Tuesday, January 23, 2007


And here's a picture of me from last year. A relatively complex homemade wide angle lens let me get this shot with a small compact camera in my outstretched hand.

I am here showing one of my lens combos set for high-macro long distance shots. My outfit here consisted of a couple of cameras but the main one is an 8mp digital SLR equipped with a custom grip I made from a flash grip to balance the large lens arrangement. The lenses here are a bellows system placed after a series of extension tubes that are specially connected to the lens-mount of my camera. This is an adapter I invented and built myself. It uses the same solid standard connector (I forget the word for that) So it snaps on like any other lens I use. This is the first picture I have published with the "Phoenix adapter" as I called it since I built it after a spill destroyed a very expensive lens. Rather then letting it gather dust--I scraped it and got it's mounting clip out and put it to use to build an adapter so that it will accept the old Pentax system that will be practical enough for the field. Here it is not set up for shooting long distance as it was used for some of my bird shots. It is what I call "teli-macro"- with certain setups I can use with the old but cheap and easy to find screw mount Pentax system lenses. With the right combination this adapter could literally shoot a flea on a dogs back from over 5 feet away at very nice resolution and quality. But I'd need a very stable tripod, dog, and flea! It's incredible and I never thought it possible. Many people have been very impressed. Most of my shots are taken between 2 and 6 inches away. Averaging about 5. With this rig I can get even the smallest bugs into focus very well from a one or two or more feet away depending on how many and what kind of attachments I use in the Pentax lens setup. The lens here is a Pentax f3.5 to 22 (approx)135mm 35mm.

A sack spider just captured this moth. Sack spiders are really interesting. Another species which at least out here-- tolerate each other and so large walls of many ages and sizes of them can be seen at certain times of year. They are often confused with the brown recluse as most desert living spider that wonder about or do not use webs so often are. Someone will get a bad spider bite and blame the first spider they see. In truth most spider that bite people are lost in the frantic pace of things and most probably smashed. Don't assume anything even if a spider is crawling on you or your cloths. Most spiders bite as they are being crushed by you putting your cloths or shoes on or sitting back with one inside clothing. Keep a stable head if your bit and try to find a smashed spider which might be very small. Don't point at the one in the corner or even on the ground near by and say "that's gotta be the one". Proper identification of species is important and I think there are some over-reactions and myths being created due to this brown recluse mis-identification problem. Don't believe everything that you read about this stuff no matter how many PhDs or big words are used in some bogus or exaggerated and or paranoid reports which so often hit the Internet. Such as the one about those apparently super-massive spiders in Iraq. From certain angles you can make an insect or spider look far larger then it is without using any digital modification software--it can be done with film cameras as well.

A small beetle gets got in an old spider web. It may die here and since there is no spider to catch it I free insects like this when I am done taking there picture.

My budget and interest in home-made gear and making the best of old camera junk is one of my favorite things to do. I build systems that are as powerful as 100s or even 1000s of dollar lenses myself. I am very blessed to have this ability and thankful for all donations made of old gear but I could use allot more! Almost no peace of old camera optical gear is garbage. Solving problems with this and how to build these systems and lenses I credit to training in my teen years learning about how to build things on a budget in Scouts, but most of all to all the time I have had to experiment and learned what works from trail and error. So this old 35mm lens also has a auto/manual switch so that I can adjust the aperture since the adapter only clips into my camera it does not have of course any way for me to set the aperture of this antique but great lens. I also created a makeshift washer with a hard wire of the right side twisted between the screw mount and the lens. It's harmless to the gear--and pushes in the tiny button then enables the lens to be operated manually. As I said I invented and built the adapter with a lens that was accidentally destroyed with a sports drink spill. Removing the mount, I was able to put together a system to link to my growing collection of Pentax lenses to digital use. I got started with still photography on the old Pentax system. Now I have built a field-tested tough system that holds allot of weight and is as solid as any of my other gear. For now the exact means I use to link this kind of a system up I will keep to myself as this post is already too huge! I plan however publish more articles all at once showing my entire setup and at that time tell others about at least some of my tricks and how I got the shots I have, with so limited financial abilities . If it was impossible I wanted to do it. Where there is a will there is a way.

A parasitic wasp shot a while ago.

This is a Sheet web spider. I'm proud of this shot because I had to be very careful to capture this shy species inside his hole. Both the male and the female make a sheet-like web of fine silk and live in a bit of a funnel-like place for there entire life as a home to hide in. The males eventually get of breeding age and wonder in search of the females. This male is still catching food. It is very easy to tell this is a male because of the bulbs you can see just in front of his face--those are the Palps, the Male's complex reproductive organs. They produce sperm from there abdomen but must put it into these storage palps which are swollen in males. A hypodermic style system pushes the sperm into the females more normal reproductive organ when they finally mate.

A female sheet web spider in waiting. The male will find her web and tap out a special message to do a complex dance of dangerous rituals so that mating can happen without either of them getting harmed. In this species, often the males are larger--which is very unusual for spiders.

A male moth is looking for a female with these feelers. They are only feathered like this in males. Most male moths have this adaptation. It makes there feelers incredibly more successful at picking up the smallest pheromones and thus the females in an age old system that has worked since before the dinosaurs.

Now that I carry much more pro-looking gear and I have 'registered' with the local police I no longer get harassed-- but they have to be careful. So if you want to walk or cheaply get around and take pictures, don't trespass, don't take stupid chances and bring ID. If your clean. And be respectful of the police they almost certainly will treat you with the same respect (they have done so with me every time so far). I've never had my camera gear searched or even memory card taken or forced to be deleted. For me, business cards are my "badge" as being a photographer for real. Showing them shows I did not just run out of a house with a handful of stolen camera gear or something! I've been stopped about 3 times by the police while taking pictures, one time was down in San Jose.

"Storm Ghosts"
As if a long dead tornado had come back in calm clouds. The clouds lit up to show a ghostly site of what looks like a funnel cloud. This optical illusion was totally real. AND THIS IS TRUE COLOR--the only thing I did was add my logo to it and trim my levels a bit. In other words--this is straight off the camera and just how I saw it!

Yes! Yesterday afternoon as the sun set here in The Dalles I happened to look out the window to take some shots of the mountains across from me. Then I noticed these sites. The sun blocked by a ridge line, some very interesting things happened with clouds as it got darker and quickly the sun went down. If the clouds were high enough--they did this. Glowing! This is true color and not changes by myself here. (above and below)

Another shot of the same formation. I had to shoot and balance each shot. I took pictures and had a very short time to get it right. I was so relieved when I got it--and so very enthusiastic. The Gorge does often produce beautiful cloud effects, but it is not all that common to see them and catch them on a camera. I got lucky. The tree is dark because I left the picture how I had to shoot it. Once again this is right off the camera. I did not change anything in this picture except add my name.

I have many insect pictures that need to be put on my website! I will get it done slowly. Taking lots of pictures is far more easy then processing them for a website, even if they are all digital.

A tiny wolf spider. This small little agile spider was not just a lucky shot. The camera I used above took this shot with that system (picture of me above this shot) This Wolf spider's big eyes can be seen and what is that it is sitting on? An ordinary garden hose. At several feet away clear and very tight shots at full-res have become possible with my home-built adapter. This is especially important for photographing spiders like the Wolf spider here. They are very agile and fast. It took me a long time to get any shots of them that were any good. When I go to Indonesia and as the spring comes back--I hope to plan many trips with my new digital SLR to photograph more insects and spiders with f30+ aperture settings. This enables a lot more depth of field making good pictures of insects turn out with little or no blurry areas. As I said sometimes-- I wish I was a kid again so that people don't get suspicious of me looking for bugs!
"What the heck is that guy doing?--turning over rocks and taking pictures of them?"
"--he must have stolen that camera!"

A TRUE BUG these little guys live on otherwise deadly toxic blueish berries (Oregon Grapes). There yellow bright warnings and self-confidence shows that they have a toxic relationship with what they feed on. By feeding on a toxic plant many insects and some other animals use the plants poison for themselves to become piousness. Some such animals like the poison dart frog (nearly the most deadly animal in the world) can be raised harmless if not razed on there toxic food sources. They have come to be able to handle the poison on there own and simply stockpile it as a defense.

Here one sits sipping what would be really dangerous for a person. You can just see the Proboscis--it's feeding tube that is like a soda straw extended into the berry.

I often wonder how these guys can fly. Clearly looking like a stick on some old tree, this small moth has many species and they fly to lights all over the world. Some larger kinds live here and have been called "stick moths".

A leaf hopper in green shows f22 depth of field. It's only about 1mm. This is a good example of your depth of field line as you can see before a certain area of the picture it's out of focus and after as well. Only a thin line where the lens was an exact distance from the subject is there any clear focus. This is one of the most important things F-stop lets you control. Just to one side or the other of the hopper he'd be all out of focus. It's kind of like the exponential scales in used with Earthquakes. The difference between F22 and F25 is very large. By F36 or so nearly everything is in focus but even the brightest sunny day will probably be too dark unless you use a very high ISO and or use a long exposure.

This ant gave me a chance to take several shots. I think it's a carpenter ant. Here you can get a good idea of it's size.

A detail shot of this ant that gave me some time to get some great shots through the optics of my adapter on one of my digital SLRs.

This is an old favorite. Staring straight up at the camera I shot this spider on the wall of my house outside. Now I have far higher depth of field abilities but still with crude gear I was able to do far more then I thought I could.

This moth is a medium sized visitor to my lights. This is in millimeters and centimeters--I use this or the broken end of a plastic ruler for measuring size of insects. If you got nothing else and it's safe--use your finger or thumb or a coin to show size.

The Zebra spider from another angle here. It was an awesome thing to find. My new lenses will get me awesome shots when I find another one of these and I manage to catch it at the right place so it does not get scared away. That's where you want 2 or 3 feet of distance between you and the creature.

A ladybug at high-macro climbs some twigs. I have 100s of shots like this I have not published yet. A huge backlog, I just hope I don't post the same pictures to many times!

Another Wolf spider shot of another wolf spider. To give you some kind of idea how small she is, this is an ordinary green garden hose! I can shoot allot closer then this.

In this post I balanced this out with my flash and camera settings (I am only at home in Manual mode) with the DAYLIGHT. That is correct--this shot was taken in full daylight but done with high settings. The idea behind this was to not just illuminate them like this but set the flash brightness as well as my camera settings so that I could balance things in the background while illuminating the ice cycles. This takes a while but can be done. I have more of these I want to post that I achieved this state. This kind of low-flash shot is the same principle I use to make brilliant pictures of flowers and bugs.

This spider was only about 5mm long. A tiny jumper, she was all over the place but I managed to get a few shots in focus a while back. Jumping spiders can see all around there entire body with 8 eyes. Two of them are forward facing and operate much like ours. Stereoscopic vision lets them judge distances for there jumps. The other eyes are not as high-resolution and detect movement and light direction.

Zoomed in and cropped even further, the paint chips may give you some idea of how small this beautiful jumper really is.

There has just not been allot of bugs to shoot during the winter so I have gone into my archives for those pictures. Ice cycles formed after a snowstorm here and I got some pictures of those you will see in this post. This picture was taken while I was balancing my flash to compensate for daylight and still illuminate the details of the ice cycles. I have a few more shots I want to post as I got more.

From my doctor's office in Hood River I shot this picture of what I think is Mt. Adams. I have recently taken a large number of more normal pictures. I got more hits when I was shooting spiders and insects more often. It was and is a good idea for me to diversify and learn every kind of photography as much as I can. It is really powerful and thrilling. To really be the man who shot that picture and shot it in Manual mode able to produce it. That's fun for me. I am not going to fear people will be put off by the big-bug headlines on my website and begin to put more insect pictures on my site. However, I do have to travel after a certain point as repeated pictures like those one's of bees become really old. I need new material and I'm lucky to have a spot for that as well as an area where landscape photos can actually be a bit unique.

This Sack Spider really scored. I really like sack spiders. I am very fascinated about how they get along with each other during the several months that if you have lights to attracted them you can watch them in large numbers. Also, they don't have any of the super-senses that most hunting spiders have. No major hairs--no big eyes. They hunt almost by bumbling blindly into there pray! Yet when two sack spiders meet (at least every time I've seen it--even young and old)--they both retreat in fear by jumping away. They do not eat each other or there offspring as far as I can tell. They are not a communal species but they clearly have a way of telling what they have near them which is probably done with pheromones. Whatever the case--they co-habitat walls and get along in large numbers. Then during the day they sleep in sacks they spin to keep predatory spiders such as the white-tail out. Rumors are crazy about this species because it does resemble in some slight ways and size the Brown Recluse. IT IS NOT A BROWN RECLUSE and should be treated with respect but is basically a harmless species. Take a good look so you can tell how close some spiders get to looking like the dangerous ones.

This is a spider I would not handle. The Internet is full of crap about the Hobo-spider and other spider myths. The Hobo-spider story has not entirely convinced me. I have seen the ones officially called that in Seattle but have no photos of them. I have NOT seen them in Oregon. Only there harmless cousin the grass spider. I often believe that a brown recluse is more likely to be the cause for many of these terrible bites as we have always known. Most people who get bit by spiders cannot or do not actually find the spider they are bitten by. They may simply capture the first spider in the house that they see--or one that is near by. Fact is, there are also many skin infections that even fool doctors into thinking it is a spider bite. EMT and doctors are NOT generally trained in dangerous spiders or spider identification. This must be done very carefully with a good view of the spiders carapace (ephalothorax). Although if you know what a brown recluse looks like, you know it on site. I have never seen a brown recluse in Oregon and I have been looking! This is a white-tail. Or White tip. If you want to remove a spider from your home, do so carefully and know this--they do NOT return! It has no means of seeing or smelling well enough to come back to your house on purpose. Do not remove spiders with a paper towel. Many can bite through it and you almost certainly will kill the spider by picking it up that way. They are very fragile. Rather--try to scare it into a box or jar with a peace of paper--a Tupperware square container often works well. Release it outside and it will not return to your house. Teach your children that spiders are not horrible stinging creatures that eat anything and bite everything that moves. Teach your children that spiders are a very important insect control system. And how to remove them from your home rather then killing them. Let them live in your garden. One Entomologist did a basic analysis of what the world would be like without spiders. We would almost literally be knee deep in dead and living insects nearly world-wide and diseases spread by insects would kill most of the human population as well as food supply. Many of the truly dangerous species of insects which spread disease are controlled by spiders. They even have a place in the home. We are probably NOT born to fear spiders. Several studies have shown it is a completely leaned terror. I do believe that a slithering snake may well have a genetic connection because of how many people could have died from them in our past--but our fear of spiders is probably entirely learned and expanded upon as one of those things society molds us to hate and fear. Some of the same attitudes that are destroying our planet. Ignorance.

This is a true Huntsman spider. NOT DANGEROUS. A find I did not expect here. Related to the large "Cane spiders" of Hawaii (also called House Mothers because they are often left alone so that they eat cockroaches) they wonder looking for insects anywhere they can. They are a larger cousin of the crab-spiders known for walking sideways. The huge brown ones in Hawaii are really hard to catch because they are so fast. They bite when held but that was the only way to catch them! I was bit so many times as a kid I would grab them knowing it. The pain is not even half a bee-sting--at least to me. Do not ever grab a spider or provoke it to bite you. They don't make webs and I have only seen one for all of the 4 years I've lived here. She was also very fast--when I caught her she injured her leg. Incredibly she bit it off and consumed it! Nothing is left to waste in the animal world. She recovered and will probably grow back that leg. I took this shot right before a captured her for further pictures.

A Zebra Spider--a type of jumping spider. Here they are relatively common but so small they are hard to find. It is possible that these markings indicate a juvenile of another species but I highly doubt it. This spider will only reach about 4-5mm in body length.

I JUST GOT FINISHED SHOOTING A SEQUENCE ON THE FIRST HARVESTMAN as well as other insects I found today as it was sunny and extraordinarily warm out here. Finally--I've been able to test my new DSLR on real bugs. There's more coming! Please join me again in taking a look at interesting topics and creatures. I got a trip to San Jose coming up and after that finally a trip to the rain forest in Indonesia where I will have a rare chance to photograph incredible and completely new stuff as I realize a childhood dream going to Guam and Bali with my cameras.

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