There be dragons or maybe damselflies

‘Surely you have enough photos of bees,’ said Andy on a Saturday afternoon at beekeeping. Emily and me disagreed, ‘You can never have enough photos of bees.’ However, there are insects other than honeybees who love having their picture taken. So when Emily’s boyfriend, Drew, kindly let me borrow his camera lens and extension tube to practise extreme close ups, I went for a walk at a local nature reserve on Sunday evening to see what bugs were staying up late.

My first shot was beginner’s luck…

The clouds had tell-tale hues of orange and rose as the sun started to fall through the sky. There were few insects to be found so late in the day and I stopped to practise macro photography of wildflowers. While looking through the camera at a purple thistle, a beautiful hoverfly landed on the flower – perfectly in focus. I snapped two photos before the shy creature flew away.

Encouraged, I explored further into the overgrowth of thistles and thorns ignoring little scratches on my ankles and arms. Then, two beautiful turquoise jewels flew past and landed at eye level in front of me. I lost all sense of time standing very still and focusing on their eyes, brightly-coloured bodies and shimmering wings.

At first I thought they were dragonflies but the British Dragonfly Society (BDS) website suggests that they may be damselflies. BDS has a helpful Dragonfly and Damselfly Identification Help page, which says that dragonflies land with wings apart while damselflies land with wings resting together, like this…

Dragonfly eyes are closed together while damselfly eyes are spaced apart…

Thanks BDS! And thank you obliging damselflies!

How I took the photos
I have a Canon EOS 600D camera and the kit that Drew lent me is a Canon lens EF 50mm 1:1.4 with a Canon extension tube EF25 II. I took the camera off automatic mode and on P mode (this allows you to change ISO while shutter speed and aperture are adjusted automatically) and then on TV mode (to change ISO and shutter speed). I have started using these modes thanks to a useful tip from Natalia at Jessops who suggested going from automatic to P and TV modes, rather than jumping straight to full manual mode (M). This allows me to try changing some settings, while seeing how the camera adjusts the remaining settings. For example, I started on ISO 100 and as the daylight got less gradually raised ISO to 800, 3200 and 6400 to see what would happen.

This is my second step into the macro world and I am still learning lots, but I found that the camera needed to move in slowly until the blur of colours became focused and the subject appeared. This meant that I had to get the camera very, very close to the insects – inches from their faces – then hold it very, very still because even the slightest motion caused everything to blur. The lens, or perhaps settings, I used had a narrow range of focus limited to specific parts of the insect: the head, the thorax or the wings; more likely this is my lack of experience.

It was so much fun that before I knew it the sun had set and the damselflies and hoverflies had flown home, so I thought it was time that I did too!

Related links
Donna of Garden Walks, Garden Talks continues to blow me away with her breathtaking insect photography. In this week’s post she captures bee wars! Bee Bombing – Happy Monday Funny.

If you would like to read more about dragonflies and damselflies, visit the British Dragonfly Society (BDS) or another blog I follow: The Dragonfly Woman who has a lovely gallery.

Thank you to Drew for lending his macro lenses, and check out Emily’s beautiful pictures on her blog this week: Bees, flowers and sculpture at Chelsea Physic Garden.

EDIT: Fellow blogger Standingoutinmyfield posted about damselflies on the same day! Read her lovely post Rhapsody in Bluet.


London’s streets are paved with gold and honey

There is a nice vibe in London this summer with local heroes paving our streets with gold. West Londoners enjoyed a perfect end to the Olympic Games at the weekend when Mo Farah stormed to victory winning a double gold. The Telegraph‘s Simon Hart reported: ‘A capacity home crowd on its feet and roaring itself hoarse as Londoner Mo Farah tore down the finishing straight for his second Olympic gold and a place at the very pinnacle of British sporting history. It does not get much better than this.’ (The Telegraph, Sunday 12 August)

I’ll admit to feeling a little teary eyed as Mo Farah grew up in my home town of Hounslow and went to school in Isleworth where a post box has been painted gold to celebrate his victory. My friend Christine kindly provided this photo of the gold post box in Isleworth – where we too went to school.

A post box is painted gold in Isleworth in honour of new local Olympic hero, Mo Farah. Image © Christine Wilkinson

The British summer saved itself for the Olympics and beautiful sunny days have brought back the familiar hum of bees to our parks and gardens. Bumbles, solitaries, honeybees, butterflies and hoverflies are foraging on whatever is flowering in August to stock their larders with honey.

Donna of Garden Walk Garden Talk and Green Apples wins the gold for shooting insect photography with her incredible post: Macro World – Look Into My Eyes. Inspired by Donna’s work, I have taken the first step from ‘automatic’ to ‘manual’ on the SLR with the result being a lot of blurry pictures and a few focused shots captioned by this summer’s quirkier Olympian quotes: What Usain Bolt & others said at London Olympics 2012 (BBC Sport).

‘Today the weather was beautiful and I decided just to go for it.’

‘We are not obliged to throw our president out of a helicopter.’

‘I’m now a living legend.’

‘We are from space, I am from Mars.’

‘Yohan is crazy. If he keeps talking like that someone is going to put him in a straitjacket one day.’

‘I love you mum.’

‘Watching the Olympics on TV with a beer and a bowl of crisps.’

Related links (or catching up on my blog reading post-Olympics)

I like learning from my fellow bloggers, so if you enjoy macro photography of insects and pictures of wildlife and flowers too, check out these blogs:

Portraits of Wildflowers – a lovely post 25 years, 25 pictures rounds up some of the best
Leaf and twig – with bees at Harvest
A French Garden – studies a Bee in echinacea
Rolling Harbour Abaco – maybe you can help with An Abaco insect is bugging me – what is this creature?
Standingoutinmyfield – It’s like a hair shampoo ad for bees, How to clean your antennae
Apiarylandlord’s blog – sums up my thoughts this August with I’ve been busy and here is my gallery

And finally, two photography blogs:

Daily tips on learning SLR on A Shot A Day with a lovely picture of a rainbow
Planet Earth Newsletter has created a lovely Sunday photo magazine (scroll down to seen some amazing bugs)