Animals

Squirrel and Red Spider

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I was shooting in manual mode a few days ago and forgot to reset my settings. Last night, I spotted a small red dot roaming around the calla lily, and grabbed the camera. So, the aperture and shutter speed were for an entirely different event, but the exposure was not far off fortunately.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/4, 1/100s

Later, I spotted this guy climbing up the telephone pole. I’m pretty sure that telephone lines are the equivalent of highways for squirrels–basically, paths that offer unfettered access to the entire neighborhood. The squirrels are free from ground-based predators, like cats, but probably have to watch out for hawks and other raptors. I wonder what would happen to the squirrels if the telephone and electrical lines ever transitioned underground.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/4, 1/100s

Nikon 105mm Macro Lens and Teleconverter

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When viewing macro photos, it might be difficult to determine the degree of magnification even for familiar subjects. At first glance, this may appear to be a photo from someone’s rock collection. However, this photo was taken at a playground. The rocks are really sand.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 125, 180mm, f/8, 1/400s

For reference, I took a photo of a standard office park flower along the sidewalk. I have no idea what these are called, but they were growing every where.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 180mm, f/8, 1/400s

With the 105mm macro lens and a 1.7x teleconverter, the flower appears like this up close:

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 180mm, f/8, 1/800s

A 100% crop of the above photo reveals these details. Not bad for a handheld shot on a windy day.

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Here’s a different flower. Again, handheld and at the mercy of the wind. The center of the flower looks a little soft.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 180mm, f/8, 1/640s

But, look what shows up when viewed at 100%. The bug is actually visible in the above photo, but I didn’t even notice it when I first took the shot.

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Here’s the dangerous part about getting a macro lens. You might relapse back to childhood with a serious fascination for insects. Who sees a bee and moves in to get an even closer look?

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 140, 180mm, f/8, 1/200s

This bee does not look happy.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 250, 180mm, f/8, 1/250

This bumblebee was a lot easier to track than the one who was busy pollinating the poppy. For poppies, the bumblebee would disappear inside the flower for a second or so and I had to guess the timing of its departure. Here, the bumblebee remained in the open the entire time.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 3600, 180mm, f/9, 1/800s

I even got lucky and caught the bumblebee just as it was about to take off for another flower.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 3200, 180mm, f/9, 1/800s

Bumbleebee on California Poppy

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Still experimenting with the macro lens and 1.7x teleconverter. I shot a batch at the smallest aperture, but the ISO heads to 6,400 and the image quality gets totally degraded. Then, I returned to f/8, and shot at the faster shutter speed and set the advance mode to CH (continuous high).

The in focus plane is so limited that for a rapidly moving insect, there’s less than a second where the face is in focus.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 800, 180mm, f/8, 1/2,000s

By the next frame, the bee was already taking off and blurry. That would have been an even cooler shot to get in focus.

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Nikon Macro Lens and Insects

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Photographers who can capture insects in perfect focus are true masters. My approach may not be entirely correct, so I have some experimenting to do. You don’t even have to look that closely to realize that the bee is just a bit out of focus. Too bad because the pose is quite interesting. After tracking a few bees, I noticed that they flew into the poppies head first. However, instead of backing out, the bees would turn around and exit head first. Even though I anticipated the bee’s exit, I still could not nail the focus because the bee was moving about quite quickly and the depth of focus was quite narrow.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 160, 180mm, f/8, 1/200s

How do you get 180mm with a 105mm lens? With a TC-17EII, a 1.7x teleconverter.

The spider photo came out quite cleanly. The spider was on a web between a handrail. However, the web is out-of-focus and invisible. You can see the hair on the legs of the spider. Amazing!

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 800, 105mm, f/8, 1/1,600

Nikon AF-S Micro Nikkor 105mm 2.8G ED

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Today, I received a Nikon AF-S Micro Nikkor 105mm 2.8G ED. Fortunately, it arrived just before noon, so I headed out on a lunch hour walk with the camera in tow to test the new lens. The conditions were not entirely optimal due to the strong wind.

The first thing I discovered was that the depth of focus was rather narrow.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/8, 1/500s

So, instead of relying on auto focus, I switched over to manual focus for more precision. The photo below is a crop from the above photo when viewed at 100%.

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Later, I came across a bee and switched back to auto focus. I could not manually focus fast enough to keep up with that busy bee as it flew from flower to flower.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/8, 1/320s

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/8, 1/250s

Found another pink flower on the way back.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/8, 1/400s

Same photo at 100%.

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The final shot is a slice of an orange. Flat objects are easier to focus on. I also tried taking a photo of a teaspoon of kosher salt, but too little was in focus, even when using a tripod.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/8, 1/60s

Santa Cruz Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve

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Winter is Monarch butterfly season at the Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, California.

Monarch Butterfly

Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 320, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/800

From the visitor center, head down the Monarch Butterfly Boardwalk to reach the Monarch Grove. You will arrive at the viewing platform after a short descent. I wouldn’t even call it a hike.

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Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 640, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/800

Bring binoculars for a close-up view of the butterflies.

Santa Cruz Monarch Butterfly

Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 640, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/800

Most of my photos were at the 300mm end. If I were to visit this place again, I would definitely use a tripod. Focusing on a small (and sometimes moving) butterfly was a big challenge. A tripod would definitely help reduce camera shake. But, the viewing platform was quite crowded. So, I would return at the beginning or end of the day. This would help out with the lighting as well. The mid-day sun just created too much contrast. Some butterflies were in the shade. Others were in the sun. A total challenge.

Bumblebee

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At first, I thought it was some kind of beetle. But, Google leads me to believe that this is a bumblebee. Would have been better if the bumblebee was perched on a flower instead of lounging around on my concrete driveway.

Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 280, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/320

Harbor Seals

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Most of the seals were lounging on the beach. However, I found this pair swimming just off the coast. Perhaps, they were as intrigued by us, as we were by them.

Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, 300 mm, f/9, 1/320

Bee

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Encountered this bee perched atop a flower while at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

Same photo, but closer crop.

There’s a distracting blade of grass that is running through the flower, but I wasn’t about to disturb the bee just to get that out of the frame.

Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR @ ISO 140, 300 mm, f/5.6, 1/320