First Hummer Of The Season

We had ZERO hummingbirds in the spring. Very disappointing. Donald Ray Burger keeps a log of Houston hummingbird sightings going back to 1993 and when I read that he had his first fall sighting on August 5th I decided to put the feeders out. Today we spotted two hummers. One male and one female, both Ruby-Throated. It was late in the afternoon, but I setup the tripod real quick anyway and caught my first photo.

Hummer!

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Hummer!

Hopefully I’ll get some more shots before we head out on vacation. Even better, maybe they’ll still be here when we get back!

Lizardo Sighting

With all the bird activity in our backyard I feared we may have lost much of our indigenous lizard population. But Lizardo smartly moved to the front yard a few years ago. Spotted him on Saturday on the Bottle Brush Tree. He let me get in quite close with the Sony 100mm macro lens. He actually seemed to be interested in his own reflection in the lens, perhaps seeing it as a rival and causing him to stand his ground.

These two images are my best shots of him to date. Click on either image to see the larger size. The detail of this lens is just spectacular!

Lizardo

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Lizardo

Lizardo

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Lizardo

Oscar Meyer Wienermobile

Oscar Meyer Wienermobile

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Oscar Meyer Wienrmobile

I was running a quick errand to the H.E.B. to pick up some postage stamps and lo and behold, the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile was parked out front. I don’t know exactly why, but I get kinda silly when I see this thing. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me since it was a quick errand. I went ahead and bought the stamps and then ran back home and asked Cynthia if she’d be interested in taking a whimsy break.

Oscar Meyer Wienermobile

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Oscar Meyer Wienrmobile

I grabbed my camera and we headed back over to the H.E.B. and had a nice visit with the drivers of the Wienermobile who are known as “Hotdoggers.” It was really quite fun and silly, but we learned quite a bit about the ongoing Oscar Meyer marketing campaign and some facts about the Wienermobile.

Oscar Meyer Wienermobile

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Oscar Meyer Wienrmobile

They still give away little plastic wiener-whistles!

Oscar Meyer Wienermobile

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Oscar Meyer Wienrmobile

*Photographer’s Note*
The first two photos were taken using the Lensbaby Composer mounted on the the A850. The Lensbaby Composer creates the selective focus effect you see in those images and is a fully manual lens. The third photo was taken using the 16mm fisheye and the last photo was taken using the 100mm macro lens.

Bee-lzebub

I believe this to be a carpenter bee of some kind. Possibly Xylocopa tabaniformis.

Curious Bee

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Curious Bee

While working in the yard yesterday this guy was hanging around the Meyer Lemon Tree which is currently covered in blossoms for the spring. This bee would just hover near Cynthia as she was pulling some weeds. First he would face her, then he would turn to face the tree and then fly away, usually chased off by another, larger carpenter bee.

The bee didn’t seem to me to be mad or anything. Just curious and very adamant about hanging around in this one spot which was being intruded upon by our efforts to get the garden into shape before summer. Cynthia thought he was being rather aggressive and named him Bee-lzebub.

Curious Bee

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Curious Bee

The above shots were captured while shooting handheld with the Sony A850 and the 100mm Macro in manual focus mode.

Click either image to see a larger version.

*Photographer’s Note* I was not able to get close enough to the subject to create a “true” macro. These are 100% crops from the original photo. For comparison, this is a resized, but original version of the photo the first shot was taken from.

Original of Curious Bee

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Original of Curious Bee

A testament to the resolving power of the A850 and the sharpness of the Sony 100mm Macro.

Jeweled Spider

Gasteracantha Cancriformis aka the crab spider, spiny-backed orbweaver, spiny orbweaver spider, crab-like orbweaver spider, crab-like spiny orbweaver spider, jewel spider, spiny-bellied orbweaver, jewel box spider or smiley face spider

When I bought my first DSLR (The Sony A100) I got a good photo of a Jeweled Spider in my backyard using a 50mm non-macro lens with some macro lens add-ons. It came out pretty well. The original blog post from 2009 is here if you want to check it out.

This past weekend I spotted a Jeweled spider in the front yard but this one was not the orange color I came to expect. This one was white with black spots. These shots are with my A850 and the 100mm Macro lens. Click the images below to see the full sized, much more frightening versions:

Jeweled Spider
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Jeweled Spider

Jeweled Spider

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Jeweled Spider

The Honeypot

Hummingbird Honeypot

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Hummingbird Honeypot

Once the feeders have been up for awhile you get a sense of which of the perches they’ll tend to favorite. This allows me to setup the camera on a tripod, take aim and wait with the wired remote in hand.

This was shot with the flash and using the 70-300G lens

Hummingbird w/flash

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Hummingbird w/flash

This was shot with no flash using the 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens

Hummingbird w/macro

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Hummingbird w/macro

And this was with the 500mm Reflex and no flash.

Hummingbird w/Reflex

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Hummingbird w/Reflex

Curious

Curious Squirrel

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Curious Squirrel

We hung a suet feeder in the tree outside the front windows in hopes of attracting more birds. Of course the neighborhood squirrel was interested and was perched on the branch checking it out. When we went to shoo him away he just looked at us. He seemed to know we were not a threat behind the glass. We banged and yelled and he just looked at us as if to say “neener neener neener! you can’t get me!”

Shot through the window with the Sony 100mm macro lens.

Noisy Neighbor

Baby Mockingbird

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Baby Mockingbird

There’s been a baby Mockingbird outside the front window and for the last few days he’s been cheeping and cheeping. He’s not in a nest and he’s super hard to find, especially since he stops cheeping when we go outside to look for him. I finally located him and was able to shoot the above picture using the nifty Sony 100mm Macro lens. He was pretty fearless and just watched me as I put the lens within a few inches of him. If you click to see the larger image you can see the intrepid photographer reflected in his eye.

BUG

Bug

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Bug

We went for a walk on Saturday down by the bayou just to get out and get a little excercise. Of course I had the camera in tow. Not a lot of photo opportunities, but Cynthia spotted this guy on a flower no bigger than a pinky fingernail. I’m stiff today from squatting down and trying to hold the camera still as the wind blew my subject to and fro.

It looks very much like a Crane Fly (aka Mosquito Hawk) which we see all the time in and around the house. But this guy is much smaller and has a probiscus rather than mandibles. My guess is he’s either a juvenile Elephant Mosquito or just a plane old male mosquito.

This pic remonds me of the album cover of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds

On a side note, there’s a 30th anniversary tour in the works which (sadly) doesn’t look like it will make it here to the U.S.

This shot was done with a flash from above.

Bug

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Bug

Macro Mothra

Best shot of the day at the Cockrell Butterfly Center was of this moth as I was leaving.

Macro Mothra

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Macro Mothra

Camera: Sony DSLR-A700
Exposure: 0.008 sec (1/125)
Aperture: f/9.0
Focal Length: 100 mm
Exposure: 0.00

There was a little daylight shining right on him so I shot with fill flash which allowed me to take advantage of the natural light for the majority of the illumination.

Check it out when we zoom in a little bit.

Macro Mothra

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Macro Mothra

The detail is phenomenal!

This is a full on, un-resized 100% crop of the original image:

If you are interested in seeing the full sized image in all of it’s 6.2 megabyte, 4272 x 2848 glory you can download it here:
http://www.baldheretic.com/pics/photography/macro/moth.jpg

It’s pretty amazing and worth checking out.

Sony SAL-100M28 – A Modest Review

I’ve always been fascinated by macro photography and it just so happened that I was investigating options for a dedicated macro lens without any real intention on adding one to the arsenal until I fell prone to poor impulse control again.

Eyeball

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Eyeball

Above photo was shot for fun and treated with a little HDR style processing to enhance detail.

In my research I read about the Sony SAL-100F28 along with Minolta AF 100 F2.8 Macro D which is the out of production predecessor to the Sony. And while the Minolta is less expensive than the Sony when you can find a good copy on the secondary market (Ebay, Craigslist, etc), I opted for the updated optics and mechanicals of the Sony along with a warranty.

Don’t get me wrong, the vintage Minolta glass has been widely praised. I even own the legendary Minolta AF 70-210 F4 (Beercan) lens and love it dearly. It’s just a crap shoot sometimes when you buy used technology from the 80’s and I was willing to pay the extra dollars for the Sony. Besides, immediate gratification was in play.

I also considered the Sony SAL-50M28 but decided I needed the 100mm reach over the 50mm to be able to get the shots I envisioned.

A medium sized and lightweight lens, the Sony SAL-100M28 is not cumbersome in the bag or on the camera. Being fast (f/2.8) and a prime lens, it appeals to my fast lens snobbery.

Aside from a few shots taken of Dooley and my own eyeball and such, I hadn’t really had a chance to really take this lens through its paces. Cynthia suggested The Cockrell Butterfly Center as a possible testing ground and having the day off yesterday I decided to make the trek to the HMNS compound to give it a whirl.

It’s worth noting that the Cockrell Butterfly Center is hot. They keep it hot to keep the butterflies alive, which makes sense. Having been there before I dressed comfortably and wore a head scarf and remembering my Hitchhiker’s advice I brought a towel.

The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels…

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

Ok, I wasn’t hitching a ride across the galaxy, but I did need to be able to wipe the sweat from my brow as I plunged into the macro-verse. It was a wise choice.

It should also be noted that when changing lenses while dripping sweat you want to be extra careful not to drip into the sensor while the lens is detached. I dodged this bullet with an uncharacteristic display of forethought.

I don’t have a macro flash (yet) so any flash photography was going to be done using the built in flash of my A700. Shooting with a flash allows you to shoot at a slower aperature which increases the depth of field.

Whatchoo lookin at?
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Whatchoo lookin at?

Shooting with a flash does make shooting with auto-focus much easier. But as I have mentioned previously, I prefer to shoot without a flash. This does present its own set of challenges. Faster aperture means shallower depth of field which means it’s harder to gain and maintain the focus of such tiny objects. If you breath (in or out) your subject moves completely out of focus or you focus too much forward or aft of your subject.

Since good macro photography is usually done using manual focus, a tripod or monopod is recommended. I did not bring one on this trip.

I discovered a technique where as I allowed myself to ever so slowly and ever so slightly pull back from the subject as I fired at full on 5 frames per second after achieving focus. The results are very satisfactory.

Red
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Red

Exposure: 0.006 sec (1/160)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 100 mm

As you can see, the shallow depth of field givea a rather unique perspective when combined with shooting something so small so closely.

This resulted in a few really interesting shots

Here comes the sun
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Here comes the sun

Exposure: 0.006 sec (1/160)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 100 mm
Exposure: -1.65

Whitey
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Whitey

Exposure: 0.006 sec (1/160)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 100 mm
Exposure: 0.00

I’ve got a lot to learn and I also need a lot more practice. Holding steady is crucial in this milieu, even with anti-shake technology. The slightest shift can ruin the shot. Still, I like a good challenge and when things go right the results are quite thrilling.

Additional shots in my Macro Gallery.

For a full on technical review of this lens check out this article at photozone.de. Also check out real world reviews in this post at dyxum.com.