Learning to slow down and starting to really see

Posted on 06. Sep, 2011 by in Equipment, Everything, Macro, Photography, Wildlife

If small, creepy, crawly critters freak you out, take this as a warning and read no further.  If you ignore this warning and have nightmares, I accept no responsibility!

Although I’ve been shooting macro shots for some time now, it wasn’t until this past summer that I really started to notice all the little critters that are inhabiting our garden just out my back door.  I thought went I escaped the corporate world of never ending meetings, office politics and EBITDA that I’d finally learn how to slow down and really see the world around me.  And largely that’s been true with seeing larger critters like owls and foxes.

But it wasn’t until this summer that I finally started to take a good look around what’s been hiding in plain site, just outside my office.  You see, I got married last fall (finally!  hurray!) and I’ve moved into the house that my was living in.  It’s a fantastic little house built during the war in the 1940’s and one of its fantastic features is a very large back yard (at least by city standards).  My wife is a fantastic gardener and in addition to a few vegetable crops we have tremendous wildflower and sunflower gardens.

This summer I managed to slow myself down a little more and now I’m seeing all these little critters who I previously either took for granted or just never noticed at all.

The first critter to come to my attention this year was a Jewel Spider living in a garden shed.  I’ve foolishly adopted “Wilbur” as a pet and have fed it a steady stream of unfortunate mosquitoes all summer.  When I first encountered Wilbur it was about 1cm in diameter and I had to use my Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens (that affords up to 5x magnification) in order to get a reasonably sized facsimile of this spider onto the sensor of my camera.

(You can click on any of the images to view larger versions)

Young "Wilbur" the Jewel Spider eating a mosquito == Canon 5D Mark II, 65mm MP-E F2.8L == Canon MR-14EX Ring Flash

Young "Wilbur" the Jewel Spider eating a mosquito == Canon 5D Mark II, 65mm MP-E F2.8L == Canon MR-14EX Ring Flash

I’ve used that 65mm MP-E Macro lens of Canon’s quite a bit, especially in my snowflake photography, but I haven’t used it too much for anything else.  It’s a great lens and there is nothing else like it in terms of versatility, but it is really tricky to use hand held (like I find I need to do in the garden shed) as it is a manual focus lens.  But, every once in a while everything lines up and you can get a nice sharp image with the eyes (all six or eight of them when it comes to spiders) in focus.  So, I decided to purchase a different macro lens to give myself a bit more flexibility.  I picked up a used Canon 180mm F3.5L Macro lens through the Buy/Sell forum on Fredmiranda.com.  And by the way, if you are looking for some used camera gear, I’ve personally had great success selling and buying gear through the forum on Fredmiranda.  However, just like with eBay, buyer beware; make sure you do your due diligence!

When the lens arrived in the mail (and why the heck does it take so long to mail items from the US to Canada?), I eagerly took it into the garden to see what I could photograph with my new toy.

Honey Bee == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == 1/250 at F11, ISO 1600 == Hand Held

Honey Bee == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == 1/250 at F11, ISO 1600 == Hand Held

Beetle on a flower == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == 1/250 at F11, ISO 800 == Hand Held

Beetle on a flower == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == 1/250 at F11, ISO 800 == Hand Held

You can see from the above images that while I was able to get good results, I was limited to using higher ISO’s because I didn’t have an adapter to mount my Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Flash onto the 180mm lens.  I ordered one through eBay from Hong Kong, and strangely that item took about as long to get to Canada as did the item from the US.  I’d been wanting the flash because my friend Wilbur, the Jewel Spider repositioned his web so that it was straddling two of our garden sheds.  Many times I had opportunities to make images of it against a wonderful blue sky but I didn’t have a good flash solution to balance the ambient light from the blue sky while illuminating the spider living in perpetual darkness.  The arrival of the adapter for the flash (the MP-e 65mm lens has a diameter of 58mm while the 180mm lens has a diameter of 72mm) changed all that.

Jewel Spider hanging out in its web in front of a blue sky == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Flash == 1/160 at F11, ISO 400 == Hand Held

It also afforded me the opportunity to photograph a number of other critters…

Dragon Fly on Cat Mint == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Flash == 1/30 at F22, ISO 400 == Hand Held

Dragon Fly on Cat Mint == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Flash == 1/30 at F22, ISO 400 == Hand Held

Bee Fly on a sunflower == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Flash == 1/30 at F16, ISO 160 == Hand Held

Bee Fly on a sunflower == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Flash == 1/30 at F16, ISO 160 == Hand Held

Grasshopper eating a sunflower == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Flash == 1/100 at F16, ISO 400 == Hand Held

Grasshopper eating a sunflower == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Flash == 1/100 at F16, ISO 400 == Hand Held

And then yesterday, I again had a great morning wandering around the garden.  I had a chance to photograph my friend Wilbur eye (or eyes) to eye level.  You’ll notice he’s grown quite a bit since June.

Eye to eyes with Wilbur the Jewel Spider == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Flash == 1/125 at F16, ISO 200 == Hand Held

Eye to eyes with Wilbur the Jewel Spider == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Flash == 1/125 at F16, ISO 200 == Hand Held

And then I stumbled across another spider who has installed itself in a pile of cedar mulch that is currently piled against our garage.  It is a Funnel-web Spider (not the extremely poisonous variety found in Australia) and it had managed to snag itself a small grasshopper.  These are fascinating spiders who build themselves a web that resembles a funnel.  The spider hides out in the mouth of the funnel, out of site.  When an unfortante critter happens along and tangles itself in the web, the spider quickly strikes and pulls the captured prey back into the funnel to be consumed.

Funnel-web Spider with grasshopper prey == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Flash == 1/100 at F10, ISO 100 == Hand Held

Funnel-web Spider with grasshopper prey == Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm F3.5L == Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Flash == 1/100 at F10, ISO 100 == Hand Held

So, if you’re looking for a chance to slow your life down a bit and see what there is to see around you, get yourself a macro lens or a compact camera with macro capabilities and get out there and see what you can discover for yourself.

If you have some comments, questions or critiques on the images presented here, I’d love to hear from you.

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One Response to “Learning to slow down and starting to really see”

  1. Mario

    14. Sep, 2011

    A macro will definitely be my next purchase. Good read. Thanks for posting

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