Adventures in Bug Hunting - Focus Bracketing Live Insects in the Field

Discussion in 'Nature' started by faithblinded, Jun 6, 2016.

  1. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    I spent this morning at my favorite marshy area. I was there with my 300/4, my tripod, and the desire to do some focus bracketing. My primary target for the day was Dragonflies, followed by Damselflies, and Spiders. Once the day got warm enough, the bugs all appeared at once. The dragons seem to wake up hyper, so I started with the smaller Damselflies.

    I used my E-M1 with the 300/4, and focus bracketing. I used the smallest step size, and ran 20 shots off at a time. The damsels are mostly 5-10 shots, while the Dragons tend to need 10-20. This is all working at the minimum focus distance, or as near it as I could manage. The biggest problems were the wind, the movement of the water, and moving eyes. Dragons and Damsels are hunters, so they are watching everything when perched, looking for a meal. That means lots of eye movement. A couple of my processed images have minor ghosting from eye movement.

    This one is a stack of 11 images:

    6 image stack:

    9 image stack:

    7 image stack:

    5 image stack:

    And now for the few cooperative dragons of which I could pull a clean stack.
    16 image stack:

    Black Saddlebags, 4 image stack(he was farther than the rest from me):

    20 images stack:

    I only found one really nice spider, but it was the biggest fishing spider I've seen at my spot. I set up with my tripod head submerged to get these from both sides of the spider.
    22 image stack:

    16 image stack:

    While I was setting up the front view of the spider, I noticed this little water flea guy sitting nearby, and managed this shot, which may be my favorite of the entire day. I have no idea what it's holding.
    8 image stack:

    All images were processed in LR, then handed to Zerene Stacker for focus stacking, then back to LR for final processing. Any questions, just ask. I think I have a new obsession...
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  2. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    You got some great shots! I've played with focus stacking flowers and had enough issues with wind movement on those. I can't imagine trying to get bugs and dragonflies to sit still long enough and having them do it when there is no wind. Nice work!
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  3. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    I've been itching to get out for some more focus stacking with the 300/4. Sadly, the insects usually aren't very active when I go out for the sunrise. It's been too hot for me to do much late afternoon shooting, so I've been biding my time. Well, we had a nice sunny 77F afternoon today, so I went out for the 2 hours before sunset. It was quite comfortable, and the damsels were very active. I'm getting better at this. I have also picked up a book on local dragons and damsels, and can now ID most of my shots.

    All shots are taken with the 300/4 + 1.4x TC. They were processed with LR and Zerene.

    This handsome fella is an Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis):

    Here is a female Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis):

    The real stars of the show today were all the same species of damselfly, the Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum). They are known to gather in very large numbers in the evening, and tonight was such an evening. They were mostly resting on the surface of the pond, so with my rubber boots on, I waded into the shallows with my tripod. I set it up so the camera was only a few inches above the water, and looked for interesting poses/surroundings. There were hundreds, so I could choose the best.

    This male caught my eye, reflecting in the pond. Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) male:

    This guy had a rather battered wing. I liked the blue that surrounded him. Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) male:

    I consider this shot something of a personal victory. It's been challenging shooting stacks of live insects. I accept some occasional eye movement or a twitched limb as par for the course. This is the first time I tried to focus stack mating damsels, and I pulled it off! There are a couple little issues, but nothing I can't work out with a little retouching in zerene. Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) male and female:

    Ok just one more Orange Bluet shot. I think this may be my best of the day. I don't think this is the show the damsel was expecting. I believe his "friends" are assassin bugs.
    Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) male
    "Three is Company"

    Thanks for looking.
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  4. Totally impressed that you can get a sequence of stacks for active insects like these!
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  5. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Thanks! It's a challenge, but the range of the 300 really helps. They aren't bothered much by me, so I just have to wait for the breeze to stop, or for the bug to stop moving. Some of 'em just never stop flicking those eyes around looking for prey, so you have to move on. There's at least one failed stack for every one that I pull off, and several more I didn't even complete in the field because of movement or flight. But, when the sunlight is beaming strong at the end of the day, you just gotta keep at it, and some will go together.
  6. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Out of all your stacked images this is one of my favorites.
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  7. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Thanks. That was one of those ones I knew was really good when I saw it in the vf. Of course with stacks, it only holds true if you manage to get them merged. Gladly, I did here.
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