Last Praying Mantis In the Gardens

The featured image is a stacked multi-image, multi-row Praying Mantis panorama. This was the last Praying Mantis I photographed in our gardens this year. We had quite a few throughout the summer, but this was the largest Mantis I photographed this year. The featured image is 8 images, shot in 3-multi-rows of overlapping images. I managed getting 3 images for the top row, 3 images for middle row & only 2 images for the bottom row before it moved. I was shooting handheld with a 300mm lens @ f/5.6 for a softer, smoother background since I wanted a blurred background not showing details of the flowers & siding on the house. I concentrated my focus on the head and front legs and so the yellow flowers behind the Mantis gave a bright pop of interesting color.

Praying Mantis Head Detail, single image, f/11 for a little more depth of field, 300mm, handheld

Milkweed PodS @ Davidsons Mill Pond Park

We went to Davidsons Mill Pond Park to see what we could find to photograph in the fields and to get in a walk on a nice sunny day. In one area there there is a field with a lot of Milkweed Plants along with other plants & flowers. They are past their prime now, but still had an interesting look to them. I was using an Olympus OM-D mk 1 with a Panasonic 14-140mm lens. The featured image is a 9 image handheld panorama taken @ 140mm, f/8. When shooting a multi-image Panorama handheld, I shoot many more images than if I was using a tripod. It just seems to blend better with more images when hand holding for some reason. I was looking online about Milkweed plants and found an interesting fact about Milkweed plants. The milkweed offers crucial habitat to the monarch butterfly. But in 1944 military planners used the plant as a raw material in the war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Milkweed seeds have white, wispy hairs know as floss. Before the use of synthetic fibers, the value of milkweed floss was its buoyancy. The armed forces used it in the manufacture of life preservers for the soldiers, airman & sailors. Life preservers were critical, since so much of the war was fought on & over the seas. Milkweed was not the first choice for life preservers. During World War II, the Japanese gained control of the Dutch East Indies, cutting off the U.S. supply of floss. Milkweed proved an acceptable substitute. Schoolchildren spent the hours walking roadsides and railroad right of ways gathering milkweed. Before the war it was considered a weed. Bags were supplied to carry the collected pods, and children received 15 cents per bag. You needed 2 bags of Milkweed pod floss for one life jacket. The U.S. military called for the collection of 2 million pounds of floss which was enough to fill 1.2 million life jackets.

Milkweed Pod with Milkweed Bugs – 140mm, m43 OM-D, f/8
Milkweed Pod with Milkweed Bug – 140mm, m43 OM-D, f/8

Focus Stacking RainDrop Images

After a rain it is fun to go out in the gardens to photograph raindrops. To get more Depth of Field (sharper focus across the image) and still have a smoother background, I use Focus Stacking techniques. I usually use f/8 or f/11, but it depends on how many images I want in my Focus Stack and how soft a background I want. The more wide open your f/stop, the more Focus Points you will need to add to the series of images. The Featured Image was 10 images taken with a 150mm Sigma macro lens @ f/8 on a Canon R. Images were loaded into 1 Layered Photoshop file and then let Photoshop align the 10 layers. (Edit-Auto Align Layers). After aligning the layers, choose Auto-Blend Layers to let Photoshop blend the sharpest sections from each layer into the final image. This Layer will be on the top of the layered Photoshop file. You will see the masked layers below the final showing the sharpest sections Photoshop masked and blended for the final layer on top. I usually save this layered file in case I need to go in and do a slight touch up here or there. Start with a 3 or 4 layered stack to help get the feel for doing this technique. Once you have done a few you will get the technique down and see what f/stops or how many layers work best for your imaging style. Also the amount of layers depends on how much of the image you want to be in sharp focus.

Raindrops – 8 image Focus Stack – @ f/2.8, Sigma 150mm macro, Canon R
Raindrops – 9 image Focus Stack, f/8. 150mm, Sigma 150mm, Canon R
Raindrops – 12 image Focus Stack, f/16
Raindrops – 12 image Focus Stack, f/8 for Smoother Background

Praying Mantises In The Garden

I was looking in our gardens for Praying Mantises to photograph. I found 2 fairly large ones on two different plants. The featured image is 7 images, focus stacked in Photoshop. I was using a 300mm lens with a 2x teleconverter. When doing focus stacking with live subjects you have to photograph your series of images quickly, because you can touch-up slight movement of your subject, but if there is a lot of movement it makes the blending of images much harder.

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Smaller Praying Mantis, 2 Image Focus Stack, 300mm, 2x teleconverter

Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly In Yard

It was very hot outside to go to a park, so I was looking for subjects in our gardens. There were a few Eastern Amberwing Dragonflies but they seemed very wary of my camera. Finally, after a while, they seemed to tolerate my presence so I was able to get some interesting shots. They are some of the smallest dragonflies, only a little under an inch long. So you have to get pretty close to get detailed images.

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Eastern Amberwing, f/8, 1250 ISO, 300mm f4 lens, 1.4X teleconverter, Canon 7D

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Eastern Amberwing, f/8, 1250 ISO, 300mm f4 lens, 1.4X teleconverter, Canon 7D

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Eastern Amberwing, Obelisk Position, f/16, 1250 ISO, 300mm w/ 1.4X Teleconverter, Canon 7D

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Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly, 4 Image focus stack for wingtips, 1250 ISO, handheld, 300mm with 1.4x teleconverter, Canon 7D

Finally A Blue Dasher In My Yard

Usually we have a few different types of Dragonflies in our yard. But this Summer we have only had Amberwing Dragonflies around. But they were very skittish and very small, so I did not get any good images of them. When I was out looking in our garden for other Praying Mantises  I noticed a female Blue Dasher on our Dogwood tree in the front yard. I finally had an interesting Dragonfly in our yard that was very tolerant of being photographed. It was on one of the Dogwood Bracts basically at almost eye level. I was using a 300mm f/4 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter on a Canon 7D. It would take off, fly around then return to the same spot on the Dogwood. I was able to shift my position to get backgrounds in the shade and in the sun. I also was able to try different f/stops and a few image stacks. The featured shot I was at f/11 for more depth of field (so I did not have to do a focus stack) with a sunlit background.

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Shifted my position angle for a shaded dark background for a more dramatic look. Same f/11 exposure.

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Blue Dasher Female – 300mm f/11, 1250 ISO (busy background)

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Female Blue Dasher Dragonfly, angled for a cleaner background, 300mm, f11, Canon 7D

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Blue Dasher Female, f/13 – busy background version

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6 Blue Dasher FM_CU Crop 9img_Pano_v11_300mm f5_6_300mm 1_4X _7D

Blue Dasher Female – Cropped from below image – 9 image focus stack, 300mm f5/6, 300mm With 1.4X teleconverter, Canon 7D

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Blue Dasher Female, 9 Image focus stack, Handheld, f/5.6, (for a smoother background), 300mm with 1.4x teleconverter

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Female Blue Dasher, 300mm, f/ 5.6

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Cropped version of above image for face detail

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Female Blue Dasher Dragonfly, f/11 – 300mm w/ 1.4x teleconverter.

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Female Blue Dasher Dragonfly,  300mm, f/5.6

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Blue Dasher- female, 300mm f/11

Lily Closeup Image Stacks

A series of focus stacked Lily images, taken with a Sigma f/2.8, 150mm macro lens with a Canon 1.4x teleconverter. With the Canon 1.4x Teleconverter my maximum aperture was f/4 and 210mm focal length. The featured image was a closer view, so I shot 9 focus-stacked images taken with the Sigma 150mm macro @ f/4 with a 1.4x Canon Teleconverter. I wanted to shoot a series of focus stacked images at 2 different apertures to show the difference in the number of images needed for acceptable sharpness across the main subject. So it is a matter of deciding what effect you want in your image before you start photographing.

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1st Image set – Lily, @ f/4, 10 image focus stack, Sigma 150mm macro, 1.4x teleconverter

For comparison the wider open you choose for your aperture, the more images you need in your series of focus stacked images. These were handheld, so the f/8 series was a little farther away, but you can get the idea of what I am trying to show. The more you stop down your f/stop, the less images you will need for a focus stacked image. But the more you stop down, the “busier” your backgrounds become.

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2nd image set – Lily @ f/8 – 3 image focus stack, 150mm macro, 1.4x Teleconverter

 

Blue Dasher Dragonfly Wing Detail

This Blue Dasher focus stacked image is made with 2 images, blended. 1 focused on the head area & the other focused on the tail area. Both were shot, handheld with a 400mm DO lens, with an extension tube for closer focusing.  This Dasher seemed to have a damaged hindwing on the right side. Images taken @ f/8 to to keep a smoother background so the Blue Dasher stands out. I used Photoshop to align and then blend the 2 images for the final focus stacked image. If I stopped down more to get  everything in focus in 1 shot, the background would have been busier and the Dasher would not stand out as much. I tend to like smoother backgrounds in my Dragonfly images.

 

Female Lily Pad Forktail Damselfly Focus Stack @ 150mm

This Damselfly image is made from 12 handheld images, focused at 12 different points along the body of a Female Lily Pad Forktail Damselfly. Images shot with a Sigma 150mm macro lens @ f/4 to keep the background smooth and uncluttered looking. I loaded the 12 images into one layered Photoshop and let Photoshop blend the sharpest elements from each layer together for the final image.

 

Bleeding Heart Panorama & Focus-Stacking For Smoother Backgrounds

After a heavy rain the other day I went out to see if I could find some interesting subjects with water drops to photograph. I wanted to use Image Stacking for more detail in the water drops and main subjects, but still have softer backgrounds. This is one of the first subjects I came upon. I was using a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon R. These are all handheld because it was difficult to get the view I wanted using a tripod. The featured image is 13 images shot from left to right @ f/2.8.  Each image in the panorama series is manually focused for the area needed in focus as I shot along the subject to keep a softer cleaner looking background.

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8 image handheld panorama focused stacked stopping down to  f/11  – giving a much busier looking background

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18 image stack @ f/8

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8 image Focus Stack – f/16

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12 Image Focus Stack @ f/8

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9 Image Focus Stack f/5.6

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7 Image Stack @ f/8

RainDrops_18img f_8_v2_150mm stack

18 image stack @ f/8 for a much wider focus range.

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