For the past couple of weeks I have been seeing these really pretty moths (Anania hortulata) flitting amongst some the plants in my garden. If you go near them they quickly hide under a leaf like the one in the photo below. Given how common they seem to be in the garden, I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that one finally encountered one of my Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula), with a predictable result.Taking the photo of the moth was simple enough once I found one that would stay still. I just photographed it with a ring flash like many of the insect pictures I have shown on this site.
I use flash for most of my photography. Typically I am shooting small active critters and I need the speed and depth of field provided by flash. However, the Venus flytrap wasn’t going anywhere (neither was the moth for that matter), so for a change I decided to break out my tripod and shoot with available light. The nice thing about shooting this way is that you can produce a photo with an appealing out of focus background. This particular flytrap is in a pot, which made it easy to move into a good position. I did, however, have to cut the edge of the pot so that it wouldn’t be in the photo. I also had to trim a little of the moss in the pot.
The only real challenge was deciding what lens aperture to use. I wanted to stop the lens down enough to ensure that the important elements of the picture (namely the plant and the moth) were in sharp focus while the background was well out of focus. If the background of a photo is far enough out of focus, then the foreground elements (the important bits) will stand out in clear relief. But if the background is only slightly out of focus, it will appear busy and distracting. An added consideration for this image was that I was shooting outside and there was a light breeze blowing. Shooting with the lens stopped down (to a smaller aperture) to increase depth of field would require a slower shutter speed and could result in parts of the picture being blurred due to movement.
I took pictures at F22, F16, F11, F8, and F5.6. When I reviewed the images afterwards, I decided that while I might have liked the moss in front of the flytrap to be a bit more in focus, the slower shutter speeds needed for the apertures F22, F16 and F11 meant that the moth’s antenna—which was moving around in the breeze—was blurred . I chose the picture taken at F8 as the best compromise and the best of the bunch. The photos taken at F22 and F5.6 are shown below so that you can see the range of differences.
F5.6: notice that the antenna is sharp
F22: notice that the antenna is blurred due to movement
The only post processing I did (with Photoshop Elements 8.0) was to darken the highlights just a little to bring out a little more detail on the surface of the flytrap.
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus E-620 digital SLR
Lens: Zuiko 35mm macro
Moth: manual exposure (F14 @ 1/125 sec)
Venus flytrap: aperture priority exposure (F22-F5.6, 5/8 sec-1/25 sec)
Moth: Olympus RF-11 ring flash (manual; ¼ power)
Venus flytrap: available light