I didn’t have any work today so planned to use the spare time to write about something, anything. However, it felt like inspiration was evading me. By two o’clock in the afternoon, I was still staring at a blank monitor. I then decided to mount my Macro Lens on my dSLR and see if the outdoors had something to offer.
I initially planned to walk to a park full of trees in order to get a few snapshots of insects. However, the thought of lugging around my tripod under the burning sun didn’t sound appealing. So instead of carrying something with three legs, I pulled out my monopod opted to walk around the garden this afternoon.
[Yes, I’m lazy.]
I was not disappointed. Some of the garden creatures I came across included a small group of ants, couple of spiders, a heat-shaped insect, and a solitary caterpillar. Starting out by handholding my camera, I quickly made use of my monopod for the first spider. Then after a while, I decided it was time to bring out the big guns, so the tripod and wireless trigger finally came out of their bags.
My first subject was a rather shy, but beautiful, spider. Being just a little larger than my thumbnail, I was fortunate enough to spot it waiting on a bush at eye-level.
This spider was so shy that he would move around the branch, making sure to keep it between me and it at all times. After a while, it felt like we were dancing because every time I took a step to one side, it would move in the opposite direction.
Fortunately, my patience paid off and I was able to photograph it. Dressed in a combination of pale yellow and black, it looked every bit a predator in this little jungle.
But then we’re talking about spiders here, so colors aren’t the only thing fascinating about them. Unlike other garden creature, spiders have many eyes scattered around their heads. Having multiple eyes makes them so much better at hunting prey because of their extremely wide field of vision.
And in this case, it meant that this shy little spider could turn its back on me and still keep an eye on my actions. Thanks to additional eyes behind it, my trying to circle around it was ineffective.
After dancing around with the first spider, I decided to walk around the small Tomato patch we have. When I was within half a meter of the perimeter, a tiny insect darted out then made a U-turn to land on a leaf right in front of me. And during the entire session, it didn't budge from its spot, even as I got extremely close to it.
I didn’t have my monopod with me because the pesky neighborhood cats have been using the garden as their private bathroom. I was worried the tip would end up squashing a smelly piles, so I shot handheld instead.
Being the size of a grain of rice, the insect look unremarkable through my viewfinder. It was only after zooming in with my computer monitor, that I noted its appearance. Filling my monitor, it was heart-shaped, making it perfect for Valentine’s Day.
My next stop was under the Mango tree a few steps away where I came across a few ants guarding their territory. Marching around a few broken rocks, they kept a watch over the colony entrance.
When I got close, a couple of them reared up and started pointing their abdomens, or tail sections, at me. In addition to this, they raised their pincers at me, as if warning me not to try anything because I would regret it.
Still without my tripod, and having to deal with their fast movements, getting clear pictures was a bit difficult. Apart from my hands shaking, my legs were beginning to get tired from all that squatting.
So after talking one last group picture, I decided to stretch my legs by walking past the Tomatoes in search for another thing to photograph.
Stuck on a wall was a light brown spiny caterpillar. Being a little longer than my middle finger, it just hung there, oblivious to my talking pictures of it.
By this time, I decided that it was high time to set up the tripod. So off I went to extract it from its carrying case. I screwed the plate under my camera, spread the tripod legs, and then snapped the plate on the ballhead.
I first tried using the viewfinder, but found it much easier to use Live View through the rear swiveling LCD, or Liquid Crystal Display, screen. After noticing that my action of depressing the shutter button still caused the camera to shake, I pull out the wireless trigger.
This spiny caterpillar, is one of several signs that summer is about to arrive. However, the negative thing is that they are also the scourge of childhood. I cannot count the number of times I wound up running to my mother as a kid after accidentally brushing against those poisonous spines.
The good news is that even if their spines are painful, I will be seeing a butterfly or month soon enough. And from the looks of it, it may be quite interesting to look at.
The last garden creature on my list was a spider smaller than my pinky’s finger nail. Located a little to the right of the caterpillar, this was one spider that wasn’t shy to pose for the camera.
With my dSLR still mounted, I lifted the tripod and moved a couple of inches to the right before focusing the lens. Unlike the first spider, this one was not afraid of me. On the contrary, it appeared to be rather curious as it appeared to stare straight at me through the lens.
It just stood there, gamely posing for me and wasn’t bothered by the heavy use of my flash. And while he was not as colorful, his confidence made him a standout. It was only after I left that he decided my time was up.
I learned a lot in three hours, with the first lesson being the zoom buttons beside my dSLR’s LCD are not only limited to enlarging pictures. They can also be used in Live View to make sure my subject is in focus!
[This may sound obvious to veteran photographers, but I haven’t come across anything on the internet about it.]
The second is there is no substitute for a tripod and wireless trigger in macro photography. Sure, the Vibration Reduction, or VR technology, of Nikon’s lenses help, as does a monopod. But good as they are, they still cannot compare to keeping one’s hands off the camera body.
The third thing I learned is that my camera flash isn’t ideal for macro photography because it cannot be tilted down when the lens is very near the subject. The inability to light up the second spider meant that I had to lighten the picture through GIMP.
Fourth, as I mentioned in past articles, I crop pictures heavily. While some of these pictures have good detail, such as the hairs on the legs of these creatures, a higher 24-megapixel camera should provide even more detail.
Finally, while the Nikkor 105mm Micro is a wonderful lens, I could not help but wish for 200mm lens. This would have been helpful with the first spider because it was very shy. Unfortunately for me, the Nikkor 200mm f/4D IF-ED lens requires a camera body with a built-in auto-focus motor, something that my D5100 doesn’t have.
While I have contemplated updating my camera body to a D7100 or higher in the future, I just cannot part with the variable angle LCD screen of the D5xxx series. Being able to frame the shot via Live Views while standing and sitting took is so convenient, especially since it becomes uncomfortable to kneel or squat after a while.
So unless the D7200 comes with a variable angle LCD, I will be sticking to the D5xxx series for years to come.
Seeking inspiration and finding nothing to help me write an article, I opted to pull out my dSLR and walk around the garden. I was not disappointed as I came across some very interesting garden creatures.
If, just like me, you find yourself with a little time on your hands and without inspiration, try pulling out your camera and heading out to the nearest bush or tree. You just might end up with pictures of a few interesting creatures yourself.