At the end of the movie, “Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy says that if she ever goes looking for her heart’s desire again, she won’t look any further than her own back yard.
A couple weeks ago I put out a call asking for the best place to find ladybugs. I wanted to take some closeup shots and I knew this was the time of year for them. I got several suggestions, most of them fell into two camps: 1) drive way the heck up into the hills, or 2) buy a bag of them and wrangle them myself. Instead, I took Dorothy’s advice and looked in my own backyard. Our fruit tree is heavily infested with aphids so it made sense that I would find ladybugs in the tree.
Sure enough. As I got closer to the tree I could hear the faint cry of aphids being devoured alive (and dead).
This photo raises a question: What do you call a male ladybug? I learned the answer is: a male ladybug.
Gear talk: These photos were taken with a Canon 7D, 50mm f1.4 lens on a 20mm extension tube, and two Nikon flashes (left and right side). (ISO:100, 1/200, f/11) The camera and flashes were mounted on a home-made bracket (natch) that is pretty mobile and well-balanced. I can get more magnification by using a longer extension tube. Focusing at this magnification is very critical, depth of field is about 3/8 inch.
I hardly ever set my camera on any of the in-camera settings, such as black & white, or vivid, or sepia. I always prefer to do image-tweaking in post-production for two reasons: my computer has much more finesse than the in-camera processor, and I prefer to have the choice of using the original in color. Having said that, I was experimenting tonight with the black & white setting on my Canon XTi, perhaps for the first time.
I took this shot in my kitchen; the lighting was from one overhead fixture with two CFL bulbs. I shot it hand-held at 1/15 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, with no image-stabilization. I was trying to replicate the old-school days of shooting pushed Tri-X in available light, manual focus, manual everything. My only comfort was the chimp-factor avaiable with the digital camera.
My dog, Pepper, has the most amazing dog eyes. She has some sort of genetic eye-liner which makes most women jealous. (You can’t see it in this image, but she also has a pretty dark moustache, so I guess that evens it out…)
In line with this attempt, it might be fun to really go old-school and turn off the LCD display, shoot without chimping and then seeing how the images come out later. I could even force myself to wait three days to see the results, just like the good old days.
I spent part of the day at the Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue sanctuary in Elverta today. Homeward Bound is a non-profit, all-volunteer operation run by Jody and Mike Jones. They rescue Golden Retriever dogs from all over the state, and have over 40 dogs in the sanctuary. In 2008, they rescued 810 dogs!
Homeward Bound is an amazing place. They have a large indoor kennel area to keep the dogs out of the elements, several outdoor yards, a large dog park, and a pond. They also have an infirmary for dogs that are recovering from surgery.
Each dog is given a complete checkup by a veterinarian. In the photo to the right, Jody holds Megan, a 3-year old while Dr. Justina Codde gives her a shot.
Volunteers of all ages help out at the sanctuary. Several high school students were there today, bathing and walking the dogs, helping them meet potential adopters and also taking care of clean-up duties around the facility. Speaking of adoptions, I’ve adopted Homeward Bound as my newest pro-bono client and I look forward to getting to know the people and “goldens” that make Homeward Bound such a terrific organization.
When you’re three years old, a ladybug can be pretty interesting. I wonder at what age we stop caring about the little mysteries of nature. I remember burning things with a magnifying glass and what a fascinating trick that was.
I think we can all learn something if we stop moving long enough for a ladybug to want to spend some time walking around on a leaf for us.
I took this bee photograph with a Do It Yourself macro lens. I bought an old used wide angle lens at a camera store’s junk bin. The lens looks like it was originally made for an older Minolta 35mm camera. The filter size on this lens is 55mm, so I also bought a used filter step-up ring from the same junk bin. The filter ring fits on the front of the lens and has a flat area for a larger round filter. I then took a plastic body cap that fits my Canon 30D camera. I cut out the center part of the body cap and used some JBWeld to glue the body cap to the step up ring. This makes a “reversing ring adapter”.
This adapter lets me mount the wide angle lens backwards to the front of my 30D, thus making a very powerful macro lens. I also bought a used 50mm lens with the same size filter mount; this lens is a little less powerful, but still very useful for close-up photography.
Total investment: $22 for two lenses and one adapter.