Peak District Orchids

August 16th, 2014

It’s been a fantastic summer for wild flowers in the Peak District (UK), I don’t ever remember seeing so many orchids! Of particular note were the Bee Orchids (Ophyris apifera), which flowered in incredible numbers in some sites and were far taller than in previous years.

Bee Orchids {Ophyris apifera}

Bee Orchids {Ophyris apifera} Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, UK. June.

Perhaps they were helped by the mild winter we had, but whatever the cause of the orchid boom this year it has been a real delight to spend long summer days in the meadows working with these most delicate of subjects.

Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii} and Bee Orchid {Op

Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii} and Bee Orchid {Ophyris apifera} photographed with fisheye lens to show lowland calcareous grassland habitat. Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, UK. June.

Above is a habitat shot (captured with my Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens @ 15mm) to show the context the orchids grow in. Such pictures aren’t always composed to be pretty in their own right, but rather to help tell a story as part of a bigger picture set. I could spend all day exploring just these few square metres of meadow, it is heaving with beautiful macro subjects!

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, UK. July.

I like working at high magnification to show the intricate structures of the orchids, such as this pale form of a Pyramidal Orchid above. Here I have used a Canon 100mm macro lens with a very wide aperture to send the background out of focus. Another technique that I enjoy is commonly referred to as ‘field studio’ work. In this instance, it involves me putting a piece of white card a couple of feet behind the orchid growing in a meadow and blasting the card to pure white with an off camera flash gun. If I take several such photographs I can easily create a composite later in Photoshop.

Bee Orchids {Ophyris apifera}

Bee Orchids {Ophyris apifera} photographed against a white background in mobile field studio. Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, UK. June. Digital composite.

The creative possibilities with subjects as elegant as orchids are endless and by the end of each summer I am left full of ideas to try the following year. Fingers crossed next year’s display will be as amazing!

All images and text copyright Alex Hyde – www.alexhyde.co.uk

A Dedicated Mother

August 12th, 2014

Over the past few years I have been documenting the lifecycle of the Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis), which can be found in good numbers in Derbyshire where I live.

Nursery web spider {Pisaura mirabilis}

Nursery Web Spider {Pisaura mirabilis} female carrying egg sac, photographed against a white background in mobile field studio. Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, UK.

The female goes to extreme lengths to ensure her offspring are protected, right from the moment they are laid as eggs. Mothers can be seen running through the long grass carrying their large spherical egg sac with their jaws and pedipalps. When the eggs are near to hatching, she builds a silk tent using plant stems for support and takes up residence inside.

Nursery Web Spider {Pisaura mirabilis}

Nursery Web Spider {Pisaura mirabilis} mother in nursery web in meadow, with the spherical egg mass that she is guarding visible. Peak District National Park, Derbyshire. UK.

Once the egg sac hatches the mother stands guard over her babies, patrolling the outside of the nursery web.

Nursery Web Spider {Pisaura mirabilis}

Nursery Web Spider {Pisaura mirabilis} mother on nursery web with newly emerged spiderlings. Peak District National Park, Derbyshire. UK.

Only once all the spiderlings have dispersed will she move on. For me this is one of the sights of the summer and I have spent many happy hours photographing these fascinating spiders.

Notes on Photography:

All of these images were captured with a Canon 5d Mk III and 100mm macro lens. I use a tripod with no centre column (Gitzo Systematic Series) so that I can get the camera low to the ground.

All images and text copyright Alex Hyde – www.alexhyde.co.uk

 

Beauty is a matter of… magnification

January 27th, 2014

The recent weather in the Peak District has been less than inspiring, so I have found myself searching for some interesting indoor subjects to photograph. Look no further than that mouldy cherry tomato hiding at the back of the punnet!

Pin mould {Mucor sp.} on a Tomato

Pin mould {Mucor sp.} growing on a damaged tomato,

It looks pretty horrible to me, but let’s try going in a little closer…

Pin mould {Mucor sp.} on a Tomato

Pin mould {Mucor sp.} growing on a damaged tomato, showing fruiting bodies (sporangia) – CLICK TO ZOOM

…beautiful! Working at high magnification with the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens reveals a fasicnating world of delicate pin mould {Mucor sp.} fruiting bodies, known as sporangia.

Pin mould {Mucor sp.} on a Tomato

Pin mould {Mucor sp.} growing on a damaged tomato, showing fruiting bodies (sporangia).

The tomato provided me with a striking red background for a final composition. This scene was only about 5mm high in real life. Please note, to my knowledge this was the only piece of decomposing fruit and veg in my kitchen!

All images and text copyright Alex Hyde – www.alexhyde.co.uk

Tiny Woodland Subjects

December 3rd, 2013

Despite the cold weather, there are still plenty of exciting macro subjects about. I recently discovered a series of tiny orange slime mould fruiting bodies on a piece of rotting wood:

Slime Mould {Trichia decipiens}

CLICK TO ENLARGE – Slime Mould {Trichia decipiens} fruiting bodies on decaying wood next to pencil lead for scale.

Going in closer, we start to reveal the details of these delicate, transient structures. Click to enlarge the image below.

Slime Mould {Trichia decipiens}

CLICK TO ENLARGE – Slime Mould {Trichia decipiens} fruiting bodies on decaying wood.

Another tiny subject that can be found on rotting wood is the Globular Springtail {Sminthurus viridis}. I photographed this one a few hours ago. It was about 1.5mm in length and on the move for most of the time… a tricky customer, but great fun to work with nevertheless! I hope to do more work with these little fellows soon.

Globular Springtail {Sminthurus viridis}

CLICK TO ENLARGE – A male globular springtail {Dicyrtomina saundersi} on decaying wood.

For those of you interested, all of these images were made using the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens.

All images and text copyright Alex Hyde – www.alexhyde.co.uk

Mushroom Magic

October 27th, 2013

Every autumn I allow myself to indulge in a bit of fungus photography. I love taking my time over the pictures, which is a pleasant contrast to some of my fast-paced insect photography. Over the years I have tried all sorts of different compositions with fungi, from clean, simple images isolating a single fruiting body with a long lens to wide angle habitat shots.

Wide angle shot of Parasol Mushrooms (Lepiota procera)

Wide angle shot of Parasol Mushrooms (Lepiota procera)

Recently I have been trying something a bit different. Often working at high magnification, I have been trying to produce a set of abstracts showing off the beautiful colours and patterns that fungi display. Some of the images below were done with flash, some with natural light. The first image below has been backlit with a flash, revealing a beautiful spectrum of colours.

Backlit gills of a Brittlegill {Russula sp.}Backlit gills of a Brittlegill {Russula sp.}

Gills of Honey Waxcap {Hygrocybe coccinea}Gills of Honey Waxcap {Hygrocybe coccinea}

Turkeytail fungus {Trametes / Coriolus versicolor}Turkeytail fungus {Trametes / Coriolus versicolor}

Lemon Disco fungus {Bisporella citrina}Lemon Disco fungus {Bisporella citrina}

This is more a personal project than anything else and I hope to fit in more over the next few weeks.

All images and text copyright Alex Hyde – www.alexhyde.co.uk

Strange Looks at the Cafe

I am always amazed at the places photo opportunities present themselves. Recently I was enjoying a cream tea outside a cafe. As I watched the inevitable cloud of wasps descend on the strawberry jam, I had an idea…

Common Wasps {Vespula vulgaris} Eating Jam

Common Wasps {Vespula vulgaris} feeding on a pot of jam – a great opportunity

As is often the case, I had my basic macro setup with me (100mm macro lens, flash, off-camera lead, diffuser). With some carefully aimed flash, the plate in the background was transformed into a perfect white background for a cutout shot. My friend Tom kindly provided the photo below, should you be interested to see my rather basic lighting setup.

Alex Hyde

Waiting for the wasps to pose.

One of the challenges of insect photography is concentrating on getting your subject in focus whilst ignoring the whispered comments from bemused onlookers.

Images and text copyright Alex Hyde or Tom Hartman (second image) – www.alexhyde.co.uk

Rockpool Macro Photography

September 11th, 2013

I live in Derbyshire which has no coastline, so I always get excited when I visit the seaside. A couple of hours exploring rockpools at low tide always turns up some exciting macro photography opportunities, and in this post I am going to look at some of the techniques I use.

Low tide nr. Carsaig, Isle of Mull

Tidal pool, Carsaig, Isle of Mull, Scotland, UK. June.

Using Natural Light

The sea anemones below were photographed using natural light with a Canon 100mm macro lens. The exposure time was 0.4 seconds at f16, ISO 500 so a tripod was essential.

Beadlet Anemone {Actinia equina}

Beadlet Anemones {Actinia equina} in rock pool at low tide. Iona, Isle of Mull, Scotland, UK. June. – Canon 100mm macro lens

Now look at the photo below. We can see an obvious problem that any rockpool photographer will face – surface reflections. To eliminate these, try crouching directly over the rock pool to block out the reflection of the sky. If you find this difficult, a small black umbrella can be very useful. I keep a collapsable one in my camera bag for such occasions.

Alex Hyde_Beadlet Anemone {Actinia equina} before

Reflections can cause big problems!

A polarizing filter can also remove or reduce surface reflections, but won’t always work depending on the angle you are working at. Still, it is well worth trying.

Using Flash

Flash allows us to freeze movement which can be very handy during a rockpool photography session. When using natural light, you may well end up with shutter speeds as slow as one second, and if during this time the wind ripples the surface of the rockpool or your subject moves, your shot could be ruined. With patience, it’s obviously possible to get great results with natural light, but flash can make life much easier.

Many people fear that flash will make their images look unnatural and harsh. This can certainly be the case, but needn’t be if a diffuser and an off-camera flash lead are used.

Alex Hyde_Flash setup

An off-camera flash lead and a flash diffuser allow you to create softer lighting in your macro flash photography.

For the shot of the blenny below, I used a single Canon 580EX II fitted with a diffuser. The diffuser has a larger surface area than the flash head, allowing the light to wrap round the subject, creating softer shadows. Using the off camera lead, I was able to position the flash to the side at such an angle that there were no surface reflections off the water. As a final trick, I placed a small piece of silver foil just out of frame to reflect light from the flash back into the composition and further soften the shadows. The soft light was important here as I wanted to show off the excellent camouflage this fish has and a harsh shadow would have outlined it instead. You can see more of my animal camouflage images here: CAMOUFLAGE GALLERY

Common Blenny

Common Blenny {Lipophrys / Blennius pholis} camouflaged in rockpool. Isle of Mull, Scotland. – Canon 100mm Macro Lens, 580 EX II flash with diffuser

Here is a hermit crab photographed in exactly the same way.

Common Hermit Crab {Pagurus bernhardus}

Common Hermit Crab {Pagurus bernhardus} in a rockpool, withdrawing into shell for protection. Isle of Skye. – Canon 100mm macro lens, 580 EX II flash with diffuser

These fish eggs are tiny, just a few millimetres across so the Canon MP-E 65mm was used to get good magnification.

Common Blenny Shanny {Lipophrys pholis} Eggs

Eggs of Common Blenny / Shanny {Lipophrys pholis}. Isle of Mull, Inner Hebrides, Scotland, UK. Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens, 580 EX II flash with diffuser

Field Studio

Field studio in this instance means a pyrex dish supported a couple of feet above some black fabric, not exactly a Rolls-Royce setup but it works. I positioned two Canon 580EXII flash guns underneath this setup to backlight subject. Whilst light fall off and positioning of the flash guns help give a dark background, I find that a piece of dark velvety fabric ensures a true black is achieved.

Common Prawn (Leander serratus)

Common Prawn (Leander serratus) photographed in mobile field studio. Isle of Mull, Scotland, UK. Canon 100mm macro lens, with two Canon 580 EX II flash units controlled via Pocket Wizard radio triggers.

If you buy a small aquarium net from a pet shop you should be able to catch a variety of rockpool creatures that you can photograph in a field studio like this. To minimise stress for any subjects you want to photograph, get your lighting setup worked out first, then introduce your creature. Make sure you use clean seawater, as if there is lots of disturbed sediment floating around in it, your photographs will look very speckled. I sometimes filter the water through a piece of muslin.

Let’s have a closer look at that prawn:

Common Prawn (Leander serratus)

Common Prawn (Leander serratus) close up showing reflecting superposition compound eyes. Photographed in mobile field studio. Isle of Mull, Scotland, UK. Canon MP-E 65mm, lit with two 580 EX II flash guns controlled via Pocket Wizard radio triggers.

This close up was done using the Canon MP-E 65mm. The subject to camera distance here is very small, just a few centimetres. Care must be taken not to accidentally submerge the front of the lens in the water. The solution is not to overfill the pyrex dish!

Here is a final rockpool field studio shot. It is a composite image showing a range of sea creatures that were all photographed on white backgrounds and then combined in Photoshop. The setup used a white plastic food tray filled with sea water, with a flash below to create a clean white background. A second flash was positioned above to stop the subjects being silhouetted.

Rockpool Creatures and Seaweeds - Isle of Skye

Rockpool creatures and seaweeds, photographed on a white background in mobile field studio. Isle of Skye, Inner Hebrides, Scotland, UK. March. Digital composite.

All images and text copyright Alex Hyde – www.alexhyde.co.uk