Cabbage White on Lace by Todd Henson

A female Cabbage White butterfly backlit on white lace curtains.

Sometimes you don’t even have to leave the house to photograph wild creatures. They just have a way of getting inside, so why not take advantage of this?

I was visiting my folks house and saw the cat moving around the front bay window. I didn’t think much of it until later when I noticed a little Cabbage White butterfly resting on the lace curtains well above the reach of the cat. The butterfly had seen better days. Perhaps the cat had done some damage, or perhaps it was just nearing the end of its life.

I happened to have my 105 mm macro lens with me so that’s what I used. I cranked the ISO up to 1000 since it was a little dark inside. It was afternoon and the sun was behind the house. The light shining through the window was not direct sun, but it was still fairly bright compared to inside the house.

Macro lenses can naturally give a very shallow depth of field when focusing up close. So I wanted to stop down the aperture to let me capture the entire butterfly in focus. However, I was hand-holding the camera so I couldn’t let the shutter speed drop too much or I’d get a blurry photograph. In the end I settled on an aperture of f/8 and a shutter speed of 1/160 second. This let me expose for the butterfly, letting the background go bright without blowing out any details.

My goal was to create a nice high-key image with the light-colored butterfly standing against a glowing bright white background. I wanted it to feel soft but still have the butterfly in focus. I’m happy with how it turned out. Even if I never do anything more with the photograph than post it here, it was great practice. I pictured how I’d like the image to look then worked on finding the settings that would get me there. I encourage you to practice in the same way.

When I finished photographing the butterfly I gently captured it and let it go outside. Perhaps I shouldn’t have done this, as I later learned Cabbage Whites are not native to this area and are considered a garden pest for the damage done by their caterpillars, and this did appear to be a female based on the number of spots on its wings. Oh well, native or not, it’s still fun observing and photographing these beautiful little creatures.

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?

Bee Sheltered in Rose of Sharon by Todd Henson

A bee sheltered in a Rose of Sharon flower.

This was such a fun photograph to create. There was a light drizzle, but not enough that I had to cover my camera. The light was very soft, but it was also somewhat dark from the camera’s perspective. I was out photographing flowers with my new Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens, trying different compositions and different aperture settings, just trying to get a feel for the lens.

When I made my way to the Rose of Sharon I found a bumble bee sheltered inside one of the flowers. It wasn’t at all upset by my presence, even as I pushed the front of the lens right into the flower, almost filling the entrance. This blocked most of the light that might have entered the flower and lit the bee, but as you can see the light did still reach the interior by shining through the petals.

I created a number of images of this bee, sometimes experimenting with composition, but sometimes just trying to get a shot with the bee in focus. The Lensbaby Velvet 56 is a fully manual lens and I don’t often focus manually, so I was essentially relearning how to do this. Thankfully, I did a reasonably good job capturing the bee in focus for this photograph, though parts of it are still out of focus. It might have been a good idea if I’d stopped down the aperture just a bit to capture a little more depth of field. You can see from the sides of the petals how shallow the depth of field is.

Because it was so dark I had boosted my ISO to 1250. The shutter speed for this image was 1/40 second and I was hand holding the camera. This lens doesn’t have VR so I did the best I could to hold it steady. It’s not a heavy or large lens so this wasn’t too difficult.

I don’t know the exact aperture I used as the Lensbaby Velvet 56 does not have electrical contacts so it can’t communicate the aperture to the camera. It was not wide open as that would have created a very soft focus effect. There’s a good chance this was closer to f/8, possibly even smaller. I was physically very close to the bee, likely approaching the minimum focusing distance of 5 inches, which contributed to the shallow depth of field. I really wanted to fill the frame with the bee and the enclosing petals of the Rose of Sharon.

Sheltered in a Rose of Sharon is available for purchase as wall art or on a variety of products.

See my first impression of the Lensbaby Velvet 56 for more examples of photographs created with this lens.

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