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 eye of the skink

More photos from yesterday’s session and a rework of one of the B&W shots in glorious Technicolor.

First, a shot of Lily. That’s Lily the Skink, as made famous by the Scaffold.


These long-tailed skinks are normally notoriously skittish but this one seemed unconcerned as I edged ever so slowly closer. Note the tiny ant crawling on the lizard.


Very close to Lily was Tango, the Orange-tailed sprite.

Orange-tailed sprite

Orange-tailed sprite

I had to photograph Tango through a fence to get a decent angle. I would have liked the tail tip a fraction sharper.

I was always a big Beatles fan. So meet the beetle. Very slow shutter speed hence the moving antennae.

Lema coromandeliana

Lema coromandeliana

Everyone likes a butterfly and here’s Helen. Nectaring on the Lantana.

Papilio helenus

Papilio helenus

Steve likes frogs – how about Mr. Grumpy? Would Lottie give Grumpy a kiss, I wonder?

Mr. Grumpy Toad

Mr. Grumpy Toad

And to round things off, I decided yesterday’s B&W version of the rotting wood didn’t work as well as I had hoped. The rich colours add rather than subtract to this in my view.


Time to do some work now. Until next time.

Potentially dangerous?

When I was at the HK Book Fair I picked up a copy of “Potentially Dangerous Bees and Wasps of Hong Kong” by John X Q Lee. It is a fine publication and pitched at exactly the right level for a duffer like me.

It is published by the most excellent Hong Kong Entomological Society.

Since then I have kept an eye out for any of the potentially dangerous chaps and I am happy to report I have seen several of them. Moreover none has yet shown me any aggression whatsoever. They appear far more domesticated than the average US Banking Regulator and arguably with better judgement.

Any road up, here is one I believe to be Vespula flaviceps and a very fine subject it makes too.

Vespula flaviceps

FOOTNOTE: I was wrong again. John Lee tells me this is:

a dwarf carpenter bee (Apidae: Xylocopinae – Ceratina sp.) There are possibly several different species in this genus locally and identification to species isn’t possible without the specimen.

Much indebted, John.