about this blog



This blog tracks the ongoing changes of my garden, and the wildlife I try to attract to it. It's a nature blog. It contains my thoughts and musings about anything and everything to do with nature - gardening, book reviews, philosophy, travel, science, history, art, design, politics.
Catmint is my signature plant because it has all the qualities I value in a plant: resilience, beauty and the capacity to spread prolifically . Unfortunately it's not indigenous. If I was starting again I'd probably choose an indigenous plant.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

nature pics without a macro

I'm desperately wanting to take pictures of insects and spiders, and have finally accepted I can't achieve the results I want without a macro lens. These are some shots taken over the last few months with my old point and shoot on its macro setting, and my new three quarters SLR, using a non macro lens. It's not only the equipment that's lacking, it's the expertise as well.  I'm working on that too... 

This spider appeared as a tiny speck high up near the ceiling on the outside of the kitchen window. It required a climbing and balancing act to get the pictures. The eggs weren't visible to my naked eyes, so I got very excited when I saw the photo. I was convinced that I had discovered a new esoteric species of spider, but was assured by a friend that it was a Daddy Long Legs...


... with a body of about 3 cms.


This beauty appeared on the window nearby, so I wondered if it was the father.


It was four days before I repeated the climbing and balancing act. By then the eggs had hatched, and the spider, looking very different, was protectively holding her bundle of leggy babies. That night there was a fierce storm, and in the morning the window had been washed clean. I hope the spiderlings survived.


This is not a great shot of a spider hiding in a parsley leaf, but then this is a spider that's shy and rarely shows itself. I'm pretty sure that it's a Leaf-curling Spider (genus Phonognatha). These spiders hide in curled leaves in the centre of their web with only their legs showing. The curled leaf protects them from predators such as birds and wasps. Usually they use large dried leaves, but juvenile spiders start by bending a small green leaf, so this must be a juvenile practicing on parsley.



 

I rarely see Ladybirds, probably the Top of the 10 Most Wanted insects in my garden, so when I do it is a cause for celebration. But this one's a bit confused. It should be out chasing aphids, not exploring J's jacket.


A magpie often gives me an incentive to make sure there is clean, fresh water in the birdbath.



This beautiful cat is not welcome in my garden.  I'm sure the cat is the explanation of the feathers I've been finding. I suppose the avian bodies that the feathers belonged to, are no more -  digested by this feline's gastric juices.


This is the underneath view of a spider, as it sat on the outside of a window. I think it's female and belongs to the species Badumna longinqua. Much larger than  Daddy Long Legs, the female has a body length of 14mm.  This species looks similar to the more common Black House Spider, except that it's brown, and has more obvious markings on its abdomen.

Next visitor to the window was a snail. Even a common old garden snail looks pretty interesting seen from this perspective. A snail has 4 body parts: a shell, a visceral mass (that you don't see because it's inside the shell), a head and a foot.

In this shot we get an unusually good view of the snail's foot. The foot is a muscular structure found on the underside of the snail. The snail secretes mucus from the bottom of its foot which lubricates the underlying surface. This helps the animal move, by repeatedly contracting and stretching the muscles of the foot.  In this case, the snail is using the muscles of its foot to hold onto the window.


I don't know what made these weird and wonderful structures. They're in a shady spot among a group of Leptospermum trees.





Finally, this brightly coloured bug is the Harlequin Bug. As you can see from the second picture, there will soon be more in the garden.

This is a real worry because this innocent looking tiny insect is named on the official Australian biosecurity website, PaDIL, as a Native Australian Pest Species. Now when I see these bugs I don't photograph them, I squash them.















                       
If, like me, you're an aspiring photographer, I suggest you check out  Garden Walk, Garden Talk.  In this blog Donna generously shares her photographic talent and experience. Her recent series on macro photography is inspiring as well as informative. She even devotes one post exclusively to taking pictures of insects.           

And thank you, Susan Windmiller, photography teacher extraordinaire, for giving me the confidence to leave the boring relative safety of Auto, for the stimulating bumpy unpredictable ride on Manual.

38 comments:

  1. your mystery beast, looks like our communal/social spiders. Would you have an Australian species?

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    1. I'm not familiar with the term, Diana ...

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  2. Wow Catmint I think your photographs are great especially the one of the ladybird on the blue fabric.
    Using the manual setting . . . I shall have to try that. I have my copy of contemplative photography and intend to take it with my on hols over Christmas so that I can read it and practice without the distraction of work.
    As I have mild arachnophobia the huntsman photo gave me the shivvers - those horrible hairy legs!
    Kirk

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    1. Hi Kirk, I found the contemplative photography thing to be different to consciously focussing on technique. Both are wonderful. I used to be scared of spiders too, but gradually changed, and now I am hooked and fascinated.

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  3. Your photographs are wonderful! Did you do some things on photoshop or other software to get the effects in the magpie picture? You've given me a nice reminder that I must go off of automatic. I finally got a camera much more advanced than the point and shoot we've had for years and seldom utilize any of the features. What an idiot I am. Thanks for your cool post!

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    1. Hi OG, yes you are very perceptive, i did some desperate photo editing using picmonkey because I loved the images but they were far too dark. I'm so pleased you liked the post.

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  4. Those are some seriously creepy but fascinating spiders. Love the magpie - great pictures!

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    1. thanks Jason - I love the magpie too, the first photo makes me laugh, with its hair standing on end.

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  5. Catmint, I wouldn't feel you hadn't captured some fine views here - beautiful close-ups they are to me.
    I have a wonderful Canon Powershot, but all I really know is how to press the button. I have GOT to learn more.
    I especially love your second magpie shot - such joy!

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    1. Dear Faisal, I heard someone talking on the radio about sensory self awareness, and he thought only humans had it, and maybe birds because they seem to demonstrate joy and play. You picked that up from the photo.

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    2. From what I know, all life is able to experience joy.
      Science to me is the culprit, for it pretends that the world can be defined through a 'rationality' that denies the existence of anything but itself.
      Cheers Catmint.

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    3. I enjoy science, and think we have a lot to learn from it, but it has its limitations. And I don't think it explains the spiritual dimension of life. So thank you, Faisal, for reminding me not to accept it uncritically.

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  6. I agree with Diana, I think you have had some butterflies laying their eggs and hatching out into caterpillers. We often find them on patches of nettles in this country, used by tortoiseshells,red admirals and peacocks. Great shots Catmint, the macro lens on my point and shoot works fine but the telephoto is dreadful, hope you succeed with your new camera.

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    1. Hi Pauline, I found the same, the macro on the point and shoot works better than on the other camera, that's why I need the macro lens. Maybe they are butterflies, there have been lots of brown butterflies in the garden lately.

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  7. I don't have a macro, either, and find it extremely hard to get close-up shots like these. You did a great job. Like Gardener in the Distance, I love the magpie shots. We don't have that bird here, so I find it quite interesting!

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    1. thanks Holley, it's a wonderful warbly Australian native bird.

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  8. Your closeup shots are really good of the spider. Very clear. Thank you for mentioning GWGT, I appreciate that very much. I have been sick for a week and not blogging that much so sorry to be late visiting here. I like your shot of the amorous insects too. Magpies are such pretty birds, but I bet not very welcome. We don't have them here.

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    1. hope you're better now Donna, i'm currently finding it hard to keep up with blogging. i'm pleased you like my shots but I hope to do much better in the future. Magpies are welcome, except when they have babies in a nest and people go past, they get dive bombed and that is very disconcerting, and if you're on a bike, can be dangerous.

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  9. Wow, great shots! I get a little creeped out by spiders, but I know they fill an important spot in the chain of life. We don't have magpies, either. Thanks for sharing these views!

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    1. thanks Beth, so pleased you like the shots and the post.

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  10. Wonderful post. Fascinating pictures. Hurray for insects and spiders and . . . and . . . yes, even snails. Congratulations.

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    1. there have been quite a number of snails in the garden, but I can afford to be tolerant because I know they won't survive the heat and dryness that has already started. Thanks for the congratulatory comment - made my evening!

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  11. Awesome pictures! I love the bird having bath. I can't take any pictures of insects right now. We have a lot of snow! Everything is white. My blog's name and address are new...

    Satu

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    1. hi Satu, where do the insects go in winter? I suppose they either hibernate or migrate or maybe they only live one season. Glad you solved your picture problems on your blog, and glad you like my pictures.

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    2. They live only one season or they hibernate. Please visit and see, what (whom) I've got! He's adorable!

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  12. I really need to leave the auto setting but I havent got a clue what to do on manuel. Whenever I try I end up with white pictures! Annoyingly any courses or bookss seem to be aimed at SLRs not point & shot

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    1. hi Helen, what helped me was finding a teacher to give me one private lesson in my garden. Although i have seen courses advertised for pint and shoot cameras. I have also learned a lot by reading and re-reading the manual. Good luck!

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  13. I too have to leave the auto setting but as yet have no time to work out how to go manual even with Donna's posts...time is needed for experimentation.

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    1. yes you're right, lots of time is needed, I have been experimenting for years, and only starting to get glimmers of understanding. The trouble is it's so easy to get pretty good shots on auto that are much better than beginner's manual shots.

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  14. Catmint, if this is what you are giving us without the macro lens you desire I cant wait to see what you will come away with in the future. As for myself, I hang my head, sticking with auto. The one we call daddy long legs isn't even a spider, its the cranefly.

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    1. good on you Alastair, we'd better not make a moral thing out of manual vs auto. Daddy Long Legs is not the scientific name, so maybe it is called that for several insects, or different creatures in different parts of the world????????

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  15. Hi Catmint, i have not been here often as I am not frequenting Blotanical anymore. I just realized we are using the same camera system 4/3, i have Olympus E-620! And it looks like we have the same biorythm as this lately i have been photographing spiders too, and with a newly acquired 35mm macro, i can take the very small spiders. Please look at my latest post at Pure Oxygen Generators, haha! I am sure you will like my spider webs too. I have a semblance of your chaotic web, there are spiders like that, i just realized! If only we are near we can join forces and go "spidering", or "webbing", we create our own terms. Others go birding so we do our own way. I am so glad. But without any macro your shots are already very good!

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    1. Hi Andrea, It's hard to keep up with blogs all the time, so it's lovely that you can drop in from time to time. I will definitely check out your spider post. We can call ourselves webbers! I'm getting used to the camera and really starting to enjoy it. Haven't got my macro lens yet.

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  16. Those are some pretty great photos without using any special lenses! I am fortunate that my husband got me first a zoom lens and then later a macro lens for me for various holidays, but I think it was actually a lot of fun to see how close I could get with my regular camera. You really have to get on their level and spend a good amount of time doing it - it's like a different world on that level!

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  17. hi Indie, thanks for the comment, I'm already finding it quite a time consuming hobby, and it is like another world, so fascinating and exciting.

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  18. Hey CM,
    This post took me back to my childhood home in Sydney. Saw daddy long legs everywhere. Enjoyed the magpie in the bath pix. Can you believe some preschoolers and kindergartens teach: Magpies sit in the old gum tree..... Weird, huh?

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    1. dear patrick, that is very weird, and whatever you do, don't tell the kookaburras, they'll laugh their heads off.

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I love to get feedback and comments, and getting to know other bloggers. I also appreciate corrections if you detect an error, because I'm not an expert, but a self taught enthusiastic amateur on a steep learning curve.

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