Category Archives: Photographing gardens

Garden bugs

Trying to grow an organic garden is pretty rewarding. It comes with some drawbacks, though. Like regular plant-scoffing visitors. I was amazed to discover how many bugs I have in my garden. This is not so good for the basil and the roses, let alone the lettuce, but it does give my macro lens and twinlight flash some air.

I discovered that my elegant lady is covered in canaeus carnifex, commonly known as red bugs or fire bugs. They seem to mate a great deal, and the hundreds of teeny babies in the seed heads of my shrub will attest to that.

Cenaeus carnifex, also called red bugs or fire bugs

The green vegetable bug is almost impossible to detect. All you see is brown curled up leaves left in its wake.

Nezara viridula, or green vegetable bug

Nezara viridula - you don't want to squash these guys. There's a reason why they belong to the stink bug family

The sunflower seed bug decimated my tomato bush – pride and joy of my garden, and producer of a rather fine harvest. There is now a bare patch where she once stood.

Agnoscellis versicoloratus, or sunflower seed bug

Amazing how creatures so destructive can be so beautiful. I don’t have the heart to kill them, so I’m hoping some big bird will come along and have them for breakfast before my garden is a desert wasteland!


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Filed under Flash photography, Macro Photography, Photographing gardens, Photography

Canon Macro Twinlite MT 24EX

I know I waxed lyrical about my Canon 100 mm macro lens a while back, and I do still love it more than almost anything else. But I now have something to love equally as much: my new Canon Macro Twinlite MT 24EX.

Struggling to get a high depth of field and a fast shutter speed (at the same time) in low light are now a thing of the past. I’m turning into a hunchback, and wearing out the knees of my jeans shuffling about gardens trying to find tiny things to shoot.

First there was the lobelia to inspect and illuminate right up close:


Then the lobelia and alyssum looked so good together that they, too, needed a mini studio and lighting director:


The rosebush revealed this rather annoyed fellow sporting a drop of water on his head (I had just watered the garden):

OI09072801 low

I love the way the reflected rosemary stalks make it look as if it’s wearing some kind of tribal headgear. It’s face is reflected at the bottom of the drop. On Flickr I have called this ‘Mantid with updo and reflection’.

Then it was time to inspect the yellow flowers of the tomato bush, dangling from furry stems:


Which then led me to this dilemma:


I mean, how cute is the little fella?!

OI09062745 WP

You have to be really quite heartless to want to squish something so tiny. Okay, it’s going to grow to the size of Big Daddy alongside, but that guy’s just too big to squish.

So I decided that the big guy had done all the damage he was going to do, and was probably going to cocoon himself pretty soon. With a bit of luck he’ll show his wings in my garden for a while, as a ‘thanks for all the greens’ before fluttering off to gardens beyond the wall. The little guy I tried to transfer to the nasturtiums, but dropped him, so he’s probably scoffing my tomato plant from the bottom up. Him and his little brother, which I also dropped.

But back to my Macro Twinlite MT 24EX: quite a bit more to learn, as it can operate on different ratios, the flashlights can be moved into different positions, and can operate either both at the same time or one at a time, creating some more natural looking side lighting. It’s a really great little strobe. Well worth aquiring!

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Filed under Flash photography, Macro Photography, Photographing gardens, Photography

A macro morning turns into a landscape morning

Isn’t it funny how some days you set out to do one thing, and end up doing quite the opposite?

Like this Sunday, for example. Off I went, quite determined to have myself a macro fest in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. With my camera loaded with recharged battery and formatted memory card, my camera bag bearing my Canon 100 mm Macro lens and extension tubes and hefting my heavy Manfrotto tripod, off I set on a somewhat overcast day to do the macro thing.

When I arrived there, the wind was blustery and not conducive to high dof images of elegant blooms dancing on long stems. Not to be discouraged, I headed to the safe but predictable cluster of aloes where I knew I would be sure to find some bees burrowing about in the pollen.

But, blah. I’ve done that before.

And so I removed the macro lens, twisted on the 24-85 mm and turned my eye to the landscape instead. The light, variable as it was, rewarded patience with popping ultra-3-d images. The mountain played hide and seek with the clouds, and the aloes held gasp-fulls of sunlight.

As always, I was first drawn to the park bench:


Then I moved towards the beckoning aloes at the bend, moved beyond them and up the steps, following the cobbled path until I had a clear view of the mountain:


Once there, I caught sight of a cluster of purple flowers against a dark rock, and followed the path higher up the slope, still determined to fit some macro into the morning. But once I turned around to sit down on the sun-warmed stone steps, the clouds were pushed apart again, and the foliage tickled with vivid light, seducing me to remove the macro lens once again:


The macro morning had turned into a landscape morning. But it was still a photographic morning, which is better than pretty much any other kind of morning.

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Filed under Cape Town, Landscape, Macro Photography, Photographing gardens, Photography

Oi! You, bugs! Leave my roses alone!

oi0901527Now, I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to use my macro lens, and so my first reaction when spotting these nezara bugs on my struggling iceberg rose was to give a little Alice in Wonderland gasp, turn off the hose and dash for my camera.

A 1:1 view through the 100 mmm macro revealed that a horde of aphids and white scale had joined these very pretty rotters in their feast of rose juice. No wonder this little bush had been struggling for its life.
I don’t mind sharing, guys, especially since I know something bigger is going to come around and scoff you next. But good grief! This is ridiculous. So I’m afraid, it was ‘Hasta la vista, babies!’ and ‘So long and thanks for all the photos!’
Sorry, guys … but this patch of garden ain’t big enough for the bunch of us!

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Filed under Macro Photography, Photographing gardens, Photography, Roses

A universe in a plant pot

I have to shoot something every day. Sometimes, though, it really is just too much trouble to leave home. You know those days. The days when everything, really, is just too much trouble.

But it’s amazing just how much there is to photograph in just one plant pot outside your door.

My first roses have started to bloom. My favourite, Double Delight, cream-cupped, strawberry-tipped, seductively fragrant, has burst three blooms from her wintry stalks.

In the same container, crowding around her feet, were some pansies, most of them looking the worse for wear after the heavy rains and wind we’ve had. But if you peer closely, there are still a myriad little rainbows in their folds.

And then, just for a final splash of colour, a red geranium braving the cold and gently unfolding its bright lips to the watery sun.


No need to skulk about the house muttering words like ‘burnt out’, ‘uninspired’, ‘grotty weather’, ‘I’d rather be in the Amazon’ and ‘those National Geographic photographers are so lucky!’. Just take a peek inside your nearest plant pot. You might end up with a smile on your face.

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Filed under Photography, Roses