Not quite a one-shot

This little jumping spider (~8 mm in length) was in one of my soybean fields in west-central Illinois last week. She(?) was quite fidgety and kept jumping from the leaf on which I found her as I tried to carry the leaf out of the field to a more open and convenient place  to take photographs. Once I got out to the grassy field border, I managed to get one photograph (not shown but similar to this one) right before she jumped off the leaf yet again. However, I was able to find her and coax her back onto the leaf for this last shot before she jumped off again—never to be found again! I presume this spider belongs to the genus Phidippus based on the cephalic tufts, and within that genus maybe a species in the P. clarus group (corrections welcome!).

When I look at insect macrophotographs, I like to do reverse engineering on the lighting to figure out what was the flash/diffuser setup. I have a few different diffusers that I use depending on which lens I’m using and how important the photographs are. In this case, I was taking photographs of soybean insects for work purposes and didn’t bother putting on the larger concave diffuser that I use when I’m really concerned about getting more even lighting. Instead, I was just using my snap-on Sto-Fens+Gary Fong Puffers. The difference between these two diffuser setups and their effect on lighting is minor in many cases, but when photographing very shiny surfaces (such as the eyes of this spider) the differences are much more apparent, and it is obvious from this photo that I was using a twin flash unit with separate diffusers on each flash head.

There is one more feature apparent about the lighting in this photograph—note that the “left” flash head appears much more diffuse than the “right” flash head. This is because the right diffuser had actually fallen off of the flash head without me noticing (also never to be found again!). As a result, the light from only one of the flash heads was diffused, while that from the other hit the subject in all its harsh glory. I don’t really like the twin highlights that are the hallmark of twin macro flash units, and if I had known I was going to be photographing jumping spiders when I was in the soybean field I would have gone ahead and used my concave diffuser. I’ve also learned, however, that great photographs are not something that I can expect to pop off while concentrating on other activities—I need to concentrate fully on the photographs and spend a good amount of time doing it until I feel like I’ve gotten the shots that I want. I never really liked the Sto-Fen+Puffer diffusers, as they were only marginally better than no diffuser (and this photograph shows it), so losing one of them might be a blessing in disguise as now I’ll be motivated to try out some of the many other diffuser ideas I’ve been toying around with but never really taken the time to sit down and try them out.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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3 Responses to Not quite a one-shot

  1. I’ve found diffusers on my macro flash heads pop off entirely too often. I’ve become more and more satisfied with a big diffuser on a shoe-mounted flash. I made one from wire, aluminum foil and a kitchen trash bad which gives nice, even, soft light. I tested it against two store-bought softboxes and found it marginally better, but the store-bought are easier to get on and off and stay put better. One trick on both types of diffusers is to set the zoom on the shoe-mounted flash to wide, and put down the diffuser panel as well.

    • I’ve got several different ideas I’m working on the include both DIY and store bought. Diffusers for the 65mm lens are easy because of the small subject to lens distance, but the 100mm is proving to be more of a challenge.

  2. Reblogged this on macrocritters and commented:
    Here is another great blog I’d like to introduce: “Beetles in the Bush” is the blog of Ted C. MacRae: agricultural entomologist, photographer and beetle wrangler. Please check out his site, I’m sure you will enjoy it…Cheers, EC

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