Tag Archive | macro

Weekend Expedition 32: Iona in the morning


A Northern Harrier decides not to pose.

On Saturday I saddled up the bike in the pre-dawn hours to get out to Iona Beach, in the hopes I could find a sleeping insect smorgasbord such I I had previously found on Island View Beach.  Iona has been productive for me in the past, especially for things such as jumping spiders and wintering raptors, and in previous Septembers I have found quite a wide range of Phiddippus. Saturday was not as productive as I had hoped, and  I had trouble turning up many of the creatures I would normally expect this time of year. I did get some cool shots though. I hope you enjoy them.

Noisy high ISO shot of the moon from a moving bike!

UPS, delivering on-time and charging exorbitant brokerage fees. More on this in a future post.


My favourite shot of the day, a long-jawed orbweaver (Tetragnathidae), with the dawn light flaring the lens.


There were still quite a few lady beetles about, which stood out on the dying vegetation.


A freshly-moulted harvestperson.


Grasshoppers appeared to be basking in the morning chill.


I was hoping to find more sleeping wasps and bees, but only found a few Ammophila, later in the morning and way down the beach.



This Polistes dominula nest was fallen due to rain and the chewing of isopods, a common fate for nests in the late season.



The skies were dramatic, foretelling the crazy rain that Sunday brought. The beach was a bit desolate, but soon there will be wintering Short-eared Owls, not to mention migrating Snow Geese.


Just like Island View is the heart of black widow country, Iona has an amazing abundance of hobo spiders (Tegenaria agrestis). For some reason, their close relatives, the giant house spiders (T. duellica) are not as abundant.

Early morning in Beacon Hill Park


The past week has been rather hectic, with a flood forcing Catherine and I from our home, paper revisions made and further plans for Honduran fieldwork underway. I did not get a chance to post these shots I took from our time on the Island, where I spent part of Sunday morning out shooting in the dry grasses of Beacon Hill Park.


I saw lots of moth eggs on the dry grasses.


Now is the time to find sclerotia of ergot (Claviceps spp.) which contains chemicals studied by Albert Hofmann (from which he synthesized LSD-25).


This sleepy robber fly was not as sleepy as I thought, and flew off after this shot.


The skipper was more accommodating.



A peacock stalks the Garry Oak meadow.


Coelioxys rufitarsus hanging from grass in the dawn light.




I tried a couple wider shots with the 18-55 on 11 mm of extension (around 24 mm focal length). This is something I would like to try more of…


Weekend Expedition 31: Sleeping Hymenoptera!


What is the perfect arthropod photographic subject? Cute jumping spiders, powerful robberflies, shiny tiger beetles? I would argue that all these are great, but they are not very easy to do full photographic justice to. No, what you need is something that stays still for long periods of time, at a handy angle for posing against the light, and is pretty to boot! Sleeping bees and wasps fit this bill perfectly! Many solitary bees and wasps perch with their mandibles locked into a plant substrate. making for some fine shooting opportunities. I was lucky enough to come upon two sleeping aggregations with Coelioxys bees and Ammophila wasps at Island View Beach on Friday morning. Because they were so still, I was able to try many kinds of shots with them, I hope you will enjoy seeing them as much as I loved taking them!


The colours of the dawn sky show from the east , while a diffused flash and a fill card light the subject. This is Coelioxys rufitarsus, one of the parasitic Megachilids. These beauties lay their eggs in other Megachilid nests, and their larvae consume their host’s provisions.




This Ammophila was shot using my standard lighting using the Monster Macro Rig.





I love the elegant pointed abdomens of these awesome bees!


This shot of the two sleeping insects was shot from the tripod with all natural light, 1/8 sec, f13.


Tripod shot of the aggregation, silhouetting them against the dawn sky.


This shot shows the Coelioxys waking up.


When I have the time and a great subject, I like to compose some “cover shots”.


Of course I also shot them on white!




This is the second aggregation, a bit further up the beach.




Weekend Expedition 30: A day off in Stanley Park


A picture of me, with a sizable prey item, trying to hold it together!

It has been a busy couple weeks here in Vancouver, preparing manuscript revisions for an upcoming paper and writing grant proposals for upcoming fieldwork. They way it is looking now, I may soon be travelling to Honduras in the fall for a 3 week expedition to survey for Red-throated Caracaras and Scarlet Macaws in a remote region of Olancho. This trip will also be to familiarize myself with the terrain, meet the local conservationists and researchers, and get rolling on some permitting issues pertaining to future fieldwork. This is an exciting development for species and habitat conservation, as well as for my harebrained scheme to continue research on my favourite loud birds!

Anyway, with all the excitement, it has been tough to find time to go out to shoot, but that is exactly what I did yesterday, hanging out in Stanley Park, and seeing what the late summer had to offer.


At first, I thought this fly was a member of the Orthorrhapha, the group including horseflies, but Morgan Jackson of Biodiversity in Focus correctly ID’ed it as a Tachinid! Don’t believe me? Check out the closeup of the antennae! The species is Euthera setifacies, one of only two species of Euthera in North America.


That’s a Cyclorhaphan, man! Those antennae are aristate!


The Himalayan Blackberry is still being visited by pollinators, but the vast majority of the fruit is ripe.


The ripe blackberry is under heavy attack by Drosophila suzukii, an invasive species of vinegar fly from Japan. This is male shows why  the species goes by the common name “Spotted-winged Drosophila”.


This male Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) is also a harbinger of fall. Their colony cycle is almost finished, reproductives are being produced, and within a month or so their nests will decline.


When the Bald-faced Hornets (Dolichovespula maculata) start nectaring, it is also an indication their colonies are in decline. Because much of the sugar for the adults is produced by the larvae (trophallaxis!), when larval numbers are low, adults must find other sources of fuel.


A Sierra Dome Spider, Neriene litigiosa (Linyphiidae) has a snack at the top of her dome web. As fall approaches, these become extremely apparent in almost every salal bush.


Our largest native slug, the Spotted Banana Slug eats some skunk cabbage.


The termites are flying, and their long wings and slow flight make for easy snares for web-building spiders. I like how the green of the fern is reflected in the translucent wings.


A Pacific Forktail (Ischnura cervula) hangs out by the water.


A Black Dancer (Mystacides sepulchralis) a type of Caddisfly, rests near Lost Lagoon.


Some kind of Nematus sawfly.


A raccoon checks out the situation before crossing the water.


I love how they hold their tails out!


Those without tails make do.



A very late brood Mallard Duckling from water level.


I was excited to see this male Pine White nectaring.


The omnipresent Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides).


Skippers can be pretty cute!


A lucky Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) takes advantage of the skipper abundance.


An introduced Drumming Katydid female (Meconema thalassinum) hangs out on a fern. Check out Piotr Naskrecki’s awesome blog post showing katydids ovipositing!


A colourful background makes this bumblebee pop!

Ruminations on the rain


It’s raining in Vancouver. I know, big surprise, right? Well, we have had a crazy unusual summer, with all of July hot and sunny. Life cycles of plants and animals accelerated, and the time has just flown by. The grasses in unwatered areas are dead or dormant, grasshoppers and craneflies are nowhere to be found, and I am sure the vole population has taken a hit.

But now it is raining.

Tonight, I had been sitting in front of a big ol’ spreadsheet, pondering an analysis that has not yet come to pass on a paper that I thought was finished (no worries though, Catherine and her mad R-skillz will help out).

Damn, the variables were half-renamed, and I didn’t wanna do it any more.


Before the light totally failed, I headed out to the community garden to take some pictures, raging out at a driver who almost ran me down in the crosswalk outside my house. Damn fools think it’s a freeway or something. I was angry and seething inside while I got to the park.

Time for some macro therapy.

The insects were dealing with the rain with various levels of success.


Some of the honeybees were totally soaked through and depressing, others seemed to soldier on.


I examined a bumblebee working a sunflower for a while; she did not seem to mind the rain, perhaps because of the generous overhang of the plant.


Then I looked down at the leaves of the plant and the yellowing and crispy husks reminded of the sad fact that the summer is slipping away.


In fact, we all know it, summer is short, even on the west coast of Canada. the Turkey Vultures are flying south, the Rufous Hummingbirds are gone, the vine maples up at school are starting to turn strange colours, and the termites are beginning to fly. My thesis is almost done, I need to defend in the fall, I have no job lined up, and a very tenuous plan for the future.  


On the plus side, I have a really cool paper which I hope will be published soon (wait for it! It is my biggie!), Catherine and I will do spider fieldwork next week, and I have plans to visit the caracaras in Honduras in the fall. Things are looking up, if I put it in that context. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am getting better at what I do, and I think the publication of my next paper will be well-received (because it is cool!).

In the meantime, the passing of the summer is just another turn of the season, and I actually love the fall. I should remember to try to get out more and enjoy it all while I can.



Cheapskate Tuesday 25: Einige Kleine NachtSpinnen


A few weeks ago, I suggested a Rat Safari, as a budget-minded wildlife photo expedition that is easy to do in most cities. Today, I bring you a budget spider safari, which Catherine and I conducted in the tiny  park across the street. For this to work, I needed some constant illumination in the subject area, so I simply taped my Fenix E-05 flashlight to the lens hood of my 100 mm, which illuminated the spiders for easy focusing. The lighting for the shots was simply accomplished with a single diffused speedlight on the Monster Macro Rig. I hope you enjoy the photos, and are inspired to go find some little night spiders yourself!



Realm of the Amaurobiids: These Hacklemesh Weavers are the most abundant of the spiders we found. Their disordered web flanking their retreat is laid as a trap for unwary passing insects.


Some webs are more sparse than others!


Here is a freshly-moulted Amaurobiid.


We guess that this is a male Steatoda hespera (Therediidae).


These small orb weavers (Araneidae) were out in small numbers.


A nice big sac spider (Clubionidae)! This is a female.


Could this male sac spider be the same species as the previous? It is difficult to tell. There are hundreds of species of Clubionidae in Canada.


Here a male Amaurobiid tackles an introduced Drumming Katydid (Meconema thalassinum)



Weekend Expedition 27: SFU and the Pandora Community Garden


This weekend I have been working on revisions on a paper, so have not had time for a full-fledged expedition, but I spent a couple hours outside the lab at school (Simon Fraser University) on Saturday and Sunday, and some time in the Community Garden at Pandora Park in the evenings. For the time invested, it was not a bad haul of shots!


Dis you know that National Moth Week is upon us? This Pale Beauty did! Check back here Thursday for moth shots, as I am organizing a nighttime light trapping at school Wednesday night.


Mounting a second flash in a tree up the trail, I mimicked what a foraging bird might cue in on when examining sun-struck foliage.


Once he landed, this fly was very cooperative for photography! I didn’t notice his Nematoceran buddy til later though.


Here I am trying to make millipedes look good.


A Coquillettidia perturbans feeds on my arm. This species has larvae with a blade-like siphon that they pierce plant tissue with in order to breathe. They never have to come to the surface.


Found this firebrat (Thermobia domestica) in a basement hallway at SFU. They must have been on my mind, as my friend Nathan Woodbury just defended his PhD last week describing how these guys use symbiotic bacteria and fungi as site cues for resting spots.


A male Polistes dominula found at the community garden. I should revise my post about in situ on white, because I find when I push the whites using levels in Photoshop, I get a cleaner result than in  ACR…


Polistes dominula and thrips. What a size difference!


Bombus vosnesenskii on lavender. They really are an elegant bee.




I put the Polistes on an Echinacea. I think he liked it.


At the SFU comminity gardens, a honeybee learns the perils of pollination.


This is one of the major perils, and so pretty! The Goldenrod Crab Spider lies in wait, and seems to blend in with its surroundings.


A Snipe Fly (Rhagionidae likely in the genus Rhagio) in the clutches of death.


Will this hoverfly learn? No one can say. This pullback shot was possible thanks to the Monster Macro Rig; see the next picture for details.


This is a configuration you can use for pullback shots using the Monster Macro Rig. Notice that the camera body is pulled way back on the Arca rail, and the magic arms are somewhat extended forward. It can go even further than that, but mostly I use it close in. Photo by Mike Hrabar, who captured a wicked shot of the Crab Spider and Snipe Fly encounter.


Speaking of hoverflies, what I love about this shot is how the vortices from the landing fly kick up the pollen.


Honeybee, looking elegant on Echinacea.


The Weekend Expedition ended with this lovely Brown Lacewing on a daisy neat the Pandora Park Community Garden.

I got lucky with a hoverfly!


Y’all know I love me some syrphids! These awesome fliers are fun to watch and are very abundant in season. They are devilishly hard to catch in flight, but sometimes they oblige and hover motionless in the air, begging for a shot. Last evening at Hastings Park, I was shooting in an area filled with blooming thistle. This little gal did the hovering thing right in front of me, so I took a quick few shots.  With the Laphria I found Wednesday, this has definitely been my lucky week for flies! 




The jumper that’s close to home


This lovely jumping spider is a common sight on walls around the Vancouver area: meet Platycryptus californicus, a member of the Marpissinae subfamily of Salticidae.  If you live in Eastern North America, another PlatycryptusP. undatus is also common.

At first glance, P. californicus seems a wee bit boring. They are overall grey and drab, and hang out on grey drab walls. When shot up close on white, however, these little salticids reveal their beauty. I found this one yesterday on a wall in my back yard, and a couple days ago one was in my living room. This is truly one jumper that has adapted well to the urban habitat.


The greyness and drabness help these little jumpers blend in to rocks and now concrete.


The drabness is not complete however, as there are rufous hairs scattered around, particularly near the eyes and on the sides of the abdomen. A bold white stripe is evident on the lower portion of the prosoma, just above the legs.


Unlike some other species, these jumpers seem to pause every once in a while, which makes photography easier. Check out those cute little eyelashes!


They seem to move their palps quite a bit (perhaps to cover their hideous fangs, like Dracula with his cape?)