The Sweet Spot

mating flesh flies hanging upside down from a rusty wire

Anywhere, including the underside of rusty fence wire, is a good place to mate for these flesh flies (family Sarcophagidae, tentative ID).

I imagine for flies like these two (possibly flesh flies of family Sarcophagidae) any spot is sweet, but I am thinking of camera settings and lighting conditions and all the factors that go into a photograph that comes out of the camera needing very little editing. This photo happens to be one of those. Apart from some light denoising and sharpening, and healing out a few dust spots, I didn’t do much in post-processing. The natural light background came out in a nicely even, soft green, no unwelcomed shadows on the subjects or blown out highlights, etc. I’m not celebrating, but shooting with a reverse lens puts me in manual mode whether I like it or not. It also disables any TTL flash functionality and has me “flying blind” (so to speak) without a light meter. So these types of results are not a given for me. I’ve got a decent enough feel by now, where I just adjust my camera and flash accordingly, to whichever desired effect I am going for, and I’m usually at least in the ballpark. With a little trial and error, getting something good isn’t too difficult, especially with a cooperative subject. Of course, dynamic lighting conditions and erratic subject behavior can really muck things up. I have baseline settings that can give a decent if flawed shot when I need to just Go! (Like yesterday when I saw a bumblebee mimic robber fly with some sort of prey — first bug of the day, too! Unfortunately the robber was also on the go, and I could never get close enough to even fire one shot off…but I digress!)

So I am pretty happy with this shot, although it does have some flaws. If you wanted to quibble about the composition or if it should be cropped differently (it is actually uncropped, by the way), I wouldn’t argue much probably, but I like it well enough as is. The big problem is that the focus is not on the eyes of the mating pair. Hanging on that piece of rusty, straight wire, you’d think it would make it easier to line up parallel to the subject and hence get the most surface area in focus, but here we see the wickedness of macro’s shallow depth of field in effect. The flies are not actually lined up with the wire; they are very slightly turned. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s a hair enough off to take the sharpness off those bright red jewels. It’s one of those cases, too, where I instinctively line up with the straight guide (i.e. the wire), but it is actually throwing me off. Usually in these subtle cases I take a ton of shots, and end up with something just off like this one, but these flies saved me the trouble by taking off after only a few shots. Very kind of them.

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