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Yorkshire based Professional Landscape and Wildlife Photographer

On the fence

Posted on 04/07/16

On the Fence

With a title like this and during these time of political upheaval it would easy to make the mistake that this blog would be our current political situation. Well thankfully it isn’t!

Wind is the macro photographers enemy. It’s probably the number one reason for macro photographers not to head out. When you have a depth of field of less than a millimetre at times it only takes a breath of wind to move that insect on a blade of grass a tiny amount and the insect will have moved way out that area which is in focus. Wind is the enemy.

Also any beautiful condensation water drops formed over night quickly disappear back into the air if there’s any wind. Wind is the enemy!

On those perfect mornings when there is absolutely not a breath of wind you can get away with much longer shutter speeds and create images like this marbled white.

Marbelled White Butterfly Stack

This image is taken at five times magnification out in the field. It’s a stacked image of 21 50 megapixel canon 5DS files. Because of the magnification at ISO800 and f/4 the shutter speed was only 1/4 of a second. If there had been any wind at all this image would not have been possible. Of course I could have caught the butterfly stuck a pin through it and photographed it in the studio like some photographers do. But that is not an approach I would ever do. I would much prefer to do this in the field and know that this butterfly will continue with it’s short life.

There is a solution to windy days ,which is at the moment most days, and that is fences. Fences do not move in the wind (well unless it’s really windy!) and they also have another couple of advantages;

Perched insects are very difficult to find in the field and fences act like a look out post for predatory insects.

Below is a predatory snipe fly waiting for passing prey.

Snipe fly

This zebra jumping spider has caught a fly.

Jumping spider with prey

They also absorb any sunlight so insects use them as a place to bask and absorb heat. A great place to find horseflies. On this female you get a good view of those biting mouth parts!

Female Horsefly

You can often find parasitic insects looking for places to lay their eggs too. These two different species of cuckoo wasps where looking for prey. Very difficult to photograph though as they don't stay still for very long at all...

Ruby Tailed Wasp

Cuckoo wasp

Another major photography advantage is the fence allows you to steady your hands and this really helps if you want to do stacked macro images. I often get asked how to do hand held stacked images and the trick is to keep all of the images parallel. This is made so much easier if you have something to steady your hands and fence posts and handrails help massively.

I managed to get this natural light horse fly image as a handheld stacked shot using the handrail to keep my hands steady.

Stacked female horsefly

One word of warning if the insects have been warming themselves up on the warm wood they are likely to be quite skittish so approach slowly.

Jumping spider

So if these windy days are driving you nuts go looking for fences! All of the images on this blog have been taken on fences or handrails in Yorkshire over the last couple of months.

Sometimes you just bump into something you weren't expecting like this spectacular puss moth.

Puss moth

Any questions just let me know.

Happy shooting,

  • Hi Oliver

    I am fascinated by these macro shots, do you do talks at camera clubs on how you do it???



    David Greenwood - 04 July, 2016
  • Hi Dave, thanks for your comment.  I do quite a lot of photography talks.  I generally do them as a bit of a photo diary but generally spend some time talking through how I get the shots too.


    Oliver Wright - 04 July, 2016
  • Thanks for this post, Oliver. It’s fascinating. I visited the Yorkshire Dales recently and admire your ability to take any macro pics at all. I’d love to see a ruby tailed wasp.

    I’m a little unsure about stacked shots, firstly how to do them and the ethics of taking them. How much editing is too much?

    Excellent post, again, thanks.

    Daniel Greenwood

    Daniel Greenwood - 05 July, 2016
  • what do you mean by 21 photos? stacked or tiled?

    frank - 21 November, 2016
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