garden

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?


A Bench Beside the Gardens by Todd Henson

A Bench Beside the Gardens, at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Many years ago my brother and I visited the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. This is a beautiful location, with both indoor and outdoor gardens. The indoor gardens are contained in various rooms within the large Conservatory, and include a wide range of plant-life, from jungle to desert environments. The outdoor gardens surround the Conservatory, with their National Garden to one side and Bartholdi Park just across the street.

While walking the outside gardens we found this lovely scene, with a wooden bench set against a brick and stucco wall surrounded by potted plants. A great location to sit, take a short rest, and admire some of the beautiful outdoor scenery. And, I thought, a beautiful subject for a photograph.

If you ever have the opportunity, stop by and visit the U.S. Botanic Garden. I thought it was well worth the trip. If you do (or have) let me know what you thought of it.

A Bench Beside the Gardens is available for purchase as wall art or on a variety of products.


Choice of Aperture for a Clematis in the Garden by Todd Henson

One day while visiting my folks I was taken by the sight of this beautiful purple clematis flowering in their garden, hanging from a black metal trellis. Thankfully I had my camera with me that day, though only a single lens, the 16-35mm f/4. I don’t often use this lens for photographing flowers, but it seemed like a good time to start.

The photos in this post show 3 different angles I tried when photographing these lovely flowers. They weren’t all that high off the ground so I used the 35mm end of the zoom to focus in on the flower without too much distracting background. Then I experimented with framing and with aperture.

I most often use the 16-35mm when I’d like a lot of depth of field. Wide angle lenses are usually good at providing this. But when photographing these clematis I was more interested in a shallow depth of field. The widest aperture of this lens is f/4 and that ended up being the aperture I used for my favorite shots of this series. I did, however, create 2 images at f/8 to show you the difference this makes.

I held the lens physically close to the subject, probably very close to the minimum focusing distance of the lens. Even with an aperture of f/8 the background is nicely blurred, but it does still have some detail. Notice the difference when I opened the aperture one more stop to f/4, its widest setting. It throws the background even more out of focus, but it also throws some of the main flower out of focus.

There’s no right or wrong in these situations. It all depends on what look you are going for. For myself, I tend to prefer the images with a shallower depth of field. Which do you prefer?