INSECTS – further forays with the Venus optics LAOWA 15mm f/4 wide angle 1:1 Macro lens

In this series of posts, I intend to set out my early experiences with the LaoWa Venus optical co 15 mm f/4 macro lens as I get to know it and before I write a detailed review.

Every few days I run a moth trap, home-built with a mercury vapour lamp and, just after dawn, check the contents. It has proved extremely exciting to find out just how many species have been living within reach of our house unbeknownst to me. In particular, there are the 9 species of hawkmoth which have fascinated me, since I first encountered them in the Observers Book of Larger Moths many years ago.

At this time of the day in the cool before the temperatures rise to the high 30’s, many of them are relatively quiescent and with care I have been able to move them gently and take photographs. Here are two examples in which I’ve used the wide-angle macro lens and where the requirements were slightly different.

The striped Hawk moth (Hyles livornica)

I had no idea that this extremely handsome species would find its way into my trap. I love its dramatic colouring and the shape of those wings which revealed that it is a serious flying machine. The moth had settled on a piece of bark within the body of the trap and so I could relatively easily move it and make use of the early morning sunlight to illuminate the wings.

The striped hawk (Hyles livornica) posing at the front of our home. Natural light only

The striped hawk (Hyles livornica) posing at the front of our home. Natural light only. ISO 400 @ f/16

With this lens, one is often working so close to get the desired dramatic effect that a subject can become shaded – in the second subject illustrated I have used a small hand-held flash as a fill. It is a question of trial and error – too close and the subject is shaded but you also lose context for the background is lost.

Moving back just a little to set the context - this is a large moth and so it can fill the frame easily with a repro ratio of 1:5 allowing a reasonable working distance

The results speak for themselves and I have included an image made of just a section of the body to reveal the detail that this lens resolves with ease.

A section of the body and wings to reveal the detail resolved by this lens at f/16

A section of the body and wings to reveal the detail resolved by this lens at f/16

The grass emerald moth (Chlorissa viridata)

The following day saw another haul of local hawk moths – a single striped Hawk, to elephant hawk’s and eight small elephant hawks. What took my eye was a perfect specimen of southern grass emerald (?) moth (Chlorissa viridata) when I opened the trap just as the sun came up.

The small grass emerald has a beautiful coloration which suits the slightly cold morning light and provides a contrast with the yellow of the rising sun

The small grass emerald has a beautiful coloration which suits the slightly cold morning light and provides a contrast with the yellow of the rising sun

I managed to remove the moth and carefully and placed it on a stone wall near the trap, meaning to come back with the camera and do a few shots. Serendipity was walking in my footsteps again – my best friend but one – because the forewings revealed a backlit glow with the rising sun.

Maybe it was a subliminal act on my part but then who cares when you have the chance to use frontal and back light togther. The position (when I had collected the 15mm macro from the house) allowed me to balance the lens front on the stone just a few com away from the subject. I then experimented with and without a flash…one of the small SB200 units from the R1C1 macroflash handheld to vary the balance of front, ambient and flash light…these are the results. Exposure is tricky and so you should never take just one shot – experiment and see what you have then, if necessary try again!

A greater degree of backlighting and a subtle fill from the SB200 flash

A greater degree of backlighting and a subtle fill from the SB200 flash

The light from the fill suppresses the backlighting but gives a far greater delineation of wing surface detail since it comes from the side and generates considerable relief.

The light from the fill suppresses the backlighting but gives a far greater delineation of wing surface detail since it comes from the side and generates considerable relief.

This is a superb lens and I am working towards the  point and shoot command I need when working in the field. It is coming and this morning  and I opened the moth trap I had my chance to practice and learn. Things are always more satisfying, if a little frustrating, when you have to work for your results.

 Find out more here about the Venus 15mm f/4 macro wide angle

 

© Paul Harcourt Davies 2015

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