Nikon D-90X Images Part 9

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Macro & Telephoto Lenses Used With Nikon D-90 (Part 9)

Nikon D-90 Digital SLR with a 60mm Micro Nikkor
AF-S F/2.8G ED Macro Lens & Phoenix Ring Flash

This is the lens and flash of choice for most of my studio macro images of plants, spiders and insects. Depending on the reflective surface of the subject, I may use the Nikon SB 400 or SB 600 flash and/or photoflood lights. The 105mm macro and other flash units are shown below.

Slight disadvantage of using a ring flash on the red jumping spider (Phidippus johnsoni).

Nikon D-90 with AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105 mm macro lens.

Nikon D-90 with AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105 mm macro lens, Kenko Automatic 3 Ring Extension Tube Set DG, and Phoenix Ring Flash. Camera and accessories mounted on a Bogen 3205 Professional Tripod.

Left: Penny photographed with 60mm Micro Nikkor AF-S F/2.8G ED Macro Lens & Nikon SB 600 Flash. Right: Extreme close-up taken with Micro-Nikkor 105 mm macro lens + Kenko 3 Ring Extension Tube Set and Nikon SB 400 Flash on extension cord.

Penny photographed with Sony W-300 through Bausch & Lomb dissecting microscope. On a flat subject such as this, the microscope image is almost as good as the above image taken with Kenko Extension Rings. Magnification 10x.


Photographing Aphid Nymph With Microscope & D-90

Gland-tipped hairs on a rose bud. The dark aphid nymphs are 0.9 mm in length. Photographed with Sony W-300 through Bausch & Lomb dissecting microscope. Magnification 15x.

Rose bud photographed with Nikon D-90 and 60mm macro lens. The aphid nymph and gland-tipped hairs appear almost as large as in the above microscope image, but they are sharper.

Rose bud photographed with Sony W-300 through Bausch & Lomb dissecting microscope. The dew droplet is one millimeter (1/25th of an inch) in diameter. One gland-tipped hair is trapped within the tiny water droplet. The individual red gland at the tip of stalk is about 250 micrometers in diameter. Magnification 30x

  Sony W-300 & Bausch & Lomb Microscope  
Table Of Relative Sizes Of Cells & Viruses


Click on the photograph to see the size of these shells.

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Duckweeds photographed with Kenko Extension Rings and photoflood lights instead of flash. The largest plants are about 5 mm in diameter. The approximate magnification is 10x.


Photographing Live Ants

Ants are one of the most difficult subjects for macrophotography. They are very small and are constantly moving. When placed in a refrigerator to slow them down, they assume unnatural positions. Pinned or preserved specimens in alcohol may be suitable for strictly morphological or anatomical images, but generally do not make natural photogenic subjects. Photographing live specimens can be done, but it is quite challenging. I have fairly good results placing the live ant in a white Corelle dish or in a transparent bowl on a light box. When the ant settles down I simply photograph it while it is running around the sides or rim of the dish. Of course, I must constantly encourage it to stay in the dish with my left hand. I use a Nikon D-90 SLR with a good macro lens and ring flash or SB-400 flash with diffuser. With F-22 and 1/200 I get good depth of field and stop action results. This is particularly true when the ant pauses. This requires patience and careful ant tracking, and numerous shots. FP mode with higher shutter speeds can also be used, depending on the camera model (D-90 and above). Reflections on the glass dish (see left image) can be removed with Photoshop. In the following images there is very little reflection on the glass bowl. The circular ring flash reflections can be removed with photoshop, or a different flash with diffuser can be used. The bottom line here is obtaining sharp images with good depth of field. In the lower image, the three minute simple eyes (ocelli) on the top of head plus the antennal and tarsal segments are all in sharp focus. [Ocelli pronunciation: oh-CELL-eye.] There are more elaborate macro-systems for ants; however, some are rather cumbersome, especially when carried into the field.

  Go Back To Table Of Ant Images From Owens Peak     Click Here  

Faint reflection of ring flash on above image is not undesirable.

Ring Flash May Not Be The Best Choice For Shiny Convex Subjects!

  Go Back To Table Of Ant Images From Owens Peak     Click Here  

A winged Myrmecocystus queen and three workers. Photographed in a field collection container with a Nikon D3200, SB-400 Flash and Opteka Diffuser.

Concluding Remarks

During my teaching career of 40 years I have taken countless thousands of images using various cameras with close-up (macro) lenses, from 35mm film cameras using Kodachrome and Ektachrome to modern digital SLRs. I have shared these images in my lecture presentations at Palomar College and elsewhere, using carousel color transparency projectors and modern digital projectors. In fact, many of these copyrighted images are on my Wayne's Word website. Although my on-line images are only 72 dpi, they project very well on large classroom screens with high quality LCD projectors. Many of my images have also been published in magazines, technical journals and textbooks.

Although my first 35mm cameras were Canon and Tower (Sears), I have used Nikon & Sony cameras during most of my career. I have pushed my introductory Nikon SLRs and macro lenses to the limit, and acheived some fairly good images of ants. However, in my opinion, I have never quite acheived the quality of Alex Wild's ant images using Canon SLRs and his fabulous Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens. Unfortunately, this lens will not work with a Nikon body. Another major factor in macrophotography is diffuse lighting with an effective external flash system. Of course, years of experience with ant photography is invaluable! In conclusion, my Nikon setup is relatively inexpensive and very portable for field work, especially long, arduous hikes over rough terrain.


Addendum 1: Criteria For A Good Ant Macro Image

As a biologist who has spent his entire career keying out plants and insects, I have a definite opinion on what factors constitute a good macro image of an ant. It seems to me that the image should clearly show as much detail (taxonomic features) as possible. An expert should be able to identify or at least narrow down the possible species by viewing an image. Here are a few of my criteria: (1) Live ants make better subjects, so the image must be taken with electronic flash to stop motion. I have had good results with 1/200 sec, although faster shutter speeds are preferable. I simply track the ants in a white dish and take multiple images in burst mode. They often pause, so 1/200 works fine if you are patient. (2) A good diffuser must be used to reduce or eliminate hot spots produced by the flash. Some reflection is acceptable on shiny surfaces, but too many hot spots eliminate critical details of the ant. I have good results with a simple, inexpensive Opteka diffuser that fits over my Nikon SB-400 external flash. These items are small and easy to carry in a camera bag. (3) Sharp focusing with a sufficient f-stop setting. I prefer f-22, although some photographers recommend lower f-stops because of diffraction. To me, it is more important to have a higher depth of field in order to get antennal segments and tarsal segments in focus. I am sure that photographers have different opinions on this. In the following image you can count the 12 antennal segments including scape and 3-segmented club. These factors alone separate Pheidole from Aphaenogaster.

The above images are two different ant species: Pheidole vistana and Pogonomyrmex subnitidus (or P. californicus). They may appear similar, but they belong to separate genera.

  Go Back To Table Of Ant Images From Owens Peak     Click Here  

Although most native fire ants live outdoors, this ant came from a colony that invaded a house in Anza-Borrego Desert. The image shows sufficient detail to separate it from other species of native and introduced fire ants in San Diego County. For example, there are 2 lateral clypeal teeth posterior to mandibles. The imported tropical fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) has a median clypeal tooth between the 2 lateral teeth. Image Details: Nikon D-90 with 60mm Nikkor AF-2 F/2.8G Macro Lens & SB 400 Flash with Opteka Diffuser. I used Genuine Fractals to increase pixels and Photoshop for cropping and image enhancement.


Addendum 2: Benefit Of Carrying A Small Point & Shoot Camera

The bottom line here is that you need a camera with you at all times, even during exercise walks when you don't want to carry a lot of photographic equipment. I have seen some interesting ant shots in the field that simply can't be duplicated in the laboratory. The following images were taken with a Sony DSC T9 mini camera that I carry on my belt. The T-cameras have excellent macro capabilites with Carl Ziess lenses and built-in flash.

Nuptial flight over a ridge north of Owens Peak: A swarm of winged male ants, possibly Tapinoma sessile from a nearby nest. Dorymyrmex bicolor colonies were also in the area.

Dorymyrmex (probably D. bicolor) with winged males emerging from nest.

Winter ant workers (Prenolepis imparis) feeding on the stalk of a mushroom (Russula?).


Telephoto Lenses Used With The Nikon D-90 & D-3200

Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm

Blood Moon Over Twin Oaks Valley

My 1st attempt at photographing a "blood moon." During total eclipse the orange moon was very faint and my lens kept fogging up (condensation) with moisture from early morning dew.

Hunter Moon Over Sedona

It was necessary to take two different exposures for this image. The sandstone formation was taken at ISO 200, f 8, 1/6 sec. The moon was taken at ISO 200, f 8, 1/100 sec. Camera: Nikon D-3200 with 70-300 mm lens on tripod. 18 October 2013 6:00 P.M.


Mamiya 645 Medium Format 500mm
with Vivitar 2X Doubler & Mamiya-Nikon adapter.

A heavy duty Calumet tripod (CK 7800) and head (CK 7064) to support the Nikon D-90 with heavy Mamiya 645 Medium Format 500mm lens and Mamiya 2x teleconverter.


Three Telephoto Images of an Owl Box About 70 Feet Away

The Mamiya 500mm with Vivitar 2x doubler enlarges the owl box to almost full frame. With the 2x doubler and 1.5 conversion factor for the Nikon DX sensor, the telephoto lens is equivalent to 1500mm (500 x 2 x 1.5). There is a loss of two f-stops using the doubler and a slight decrease in IQ. The 500mm image without doubler (=750mm) can be cropped to full frame without the loss of two f-stops and IQ.


Images Of Moon Taken With Mamiya 500mm Telephoto Lens

Without Vivitar 2x Doubler
12 June 2011: 3 days before full moon.

With Vivitar 2x Doubler
13 June 2011: 2 days before full moon.

Moon taken with Nikon D-90 and Mamiya 500mm (without Vivitar 2x doubler): ISO 200, 1/200, F-8. Magnification similar to Sony H-5 with 1.7 Teleconverter; however, image is sharper and without slight purple fringing of Sony.

Moon taken with Nikon D-90 and Mamiya 500mm (with Vivitar 2x doubler): ISO 200, 1/160, F-8. Although the 2x doubler increases the total magnification to 1500mm (500 x 2 x 1.5), the detail of moon surface is about the same as in previous image without doubler.

Same image as above only with Noise Ninja.
 See Interactive Moon Map: Move Mouse & Find Craters & Seas     Moon Images Taken With Sony H5 & 1.7x Teleconverter   

Nikon D-90 and Mamiya 500mm (with Mamiya 2x doubler). ISO 500, 1/200, F-8 (Friday 8 July 2011).

Moon taken with Nikon D-90 and Mamiya 500mm (with Mamiya 2x doubler). Left Image (Thursday 7 July 2011): ISO 1000, 1/80, F-8. Middle Image (Friday 8 July 2011): ISO 500, 1/200, F-8. Right Image (Thursday 14 July 2011): ISO 200, 1/250, F-8.

  If You Want To Know The Precise Phase Of The Moon Each Day Of The Month     Click Here