The jewel in the bark

On my outing today my primary purpose was to reassure myself that the camera, flash and lens had all suffered no damage in my tripod disaster. As far as I can tell all is in order.

The weather was cooler and indeed there were traces of drizzle at times. I took a couple of dozen shots but only two are on the menu now.

The first is a small wasp. I would guess this is about 15mm long. However despite the small size this has high impact. Just look at that iridescent green or turquoise. I honestly believe all insects should equip themselves with a Dulux colour chart so I can tell whether they are magnolia, blushing peach, glossy white, apple green or wino red. My wife and I have endless arguments about shades of colours. How can you say its green? she will ask. Its clearly blue!!

After a brief trawl in the bowels of the fora I came to the conclusion that this is, as I had suspected, a Chrysididae. I compare it with Dr. Roger Kendrick’s image here:

John Lee had suggested this might be Stilbum cyanurum  but could not be sure. He said in his comment on RCK’s image that these wasps are ‘small parasitic forms sometimes known as cuckoo wasps’.

I found this chap[ess] on a tree trunk deep in the shade on a path at the back of my usual haunt, LNEC, Sai Kung. It was quite active and I started trying to get some shots with the flash on manual. They looked very artificial and I went back to plan B which was natural light, whack the ISO up to 3,200 and up the aperture to F5.6 from F8. I took this at 1/30s. Yuk. You can see the antennae are almost completely blurred out and I applied a little noise reduction, which didn’t help. It is also a biggish crop. So it is never going to win any prizes, especially as I never enter competitions. It is simply a fair record shot of an insect I do not recall having seen before.

The second image went somewhere I never intended. I saw these flower heads on a tree near the lotus pond. I struggled to find one that stood out on its own, Virtually all were bunched up. None had a clean background. Nature does not always cooperate. I wanted to grab the detail and fill the frame. Well that bit was ok. However the frames looked a bit wishy-washy on the screen so I decided to give them a bit of oomph. This is the finished result:

Melastoma sanguineum – Blood-red melastoma

What was really pushing me was the ‘blood-red’ concept. I played around with the contrast, darkened the background a little, added some glow-dust and lo and behold, it looks nothing like the original. Is it too in your face? Have I gone completely OTT. I need to think about this. I am not sure whether it works or not but I do have a cunning plan to render it in black and white.

My final verdict was that the wasp saved the day. I also have an image of the fearsome looking but non-aggressive spider-hunting wasp. I shall leave you waiting for that as I hope I can get something better. They also move fast though. That is the end of the August show and my final task is to add a link to this blog, which I discovered and enjoyed this morning:

Happy September everybody.

Gold leaf – an alternative view

Although I liked my gold leaf shot yesterday it was really a test shot to make sure my kit was working after the tripod toppled over. I wonder, in passing, whether there is a Russian out there called Toppldova? Sharapova beat Toppldova in straight sets, 3 & 4 🙂

Any road up, I decided to see what the leaf would look like in black & white. After experimenting a little I settled on sepia. I also cleaned up the background and added a border. This was the result:

The background clean up was done in about 30 seconds. Two whirls of the lasso and a quick drag of the patch tool in CS6 and Bob’s your uncle. Done. No cloning, no spot healing. Right up to the edge. Wonderful.

I used Silver Efex Pro 2 to process this initially and then finished it off in CS6. I prefer this to the original but I have not come up with a snappy title. Suggestions welcomed.