June 3, 2012 Comments Off on Attenborough Nature Reserve
Yesterday I was invited to Nottingham so visit a nature reserve I hadn’t previously been along to. The Attenborough nature reserve is just south of Nottinham and is a vast area of old gravel pits now run by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. The weather was overcast and cool, which means that if you do find any insect then they are going to be quite torpid and allow you much better access than on thosee warm sunny days. Perfect for a bit of macro photography. I loaded up the Canon EF180mm f3,5 L lens onto my trust 1D mkIII, set the metering to ‘spot’, aperture priority and f6.1 and set off with my family for a wander.
Many of the visitors are out for a bit of cycling or bird watching and the visitor centre provides good information about whats been seen recently, however they are not quite so well geared up to provide information for insect lovers. It’s a case of wandering around and looking out for the habitats and doing a quick search, eyes pinned to the vegitation alongside the paths. So much so that I almost missed the Heron in the trees.
If there are quieter paths than the main ‘tourist’ paths I tend to favour them. There is usually more to see. Walking along the bank of the Trent I stepped off the main walkway to a parallel track just a few yards away and slightly down slope. This gave a slightly more sheltered habitat and proved a great source of sheltering insects. One area in particular had dozens of banded demouselle, all fairly torpid and not easily ‘put up’.
The family were growing impatient with me as I spent a good 15 minutes taking these images and eventually left me to it. I would have spent a lot longer with these beautiful insect but felt compelled to follow on fairly quickly. The trouble was there was so much to photograph. Just a few yards further along the track, again in the shelter of the bank I found an Orange Tip butterfly, also torpid and forgiving of my ‘gardening’.
It just goes to show that even on days which look unpromising there are images worth capturing. Don’t miss out, get out there and find those gems. I can recommend the Attenborough Nature Reserve for photographers. Lots to see, lots to photograph.
August 16, 2010 Comments Off on Silver-washed Fratillery
Another interesting day with the ‘Butterfly Rig’. This time at Grafton Wood where I got decent photos of several species of butterfly. The image here is a Silver-washed Fratillery but also photographed were Common Blue, Holly Blue, Comma, Brown Argus, Brimstone, Gatekeeper and Small Heath. No sign of the Brown Hairstreak though. All in all a good day’s practice and a couple of half decent images.
Butterfly season comes to an end very shortly, so not many more shots of this topic to endure. Back to landscapes and people at the end of the month.
August 7, 2010 Comments Off on Macro Skills
These tiny butterflies are coming to the end of the flight period now and so I’m taking every opportunity to grab a few shots of them. I particularly like to try and isolate them from underneath, which gives a slightly different perspective than the usual side on or top down image more usually seen. This composition requires a different technique and some ‘field craft’ to get. Finding the butterfly is no different, but the approach has to be slow and low. I start to approach by getting very low, I look for a bank which allows me to get much lower and to approach without the butterfly seeing me. Then I use a mono-pod to slowly move any grass or foliage which is in the foreground or background. Set the flash to -2.3 or -2.6 stops and start the creep in. Using the 180mm macro lens I need to be about 2 ft from the butterfly to get a decent image. The butterflies tend not to be as flighty when approached in this manner, if you try to get this close from above then you will have great difficulty.
Hope you like the result.
August 1, 2010 Comments Off on Common Blue Butterflies Mating
Another day out with the macro lenses today. The weather was overcast and dull, so not a day for landscapes, plus I’m trying to get to grips with this macro set-up. Practice makes perfect.
I spent the morning around Sherwood Forest and finally ended up near Broughton Pumping Station, just outside Ollerton in Nottinghamshire. The white butterflies were out in strength and so were the smaller Common Blues. Because of the overcast conditions they are less flighty and a little easier to approach. I found several ‘paired’ on the grass alongside the bridleway next to the River Maun.
Using a shallow depth of field has blurred out the background nicely on this shot. I had to press a few blades of grass down both behind and in front of the butterflies to get the best result. Hope you like it. I might give this image a try at one of the Nationals which are coming up next week.
July 26, 2010 Comments Off on Green-veined White
A day off work, clean the fish tank, look for a new car and take the camera out into the garden. In the garden I have a yellow ‘Choisya (Mexican Orange Blossom) bush which attracts the white butterflies on cloudy days when they use the yellow leaves as a hiding place. They are surprisingly difficult to see. The yellow of the leaves is a very effective backdrop for these ‘yellowish’ butterflies.
Today I walked past the bush and disturbed three or four butterflies, so nipped indoors and brought out the ‘butterfly special’. The lens is a 180mm f3.5, but strapped along its length is a 580ex flashgun with a 5″ x 8″ diffuser attached. This is powered down by 2 and 1/3 stops, and so just fills in the darkest shadows.
This is the result. I quite like it because of the restricted colours. Just need to practice a bit more to get the antennae into sharp focus. Perhaps increase the depth of field a little by moving to f5.6 or even 6.1
Hope you like it.
July 3, 2010 Comments Off on Nut Weevil (Curculio nucum)
More fun with the macro setup. This time early morning in Sherwood Forest. I take an umbrella, a monopod, a tripod, the camera, the MP-E65mm macro lens, the 180mm f3.5 macro lens, a 580EX Flash and a small lightbox diffuser. Open the umbrella under a tree or bush and whack the bush with the monopod. All the bugs drop out into the umbrella 😉
This little guy dropped out of an oak tree. Cute little thing isn’t he?
Nut Weevil (Curculio nucum). I used the 65mm at 2x magnification and dropped the power of the flash to -1.66 stops.
Must buy myself a proper flash bracket though. Its very difficult to hold the light and the camera.
July 2, 2010 Comments Off on Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
A trip over to Manchester gave me an hour in my favourite place, the Peak District, on the way home today. I’ve been trying a few things with a macro setup and so parked up on the slopes of Mam Tor to shoot some butterflies.
As the sun started to drop, these butterflies started to look for somewhere to spend the night, which gives me a chance to get in close with the camera.
I used a Canon 180mm f3.5 L with a 1.4x converter, giving a focal length of about 250mm. f5 with a diffused flash so soften the harsh flash lighting. Just need an arm or something to hold the flash now. They key to this type of shot is as always with wildlife to get the camera down to your subject’s eye level. Which meant laying down in the grass for an hour in the sunshine 😉
Anyway, a very pleasant way to spend an hour instead of sitting in traffic watching the tail lights.