Fortunate are we in Hong Kong for we are not locked down. We can go out in groups of 4 or fewer and we must stay away from other people. I find this no hardship. There is a limited restaurant service if you foolishly choose to go out. No booze. Apparently our CE believes booze makes people intimate and spreads the virus. She has clearly had a few too many herself if you ask me. Life goes on in some fashion. My exercise is, as always, walking up The Peak. The walk around Harlech and Lugard Road, which form a circuit is mainly shaded. So when I walk in the early morning it is too dark for decent photos without flash. Over the last 2 years I have tried to become more proficient using a flash gun if not for the full illumination then for what we call ‘fill flash’.  Good diffusers help and I bought some last year that have made a big difference. Generally I am not happy with the results of my flash photos. Today however I managed to take one I was pleased with and so (drumroll) here it is.

This is either an Arctornis larva or a Trabula. Checking with the experts.

It is a caterpillar of course. The species is Trabala pallida. The colours are gorgeous. Yellow and black with bright blue spots, a white ‘beard’ not dissimilar to my own when it is allowed to flourish and a fine reddish orange patterned head with extravagant black plumes. The yellow and black suggest the cat is perhaps a Borussia Dortmund fan. A dedicated follower of fashion, I’ll be bound.

So why do I like it? Well it is fairly naturally lit and the depth of field is enough from head to tail. The focus is sharp and the colours are natural too. There is no motion blur. Yes, even caterpillars can move fast enough for motion blur. For the cognoscenti here are the summary EXIF data:

1/80s at F16, ISO 400 – that is the famous triangle of variables – how wide open is the aperture (F16 is quite small giving greater DoF), for how long does the aperture stay open, 1/80s and how sensitive is the sensor set for – ISO400 is for lower ‘noise’. The flash was set to manual and 1/8 power. The lens was my Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC on an old Canon 5D3 body. The flash is an even older MT-24EX twin-flash. I can move the two heads separately and even change the power output of each head.

When you shoot flash the shutter speed is less critical as it is the flash that is illuminating the subject rather than the ambient light. Nevertheless I try not to go much below 1/60.

I am sure there are better (and probably more accurate) ways of describing the process but this is my understanding.

Here is another shot from today’s walk:

Cyclosia papilionaris


This had more ambient light but I still used a little fill flash and it is not very noticeable. It has lit the moth fairly evenly without unpleasant glare or reflections. The moth is Cyclosia papilionaris or Drury’s jewel. The species is sexually dimorphic and this is the female. The male has a reddish brown ground colour with a few white streaks on the forewing.

Both images processed in Lightroom Classic.


31 thoughts on “Flash!

  1. It’s been a long time since I skimmed through any blogs. Glad that I did today and read this lovely report 🙂

    Hope you’re doing well!

    • I’m well thanks Ram. It’s been a while – not enough time in the day to do everything I want and the heavy birding gear has gone as I have got older. I still see your wonderful images occasionally when I go online. Thanks for visiting.

  2. The caterpillar is magnificent, great capture.
    Interesting to read what the HK public are doing? Can you meet up with any four people or does it have to be the same four each time? I’d love to meet with my brother I shout up to his balcony instead on days I walk outside there are lots of people though and difficult to maintain distances . We play board games on zoom hehe and he critiques my balcony concerts and tries to tell me what to sing, my other brother is too far away in Scotland but we have a family quiz night every Friday on Facetime.

    • Hi Charlotte, you sound very innovative! We can gather in groups of 8 now but in effect it is close to normal on the streets. Some places are still closed – karaoke bars I think (sorry!) – and restaurants have to maintain minimum spacing between tables. Not much singing I am afraid but plenty of hiking and beach time. Stay well and hopefully the lockdown will end soon.

  3. What a treat these two stunning images are. Every hair on that caterpillar seems to be made of silk, and the colors are beautiful. It’s perfection. I also really enjoy hearing a little about life in HK, so thanks very much for including that. Be well and stay healthy!

      • More or less, I think I have just had the minimal version of the virus (which was quite enough). We have been in isolation for three weeks, so the daily newspaper delivery is all I can pin it on. Your caterpillar brought me back to life!

      • It is quite worrying that you can do all the right things and still be infected. I hope you have built up a degree of immunity, Hilary. We look after Leia 5 days / 4 nights a week and are terrified she will catch it. HK-ers are pretty sensible but it is never risk free. Stay well.

      • Second doctor on phone thinks it is tonsillitis (with white spots on tonsils), so I am going with that, though I have to behave as if it is the virus. I’d love to have had the immunity, but the dread of giving it to my husband has now been lifted. A long spring month with barely 4 hours of rain on one day and high temperatures is playing havoc with the garden, though birds, bees and butterflies seem very happy and it looks great.

  4. Lovely photos Andrew. I saw a furry caterpillar on my morning walk this morning and now I wish I’d stopped to take more notice. Interesting alcohol is banned. Here bottle shops are not closed but they had to put limits on what people could purchase because there was some panic buying. Still, people could buy a case of beer, two bottles of spirits and two bottles of wine in one go. That should keep most people going. 🙂

    • You can buy booze in the shops and supermarkets but the daft old bat said not in restaurants. I think it is because a key area of infection has been Lan Kwai Fong which is a popular bar area. It isn’t really a red light district, which is down in Wanchai but it is or was popular onFriday nights and for post work drinks. It is all a bit bizarre and shows how out of touch Curried Lamb is with her subjects. She is famous for having not known how to use the MTR (mass transport railway) nor where to buy toilet paper when she ran out.

  5. I found your post in “spam.” I wonder what all I have missed. I merely went looking to “see what I could see” and there was your post. Anyhow, it was nice to find an Easter surprise.

    I am happy to know all is well with you and the family despite social isolation, as they call it here- more or less.

    Of note- the liquor stores in Texas were deemed “essential business” and it seems that indeed they are since vast increases in sales have been reported of all kinds of spirits.

    The caterpillar and the moth are each really nice shots with flash which I like very much. It shows excellent detail.

  6. Judging you by your product rather than your word I’d say you are doing very well with the flash. I’ve never tried to learn and have had very spotty results…as a result.

    Drury’s Jewel is perfectly lit with the whites well controlled and Traballa is also well lit with very fine detail. You should be pleased, Mr H.

  7. So lovely to see lepidoptera! We’re having a cold dark spring so not much flying around here. The details you captured on the cat are extraordinary.

    • Thank you Melissa. I’m sorry about your Spring. We are basking in warm sunshine. The detail in the cat is a reflection of the lens quality. Tamron has always made a decent macro lens and I switched from Canon’s own macro lens to this one a few years ago. Much cheaper and very good rendition.

      • Ahhh, warm sunshine. That would be lovely.
        That is good to know about the lens.

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