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Visitors to the Hibiscus by Todd Henson

I’m continually fascinated by all the life we so often overlook. We plant flowers and watch them grow, admiring their beautiful buds, but we often miss the small insects that make these plants their home or feeding ground.

One afternoon I decided to photograph the hibiscus flowers, but quickly began noticing the little bugs crawling over the plants. So I pointed my macro lens at the insects and continued shooting, having a great time exploring their closeup world.

Long-legged Flies

A Long-legged Fly on an hibiscus leaf.

Top down view of an iridescent, metallic looking Long-legged Fly.

I caught movement on the leaves of an hibiscus and noticed a fly, but different from typical house flies. These are Long-legged Flies, and are considered beneficial by gardeners as they feed on some of the pests in gardens, such as spider mites and aphids. I love their iridescent metallic sheen. Even flies can be beautiful.

Spotted Cucumber Beetles

A Spotted Cucumber Beetle with hibiscus pollen on its legs.

A Spotted Cucumber Beetle eating the hibiscus pollen off its front legs.

Facing the Spotted Cucumber Beetle.

Next up I found a Spotted Cucumber Beetle feeding on hibiscus pollen. Grains of pollen were all over its legs, and a couple pieces were even stuck to its antennae. This beetle is considered a garden pest as it eats the leaves of many agricultural plants. In this particular case, though, perhaps it may help pollinate the hibiscus.

Notice the yellow grains of pollen of the hibiscus flower.

Looking closely inside the hibiscus you can see the grains of pollen.

Versute Sharpshooter Leafhoppers

Versute Sharpshooter Leafhopper on an hibiscus leaf.

Moving in closer to the Versute Sharpshooter Leafhopper.

Versute Sharpshooter Leafhopper on the edge of an hibiscus leaf.

Last up was a very interesting insect, a Versute Sharpshooter Leafhopper, with stripes of green, orange, and cyan. They get the name leafhopper because of how they hop around the leaves. The sharpshooter part is apparently due to the small holes they create when plunging their mouthparts into leaves to extract the sap. Because of how they feed and what they feed on they are considered a garden pest.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short excursion among the insects frequenting the hibiscus in the garden. What sorts of insects have you found around your flowers and garden plants? Are they beneficial or pests?


Good Evening Rose of Sharon by Todd Henson

A Rose of Sharon bud just beginning to open.

The day was winding to a close, the sun slowly setting and evening fast approaching. A few small rain drops fell, landing on leaves and petals. The Rose of Sharon was blooming, some fully open, some just beginning.

It was a beautiful evening. The light was soft, with just enough falling on the flowers to handhold my camera and capture a few frames. I used a Lensbaby Velvet 56 to create a nice soft feel to the edges of the young flower, keeping the central portion in focus but allowing it to quickly fall off to a pleasant blur.

I brought the lens in very close to the flower, filling the frame, and choosing an angle that would minimize any distractions in the background. Such a light and bright flower in an otherwise low light area resulted in a very dark background. It helped that the background was at a distance from the subject. This is very useful for isolating and focusing on a subject.

If you’d like to see more from the Lensbaby Velvet 56 you can read about my first impression of the lens, see a pair of Dianthus flowers photographed with the lens, and view a bumble bee sheltered inside an open Rose of Sharon.

The resources below contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

I first learned about the Lensbaby Velvet line of lenses through Kathleen Clemons in her CreativeLive classes.


Finding Blue in a Field of Sunflowers by Todd Henson

A bee on a young sunflower against a cloudless blue sky.

One morning my brother and I found ourselves driving to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland. We were hoping to photograph the fields of sunflowers that are planted there each year to feed the wildlife.

A young green sunflower bud.

But when we arrived we found the first field had yet to bloom. It was a field full of green sunflowers. A kind individual walking the field told us there was only one field even partly in bloom, and he showed us where this field was on the map. We, along with another group of photographers, got back in our cars and drove towards this field.

Facing the field of sunflowers, partly in bloom.

The morning was hot and extra humid. Just walking from the car to the field we were already soaked in sweat. Some of the sunflowers in the field had begun to bloom, but it was still mostly full of unopened green buds.

Side view of the partly blooming sunflower field.

So what do you do when you find your main subject is not how you had planned? You adjust your plans!

We hiked around the field looking for anything that caught our eyes. We did photograph a sunflower here and there, but what ended up catching our interest were other flowers growing amongst the sunflowers.

A beautiful blue morning glory flower against a green background, found in a field of sunflowers.

Along one side of the field we found morning glory vines with soft blue flowers. I tried using a very shallow depth of field to create a soft focus image, more about the green and blue colors than any detail in the flower.

Dew covered flower and bud at the back of the sunflower field.

At the back of the field we spent time photographing another flowering vine, possibly also a morning glory. I loved how dew had collected on the flower as it was still in shade; the sun had yet to rise high enough over the edge of the trees to reach this part of the field.

Green bee on a blue chicory flower with a green background.

And on the way back to the car we found a small patch of light blue chicory flowers attracting bees and other insects. Thankfully these were in shade which created a beautiful soft light just perfect for detail shots of the flowers and insects.

So if you ever head out for a shoot and don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, remember to stay flexible and keep your eyes open. There will usually be something else nearby worthy of your attention.