Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Harlequin Bug Macro Experiment

... experimenting with some new (for me) macro techniques.

Harlequin bugs, Dindymus versicolor,  seem to be very active at the moment. There are hundreds of nymphs and a scattering of adults in our nectarine tree. They're not popular with gardeners as they use their sharply pointed, tube-like mouth parts to pierce fruit. They seem not to have noticed that the possums already ate half the nectarines and the rest fell to the ground where the pademelons feasted on them. We got about a dozen of the less desirable looking nectarines to ourselves.

Focus Stacking

The main purpose for photographing these common bugs was to test out my new el cheapo extension tubes which allow me to get a little closer to the subject. I also had my first attempt at focus stacking.

To quote Wikipedia: Focus stacking (also known as focal plane merging and z-stacking or focus blending) is a digital image processing technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field (DOF) than any of the individual source images.

I've actually used focus stacking before on images of the moon but, for some reason, I have never tried it on bugs. I imagined that it would be too difficult. It turned out to be a fairly simple process requiring only a little patience. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube if anyone is interested in having a go.

I was quite pleased with the result. You can see the difference from the focus stacked image below and a normal photograph. Both were taken with the same lens at F8. The stacked version is made up from eleven separate images.  I tried again for a 19 image stack but the bug did not co-operate and moved around too much.

 Focus stacked version (click to see larger image)

Single image showing narrow depth of field  (click to see larger image)

Extension Tubes

As for the extension tubes, I'm very happy with them. Although a cheap set, they do allow for auto focus. However, when you get very close to the subject the auto focus does not do too well. It makes no difference in any case as, for the purpose of focus stacking, you need to use manual focus.

The Canon version of the extension tubes cost around A$200.  Mine cost around $30 on E-Bay. Extension tubes have no glass in them. They simply extend the distance between the lens and the sensor so I cannot see how a more expensive set would give any real advantage.
My set of Extension Tubes.


  1. Great piece of video and also close photos. Your new equipment works well and I am always happy when I don't have to pay 'inflated' prices for equipment!

  2. I love the birds in your next post - but - your comment form won't accept comments again!

  3. Thanks Mick,

    My settings are set to allow comments but for some reason each new post defaults back to not allowing comments. I'm obviously out of practice with using bloggers settings :-)