Familiar Faces…and Butts

Hummingbird Clearwing feeding at Phlox flowers

There is a big patch of Phlox in the yard, and at least two Hummingbird Clearwing moths (Hemaris thysbe) have been frequenting them. And they are really drinking up. Normally I’d say this presents a problem for capturing a shot because an insect burying its head in a flower doesn’t offer much of an angle. But for the hummingbird clearwing, with its rapid and unpredictable flight patterns, that is a good angle. When I am fortunate to find them feeding and relatively stationary (I’ve never seen one at rest aside from in others’ photos) and tolerant of my presence, I still end up with a lot of “butt shots” similar to the one above. I still like the “feathered tail” and some of the moth’s beautiful coloration is evident as well.

I was hoping to get some “super close-ups” (though less than 1:1 magnification; more around .75:1) at the 55mm end of my reverse lens, but between the short working distance, roughly 4 or 5 inches, and I’m guessing the specter of my flash diffuser, the moths just wouldn’t hold still; often times I scared them off. So I turned to my (un)trusty, broken Nikon 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 lens (the zoom ring is busted, but it works as a reverse lens) for an increased working distance, but I had to trade off further on magnification. The moths are running this show, however, so I was grateful just to get some shots in the end.

(As an aside, I don’t always get good results from the 35-70mm compared to my 18-55mm kit lens; and I think it just may be an optics quality issue, but it does have a couple things going for it: an aperture ring for more precise aperture settings, and it reproduces pinks much better, as evidenced by the phlox shown here; my other lens just can’t seem to do the pinks or deep purples.)

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