Friday, 10 July 2015

Venus 15mm f4 Wideangle Macro Lens

Venus optics, a Chinese lens manufacturer, has recently announced the production of a 15mm true macro lens i.e. capable of 1:1 or lifesize reproduction. Never before has such a wideangle true macro lens been produced so I am very interested in this lens. I'm very pleased to say that Venus are sending me a sample so that I can review and test it.

This post is therefore simply a 'heads up' that I will be reviewing this lens on this blog as soon as I am able to.

This weblink provides more details on this unique lens. Note that Venus sell this lens under their Laowa brand.

BBC Wildlife Magazine

I always enjoy seeing my images published in BBC Wildlife magazine. It's a magazine that I've been reading since I was a teenager and it remains the best publication of its kind on the market. I'm pleased to have an image of an emerging Four Spotted Chaser dragonfly gracing a page of the latest July issue.


Monday, 6 July 2015

BBC Countryfile Magazine

I'm pleased to have a 5 page article on close-up photography in the latest (July) issue of BBC Countryfile magazine. This is the third 'How to Take Winning Photos of...' article the magazine has featured in recent months to support the Countryfile photography competition. The other two articles were on the themes of wildlife photography (Chris Gomersall) and landscape photography (James Osmond).


I even made the front cover (if you look very carefully in the top right hand corner!)

Friday, 3 July 2015

Predator v. Prey

In my experience interesting wildlife and nature photographs are rarely handed to you on a plate. Instead they often require early alarm calls, lots of patience and a certain amount of discomfort in the form of traipsing through undergrowth or lying on your stomach in fields. However, just occasionally things work out a little differently.

One day last week I happened to be sitting on the floor in my house when what looked like a fly fell onto the carpet in front of me. Closer inspection revealed it to be two small flies and I initially assumed they were mating. However it soon became clear that actually one fly was attacking the other. My macro set-up is never too far away so I quickly grabbed it and managed a few photos of the tussle between the two flies.


Predator v. Prey (Canon 7D with MP-E 65mm macro lens and
diffused MT-24 flash, f13, 1/160, ISO 100)

The above image shows the predator on the left biting into the other fly's 'neck' and inserting its feeding tube. It then effectively sucked the insides out of the fly for a minute or two before flying off and leaving the now hollow fly behind.

I've seen flies attacking and eating other flies many times before but normally the predator is noticeably larger than the prey. What strikes me as interesting in this image is that, if anything, the predator was slightly smaller than the prey.

For those interested in identification, the fly on the left has been identified as Coenosia species while the unfortunate victim is another Muscid fly of some sort.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Macro Flash Diffusion (again)

This is a follow up post to my main macro flash diffusion page (here).

I am regularly asked about my macro flash set-up and have recently written a couple of magazine articles on this topic. During some recent experimentation I thought I would try to illustrate the power and importance of macro flash diffusion for those still unconvinced. The following example is far from perfect and I would have ideally used an example from the insect world such as a nice shiny ladybird. Unfortunately I've yet to find a shiny insect that will sit perfectly still while I fiddle around with diffusers only 5-10 cm away. So, the best I could come up with is a shiny laurel leaf covered in water droplets.


The above shows a comparison between the 'naked' MT-24EX twin flash (top) and a diffused MT-24EX (bottom) diffused in the manner described in my other macro flash diffusion page (here) and as shown below:

Hopefully the comparison shot shows how useful diffusion is. Gone are the harsh highlights and extremes of light and shadow to be replaced by much more even tones. It is however possible to have too much diffusion which can result in images with insufficient contrast. So my aim is never to remove all highlights but just to ensure that the highlights aren't burnt out and that the contrast is reduced.

I have used the above diffusers for several years and have generally been happy with their performance. I have achieved slightly superior performance using a single sheet of plastic rather than the two domes but find this to be more cumbersome. The above therefore provides a nice balance between performance and practicality.

Until recently, no effective commercially available diffusers were available for the MT-24EX (as far as I am aware). As a result, most users of this twin flash unit constructed their own home-made diffusers as I did above. However, I recently became aware of an individual named Ian McConnachie who was producing diffusers for the MT-24 and selling them on Ebay. I duly bought a pair and have been testing them in recent weeks. The image below shows the diffusers attached to my MT-24EX and my MP-E 65mm macro lens.

 The diffusers require a certain amount of construction but this is well explained in this YouTube video. I also find the diffusers a little tricky to get on and off. But, they do a fairly good job of diffusing the flash, especially if you add an extra layer of kitchen towel over each individual flash head. Below I have made another quick comparison image, this time showing (1) no diffusion, (2) my original home-made diffusion and (3) Ian McConnachie's diffusers. Please excuse the fact that the focal point moved slightly in image 2.

I still think my home-made diffusers are my preferred choice but Ian McConnachie's are not too far behind. They are certainly the best commercially available option for the MT-24EX.

Note that to purchase these diffusers on ebay you need to search for 'MT24 diffusers' or look for listings by user 'redstag101'. I notice that he doesn't always have them for sale but would hope that some will be listed soon if none are currently available.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Drinker Moth Caterpillar

In the beauty stakes the adult Drinker Moth is nothing to write home about but the same can't be said of the Drinker Moth caterpillar. They are impressive creatures with long 'fur' and striking yellow spots.

I recently discovered several of these caterpillars and so took a variety of images of them. Below are a selection.


First, a backlit image:

Second, a more traditional portrait:

Finally, a habitat image taken with a fisheye lens:

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Insects in Sunshine...

I've been a bit slow updating my blog recently, in part because I haven't done a great deal of photography lately. But here are a couple of springtime images taken over the last few weeks. The first is a Tawny Mining Bee feeding on flowering redcurrant and the second a Seven Spot Ladybird.