Tuesday, July 24, 2012


OK, here's a quick quiz.  What is this a picture of?

For all those entomologists who know their Latin and who paid attention to the title to this post, the answer is Japanese beetle, more specifically the back of a Japanese beetle that was browsing on one of the coneflowers in our garden.  

I was just wrapping up a shoot of some coneflowers in our garden when I noticed the beetle on one of the flowers.  Unlike with most of my experiences in trying to photograph animal life, including insects, this guy didn't take off just as I was getting set to take its picture.  It did do a bit of crawling around, so I found myself "chasing" it around the flower.  This may not sound like much, but since I use a tripod, I was constantly trying to adjust everything, including the focus on the insect.  My other excuse was that there was a bit of a breeze, which made using a narrow aperture (to gain depth of field) something of a problem because of the corresponding longer exposure required.  That is, I was coping with two possible movement problems--the meanderings of the beetle and the movement of the flower in the breeze.   Excuses, excuses.  

Here is a photo of the full monty, if you will.

This was actually a good shot except the beetle had ducked its head just under the tip of one of the bristles of the coneflower.  The coneflower does provide some idea of the size of the beetle, which was probably about 3/5 inch long.

Here are a few more photos that worked out OK.

The above photo does a great job of capturing the detail in the insect's back, but the white feathering at the insect's tail is blurred out.  The following shots do a better job of capturing the tail feathering, but the antennae are not in great focus.  Keep in mind that the practical depth of field of an image is not just a function of the aperture of the lens but also of the distance between the lens and the subject.  In other words, the closer I got to the insect, the shallower the depth of field became.  All of the shots in this post were taken at a fairly narrow aperture of f/13, and all of the shots, by the way, are fairly heavily cropped.

A look at the photos, particularly the one that is cropped into a square, reveals that this beetle has experienced some misfortune during its brief life: There is a major dent in its right "shoulder."  (Actually, I'm not sure that insects technically have shoulders or, if so, how many they have.)  Don't know if it got it in a fight or a fall, or whether it is a congenital problem.  But it makes for a distinguishing mark.

Once again, I was really pleased with the resolution that my macro lens provided.  Here is another closeup of the beetle's back which highlights that resolution, including the little dimples and the iridescence in the upper portion of the insect's back, as well as its "war wound."

Taken with my Nikon D7000 and Tamron 90 mm macro lens.

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