SciBlogs

Archive August 2012

Wednesday #Wildlife : Don’t Blink Brendan Moyle Aug 30

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It's a bit of a belated Wednesday blog post as I went feral yesterday and disappeared into some native bush for the day. That will have to be the subject of a different blog post of course.

Anyway, this pic is of that very impressive, very large and redoubtable Estuarine crocodile. Most of the body mass is kept concelaed under the waterline. At 5 metres long, one of these reptiles can weigh 500kg.



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Tuesday #Travel – TCM shops Brendan Moyle Aug 28

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This pic is of a row of Traditional Chinese Medicine shops at the Xi'an market. For the most part, the ingredients for TCM are plants and fungi. Animal parts make up a minority of treatments. The purpose of the visit here was to scope out the market and see if claims that endnagered animal parts are 'sold openly' via the TCM system were true.

We failed to find any evidence of such traffic. Albeit if you want to buy fake animal parts, this isn't such a bad location. One shop had some lovely pieces of bone on display, and a quick inspection made the mould lines of the resin-cast they used obvious. To mimic the appearance of marrow they'd stuffed lots of fine twigs in the middle. I have to say the covetous look the shop-owner got when I asked about the price was amusing. I assume that a lot of Chinese urban consumers aren't familiar with basic bone anatomy.

Monday #Macro – Moth Brendan Moyle Aug 27

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To prove that I don't always take macro photos of spiders, here's a small moth I located last week in an evening session. I'm afraid I'm no expert on NZ moths and have absolutely no idea what species it is. I did like the way it was hanging vicariously on the small twig on the tree though.



The lighting effects came from my Macro Twin Flash. Also, taking photographs of arthropods in the dark of night is a lot harder than you might think…


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Wednesday #Wildlife 2 Brendan Moyle Aug 22

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Juvenile Meerkats at Auckland Zoo. Can you withstand the 'cute'? :)



These guys appeared late afternoon on my last trip there. It was a time when I appreciated having the fast 70-200/2.8 G with me to cope with the low light. Even so, not a lot of pictures were keepers.

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Tuesday #Travel Photo 2 Brendan Moyle Aug 21

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A picture of the marina at Picton (South Island, NZ)



(I liked the way the late afternoon light interacted with the whites and greens in this scene)

Monday Macro – 20 August Brendan Moyle Aug 20

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Late winter in NZ isn't conducive to a lot of creepy-crawly type photos. The wet weather however, does mean that fungi are relatively plentiful. Photographing fungi on the NZ forest floor is however a challenge because of the lighting issues. There's not enough natural light to exploit, and if you use a flash it's very easy to get dark shadows blanketing details- or fine details destroyed with the bright light of the flash.

This time I used the Sony Macro Twin Flash with its array of diffusers and arms. This creates a lot more flexibility how lighting can be applied.



With this shot I had both a side light (with a diffused flash mounted on an arm) and an over-head light (also with a diffuser). This soft but highly directed light has brought up the details of the gills in these mushrooms.

The benefits of Basic Research- Genetics and insulin Brendan Moyle Aug 17

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It's sometimes difficult articulating what the benefits of basic research can be. This week I had to explain this to my students- and sadly the textbook was not as helpful as I had hoped. It was the standard fare, vague claims of benefits that could emerge in the future.

Left to my own devices I came up with I think, was a far better illustration. If we go back to the 1930s to early 1960s we have a lot of basic research going on into genetics. Whilst we take it for granted that DNA is the molecule of inheritance, this had to be discovered. There was for a while, an alternative hypothesis that protein molecules within the cell acted as the inheritance mechanism. The Watson-Crick discovery of the structure of DNA didn't take place until 1953. This basic research then led to some very important medical applications years later.

In the late 1970s there was a looming insulin crisis. Insulin is used to treat diabetes. For decades, insulin was extracted from slaughtered animals and used to treat people. This had two problems. The minor problem was that a small percentage of people had adverse reactions to this animal insulin. The major problem was that the number of diabetics was increasing and the number of slaughtered animals was not. The forecast was that by the early 1980s there would be insufficient insulin supplies. More and more people would simply be excluded from insulin-treatment. This would result in both shortened lives, suffering and of course, deaths. Bear in mind this is from an era where diabetes rates was around 2-2.5% of the population. It is more than double that now.

The solution was elegant. A gene that produces insulin was inserted into a bacterium. Bacteria started producing medical insulin- and at a level that kept pace with medical need. Millions of people with diabetes are basically alive today because of the basic research that occurred decades earlier. Without knowing about genes, where they're located and how they function, none of this would have followed.

Wednesday Wildife – #Tiger Brendan Moyle Aug 15

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While I spent last night photographing local predators (assorted NZ spiders), I thought people would probably appreciate a tiger more:



Sadly, as yet I've not been to Indonesia so have not had the chance to see a Sumatran tiger in the wild. This pic, as some of you can probably deduce, is from Auckland Zoo. Captive breeding of this endangered sub-species is being spearheaded by Australian and NZ zoos.

Tuesday Travels Brendan Moyle Aug 14

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Cyclist in the border-city of Hekeu (Jilin province). They don't seem to big on helmet laws. Or cap laws.

A first look at the HVL-MT24AM Brendan Moyle Aug 13

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As noted earlier this macro-flash from Sony is basically a rebadge of the Minolta flash that preceded it. This isn't a bad thing because it was a pretty good flash to begin with.

It does mean however that the unit lacks two features found in many more modern flashes. It can't be triggered with a remote flash and it lacks ADI. You can only shot with this flash in TTL or manual mode.

These aren't critical issues for a macro-flash however.

The main difference between this flash and the Sigma EM-140 I was using before is the flexibility with the position and direciton of the light. The Sigma works on 2 lamps set at 180 degrees apart and the light is diffused through a ring mounted on the lens.

If we start with the Sony macro twin flash, you can see it starts with a mounting ring


This shows you can set the two flashes 45 degrees, 90 degrees and 180 degrees apart. The mounting shoes are fixed onto the ring.

You then attach a lens adapter to the ring to screw it on to the front of your lens.

This shoes the adapter for a 55mm diameter lens.

The flash controller mounts on the hotshoe of the camera.

Back-view of the controller. You can also see the dials that are used to manually adjust output of each flash when you shot in manual (M) mode.

The front of the controller has the sockets to attach the flash cables.



The flash heads are then mounted on the ring. They also swivel so they can point inwards towards the subject, front on or outwards.


To modify the flash you can
1) Attach it to a mounting arm that can also be positioned at a 90 degree or 60 degree arc.

2) The arm can be extended to create even more side light

3) The lamps can be fitted with wide-angle diffusers

4) Or with their own diffusers to soften the light further.


So how does it all work?
Well I had a quick trial last night (before it rained) on a tunnel-web spider that was occupying a tree-trunk. The challenge with this subject is the tunnel. Also you're shooting at night-time. So what I did for this shot was to place the lamps 90 degrees apart. The lamp located at the top of the ring was angled to direct light into the tunnel itself. The second lamp was positioned at 90 degrees to throw light on the actual spider. I went with TTL metering and exposure compensation of -3 (to minimise hotspots).

The spider


Closeup #1


Closeup #2


Now, I'm very pleased with this. The tunnel has received enough illumination to pick out the details of the legs and other body sections. The direction of the light has also meant that the hairs on the fangs and underneath the front legs have been revealed in sharper detail.

So overall, I am very pleased with the flexibility and usefulness of this unit for macro photography.

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