Blooming difficult – a learning experience

I have a great deal of respect for flower togs. You would think they could just walk up to a flower, plonk the camera in front, say “cheese” to the chosen bloom and flash (optional) bang wallop, what a photograph. A load of little white bull, I fear.

I went out into the garden this morning. We are now up to the mid-30s C and RH off the scale. I have no desire to venture far from the aircon. This apprehension was justified when I suffered at least a dozen mozzie bites before I had even inhaled. I had seen a rather attractive flower dangling on the patio and I thought I might make it famous. Just for 15 minutes. And this is it.


Notice how the lighting is uneven because the background is asymmetrically coloured, if that is the right expression. Green one side, brown the other. It looks odd. And it is of course supposed to be blurred. It was my attempt at being Schänzer-esque. I liked the colour scheme. Someone should make a flag out of red, white and green. They may already have done. I also deliberately added grain to make it look, well, grainy. At the end of all that faffing about with the processing I’m not sure I like the end result but I do have heightened appreciation for all those who do artistic images of flora. (That’s botany flora not the margarine. I think an artisitic image of a tub of margarine might be tricky – maybe Mr. Warhol could give it a go). My biggest learning was that I need something akin to a drysuit to keep the mozzies at bay or I bring the plant into the house. Ticks we have none but the mozzies are out to conquer Hong Kong and woe betide anybody who stands in their way.

Macro-glorious (almost).

Before I sign off on my grasshoppers and dragonflies for the week here are two final images. You have seen both species before. Firstly, the dragonfly Trithemis aurora (female).

I post this to show just how good the Canon 180mm F3.5 lens is and how hard it is to get the shot you really want.

I think the detail in this image is excellent. That is nothing to do with my photography. I simply think the lens is exceptionally sharp and “all” I have to do is get the focus and exposure correct.  I achieved those here. The histogram is pretty much spot on.

The focus looks good at 100%. But what I don’t like is the white petals of the Bidens alba below. I tried to patch them out but it looked messy. I could not get the cleanliness I wanted. I could easily clone out or spot heal the white on the left but for me the damage is done. So this fails but I still like it…… almost. Its hard not to like the beauty of the dragonfly.

You can not always choose the angle from which you wish to shoot. As usual I have a fence between me and the insect and I tried all sorts of angles but I could not get the shot I wanted of the dragonfly without the petals in the frame. The best I could do was work out the minimum DoF that would have the dragonfly sharp and the plant blurred. If I had been totally confident that the dragonfly would sit still I could have opened up wider and taken a series of images to stack. The challenge is you don’t know how long it will sit absolutely still. I only had two frames of this one.

Number two is perhaps a naughty one. Don’t worry, there are no Las Vegas billiard hall scenes here.

This the third of three shots I took of this individual grasshopper yesterday. You saw one of the others in the last post.

I liked it because it was an unusual position and it was if the grasshopper was hiding from me. And then I twigged that that is probably exactly what it was doing. So I didn’t take any more. Rule number one is that the welfare of the animal always comes first and I don’t know what disturbed this grasshopper. I had been happily photographing others at close range and using a soft fill flash with a diffuser. None had been bothered as far as I could tell. But each creature has a circle of fear, which you can not cross without spooking it. Birders know this all to well. I suspect this one didn’t like the fill flash. This too has a sub-optimal background even though I shot at F5, which is wide open on the 180mm lens once you add the 1.4x TC. So frustrating.

Macro or close-up photography is fun and there are some wonderful exponents around, whose work I envy greatly. It is rare for everything to come together. Most are ‘almost but not quite’. That doesn’t stop me trying or persevering.

Have a good weekend.


Heliophorus epicles

After a bit of a maudlin post last time here I am back in a blaze of colour to cheer everyone up.

Today was grim in the field. Even the shade dripped all over me. I think it took less than 5 minutes for my lightweight clothing to be soaked. I am sure that all the adverts for garments that wick away the perspiration are scientifically well founded. They just haven’t been tested in Hong Kong in August. They do indeed dry quickly – but only if you stand in a blast of warm breeze for a while. Nevertheless my role is to bring home the tofu – tofu being more politically correct than bacon.

And by the way, I sincerely wish all my Muslim friends Eid Murabak. I miss my trips to Pakistan and the UAE.

Today’s bacon tofu is a common and widespread butterfly in Hong Kong. I long ago ceased to believe that for a photo to be worthwhile the subject had to be rare. Some of the best images I see are of common species. And by golly that’s lucky for me as I rarely see much that could be described as a rarity. Heliophorus epicles sounds like it ought to be a Greek hero or perhaps the latest candidate for Finance Minister. It is though the Purple Sapphire butterfly. A lycaenidae. Gorgeous from any angle. I found one this morning at LNEC, just settled on some blades of grass, almost at ground level. That meant getting out the WD40 and loosening up the tripod and my knees, in that order. Oblivious to any dangers that lurked on the ground (usually ants) I lowered myself as gracefully as I could down to butterfly level and stared the brute straight in the eye.

This is what I saw:

What a profile!!! A bit overdressed for 9.30am but very nattily groomed, if I may say so.

Here is another shot:

This second shot is obviously very similar but now sitting on a less tatty blade of grass. The downside is the antennae are almost overlapping so it looks as if one is blurred – it is not. Honest. It also has a less grungy background.

And here is the final offering:

Of the 3 I like the angle of this shot the best. The background is fab but only the head is sharp. Does that mean I should bin it? Views welcome. Please.

I do of course have other images to work on but I don’t want to spoil you. I shall allow you to gorge yourself on H. epicles and then pause before we try just one more wafer thin little mint.