An Unexpected Find

09th November 2012
One of the challenges of macro photography is getting sufficient depth-of-field in your subject. Recently, I’ve been attempting to remedy this situation by taking several images at different focal planes through the subject and then “blending” the in-focus sections of different images, using layers in Photoshop Elements. This often works quite well but is time-consuming. For a while I’ve been pondering buying some “stacking” software that can automate this process. There are several available and Zerene Stacker gets some very good reviews. I downloaded a free-trial version and tried it on five images of a harvestman that I had taken. The results were good (image left).

[The next day I was in the local churchyard looking for springtails and thinking that if I found one keeping still, I would attempt two or three shots (head, middle and rear section) and try the tracking software again. They were all much too active, but I did find a hemipteran bug on a leaf. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about these, but this looked like a promising subject. I took six images at F11; starting with the tip of the nearest antennae and finishing at the rear of the abdomen. It appeared totally motionless during the process. I returned the leaf (and the bug!) to the leaf litter. Zerene Stacker aligned the images and stacked them nicely in around 30 seconds. A few adjustments were required to the antennae (that had moved a little), but I was again, very pleased with the overall result.

I hadn’t realised what an interesting find this was going to be. I had posted an image on iSpot and it turned out to be a final stage instar of the Box Bug (Gonocerus acuteangulatus). Historically this was very rare (RBD1) and up until the late 1980s, known only from Box Hill in Surrey, where it feeds on Box trees. This bug is expanding its range though and now occurs widely in the south-east of England and beyond. It is also exploiting different food-plants and has been found on hawthorn, buckthorn, yew, plum and others. I’m checking whether it’s been found in Warwickshire before, but I have found some reports in the Chilterns and one in Edgbaston in Birmingham. I was a bit disappointed with the Edgbaston one, as I was hoping my sighting might be the most northerly! Never mind, an interesting find nonetheless.

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