Croatia – Plitvice Lakes National Park

February 13th, 2015

Recently I travelled to Croatia to photograph the amazing Plitvice Lakes National Park. I was joined by good friend and fellow photographer Ian Daisley who had first suggested the trip a couple of years back. Ian’s vivid description of turquoise lakes nestled in deep limestone gorges sounded very tempting and it was great to finally find the time to make a visit.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Being January we had hoped for frozen waterfalls and snow-covered trees, but it was a bit too warm for that. Despite this the turquoise waters made for a striking contrast against the muted greys and browns of the winter scenery.

European Chubb {Squalius / Leuciscus cephalus}

European Chubb {Squalius / Leuciscus cephalus}

The clarity of the lakes allowed for some interesting views of huge shoals of chubb, seen here gathered at the entrance of a flooded cave. I lit the fish in this shot from the side with a single off-camera flashgun. Thanks for holding the flash Ian!

Turkeytail fungus (Trametes / Coriolus versicolor)

Turkeytail fungus (Trametes / Coriolus versicolor)

When the rain closed in the beech woods offered some shelter and also plenty of inspiring subjects such as this vibrant turkey tail fungus. The damp conditions made the fungus, mosses and lichens all the more colourful.

Supljara Cave, Plitvice Lakes National Park

Supljara Cave, Plitvice Lakes National Park

Another great way of getting out of the rain was to explore some of the stunning limestone caves in the area. Upon closer inspection, I was intrigued to find the cave walls teaming with troglophilic invertebrates, adapted to living in the pitch black conditions…

Cave Cricket female (Troglophilus cavicola)

Cave Cricket female (Troglophilus cavicola)

European Cave Spider (Meta menardi)

European Cave Spider (Meta menardi)

The abundance of large cave spiders (Meta menardi) might not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but I was in heaven! I was particularly pleased to have a chance to photograph their silken egg sacs, about the size of a Malteser, hanging from the roof of the cave.

Egg sac of European Cave Spider (Meta menardi)

Egg sac of European Cave Spider (Meta menardi)

To backlight the egg sac I used an off-camera flash (Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT) controlled via a radio trigger (Canon ST-E3-RT). I love this flexible and reliable setup and use it for many of my macro subjects.

Canon radio-triggered off camera flash, shown here with the MP-E 65mm macro.

Canon radio-triggered off-camera flash system, shown here with the MP-E 65mm macro lens.

I had many more compositions developing in my mind but had to return home early after just two days of photography due to an eye injury (unpleasant but all better now!). I must return one day to continue exploring this amazing place.

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

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