What is this blog?
Last week I started exploring super macro photography, going beyond a 1:1 size ratio of the subject to the image projected onto the camera sensor. I already had a Nikon 105mm f/2.8 macro lens from the early 90's that I love and which I have used for a number of the shots on my photos page. However, having spent so much time working with very small insects like aphids and their parasitoids, I have always been unsatisfied with the photos I could take of them. Even many of the photos of aphids published in books and journals leave quite a bit to be desired. The 1:1 magnification available with an otherwise great macro lens like mine just doesn't cut it unless you have both very high pixel density in your camera and flawless glass in front of it, allowing you to crop really aggressively. Generally when taking pictures, I much prefer to start with an image in the camera that is at least close to what I want the finished product to look like.
Many scientific photos of very small things like aphids are taken with compound or dissecting microscopes with special built in cameras. While these are great for capturing extreme detail, they are often much more limited in terms of overall image aesthetic quality and ability to put the viewer in the perspective of a living subject. Going beyond 1:1 with my DSLR meant either buying a highly specialized new lens (very expensive and not an option for me), buying extension tubes or teleconverters (less expensive but not cheap), or taking a very common lens that I already owned and mounting it backwards on my camera. I chose to buy a <$10 filter thread adapter and reverse-mount my 50mm f/1.8 lens, the first lens I bought when I got a DSLR, on the front of my 105mm macro lens. The resulting contraption is a bit finicky, but with some patience the image quality to new monetary investment ratio is turning out fantastic.
Over the next several weeks I will try to take photos of all 18 species of aphids we currently have in the Heimpel Lab and post them here. I will do my best to produce images that both look nice and capture a bit of the biology of these diverse, beautiful, and important creatures. Along the way I may share thoughts about the process or some background about the aphids. All images will be of live insects on their host plants at room temperature. The only tools I am using are my camera and the two lenses described above, a single external flash, occasionally a piece of white paper, and some light touch-ups or cropping on my computer afterward. No tripods, no special backdrops or multi-flash setups, no focus-stacking software, and no refrigerated insects. I am absolutely an amateur and am doing this for myself, but hopefully can capture some nice images to share with you.
MC Kaiser Blog
Photographs of aphids by an enthusiastic amateur.
Images free for educational use with attribution.
Please contact me for any other uses, or visit my portfolios at Shutterstock and Dreamstime
First post and introduction here
If you are trying to identify live aphids from pictures, I highly recommend the website InfluentialPoints.com
For ID keys and a quite comprehensive catalog of aphids and their host plants see Aphids on the World's Plants
There is always the chance of one of our colonies getting contaminated and me posting a misidentified aphid. These images therefore should not be used to make formal identifications.
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