Sunday, January 22, 2012

Costa Rica Macro Style

Costa Rica and macro photography are as natural as spaghetti and meatballs; I can't imagine not taking advantage of the millions, yes millions of photo opportunities awaiting me in the small world in this biologically diverse country.  Costa Rica offers, tens of thousands of flowers, insects, reptiles and amphibians all waiting to be photographed.

One of my favorite subjects are the Leaf Cutter Ants that inhabit the rain forest.  These industrious ants work tirelessly all day carrying small pieces of leaf back to their nest where they tend them to grow fungus as a food for the colony.  Its not uncommon to find 6 inch wide trails on the forest floor left by the thousands of tiny legs as they carry their cargo back to the nest. 

My lens of choice is the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro.  I also use extension tubes; 12mm and 25mm if I need to get a little closer, as well as a 500d close focus element.  A flash, in this case a Canon 580 EX, with a small soft box to help freeze and highlight the ants as they march by.  Other equipment I find useful are a remote release, either cable of infrared, and a flash remote trigger to allow you to move the light to where its most effective.  And, most importantly, a tripod!!  You just can't hold the camera steady enough to expect much success hand holding!

If you're fortunate and they are cutting from leaves that are close to the ground, you might try your hand at capturing images of them cutting the leaf into sections.  Here's several of my successful images out of many hundreds attempted;

Leaf Cutter Ants fight over a leaf section

Leaf Cutter Ants at work

As you can see the images are worth all the time and effort in getting them; I probably shot 300 to 400  hundred images.  Working with a very small fast moving subject with a narrow depth of field (DoF) band.  The images were shot at ISO 1600 in order to increase my shutter speed while stopping down in order to maximize my DoF.  All images were taken with the Canon 1D MK IV.

So, moral of the story, get that macro gear tuned up before you head to the tropical rain forest and have the time of your life.

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