Two Flies and a Failed Comparison

blow fly portrait with pink rhododendron background

This blow fly was sitting on the petals of a pink rhododendron flower having itself a clean.

Last weekend, I posted a similar fly portrait to the one above. I’m reposting the previous image (below) as a comparison exercise. When I started processing this blow fly shot, I thought I noticed a distinct lack of sharpness compared to the flesh fly. It made sense, as the former is an older shot, with a good chance of me using the “finger” method for aperture control (i.e. to keep the aperture open on a reversed lens, you use (wait for it) my finger to hold the aperture lever down). This has some drawbacks and that is apart from the dent in your fingertip. The main one is the susceptibility to movement in your finger which can introduce image quality degradation. I don’t think that was a problem here. (Edit: After writing this, I noticed the specular highlights on the eyes of the blow fly were distinctly hexagonal which I wonder now if that’s related to the finger method.)

On closer inspection, the lack of sharpness wasn’t really pronounced. For what it’s worth, my theory was that the originally perceived difference was likely a result of a tradeoff for a wider depth of field. The finger method’s advantage is it allows for variable aperture sizes (as opposed to the “toothpick” method which I graduated to — I know, cutting edge technology at, and back then I tended to go with smaller apertures to increase depth of field. Let’s take a side-by-side look:

This comparison is quick and dirty, and not definitive. The flies are different sizes and/or shot at different magnifications; the blow fly’s antennae also appear to be held flatter against its face. These considerations are going to affect depth of field and how the subject might fit inside it. Still I hope the difference between the two  suggests the intertwined nature of technique and artistic intent even if it doesn’t illustrate something about technique and sharpness. The blurred antennae might distract some viewers, or maybe they put the focus more on the eyes to positive effect, like with human and dog portraits.

My observation about the comparative sharpness really seemed to fall flat when I looked at theshots more closely. I was a bit too lazy to go back to the originals, but I did look at the files made after my typical first round of processing the NEF file, and with virtually the same amount of initial sharpening, they were pretty close. So much for the magic of dueling sharpness in fly portraits. But I did make some cropped files, so what the heck, I’ll throw them in here just because.


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