Cheap and cheerful

Last year when I changed my old Nikon D40x for a Nikon D7000 I also bought a cheap second hand Sigma macro lens to go with it. I wouldn’t normally do that, but because of the attractive price tag I thought I’d give it a go in order to dip my toe in the water of  macro photography without upsetting my bank manager. Or, more importantly, my wife!

When I first got the lens I mooched around the house looking for small things to photograph and I didn’t have to wait long before a selection of arthropods presented themselves.

Vespula vulgaris, I also like this image because of the clear double reflection in both panes of the double glazing.

The wasp was buzzing up and down the glass of a door trying to find a way out so I practised my macro technique on it before opening the door and providing it with an escape route.

Even though the head is not in sharp focus I also like this image because of the reflections in the window glass

In this image the plane of focus has captured the wings and the head is slightly out of focus, demonstrating the narrower depth of field (DOF) inherent with macro photography. Tech note: DOF decreases in range with magnification and aperture, so for a given aperture the DOF will decrease with increasing magnification. Or put another way, if you need to open the aperture wider (smaller F-stop number) to get enough light on the sensor to generate an image, you may need to sacrifice some magnification.)

And while I was busy with the wasp a house spider appeared by my feet so I had a shot at that too:

Young house spider, a species of Tegenaria. Despite the size and speed, their bite, if not their induced terror factor, is harmless to humans

This individual was only 2-3cm long indicating it’s a young one and from the shape of its abdomen it’s a male. The female is bigger and has a more bulbous abdomen.

And on an earlier occasion, whilst fulfilling my domestic obligations and doing the washing up, this splendid red eyed dipteran appeared on the teapot on the kitchen window sill and sunned itself for long enough for me to grab the camera and snatch a few close ups.

I don’t know what species the fly is but if anyone is able to enlighten me I’d be very grateful. And it added an enjoyable interlude to the washing up too!

The lens I bought was the Sigma 70-300mm APO DG 4-5.6 macro zoom which can switch to macro between focal length 200-300mm. It has pretty solid build quality, it’s reasonably small (although it gains approximately 5.5cm in length at 300mm zoom) and is a pretty good little lens for general purpose zooming too.  It’s noisy and slow when moving from far away to close in, and vice versa, but as you can see I’ve had some fun with the local insects, and although I need a lot of practise it holds the promise of lots more minibeast shots. All in all it was a good ninety quids worth, and I shan’t be rushing out to spend lots of cash on a better quality lens just yet because I don’t think I need one. I shall carry on having fun with this cheap and cheerful one.


27 responses to “Cheap and cheerful

  1. Some fantastic captures there, Finn. An equally fantastic production about Arthropods which I recently watched came from the Natural History programming department. As ever it was narrated by the wondrous David Attenborough and he confirmed that 80 percent of the world’s wildlife are in fact, Arthropods, amazing! Bottom-up admiration of the food-web should be the new way forward in nature conservation I reckon.

    • Hello Tony, good to hear from you! Your idea of ‘bottom-up’ observation is genius. We spend so much conservation effort on ‘top-down’ trophy species like wolves or golden eagles etc – apex predators and the like – and what we really need to focus on is the ‘support structure’ – all the species that provide food for bigger creatures, pollination etc., etc.

      • Genius, me? lol. I have read a lot into the science of it all of late and it is depressing that when this complex subject is brought up, the general public (largely uninformed IMHO) wouldn’t even understand the process. As an example, the farmland walks I undertake are alive with butterflies, bees, flower-rich margins and that is what I call bottom-up landscape management. The resultant bird-life as a result is fantastic but the main issue with that of course is that such areas are often, also shooting estates. For me, this is totally irrelevant, no, I’m a townie and I’m not interested one iota in the thought of blasting pheasants or partridge out of the sky and the associated management that may or may not take place. I’m interested simply in the wildlife that thrives there. Currently, I would suggest the biodiversity of such farming landscapes would rival many of the other so-called nature reserves. It’s always a controversial subject but so is nature conservation and the current thinking is wrong, the ecosystems aren’t working to the best of their ability, perhaps the generalists have eaten all the food? My gosh, it is complicated and only the scientists are fit to answer and act on these conservation conundrums. Do you think we’ve reached a tipping-point, Finn? This isn’t a them and us debate any more, this is a Natural World and Humankind debate now.

      • Hello Tony, you’ve made me think here in order to marshall my thoughts to answer your question about a tipping point. I’ve just got back from my own farmland walk and I gave this a lot of consideration whilst I was peering at the linnets, reed bunting, whitethroat, skylark, corn bunting etc.

        I try hard to avoid getting political on this blog because I want to keep this whole thing just about nature. But to answer your question I’m going to have to delve into some politics. So here goes.

        I think that increasingly since the Second World War western liberal democracy has been able to flourish due to the vast sums of money that have been generated as a result of free market capitalism. This has resulted in the emergence of a burgeoning middle class who have become increasingly affluent and who will always excercise their democratic right to elect governments which perpetuate that. Quite understandably, if very foolishly when one considers the longer term ramifications. I think the combination of this with the concentration of absolutely colossal wealth in a tiny minority of the socio-economic hierarchy who can essentially buy governments, a phenomenon which has been expedited and accelerated by the incredibly rapid pace of globalisation over the last 30-40 years, has led to a system which is based on year-on-year economic growth which is entirely unsustainable on any level over even the short term, say 100-200 years. And there’s the rub. As a direct result of modern consumerism, and in order to try to sustain that economic growth, the planet is being pillaged at a rate which it simply can’t cope with. So something has to give. And I think you’re dead right, it is now a ‘Natural World and Humankind debate’.

        I hope humans will wise up and switch to a system which enables us to coexist with all other inhabitants of the planet. But I can’t see that happening – selfishness will most likely prevail. I think we’ll wreck the place, die out, or at least significantly die back, and then over the next half a million years or so the planet will recover and change until a new dominant species evolves, which will hopefully have more sense than Homo sapiens. I know there are a lot of incomplete arguments and generalities here, but I reckon you’re either bored or down the pub by now, so I’ve tried to keep it brief 😉

        Either way, to answer your question (“At last!”, I hear you whoop :-)), I think we are at, or just past, a number of tipping points: social, economic, political, philosophical and environmental. And I think as a species we can’t comprehend anything other than the short term so we won’t properly deal with it until it’s too late (think the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and what may be next). But at heart I’m an optimist, so I hope to hell that we do!

      • No fear, I’d never become bored of your narrative, Finn. Your socio-economic commentary was unfortunately above my understanding so I can’t add anything of value there. Pleasing to hear that you agree with my view that we have got to a “Natural World and Humankind” level now. Although you may not agree with my sentiments here, I remain convinced there are too many bloggers and commentators who continually tow the line of many effective nature conservation a political topic. These guys and gals aren’t true conservationists if you ask me. We all must simply work with those in power, the elected government must be on side and not against us, otherwise your own conservation interests will just be ignored. Collaborations work and sticking together we will receive a lot of opportunities to turn things around for nature, even at your own local village level. I support a select few differing organisations, participate in a vast amount of citizen science and am fortunate enough to get some paid conservation related work. This current situation on top of being able to promote the hottest topics in conservation leaves me most satisfied and with the added recognition that comes with it, suggests that I am no desk jockey conservationist. That is my story and maybe you already knew of what I have revealed so….. I hope you are continuing to follow a similar path, go for it, shoot for the moon, empower your readers to do the same.

        Best Wishes Finn, wishing you a wonderful day.


  2. Pingback: Birds and bees… | The Naturephile

  3. Such an interesting post and great photos.

  4. I can’t wait to see more of your macro shots, Finn! The lens was a good purchase. 😉

  5. Most of the time “The wife” (a moniker of which I have been tarred with many times to “the blokes” as a good excuse to get out of things 😉 ) is worse than the bank manager…”The wife” is apparently a very good housekeeper as that glass is sparkling clean. Don’t try that here on Serendipity Farm unless you are willing to go above dog nose level…I love macro photography and although my camera is just a high end point and click it gives me enough scope to take some nice images. Looks like your gamble paid off as these are lovely images and you should be able to justify them to “the wife” and “the bank manager” in one fell swoop 🙂

    • Hello Fran, you’re obviously dead right – the wife keeps me considerably more honest than the bank manager ever did!

      I reckon I’ll get some reasonable close ups with my lens and it’s not bad for general zooming too. I’ll post some more pictures from it in the next post.

  6. Wonderful close-ups, Finn. I don’t know anything about lenses but it looks like you have made a good choice. I especially like the wasp with its reflection, and the little fly.

  7. Hey, Finn, so nice to see you again! Kudos on the nice work with the Sigma. In my experiene, the results with a zoom lens that also has a macro range are somewhat less satisfying than with a single-focal-length one, but who can argue with images like these?! Keep it up and keep sharing, please!

    • Hello Gary, likewise – great to hear from you again and thanks for the nice comments about the results. I remember about a year ago I mentioned the picture quality I was getting with my D7000 and you asked when I was going to front up with some evidence, it’s taken me a while but this is hopefully the first of many examples 😉

      Will definitely keep sharing!

  8. What a wonderful buy, you’ve made excellent use of it just around the house, so I look forward to what you’ll do in the great outdoors. I love the wasp pics, especially.

    • Thanks Lorna, I must say I’m pretty pleased with it so far, but I really need to get properly to grips with it and give it a good work out.

      I thought of you the other day because I was reading the RSPB Farming blog and it was discussing a project in Eastern Scotland to maintain and boost the numbers of corn bunting, which is an increasingly uncommon species, but one which I see a lot of in the fields around my village. So I hope the numbers increase around your way too!

  9. The ‘interest’ pages are where it really shines I think, but theres no getting away from the downsides. To me it’s like a microcosm of the internet macrocosm (and maybe the whole world, ooh I am waxing philosophical) – wonderful and terrible at the same time. :-

    • I know what you mean, the connectivity is tremendous, but all the other crap that goes with it (marketing, ‘friending‘ – whatever that means, etc., etc.) is all terribly depressing.

      BTW, a little philosophising is perfectly in order 🙂 !

  10. Very nice macro shots.

    (even though I’ve got a good macro lens, I’m finding it harder and harder to see the details, you’ve done very well with your lens).

    • Hello Vicki, I’m glad you like the results of my foray into macro photography. I haven’t really followed it up yet but now my pond is starting to get some micro fauna I’ll try to record some of that. BTW which macro lens do you use?

  11. Hi Finn, your macro pictures are great! The wasp especially, with the reflections. I visit a brilliant Facebook page called Insects of Britain and Northern Europe. There are a lot of very knowledgeable and friendly people on it, more than happy to ID any picture you post – I am learning lots from them. The quality of photos is fantastic too – they would love yours! Of course I realise Facebook is like Marmite, so you may reel back in horror at my suggestion 🙂

    • Thanks Maggie, I like the FB/marmite analogy. I’ve avoided it like the plague so far but every now and again I think I should open my mind, and the notion that there are FB pages like the one you mention reinforces that thought. Now I’m wrestling with the dilemma again 🙂

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