It’s week 45, but I just took this “summer-looking” image! This picture was taken using a Helios-44 lens. Helios is probably the most famous vintage lens there is; it was produced in the old Soviet Union in 1958-1992 (my copy is from 1982) and is one of most mass produced lenses in the world. It comes in several variants. The version I have (“M”) is supposedly the worst one, but I’m very pleased with it. It’s built in solid metal, focuses down to 0.5 m, and has a mag ratio of 1:6:5 at the closest focus point. I bought it cheap (FYI – the average price in October 2018 was only $32) including an M42 adapter to fit in on my Fuji.
In case you’re interested, there’s a weekly podcast called “The Classic Lenses Podcast” and there’s an entire episode dedicated to the Helios-44 here
New gear! 🙂 Test shots!
I got another vintage lens: Pentacon 135 2.8. It’s a telephoto lens made in GDR (East Germany), I found one in mint condition and got it super cheap.
There are two versions of this lens, and I got the second version which is inferior to the first as it only has 6 blades and the diaphragm can close to f/22 (the first version has 15 blades and can close to f/32), but still a very nice and sharp lens which is fun to use. The minimum focusing distance is 170 cm, something that will take a bit getting used to for me, especially since I’ve mainly shot with a 60 mm macro lens the past year. Anyway, today I went for a little walk and took some first test shots with my new (although it’s older than me) lens. It can of course only be used in full manual mode, but the focus ring is smooth and easy to use so it’s not really a problem I think.
This pretty little butterfly is called Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) in English, “Small Fire butterfly” in Dutch, and “Small Goldwing” in Swedish. I’m not sure, but I think (guess) one reason why it’s “gold” in one place and “copper” in another is because the colours of this butterfly varies slightly depending on where it lives.
I was lucky to find one sitting in the warm sunlight (usually they’re very active in bright sun) and was able to shoot it (I mean photograph) slightly backlit which really brought out its beautiful colours. Notice that the orange at the tip of the antennae also matches its wings, very stylish!
Update: Last week, WordPress didn’t recognize my weekly post as a post, thus it didn’t show up in the Reader of those who subscribe to my blog. Luckily, this issue seems to be resolved now!
Today I’ve been photographing dragonflies in Diemer Vijfhoek 🙂 I still don’t have a macro lens; these were taken with XF18-135 and all are cropped. Anyway, here are four beautiful dragonflies and some brief information about them. Hope you’ll like!
(1) Vagrant darter (Sympetrum vulgatum) – male
Quick fact: It hovers and then, as the name suggests, darts out to surprise its prey. Then they take their catch to a favoured perch to eat it. Very similar to the Common darter (Sympetrum striolatum), but it has a “hanging” mustache.
(2) Black-tailed skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) – male
Quick fact: It’s a narrow-bodied, medium-sized, straight-sided dragonfly. It can be seen flying low over the bare gravel and mud around flooded gravel pits and reservoirs, before landing on the bare shore to rest in the sun.
(3) Migrant hawker (Aeshna mixta) – male
Quick fact: It’s not a particularly aggressive species, and may be seen feeding in large groups. Hawkers are the largest and fastest flying dragonflies; they catch their prey mid-air and can hover or fly backwards, although the Migrant hawker is smaller than other hawkers.
(4) Black-tailed skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) – I’m not sure, it’s either an immature male or a female
Quick fact: They breed in very large number in newly flooded gravel pits. (See also above.)
Damselflies! Click to view slideshow:
Dragonflies and damselflies are closely related, both are part of the insect order Odonata. However, they are not the same! Odonata includes about 5,900 species of which about 3,000 are dragonflies (suborder Epiprocta, infraorder Anisoptera) and about 2,600 are damselflies (suborder Zygoptera).
Here are five differences to look for:
★ Size: Dragonflies are generally much larger. The most common dragonfly in The Netherlands (Ruddy darter) is 3.4-3.6 cm long and has a wingspan of 6 cm. The most common damselfly in The Netherlands (Blue-tailed damselfly) is 2.7-3.5 cm long and has a wingspan of 3.5 cm.
→ Fun fact: the largest extinct dragonfly had a wing span of 70-75 cm (roughly 30 inches)!
★ Eyes: Dragonflies have much larger eyes than damselflies, their eyes take up most of the head and they are wrapped around from the side to the front of the face which kind of makes it look like dragonflies are wearing snow goggles. Damselflies also have large eyes, but the eyes are clearly separated and appear on each side of the head. →See picture below!
★ Body shape: Dragonflies have bulkier, stocky bodies that appear shorter and thicker. Damselflies have long and slender bodies.
★ Wing shape: Both dragonflies and damselflies have two sets of wrings, but the shapes are different. Dragonflies have hind wings that broaden at the base, which makes them larger than the front wings. Damselflies have wings that are the same size and shape for both sets, and they taper down as they join the body, thus becoming quite narrow as they connect.
★ Position of the wings when resting: Dragonflies hold their wings out perpendicular to their bodies when resting, so they look like small airplanes. Damselflies fold their wings up and hold them together across the top of their backs, from a distance they kind of look like a very thin safety match.
Here’s a picture of a Map (Araschnia levana), the butterfly best known for having two forms: levana (spring brood) and prorsa (summer brood). levana individuals are primarily orange in colour, and prorsa individuals are mainly black with some white markings. This here is a summer brood showing off its beautiful underside (a map like pattern which look the same in both broods)-
Here’s a picture I took during my vacation in Sicily, a beautiful Violet carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea)! This bee is huge, about 3 times the size of the biggest bumble bee we have here in Holland. Unfortunately I only had an old iPhone at hand, in real life its dark blue-purple colour was much nicer.
Week 26 = we’re half way through 2018 already!
Today I want to share some pictures of a Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album), I’m not entirely sure but I think it’s a summer generation of sub-species (f.hutchinsoni).
In most languages this butterfly is called something with a reference to the white mark it has on its side, e.g. in English it’s Comma, in Spanish it’s C. Although in French it’s called Robert-le-Diable (“Robert the Devil”) because of its jagged wings. The scientific name also refers to the mark: “c” + “album” (which means white).
This butterfly has very good camouflage, both as a larva (mimicking bird droppings) and as an adult (mimicking a dead leaf).
PS. I’m off to Sicily so there won’t be any updates the next coming weeks!
Today I want to share FIVE FUN FACTS about dragonflies 🙂 A beautiful Common darter lady (Sympetrum striolatum) kindly agreed to demonstrate the facts in my pictures!
★ FACT 1: They were the first insects to inhabit this planet – 300 million years ago! In other words: they’ve had a looong time to perfect the art of flying and hunting.
★ FACT 2: They’re flat out terrifying if you’re a mosquito or other kind small bug, because they don’t simply chase down their prey but they snag them from the air with a calculated aerial ambush! Dragonflies can judge the speed and trajectory of a prey target, and they’re so skilled they have an impressive 95% success rate when hunting.
★ FACT3: They can fly in any direction, including sideways and backwards! (How cool is that!) Plus, they can hover in a single spot for a minute or more. But that’s not all. They’re also fast – some species reach almost 30 km/h (18 mph) – and one species (Globe skimmer) flies almost 18,000 km (11,000 miles) during migration which is the world’s longest insect migration. (Compare this with the famous Monarch butterfly migration of 2,500 miles.)
★ FACT 4: Both dragonflies and damselflies are in the order Odonata, which means “the toothed ones”. When hunting, they can catch the prey with their feet, tear off its wings with their sharp jaws (so the prey can’t escape) and scarf it down – all without needing to land. In short: Their ability to rip apart their prey takes their predatory prowess to another level.
Update: It should be noted that dragonflies don’t bite humans and they don’t have any stinger! i.e. they cause no harm to humans. (Thanks for pointing this out, Greta)
★ They have nearly 360 degrees vision! The enormous compound eyes contain 30,000 facets and they can see the world in colors we can’t even imagine. (In depth read here)
Update: It’s also worth mentioning that dragonflies have a significant, positive ecological impact. In its nymph stage, they eat harmful aquatic organisms and thus help keep our waters clean. The nymph can contribute to the ecosystem for up to five years before becoming a mature adult! As adults, they mainly help humans by eating mosquitoes and other insects that spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, anthrax, etc.
Some random pictures I’ve taken with the Pentacon 50 mm lens… Have a nice week everyone!
The Azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella) is quite common here in The Netherlands, and always a pleasure to see!
At first glance it could be a bit tricky to distinguish the Azure from a Common blue (Enallagma cyathigerum) damselfly, but if you look at the antehumeral stripe (that’s the long blue section on the thorax), the Azure’s blue stripe is narrower than the black stripe beneath it, and there’s an extra black line, a “spur” extending from the wing base towards the legs. The Common blue’s antehumreral stripe is broader than the black stripe beneath it and there’s no “spur” on the thorax.
Another thing to look at is the second segment of the males’ abdomen (just behind the thorax): both are blue but the Azure has a black U-shape and the common blue has a black mushroom-shaped mark.
And now I need your help! Please take a look at the second photo below, it’s not a great shot but I hope someone can help me identify this little damselfly.. I’m doubting if it’s either a Variable damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) or perhaps a female Azure in blue form. If you know which one it is, please leave a comment below!
The cardinal beetle is actually three different species of beetles. The most common one is the Red-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa serraticornis), which is an orange-red beetle with a – duh – read head. It’s about 2 cm long and easy to spot as it kind of glows (in the closeup shot below you can see the color is kind of red metallic). The Black-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa coccinea) has a – uhm – black head and is rarer, slightly larger and its body has a deeper blood-red color. The third kind is the Scarce cardinal (Schizotus pectinicornis), it also has a black head but is less than 1 cm long.
Cardinal beetles prey on other insects, while their bright red color prevents them from being targeted by other predators because red usually means toxic in the bug world.
If you see a beetle with red wings and black underside and wonder if it’s a cardinal beetle or not, the easiest tell is to look at the antennae: Cardinals have toothed antennae. It’s often confused with the Scarlet lily beetle, which is smaller and usually found eating lily leaves.
Two different takes on two different kinds of butterflies-
(1) Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), photographed today with Fuji 18-135 mm + Raynox 150. Goal was to get close to the butterfly and capture as much detail as possible. Picture not edited except it’s been slightly cropped.
(2) Green-veined white (Pieris napi), photographed with Pentacon 50 mm. Goal was to capture the moody light in the forest, not so much details in the butterfly (although enough to determine that it’s a female spring brood). Picture not edited or cropped.
Would you do me a favor and let me know which one you prefer? Not saying one is “better” than the other, but just curious to know your preference. You can use the voting buttons below! Thanks 🙂
A little Jet ant (Lasius fuliginosus) enjoying a beautiful day in the forest… Photos taken with Pentacon, this lens is about 45 years old (made in East Germany), and really nice to use. It’s not super sharp when shot open wide at f1.8, but that wasn’t the purpose of these shots anyway. 😉
“Sharpness really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in my book. I’d rather look at an image with soft gloomy highlights with aberrations all over the place, than a clinically perfect super shot. It’s the same with human beings. It’s our flaws that make us unique. It’s these flaws that enhance beauty by giving us an immediate reference through presence of the less-than-perfect.”
Jonas Rask – official Fujifilm X-Photographer
The plant is known as cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), it’s a herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial plant in the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae).
Week 18! I’m very excited to share these images with you, they’re taken with a very old lens: Pentacon 50 mm f1.8. It’s got an M-42 mount so with an adapter I can use it on my Fuji camera. And I *love* this lens! Really, it has everything I’d ever wanted in a lens: It’s sharp where it’s supposed to be and soft where it’s supposed to be (with very nice, kind of dreamy bokeh).
Modern lenses are usually big and heavy because of their autofocus functions. Old lenses don’t have autofocus, thus a fraction of the size and weight even though they’re made of metal and not plastic. You can find this fantastic little lens at flea markets or charity shops for 20-25 Euro. I kid you not! If you see one, please do yourself a favor and buy it because that’s a purchase you’ll never regret.
If you’re worried about shooting in full manual mode, please don’t be. See it as an opportunity to become a better photographer! Nowadays, everyone’s snapping away with cameras that have several automatic settings and autofocus. Shooting in manual mode means you have to take the time to really think about what you want to photograph and how to do it; You have to set the focus, aperture, etc. manually and soon you’ll have a much better understanding of light and composition as well.
Pictures taken in Amsterdamse Bos today. I don’t want to post too many pictures at once, so I’ve selected only 3 examples of what this lens can do. No filters or photoshopping has been done, besides adding a small signature, these pictures are straight out of camera.
Week 17! Two green pictures: one bug and one flower.
First, a picture of a Green dock beetle (Gastrophysa viridula). They have a shiny, metallic sheen that’s primarily green but also gold, bronze and brass colors depending on their age and which light you see them in. If you see a metallic green little beetle and wonder how to identify which one it is, you can look at the legs – Green dock beetles have metallic green legs while most others have all black legs. This one was only 4 mm long so I think it’s a male (females are bigger).
(More info and pictures of a female dock beetle here)
Garlic mustard flower (Alliara petiolata) is a biennial plant, i.e. it’s a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In its first year it forms clumps of round shaped, slightly wrinkled leaves, that when crushed smell like garlic. In the next year it produces these beautiful cross shaped white flowers in the spring.
Today I saw several Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) butterflies! They usually fly from the beginning of April until the end of October – in three overlapping generations! Because they are able to overwinter in two totally separated development stages (Note 1), they have a complicated pattern of several adult flights per year.
Note 1: They enter the caterpillar stage between half May and half September. The growth speed differs significantly between them and some caterpillars grow as much as 3 times faster than others! Those will overwinter as pupae. The ones that emerge from the egg stage and become caterpillars in mid-August will spend the winter as half-grown larvae.
These butterflies are very territorial, and most of those I saw today were males engaged in battles (Note 2). This happens when one male has claimed a nice spot of sunlight that pierces through the trees and another male flies through his sunspot. Note that this only happens if the other male is of the same species, if a male of another kind of butterfly enters the spot he’s totally ignored. If a female flies through the sunspot, the male flies after and tries to mate with her. But otherwise he’ll remain in the same sunspot until the evening (he’ll follow the sunspot as it moves across the forest floor) and then spend the night high up in the trees.
Note 2: If you’ve never seen one of these battles and are now trying to picture what it looks like: to be honest, it looks kind of lame. The “resident” male flies towards the intruder, and then the pair flies upwards in a spiral pattern (no body contact). The one that keeps at it the longest wins. It’s usually over in a few seconds, but the longest documented battle between two male Speckled Wood butterflies went on for 94 minutes.
PS. One of my photos has been published on Natuurfotografie, the #1 platform for nature photography in The Netherlands and Belgium. If you can read Dutch, please take a look here.
There are many “firsts” this time of the year! Here are the first flies of the year as well –
The first picture shows a Flesh fly (Sarcophagidae) sunbathing on a staircase. Flesh flies look a lot like house flies, but are generally larger. They are gray, have a checkerboard pattern on the top of their abdomen, three black stripes running along the top surface of their thorax just behind the head, while house flies have four, and sometimes a reddish-brown tip at the end of the abdomen.
The second picture shows a Yellow dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria), or – if you want to make the name sound a bit nicer, which could be a challenge for a dung fly – also known as Golden dung fly. I think it’s a female as she has a more of a green tone to her rather than yellow. These flies are very important in the scientific world due to their short life cycles and susceptibility to experimental manipulations, thus have contributed significant knowledge about animal behavior.
Yay, first butterflies of the year! The European Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) usually spend the winters in buildings or trees, and therefore often appear quite early in the spring. Before it goes into hibernation, it convert some of their blood sugar into glycerol which works as a kind of “anti-freeze” during the cold winter. Clever, eh! After hibernation (March or April), it will lay its eggs, often in batches of 500 (!) at a time and several layers deep to increase the chance that some will be protected from desiccation and birds. In the next coming weeks, the adults have lived for almost a year and they die of old age. Around the same time, the caterpillars of the next generation hatch and in July they form chrysalides, in August they emerge as adults, and in September they go into hibernation. And so the cycle goes on!
Note: It shouldn’t be confused with the American Peacock butterfly (Anartia), they’re not closely related.
More interesting information and pictures can be found on this excellent learning site here
The bees are back! 🙂 Three photos I shot earlier today of lovely little honey bees (Apis mellifera) collecting pollen.
The bee in the first picture as a nice basket on her hind leg:
"Unique among all God's creatures, only the honeybee improves the environment and preys not on any other species." - Royden Brown (author of 'Bee Hive Product Bible')
Week 41! Today I photographed some mushrooms (no idea what kind!), and a small fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster?) who was sitting on one of the “rooftops” 🙂
This little Oak bush-cricket (Meconema thalassinum) has been sitting on my bicycle for over a week, clinging to the basket as I’ve been biking around town almost every day 🙂 It’s a small cricket, about 1.5 cm long with very long antennae, usually not found on bicycles but in he foliage of trees (including oaks, where the female lays eggs under the bark).
In America, it’s known as the Drumming katydid, probably because the male drums on leaves with his back legs. (Click here to listen!)
Week 28 already! What happened to time, more than half of the year has passed already and now the days are now getting shorter and darker again.. Not that we notice it, in the midst of Summer! 🙂
Here’s a mix of pictures of bugs enjoying the good weather we have here in Amsterdam-
This is not just a ladybug like all others.. She has a cat tattoo on her left shoulder! 🙂
I always thought all ladybugs looked the same, but that’s not the case. According to Wikipedia, the spot size and coloration can provide some indication of how toxic the individual bug is to potential predators. It synthesizes the toxic alkaloids, N-oxide coccinelline and its free base precoccinelline; depending on sex and diet.
Picture rotated and zoomed in:
This fly has a second face in its face! 😀 It kind of looks like a cartoon character wearing huge headphones.