Thank you to all who submitted your wonderful macro images to support our blog. As I research these articles, I always learn new things about nature. And I am forced to further understand subjects of which I only had a loose understanding. So I hope you learn something new when reading this, because I sure did!
Harvestmen are commonly referred to as Daddy Long-legs spiders. However, they are technically not spiders at all. These two-eyed arachnids with fused body sections are called opiliones and are typically known for having exceptionally long legs relative to their body size. Having no silk glands, harvesters do not build webs.
Harvestmen have multi-segmented limbs that will twitch even after being separated from their bodies, sometimes for much longer than a minute. This twitching is caused by a 'pacemaker' located in the leg segment closest to the body, the femur. The pacemaker sends "signals via the nerves to the muscles to extend the leg and then the leg relaxes between signals", Wikipedia. It is thought that this twitching distracts a predator while the harvestmen escapes.
This image of an opilione on a yellow cone-flower was photographed by Diana Meyn.
2. Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
"One of nature's more interesting mimics, the Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar starts out looking like a bird dropping in early instars (stages of growth), then like a snake's head as it matures, sending the message 'I'm not edible' to birds looking for a snack." - John Baumlin
As John stated, those eye-like patches aren't eyes at all. In fact, the actual head of this butterfly in its larval stage (as a caterpillar) is located at the tip of what looks like its nose. There is much more to discuss about caterpillars, moths, butterflies and their fascinating metamorphosis. Start photographing them now because there will be a Lepidoptera blog this summer.
3. Wine Grapes
Living so close to the Finger Lakes, it is inevitable that local residents will visit the wine trail at some point. But how many stop for closer looks at the grapes? Kelly Frederick Sweet did just that with this image. She also demonstrates a lovely bokeh technique. Bokeh is described as the intentional, aesthetic blurring of the non-subject portion of an image. By using a shallow depth of focus, a photographer can isolate the subject away from the background (or foreground), while still capturing some of the lovely colors in the blurred out regions. In this case, you have just enough detail to recognize the grapes in the background, which provides environment without overwhelming the image.
One fun technique to play with is shooting through a colorful foreground. Find a patch of leaves or flowers to shoot through. Frame and focus your subject in the background. Open your aperture wide and shoot. If the distance is adequate between your foreground and your subject, you should have a beautiful haze of color framing your image. If you capture anything you are happy with, post it on Facebook or Instagram with the tag #WatermanChallenge. We would love to see it!
4. The Golden Ratio
In this image of a teasel, Gina Vaughan provides a beautiful demonstration of the golden ratio or spiral. This is a mathematical ratio that is frequently found in nature. In the 13th century, Leonardo Fibonacci discovered a golden ratio that was echoed throughout nature, "a sort of design that is universally efficient in living things and pleasing to the human eye. Hence, the 'divine proportion' nickname." -James Brandon
This composition technique which is based on the mathematical ratio of 1 to 1.618 has been used in art and architecture as far back as the Renaissance period. But you don't have to be a mathematician to use it. Just apply a spiral technique to your composition to lead the eye in a circuit throughout your image and into the focal point. This technique takes the standard rule of thirds up a few notches, providing a much stronger, organic composition.
Below is a picture of the golden spiral, left, and overlaid on the image on the right.
5. Hen Mallard
" As she came closer, I could see something on her head so I grabbed my camera to find it was tiny raindrops that her feathers had wicked away. " - Jessica Pack
In her comment, Jessica is describing my favorite thing about macro photography. When you zoom in closer with your lens and magnify your subject larger than life size, you begin to expose an entire world you would never see with your eyes alone. This image also illustrates perfectly this hen's natural camouflage. Each color in this mallard's feathers is represented in the water. Plan for a natural camouflage blog down the road.
6. Hybrid Iris and Water Droplets
This lovely Iris hybrid was photographed by Waterman's own Cheryl Utter. This soft yellow flower was found on the grounds at Waterman Center's main interpretive center. As with the Mallard above, water droplets add a lovely texture to a any subject, providing additional visual interest to an already beautiful photo. It is so popular that many macro photographers will carry a squirt bottle of water with them to produce this effect. But it can also be found naturally after rain or on a dewy spring morning, as with this image.