GPP 2016: Dubai, Feb 5th-12th Schedule is up!

Meet the New Neighbors

The area where I live has been overrun by Halyomorpha halys, AKA stink bugs. They are invasive (from Asia) have no predators in this region and are … everywhere. They even became an issue in coaching Ben's soccer game last sunday.

"If one lands on you and you have the ball or are closely defending someone, just let it crawl around on you. It won't hurt you. You can flick it off when the ball is in another part of the field…"

They are a little over 1/2" long, and mobile. I photographed one for a local photo project earlier this week, using a very simple light diffuser / bug restraint device that works well for anything very small -- moving or not.

I used two common household items to shoot the bugs -- a white plastic cup and a piece of printer paper. (Or, if you are over 40, typing paper.)

The paper makes a great seamless background for any small subject. The cup (upside down with the bottom cut out of it) is perfect as a light tent. And with your lens jammed in the hole, there is no escaping for your subject. Just spread one or more flashes around the table as shown, and you will have all the aperture you need to hold focus through any small object when shooting macro.

It is variation of the $10 Macro Studio, as you are essentially creating a container that is also a light modifier. And once you set it up, your thinking is pretty much over. Just tweak your settings, point and shoot.

You can do this with just one flash, but the light will be more directional and pretty hot on one side. Remember -- the surface of the cup becomes your new light source, and the distance rules still apply. So, two flashes is better and three means that whatever is crawling around will always be pointed in the direction of one of the hot spots on the cup. More than three flashes is probably overkill.

You'll want to work in manual mode. Set your shutter at the highest speed at which you can sync. This will help kill ambient light that might be a bad color, or coming in from the top. Close your aperture down as far as it will go -- you'll need the depth of field -- and set your ISO down to its lowest setting.

You should have your available light pretty much nuked by now. Set the flashes on the lowest power level in manual, and move them in or out until your exposure is good.

You will have plenty of power. Probably too much, even. Mine were on 1/128 power and I still had to move them back this far to be able to shoot at f/8 @ISO 80, which was as far as I could go with my Canon G11. (I use my point-and-shoot most of the time when shooting tiny objects, as those kinds of cameras usually have great macro modes by default.)

Here's what the picture looked like pretty much out of the camera. The light is even, but coming from three different directions and yields a ton of detail. As bad as they smell, they look pretty cool up close. Like aliens with armor, done in a designer color scheme.

Especially when shooting something dark, it is easy to adjust the curves to get a nice, blow-away white background. You might have to clean it up with the dodge and burn wand, too. Or, you could leave tone in the paper and include that texture (or any other background you used) in the photo.

A Special Invitation to Laotian Readers

I read on Wikipedia that stink bugs are considered to be a delicacy by some people in Laos -- because of, not in spite of, the smell. They grind them with chilies and spices and serve the paste up with glutinous rice. (Mmm-hmm-hmm… stink bugs and glutinous rice…)

Well, then. If anyone is hungry for some primo stink bug, Howard County, MD in the USA is where you want to be. Think of it as stink bug destination tourism. We have them by the millions -- fresh and ready to eat. And you are more then welcome to come and help yourself to as many as you want.

Because we are getting tired of them.

Next: Radio Silence


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