One year on – Saturday, June 25th, 2011

June 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

During a macro shoot yesterday I was lucky enough to come across a nice little green tree frog. I don’t see these guys very often and only have a couple of shots of them in my archive. I’m not sure of the exact species, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

TreefrogGreen tree frog
Saturday, June 25th, 2011
Canon 5D, mpe-65 @ 2x, f11, full flash

On a whim last night, I decided to look back 12 months to see what macro subjects I was shooting at this time last year. To my surprise, it turns out that I had taken a shot of this same species on the corresponding day 12 months ago!

IMG_8132Green tree frog
Saturday, June 26th, 2010
Canon 5D, mpe-65 @ 2x, f11, full flash

In the 12 months between these two images I have worked on my lighting and technique and I think the shot from this year highlights these advancements. The lighting is more even now and is bringing out the colours in the scene better.

After seeing this, who knows…. maybe I will try and make these sort of comparisons a semi-regular feature!


Upcoming macro tutorials

June 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Over the last couple of years I’ve had a lot of people ask me for more information on how I capture my macro images.  I’ve often threatened to put together a series of tutorials and walkthroughs of my processes, but until now I simply haven’t managed it. Well, I figure that it’s about time I actually changed that!

Over the coming months I will be endeavouring to sift through a mountain of thoughts in an attempt to dilute them down to some practical and structured notes that will hopefully give you some insights into how I go about my macro work.  I will try to encompass as much as I can, from equipment, through to in-the-field techniques and my digital work-flow.

At the end of the series, I hope to have shed enough light on the subject to help those already interested in macrophotography as well as hooking a few of those who have been wondering what the fuss is all about. In my opinion, the more people we can encourage to either try the genre or even just appreciate the subjects, the better!

IMG_4103-2Learn the art of capturing high detail macro images with my upcoming tutorial series

Minnippi park update

June 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today I am happy to report some good news in the Minnippi park saga! The head of the 2 million tree project along with other council representatives have met with us and gone through the rational behind the habitat clearing as well as the proposal for the area.Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the meeting personally, but those that did have reported back and are feeling much happier about the situation.

There will now be a mixture of around 12 different species of trees used in a less dense planting as well as the re-sowing of several grass species in the area.

While the best solution would be the one that was never needed (ie: No habitat destruction to begin with!) we all feel that this is the next best outcome and look forward to the time when the insect population returns to the area. No doubt it will take a few years but at least there is a definite light at the end of the tunnel now!

To all those that have offered support and their thoughts, we are sincerely grateful!


Devastation at Minnippi Park

June 9, 2011 § 4 Comments

I recently went to one of my main shooting locations for an early morning macro session but as I was walking towards the area I could tell that something wasn’t right. From a few hundred meters away, the glimpses I was catching through the trees were not matching up in my mind with the area I know so well.

As I came to the edge of the maintained area in front of where my morning shooting sessions are normally focused I stopped and stared in horror as a wave of first disbelief and then nausea hit me. This entire section of park that once supported so much life and provided vital habitat for the breeding and survival of many species had been razed to the ground! The area mainly consisted of long grasses with probably 30 smallish trees spread throughout that provided a unique habitat in the park.

At the time we had no idea what the deal was, but seeing as this is the spot where about 70% (at a guess) of my images from the last couple of years have come from, we were going to do our best to find out.

Over the last week and a half we have been in touch with local council and have found out that the area has been cleared as part of the “2 million trees” campaign. The Lord Mayor has set a target of planting 2 million trees in the Brisbane area to make the city “greener”. While the initiative is fantastic in principle, it is beginning to reek of nothing but bureaucracy in it’s execution.

It seems the local councillor either knew nothing of the goings on or just didn’t care as he fobbed us off to another member of council. From there we were told that the area had been cleared and that 2,555 new trees of the same species that are in the area are to be planted. Apparently this was to be done “to increase the biodiversity of the area”. It would seem that only those sitting behind a desk who have never actually bothered to set foot in the park could possibly think that the wanton destruction of a unique habitat to be replaced with an expansion of an already existing (and more widespread) habitat could possibly increase the biodiversity.

The lack of logic and planning behind the move goes even further though as to fit the aforementioned 2,555 trees in the area, they will need to planted almost literally on top of each other. At a pinch, I would estimate that planting around 300 or so of the selected trees would provide a complete canopy over the area and essentially obliterate any chances that the required grasses could reappear. Planting close to 10 times that many will provide an interesting spectacle if nothing else!

Unfortunately, as is so often the case when it comes to government, it seems that as soon as a few tough questions start being asked a wall goes up and that’s the end of it. At the first mention of whether any sort of environmental impact study was completed our emails were redirected to higher authorities and have since been ignored. Funny how that works!

I wish there were examples we could take heart from, but the last lot of work that was carried out in the park leaves little to inspire hope for a bright outcome. A bike path has been built through the bush at the northern end of the park, along which 218 trees were planted. Of these planted trees, 88 have died and the rest of the area is choked with weeds and has become a pungent cesspool as the bike path has interrupted the natural flow of water away from the area. I wonder if this is what is destined for our once abundant life supporting habitat? And once they have finished “improving” Minnippi park, where will the powers that be decide to turn their wisdom…

As I said earlier, the “2 million trees” initiative has great potential and I’m sure it was conceived for the right reasons. It’s the execution that has let it down. Even those blind to nature would surely struggle to see the sense in destroying one green habitat to try and establish another. Wouldn’t the scheme work better and achieve more if it was to reclaim areas that are in actual need of it? Apparently there’s too much logic in that sentiment for those in power to comprehend though. Or maybe it’s just cheaper and quicker to do it the easy way in the hope of garnering another few votes.

In honour of what was once, in my opinion, one of the premier macro areas in the heart of Brisbane I’ve added a handful of images below, all shot at Minnippi, of some of the former residents. May they find a new home that suits their needs.

RIP Minnippi.

M-IMG_6286Many dragonfly species would use the thicker grasses as an overnight perch away from the waters edge where temperatures remained significantly warmer.

M-IMG_0262The small trees spread throughout the grasses were home to range of colourful and varied leaf beetles that used them for food and shelter.

M-IMG_0622The small trees and grasses between were also home to many small frogs who used them for shelter and as an important gateway to other areas.

M-IMG_1211Tiny native bees used the grasses to roost over night With an easterly aspect, the grasses were the perfect place to wait for the first rays of the early morning sun.

M-IMG_1780A host of different spiders used the grasses to hunt, playing an important balancing role in the ecosystem.

M-IMG_1853Insects such as grasshoppers would use the small trees and grasses for both shelter and food.

M-IMG_2285The entire life cycle of several wasp species were played out in the thick grasses and small trees, using them for shelter and as nest building sites.

M-IMG_6279Arial predators such as robber flies had the perfect hunting grounds to perfect their art and help keep everything in balance.

Walkthrough: Face off

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

IMG_8358“Face off”
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 3x, 430EXII flash, f13, 1/200th

Wasps are one subject that I really enjoy shooting, but don’t often get the chance. Some species can be very aggressive and unpredictable, so shooting high magnification portraits can simply be out of the question in the natural setting. As I shoot all my macro shots in the field, this really limits my opportunities.

I came across this common paper wasp (Polistes humilis) one cold morning sitting on a blade of grass. Usually, I encounter this species perched on a nest with many other individuals, so my first reaction was to check the surrounding grass to find the nest and ensure I didn’t accidentally stand on or up against it. To my surprise, there was no nest in sight. I looked again but the area was clear so I knelt down in the cold dewy grass for a closer look.

As far as wasps go, this species tends to be less aggressive and unless you physically bump their nest, they will generally leave you in peace. Given this fact and considering how cold it was, I thought I would be in with a good chance of getting a few low-risk shots of this one.

At this stage, I didn’t know how the subject would react to my presence, so I moved in slowly and shot a few lower magnification side on shots. There was no reaction to this and it all but confirmed that the wasp was feeling the effects of the cold and was very lethargic. This was my signal to move in and try for the front on pose shown in the image above that I had been thinking about from the start.

To achieve this angle, I shuffled around until I was kneeling directly in front of the wasp and took hold of the blade of grass it was sitting on, holding it between thumb and fore-finger (thumb on top) about 7-8 cm / 3 inches from the actual wasp. This gave enough separation from the subject to minimise intimidation and also ensured my fingers could easily be kept out of the shot.

Once I had a firm grip, I held the position for 10 or 15 seconds to let the wasp get use to the presence of my fingers… this is an important step as introducing too many elements such as fingers, lens and flash at once can easily spook your subject.

During this time, the wasp stood up and literally looked around and up and down my fingers, but sensing no threat settled back down again. I then placed the end of the lens on top of my thumb and slid in towards the wasp to achieve sharp focus.

Once everything was in place I slowly pulled the blade of grass until it was taught and then using my second finger on the underside of the grass as a brace, bent the tip of the grass down slightly to bring the sloped face of the wasp completely into the small window of depth of field available at these magnifications. After a quick adjustment to ensure sharp focus, I fired off 4 frames (just to be sure!) before letting go and stepping back.

From the time I took hold of the grass to the time I let go was no more than 30 seconds, but it was a short period that I really enjoyed. Coming face to face with an insect that a lot of people don’t like and would try to kill on sight can be a real treat and show that perceptions can be misleading.


* Disclaimer: Wasps can be unpredictable and pack quite a punch with their sting. Take care when shooting them and always keep an eye on their movements and if they become agitated, just walk away!

The return of Brisbane Macro

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s time to draw a line under the past and start afresh with the Brisbane Macro site! Unfortunately I had to leave this site for a while, but I am getting back to it now and have vowed to make it bigger and better than ever!  That means more posts and more useful information. The more the merrier I say!


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