Little miss common

September 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

After the pink flower spiders and common lynx, the small garden jumper (Opisthoncus parcedentatus) is the next most common spider I run across when out shooting. 

In the high stakes world of the beauty pageant, “little miss common” comes in somewhere in the middle of the pack purely on looks, but where she really excels is in the personality department. She is very friendly and is unabashed about posing for a few shots, often looking straight down the barrel of the lens, most likely taking the time to check herself in the reflection.

* Please note: Images can be clicked to view larger *

IMG_6336

Garden jumping spider (Opisthoncus parcedentatus)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 2x, Full flash

While “little miss common” has those lovely big eyes to help win over the crowd, some say her best angle is actually from back on and she’s not above using her every advantage to ensure she’s remembered.

Garden Jumping Spider

Garden jumping spider (Opisthoncus parcedentatus)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 1.6x, Full flash

While she may not be as showy as some, “little miss common” really is the full package. She’s easy on the eye with a very pleasant demeanour and is good at providing for the family. If only someone would speak to her about her choice of ingredients in the kitchen….

The jaws of a killer

September 5, 2011 § 2 Comments

It’s easy to forget when you see a delicate looking lacewing that they are in fact a carnivorous species. Even at the larval stage lacewings begin feeding on moth larvae and eggs, aphids, thrips and mites.

Up until these shots I had never spotted any signs of this particular lacewing species. I knew the area and habitat was right, but I had never managed to run across one of these brown lacewings (Micromus tasmaniae). The thought of finding an adult during this season is quite exciting now that it seems realistic! While not the most picturesque of lacewings, it is always good to see something different.

* Please note: Images can be clicked to view larger *

IMG_6313

Brown lacewing larvae (Micromus tasmaniae)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 3.3x, Full flash

The eggs of the brown lacewing are tiny and each is attached individually to the underside of a leaf. If you look at the rear of the larvae in these images, another egg is visible but I’m unsure as to whether this is another brown lacewing egg or not.

A lot of lacewing larvae will actively cover themselves with small pieces of detritus for camouflage, but this particular species prefers to remain unhidden for some reason.

Brown lacewing larvae

Brown lacewing larvae (Micromus tasmaniae)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 4x, Full flash

On an interesting side note, there has been talk of this particular species being trialled as an aphid control agent. I can only imagine what must run through the minds of an aphid colony when they see the formidable mandibles of these larvae approaching. Time will tell how effective the species is, but if it leads to a few extra lacewings around with no environmental impact, then I wont complain!

44 of a kind

September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last week in a post entitled “Life on the Eucalypt” I showed a couple of shots of a Eucalypt leaf beetle (Chrysophtharta cloelia).  To keep the theme going, I thought today’s post should be of a gathering of 2nd instar larvae of the same beetle.

At this young stage, the motto for these tiny larvae (approx. 3mm each) is definitely “safety in numbers”. After hatching out as a group, the larvae huddle together and start eating their leaf from the tip upwards, eventually spreading out to other leaves as they move through their growth cycles. Once the larvae are fully developed, they will travel down the tree before pupating in the soil and emerging as shiny new leaf beetles, ready to take on the world and continue the cycle of life.

* Please note: Images can be clicked to view larger *Eucalyptus Leaf Beetle larvaeEucalypt leaf beetle larvae (Chrysophtharta cloelia)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 1.5x, Full flash

On a technical note, capturing this image was somewhat awkward as it was necessary to perfectly align the plane of focus with the leaf on which the larvae were sitting. This helped to increase the apparent depth of field in the image, ensuring that as many of the subjects as possible were in sharp focus. Even with this technique, this image required 2 separate shots at slightly different focus points to ensure that all 44 of the larvae were sharp. Due to the fact that most leaves are not perfectly flat, it was an impossibility to capture everything in one image. It’s at times like these where techniques such as focus stacking really come into their own and help finish off the image.

Neon signage

August 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

There are few spiders in my shooting area that are as flamboyantly decorated as the “Neon” spider. The reds and yellows on the abdomen almost glow in the light and even the apparent white sides are in fact a highly reflective metallic silver, almost akin to aluminium foil.

I usually find this species sitting atop a flat leaf, generally in acacia trees, and almost always entangled in there own thin webs which they spread out flat over the surface of the leaf.

There does not seem to be any concern for camouflage although there is suggestion that the large black spots on the rear of the abdomen are in fact a form of larger spider mimicry.

* Please note: Images can be clicked to view larger *IMG_6210
Neon spider (Thwaitesia nigronodosa)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 1.5x, Full flash

While I enjoy shooting this species, their incredibly shiny and reflective surfaces pose a lighting challenge and provide a good test of flash diffusion. It’s all too easy to blow highlights on this subject, particularly on the silver sections of the abdomen!

Life on the Eucalypt

August 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

The variety of leaf beetles that can be found in most forest type settings is quite astounding. Ranging from plain drab browns through to a cacophony of bright colours on a single shell, there is no shortage in styles to run across when out shooting.

Tucked away in the middle of the range in terms of looks is the Eucalypt leaf beetle. Also know as the yellow skirted leaf beetle, this species grows to around 10mm and feeds predominantly on eucalypt leaves.

* Please note: Images can be clicked to view larger *IMG_6241
Eucalypt leaf beetle (Chrysophtharta cloelia)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 2x, Full flash

Leaf beetles are an ever present subject and become easier to shoot after getting to know their habits. Most tend to take one of two actions when faced with a camera lens… either turning and hightailing it in the opposite direction, or tucking their legs under their shells and rolling off the leaf they are sitting on.

Eucalyptus Leaf BeetleEucalypt leaf beetle (Chrysophtharta cloelia)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 3.3x, Full flash

With a little patience and learning what to expect, most species however are easy enough to shoot, including this one. Whenever I approach leaf beetles now, I will usually bend another leaf underneath them in case they go for the tuck and roll approach, which is exactly what this one did. I was then able to grab a few shots before I let this one scurry away.

Who am I?

August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sometimes when out shooting I will run across subjects that I haven’t seen before. While it is always exciting to see something new, it also leaves you with the challenge of tracking down and identifying the species.

With that in mind, I thought I would share a quick game of who am I to highlight the though process when trying to ID a subject.

 

WHO AM I?

  • My body is a bright yellow colour
  • I am covered from head to toe in hairy spines
  • My body is soft and unenclosed in any type of hard armour

 

* Please note: Images can be clicked to view larger *IMG_6212
Who am I… Can you name this species?
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 3x, Full flash

 

  • I have twin strips of square black patches running down my length
  • I am long and cylindrical in shape
  • I am approximately 5mm in length

 

IMG_6217Who am I… Can you name this species?
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 4x, Full flash

 

ANSWER: I am the larvae of the Steelblue ladybird (Halmus chalybeus)!

 

IMG_9539Steelblue ladybird (Halmus chalybeus)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 3.9x, Full flash

In and out

August 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Of all the spiders I come across when shooting amongst the various trees in my area, the ubiquitous pink flower spider is the most ever-present. It is a rare outing where I don’t cross paths with at least several of these small green spiders.

This species is a member of the Thomisidae family, also known as crab spiders and as such, they tend to employee the traditional “wait and watch” approach to hunting.

For the most part they will sit in plain site, using a fork made by two small branches as camouflage. When the camera’s lens approaches they tend to move out of the fork and assume a more threatening posture, although I have never seen one actually move towards the lens.

* Please note: Images can be clicked to view larger *Pink flower spider
Pink flower spider (Diaea evanida)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 3x, Full flash

Sometimes it is possible to find a subject that would prefer to retreat into its shelter for protection. Usually, a nesting female would exhibit these tendencies and I would be reluctant to follow for fear of disturbing her maternal instincts.

On this occasion, I carefully checked the shelter and found it clear of any sort of nesting activities. With that in mind, I was happy to grab a different sort of shot to those I normally take of this species. Extreme care was still taken to ensure the site was not disturbed in case nesting was about to happen.

Pink flower spider
Pink flower spider (Diaea evanida)
Canon 5D, MPE-65 @ 3x, Full flash

As such an ever-present accompaniment on most of my outing, I have come to appreciate and enjoy photographing the pink flower spider. It’s nice to find a different angle on a common subject sometimes though!