free to just snap away. I do like the added detail the extra kit affords but also find it heavy and frankly, annoying at times ;-) Yes the right kit can be important but it's more about the user than the equipment I always think? I poor photographer will still get poor photographs even with the very best set-up.

      Thanks for your comment and interest.

  2. Definitely the photographer as these photos are just stunning. Just goes to show you don't need flash all the time and you've done so well with the hand held focus stacked one. (Never tried that myself, wouldn't know where to begin) I hope you didn't pull that poor grasshopper's leg off on purpose though! ;-) I love that last photo and I've been getting out early to capture the same light - though thankfully early isn't too early anymore.

    I think you are correct with Rhingia rostrata although I'm not sure if I have ever seen one of them - I am seeing campestris everywhere at the moment (although I have to assume I am, I don't check every one out through a macro lens!). Are they both called the Heineken Hoverfly?

    Never seen one of those sluggy sawfly larva though!

    And as for the 'failure' with the Brimstone in flight shots - what utter tosh. They are really good! :-)

    1. Thanks for your comments Mandy. You are very kind about my pictures. Natural light has always been my favourite medium but I do get seduced by the amount of extra detail adding flash can have. No! I did NOT pull that grasshopper's leg off...How very dare you ;-) I did see that you have been taking some early morning shots as well, now is a good time to catch some great light on any reasonable days.

      Not sure about the hoverflies both being called Heineken, but reckon so as it's only a slang term and they both have the 'beak'. That was my first 'sluggy sawfly' too.

      Again, it's real nice of you to say about the brimstone shots but they really aren't special-okay at this size but not much detail beyond. I'll keep trying though if they hang around long enough.

    2. Well I had a quick go yesterday trying some White butterflies in flight and really did fail miserably - using same lens as you (I assume it's the Canon 100mm?). Also failed miserably trying a dragonfly in flight although I didn't get many goes before - oh joy - it actually stopped and PERCHED so off I went a-stalking. My Powershot is completely hopeless for anything in flight as it has such a slow reaction time so I got out my dslr as I have got some good bees in flight shots. Need more practice for flutterbies and dragonflies though! :-)

    3. Yes, same lens, although you may have the newer version? Anyhow-pleased you felt inspired to try. It is asking a lot with the macro as everything is so close that reaction time has to be very good and then there are the other problems of focusing etc.

      Pleased you managed to get a dragonfly that perched for a while anyhow-in-flight shots are frustrating but well worth persevering with. I'm sure you'll have some cracking photos soon. Butterfly count has dropped off here lately and so I have fewer chances right now but, you never know and there's always next year.

    4. I also have the non IS one. God I am so out of practice with manual focus close up with it (with or without flash) - I look back at pics I took with extension tubes ages ago and I did so much better than now. Too much using my Powershot on auto focus or using the macro lens for flowers from further away.

      It was a good day yesterday (weather and bugs) and I had both cameras outside and saw my first ever Buffalo Treehopper and stuffed up every photo with my dslr!!! But just wandering around the garden with two cameras and jiggling about between the two is hard enough (always seem to have wrong camera in hand for the photo op in front of me, or gotta change settings on the dslr which I use 90% time in manual mode now that I know how) so I can't imagine how frustrating it would be out in the field!! Still, it's fun, and there's always tomorrow/next week/next year like you say, and great that we still feel motivated by it all. :-))))))

    5. Okay, you also have the older version. Not sure if the IS will add enough to warrant the added cost but my 100mm is getting on now and is showing its age.

      Haven't seen any tree hoppers since May of this year but they are small and can be frustrating to photograph. I know how you feel about the wrong camera too-I have been stalking a Kingfisher locally and the one day I didn't have my big lens with me, there it sat in full view...and, the heron was there too.

      Anyhow, such are the joys of nature photography and the joy it brings me far outweigh the angst and so long may it continue.

  3. Butterfly in flight- I have tried and found it very very difficult even when possible shot. I wouldn't say you failed at all. actually first two shots are quite fine.
    btw, I too had become quite a fan of focus stacking when I used a free trial for few days. Very nice result here too.

    1. Well thanks for that-I guess I am my own worst critic and always feel I am failing but, at least I did get some results ;-) Focus stacking for me is okay in small doses-I get quite enthusiastic about it for short periods.

  4. S*T*U*N*N*I*N*G!!! Another exquisitely illustrated blog!
    Love the recently moulted dock bug! All the photos are fantastic though! Especially the Brimstone flight ones. Oh, and the grasshopper surrounded by droplets!

    Have to say I'm rather amazed at what the stacking software can combine. It's incredibly clever!
    Nice to see the Corizus. Seems they've done really well this year!


    1. I thought you might enjoy the bugs in this update Maria ;-) Haven't done anywhere near as well as you this year but still...some nice finds. Yes, stacking can produce some interesting results-not something I will find myself doing too often though.


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