Flash!

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.

 

The Tale of Sebastian Civet

Beatrix Potter wrote many Tales of but none as sad as that of Sebastian Civet. I confess it may have been Stephanie but suffice it to say the Civet was a mere babe in arms.

In September 2018 Hong Kong was struck by Typhoon Mangkhut. The most damaging storm to strike us in my memory was violent to the extent of bringing down an estimated 60,000 trees. The HK Observatory recorded winds of 250 kph. Old Peak Road was blocked by fallen trees and officially closed. Of course I ignored that and went up as usual. Shortly after the typhoon I heard a strange noise like a crying baby. I hunted around but could not find the source. On my way down later on I heard the same noise and this time I spotted a young man standing below me off the path. I walked down and with him was a baby Masked Palm Civet, Paguma larvata. The young man was just watching so I phoned for advice from the SPCA. They promised to pick up the deserted baby civet and take it to Kadoorie for rehab. It transpired the civet had lost its mum, who was found dead the following day. I stayed with Sebastian / Stephanie for 90 minutes until the rescuer arrived. I gave it water but no food as it had no teeth. The sad end to this is that after doing well at Kadoorie FBG for several weeks the baby had a heart attack and died one night. Spending that 90 minutes with a wild animal in distress moved me profoundly and it took me some time  to get over the death. Here then are some images of perhaps the most beautiful creature I have met (Mrs. Ha excepted of course).

Masked Palm Civet

Paguma larvata - Masked Palm Civet

Paguma larvata - Masked Palm Civet

The top picture was taken with an iPhone. The kit rubbed against my legs and called constantly, lapping at my mineral water. These creatures are usually nocturnal and hard to see so you can tell what a privilege this was. I just wish it had survived.

 

 

 

 

Malayan Moth Madness

I seem to have neglected to post anything about my second foray to Fraser’s Hill in Peninsular Malaysia. That must be remedied.

I went without Mrs Ha because a) she doesn’t like moths, b) she likes sleeping and c) the road up to Fraser’s Hill makes her car sick. She went shopping somewhere, Seoul I think. Fraser’s Hill is a wonderful place for mothing but I should have realised that the weather would be rather inclement by night. Sadly, that’s when moths get up to most of their mischief. I think it is fair to say that I spent 4 nights dodging downpours. The white sheet turned a soggy grey colour. The lawn was muddy underfoot favouring leeches more than humans. On the 4th night the wind ripped through the moth sheet and put an early end to the mothing. Was the trip worth it? You decide. Let’s start with Loepa siamensis ssp. malayensis and a host of hangers on.

Loepa siamensis ssp. malayensis

Very similar to Loepa lampei!

Loepa lampei

Don’t shoot Aspara radians, he’s only the piano player.

Apsarasa radians

Glanycus coendersi is a very scarce and sought after moth at Fraser’s Hill

Glanycus coendersi

Brahmaea hearseyi – my 3rd in 20 years

Brahmaea hearseyi

Sarcinodes vultuaria on a stick – lovely

Sarcinodes vultuaria

And let’s finish with a lesser atlas moth, Samia kohlli,

Samia kohlli

These are the some of the larger and more exotic moths but I can easily see 300+ species in 4 nights. I am due to go back at Easter and I sincerely hope it will be possible as the coronavirus is starting to restrict travel in and out of Hong Kong.

All photos shot with a Canon 5D3, a Tamron 90mm macro lens and a Canon dual-headed flash with tailor-made diffusers. Huge thanks to Stephen Hogg and family for their wonderful B&B hospitality,