Category Archives: Lab

Central Texas Endangered Aquatics

_bkl6644-edit

Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) lives underwater caves within the Edwards Aquifer only in the San Marcos, Texas area. They retain their external gills and have only vestigial eye spots. Nikon D800, 105 mm F 2.8 Micro Nikkor lens, SB 910 Speedlight in softbox.

In late September I had the opportunity to visit the US Fish & Wildlife Service San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center to photograph several of the endangered aquatic species from the nearby Central Texas waters.

Located near the Edwards Aquifer, a prolific artesian aquifer, the center is involved with scientific research, including equipment and technology development, captive propagation technique development, habitat restoration, native species life history studies, and invasive species life history and control studies. The Center currently serves as a refuge for several listed aquatic species associated with the Edwards Aquifer and other Texas spring systems.

The hatchery also works closely with the faculty at local universities to provide volunteer, work, and research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students in biology.

img_3146

Artificial streams are the main aquaria for the center and use fresh water from wells drilled deep into the Edwards Aquifer. The water is filtered and chilled to temperatures suited for each species and circulated throughout the unit.

To facilitate the photography of these aquatic species, I used a macro tank photography technique with a small 2.5 gal. aquarium, an artificial habitat and background. To better confine the aquatic individuals, a second piece of glass in a vertical orientation was used to narrow the available space for the subject specimen.

Equipment included a Nikon D800 DSLR, 105mm F2.8 Micro Nikkor lens and a SB910 Speedlight in a Lastolite EXYbox softbox on a boom. A black cloth also on a boom with a opening slit for the lens was employed in front of the tank to prevent reflections on the front of the aquarium. The setup is illustrated below.

img_3125

img_3142

Great care was given to the safety of every living specimen. Before introduction of any living subjects, the aquarium, any underwater props and gravel substrate was thoroughly washed and sterilized to prevent contamination of the endangered species. This procedure was also repeated between the introduction of each subsequent species. Water was that of the specimen’s home enclosure.

Over the course of a morning I had the pleasure to photograph the Texas Blind salamander (Eurycea rathbuni), San Marcos salamander (Eurycea nana), Fountain Darter (Etheostoma fonticola), all from the Edwards Aquifer near San Marcos, Texas, and the Devils River Minnow  (Dionda diaboli) from spring-fed streams in Kinney and Val Verde counties west of Uvalde, Texas.

_bkl6856-edit

San Marcos Salamander

_bkl7032-editbbb

Fountain Darter

_bkl6912-edit

Devil’s River Minnow

Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Workshop Report: Macro Photography Intensive

sunflower-class-6544

Seven participants joined together in September at Mo Ranch for the three day macro photography workshop including in the macro lab (From left) Kelly Sile, Richard Bennett, Glenn Rudd, Gary Eastes, Diane Young, Tracy Curran and Dan Tonnison. Nikon D800, LAOWA 14mm F 4.0 Wide Angle Macro Lens.

 

The historic, 500 acre Mo Ranch at Hunt, Texas, was the site for a three-day intensive macro photography workshop geared to shooting in a macro studio/lab and in field settings. The workshop was located in a beautiful setting on the North Fork of the Guadalupe River  in the heart of the Texas Hill Country and centered in diverse habitats including aquatic, riparian areas, grasslands, oak-juniper woodlands, and limestone hills.

Award-winning naturalist and photographer Brian Loflin led the macro  workshop packed with over 20 hours of hands-on instruction and guided shooting where participants grew in their photographic abilities with new found skills, techniques and proficiency.

The intermediate/advanced level workshop featured hands-on learning and demonstrations with native flora and fauna of the area and covered many subjects including:

• Equipment for getting close   

• Perfecting Exposure

• Tools to make macro work easier

• Grip and support equipment

• Backgrounds • Wide Angle Close-Ups

• Lighting with Flash • High Speed Flash

• Multiple Flash • High Key and White Box

• Tank Photos • Macro Panorama

• Focus Stacking / Extreme Depth of Field

• Extreme Macro • How big is it? (Mensuration)

Everyone worked hard through the workshop to capture stunning, highly detailed images of tiny subjects difficult to observe with the unaided eye. Everyone brought home images to brag about. Here are a few examples of that work:

richard-bennett-macro-stack-photo-2-of-2

Richard Bennett- Stick insect, above, and grass seed head (focus stacked), below.

richard-bennett-macro-stack-photo-1-of-2

lan_9847

Glenn Rudd, Red Ant, above and Mayfly, below.

lan_9863

img_9500

Diane Young- Bark lice (Psocoptera) above and below.

img_9513

dtonissen_160918_-3

Dan Tonisson- Cactus stem, above (focus stacked), and Sunflower, below.

dtonissen_160917_-1

The next Intensive Macro Photography Workshop is scheduled for
September 7-10, 2017.

Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved. Participant images copyright by the maker.

The Queen Emerges

_BKL3755

Several days after the Monarch eclosing, I had the second chrysalis develop. This butterfly was a Queen. I was a bit late in starting preparations so I missed the first part of the emerging process. I did however get some images in the process.

The cameras, setup and procedure was the same as the Monarch, except that I used a live stem of Blue mist flower, a Queen favorite.

Here is another pair of views of the same adult:

Queen Butterfly

Extreme close-up

Copyright © 2015 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Emerging Monarch Butterfly

Monarcg butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.

In July, 2015 I was given a couple of butterfly chrysalises by a friend and butterfly enthusiast, Linda Avitt. They were very near the state when they were ready to emerge (or eclose, as the experts say) as adults.

I quickly went about setting up my lab as an expectant photographer knowing I would see adults at any moment. I wanted detailed closeups, and timed sequential images and video of the event. So for all the stills, I used SB-910 Speedlights with Lastolite EZBox Speedlight modifiers and reflectors. For the video, I used a daylight balanced, flat LED panel. All lighting was balanced for balanced flash and ambient light exposure.

Cameras included Nikon D800 for stills (RAW and JPG) and Nikon D90 for the MP-4 video. Timed sequences were setup using  Nikon’s MC-36 remote cord intervalometer set to shoot every ten seconds. All cameras were securely mounted on tripods. The composition was set loose so there was ample room around the chrysalis for the emerging activity so nothing had to be moved.

For the staged insect, I picked a fresh stem of butterfly weed and kept it in a bottle of water. The chrysalis was secured to the plant stem with a drop of super glue, mimicking the natural attachment. Everything was clamped securely to the lab table.

Test images were made and exposures adjusted and composition and equipment fine tuned. All was in readiness, only to wait. This was Tuesday morning at 7:57 AM. And wait. And wait. . .  NOTHING!

Finally, the color began to change at 11:22 PM, some fifteen hours later. So much for the butterfly being ready to go. So it is with nature photography. The following sequence is selected from 45o images made that evening and early the next morning. Times are listed within each image.

So after a twenty-seven hour process a pristine male monarch butterfly was released into my garden and I was able to take a nap!

Butterfly collage

Copyright © 2015 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Small, smaller, smallest: Now nearly complete

This is an update of the first installment from

Commonly, when we think of close up images we envision filling the frame with subjects the size of a butterfly. When we think of macro, that subject size becomes smaller by a factor of five or so. That might be a small beetle or maybe a fly. There is a vast world that is much smaller that is worthy of our photography prowess. That is the world of ultra macro or indeed micro photography.

There are many tools used for life-sized images. The macro lens, extension tubes, bellows attachment and even microscopes. Each has its advantages,  disadvantages and limitations. Some of the major considerations when doing image capture at magnifications vastly greater than life-size include, image resolution, focus, depth of field, lighting and vibrations to name a few. The micro world is a challenging one indeed.

Extreme magnification image making calls for a stable specimen and camera platform, precise and uniform movements in focus and absolutely uniform, clean lighting. In order to accomplish this a bellows and true macro lens is used with a micrometer specimen stage and electronic flash. All this apparatus may create a big problem: movement through vibrations. This really reduces image resolution.

To overcome these problems, I am have assembled a specialized piece of  equipment to enable the precision required on the lab bench in a controlled environment. This is my work as is nearly completed. The idea is not new, but getting all the pieces together has been interesting. Macro work in the field requires a completely different set of equipment.

This micro set up is designed for stability combined with versatility and for use from magnifications of 1:1 or life-size on the sensor with a 55 mm macro lens to magnifications of up to to 40:1 with a true microscope lens on the bellows. It looks like this:

_BKL2340

For smaller magnifications near life-size, the Nikon D-SLR camera is equipped with a 55 mm Micro Nikkor lens. Camera movement is facilitated by a geared linear positioner with provisions for a stepper motor, a long Arca-style plate on the positioner table with small ball head. All components are uniformly equipped with Arca-style QR clamps or plates. For greater magnifications, the camera is fitted with a Nikon PB-4 bellows with focusing rail. Various lenses may be used from the 55 mm Micro Nikkor to the 19 mm Macro Nikkor as seen in the two images below:

_BKL2369-A_2

_BKL2351-A

Subject positioning  is possible in all four X, Y, Z and Theta planes. A cannibalized AO microscope stand provides coarse and fine movement in the vertical direction. A linear motion micrometer stage provides precise movement in X and Y directions and a rotation stage assembly with micrometer provides precise rotation. The specimen is held by an articulating holder mounted on the linear stage. (See Variable macro specimen holder) This holder will facilitate the use of pinned insects in addition to other larger materials fastened to the stage itself.

All this assembly is mounted together on a platform to reduce independent vibrations. The weight is substantial, providing additional aid in mitigating vibrations. The current mounting base is dimensional lumber, future refinements include an all-metal base and the addition of a stepper motor for automating focus stacking.

The design  is clean and compact and without bulky tripods and other equipment in the way. The Arca-style rails provide unobstructed mounting for  SB-800 or SB-910 electronic flash on a Wimberley articulated macro arm.

High magnification imaging viewing is provided via camera live view or tethered shooting on a laptop.

With this equipment arrangement deep focus stacks at high magnifications are possible in increments of 0.001 inch and at extremely high resolution with mirror lock-up and hands-free electronic remote cable release.