Here is one I posted on Flickr a while back. This Southern Carpenter Bee was photographed in south Florida. It was a large but rather placid subject, hanging onto a flower for a great many shots, in contrast to the often busy buzzing and patrolling I saw a lot of carpenter bees doing down there (although I believe those were mostly Eastern Carpenter Bees, off the top of my head). Big eyes here is a male indicated in part by the yellow face. He reminds me a little of a South Park character. (Full lateral view below.)
Well, sort of. The cocoon pictured above (I am guessing some sort of Lepidoptera pupa) seemed like a good chance to test out some handheld, natural light (with fill flash) shots. This type of shot wasn’t something I was really thinking about, apart from the daydreaming bouts of inspiration after seeing other photographers’ great natural light shots. As it happened, I was browsing my Flickr contacts’ photos and came upon a striking photo. The shutter speed displayed as 1/50 or so, and I asked the photographer if he had used a tripod. Sure enough…he hadn’t; he used fill flash with natural light, handheld. It was such a sharp, vivid photo, I thought, how does he do this? Was his equipment that much better? Were his hands that much steadier? I decided, maybe…but maybe I’m just talking myself out of good photos. I decided I had to give it an earnest try.
The photo that inspired me was of a beetle, but I wanted to avoid the frustration that a moving target can cause even with full flash; there was no point in choosing a difficult subject only to get fed up fast and discourage the whole idea before I made a sound effort. When I saw the cocoon, I decided this was the one. The only movement I had to contend with was from the wind (not too bad that day) and my own clumsy bumping of the twiggy bush the insect had attached itself to.
Apart from reducing the shutter speed and flash output, raising the ISO setting was the main setting I could manipulate. (Given the depth of field involved, enlarging the aperture was not much of an option.) But the thing is, I am loathe to bump up the ISO setting as I don’t think my D5000 does that well above it’s native ISO setting (200)…which isn’t completely fair as I have an ingrained loathing of anything but the minimum ISO after my early macro days — when, essentially, I realized too late that my auto setting almost always chose the highest ISO, leaving many of my photos seriously degraded with copious noise. So I have somewhat compulsively shot at ISO 200 since I acquired my DSLR. For this endeavor, however, I obviously had to ease up on the compulsion.
The shots went fairly well to my surprise. I did notice some fuzzy outlines in some of the photos that might have indicated camera shake or subject movement, but I liked the results. For the fill flash and natural light photo above, I shot at 1/60 sec, ISO 400 and flash output manually set to 1/8 -2/3. It was difficult to make good use of the depth of field, but I am happy with the lighting; the noise was not troublesome either. For comparison, I took a flash shot, as shown on the left above. It is at a different angle which doesn’t have the nice blue sky in the shot much, and not as much care in general with the composition, but I don’t think it would have come out much more different in its lighting. I went down 3 stops or so (if my self-taught knowledge is on the ball) as the flash shot was set at 1/160 sec, ISO 200, flash output 1/8.*
All in all, I think it went well for a first go.
*P.s. If you’re looking for an aperture setting, I’d give it to you, but my reverse lens doesn’t really have anything because it is manually set (usually with a toothpick or, lately, a mountable aperture adjuster specifically made for a reversed lens).
It was a funny thing, but I remembered and reminded myself: now is not the time to fail to fail. Like this spider, what surrounds you can bring you up and it can bring you down; you can get carried away whether the wind is gentle or cruel. It’s time to fly. It doesn’t really matter where I land; they’re all crash sites. All birds and butterflies fall; not a single bat flies forever. Like a spider or like a bee, there’s a way forward. Make it blue sky or make it on the tangle of a seed; it’s an arc with no map. I’m falling up and I’m flying down, because there’s something to be said for hitting the ground.
I found this beautiful Grizzled Mantis on a footbridge in Savannas Preserve State Park in Florida last November. It appeared to be half-squashed or half-crushed. I felt really bad for it. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I ended up photographing it and leaving it more or less in the condition I found it; I left it to a fate I wouldn’t know. They say insects most likely don’t feel or experience pain as humans do. “Putting something out of its misery” is more of an “higher order” concept, and while its fun to anthropomorphize arthropods, it’s often better to take a less self-centered approach. Which is not to say I did the right thing. As much as letting it die on its own didn’t change anything, killing it would not have changed much in the larger scheme either. In the end I didn’t want to do it, so I didn’t. I’m not sure what that says about me; it doesn’t seem like anything good to be honest. I guess the sense I am most left with is one of sadness; it had been a long while (adolescence) since I had seen a mantis in the wild.
I am sharing this particular photo because in a matter less grave than life or death, but “crushing” in its own way, I lost a good chunk of writing today to a vagary of the WordPress system. I had left the tab of a WordPress post draft in my browser open for about 24 hrs. Since then my session had expired and when I began writing this morning, I had to log in again. I’m not sure what exactly the technical problem was, but after I had written for a while, I clicked the “Save Draft” button. An error screen came up saying that the request didn’t work or that it had failed. Below that line of text was a hyperlink that said “Try again.” I clicked it – to my chagrin. The worst part is, as soon as I did it, I remembered this was the wrong thing to do. It had happened before, and I had lost my writing just like this time. The last revision saved was from the day before; the new text was sent to oblivion. I searched the browser cache in vain. I tried to hit the back button, but the time for that was at the “Try again” screen – do not click “Try again.” I do believe clicking the back button works if you do it without proceeding through the error page. I’m sure WordPress is aware of this. I wish the “Try again” page that comes up was a little more robust in its warning about continuing with the process. I am very frustrated and somewhat daunted at the task of having to rewrite this story. I think remembering the unfortunate mantis has given me some perspective to move forward, but it still is rankling me.
So here’s to moving forward. Here’s to better writing, here’s to a safer WordPress.
Here’s to healthy mantises.
They say if you keep doing the same thing again and again and expect different (i.e. better) results, you’re nuts. But sometimes you’re nuts to begin with, and you just do what you are. The rest is just hoping for the best. Sometimes you hope, and you move forward. Sometimes you just are.
(Don’t worry, though; everything changes.)
I have plenty of photos to share with the world, but the words I would like to accompany them appear to have gone missing lately. And that’s not the only thing. Typically, photos are taken and EXIF data is recorded and appended to the image. I have been using a new workflow where I use Nikon’s viewNX2 to do the initial processing of the RAW (NEF) file, thereafter converting the file into TIFF format (to edit in GIMP). After the the NEF to TIFF conversion, I lose the EXIF data. It is not the biggest deal for my current purposes, but I would rather have the “Date Created” or “Photo taken on” information reflect the actual date and not the day I processed the photo and turned it into a TIFF. It is also nice to be able to share with other photographers the camera settings (of course I have fewer recorded data fields than typically with the reverse lens set up; basic items like aperture and focal length are not available and the camera registers as “No Lens Attached”). My googled journey to find answers left me with virtually nothing…except maybe high blood pressure and a headache.
If any photo processing savvy person knows how to remedy this problem, your input is more than appreciated.
As for our beautiful bug, this is a Citrine Forktail damselfly that I found in Florida in late March or early April (see I’ve lost my mind, obviously located within the EXIF data). The yellow coloration indicates a male. According to BugGuide.net, it is unique among all damselflies with “stigma” (the spot on the wing, to use BugGuide’s term) in that it is not on the edge of the wing but surrounded on all sides with the clear membrane of the wing. It also is (likely) the smallest damselfly in the United States, and certainly the smallest I have personally encountered. It fit very nicely into the dimensions of my camera’s DX (APS-C) sensor as this uncropped shot illustrates.
Writing is hard when you are depressed. It is a distinct if not special pain to hit that first key. It seems impossible, and a word, then a sentence, and God forbid a paragraph is Armageddon come to pass. This post is just something that must be done. I apologize in advance, but this is an act of an act, a scratching and clawing means to a modest end that appears to be slipping into an abyss but is really sinking into cushions that are soft but not comfortable. And so here we are, and at least one of us must be. This is a paragraph. This is the end.