Cercopoidea nymph creating spittle

spittle bug nymph Edi334 t


Although I may be better known for my mammal photography, my dirty little secret is macro photography. Field macro photography to be exact. Many people have asked me why this is so and I have two main reasons. The first is that mammal photography in Thailand is not easy and there are many more empty days than days when you score a photograph never mind a photograph you consider usable - most macro days I can get at least one photograph I am happy with. The second reason is the sheer fascination I have with the macro world - its another world in which you have no idea what you will find, a world that really stretches your perception of what is possible in this fascinating natural world that surrounds us. 

Once you are hooked by this second reason you find yourself going deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of the macro world, attempting to both see and photograph smaller and smaller subjects which get more crazy and more fascinating the smaller one goes. I have happily reached this point myself.

This weekend saw me in Pang Sida National Park trying to photograph in terrible conditions, for every 10 minutes break in the weather we got we had to endure 2 hours of rain in what is potentially one of the wettest rainy seasons we may have had. This was particulary difficult for me as I am still refining my new macro system (started in the Nikon system, went to Canon for a couple of years and am now moving back to Nikon). As such I was testing the Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro as an addition to my system and needed good conditions to test out the different aspects of how I could use this lens effectively under field conditions. 

During testing the lens for basic usability I got the chance to to use it on a very small subject and at a ratio of "3.5 to 1". This was very difficult territory with the Canon MPE and its no different with the Laowa but "where there's a will there's a way". The lens is a major compliment to any Nikon macro photographers system wanting to exceed 2:1 ratio barrier and does not pose any issues that the MPE does not for Canon shooters. You need strong supplemental lighting and an extremely steady hand for both. The Laowa is far smaller than the MPE and does not have the low end range (i.e. 1 to 1 ratio) but if you want a 1:1 ratio you would not be using a MPE or the Laowa anyway, these lens are really for ratios above 2.

The subject that presented itself whilst I was testing the Laowa 25mm 2.5-5X Macro lens was a Cercopoidea nymph or "spittle bug". Cercopoidea, are a group of hemipteran insects in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha refferred to as "froghoppers". Adults are capable of jumping many times their height and length, giving the group their common name of froghopper, but they are probably best known for their plant-sucking nymphs which encase themselves in a self generated foam for protection, its this foam that looks like spittle and gives them their common name.

So how small did I go? The first picture below is an uncropped image from an APS-C Nikon body. The frame width on this camera represents a frame size of 22mm. As I had the lens on a magnification factor of 3.5 that puts our frame at 6.2 mm and as the subject takes up just 1/3 of the frame - a 2mm subject! 




And below is the final photo which is 4 stacked captures. To get the 4 stackable images I took around 50 images, not easy under field conditions and quite hit and miss to be honest when you are working at frame size of 6mm. As you can probably appreciate the depth of field at these magnifications is a hair's breadth and such any shot takes either extreme patience or a little bit of obsessive compulsivness AND a fair degree of luck. And as you can see from the photograph, the froghopper nymph is creating his/her spittle shield to hide within. 

So what is the advantage of using such a difficut to control setup over just photographing and cropping? Its the file size and therefore resolution in the image - this is not a thumbnail image that is suitable only for web use, its a 4849 x 3112 pixel image that it as sharp as the camera's sensor can perform at the 200 ISO setting used. Maybe I do have OCD ;+)


 Paul Thompson


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"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." > Edward O. Wilson

"An understanding of the Natural World and whats in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment." > Sir David Attenborough

“Climb up on some hill at sunrise.  Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.” > Robb Sagendorph


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