Probably a creature that only its mother could love, this is a pondskater -- also known as water striders, water bugs, magic bugs, skaters, skimmers, water scooters, water skaters, water skeeters, water skimmers, water skippers, water spiders or Jesus bugs. These bugs are actually pretty nasty, if you ever sit down by a pond towards the height of the summer, and see a fly fall in that water, a whole bunch of these race across and in a mad feeding frenzy suck the life out of the fly using that nasty long proboscis.
This (female) pondskater has some interesting phenomena worth noticing. Firstly, we all know that these things walk on water - they're extremily light and the water surface tension keeps them up. But, they've also adapted to this life in a couple of interesting ways - their covering and their colours. They're covered by something called hydrofuge hairs: "There are several thousand hairs per square millimeter, providing the water strider with a hydrofuge body that prevents wetting from waves, rain, or spray, which could inhibit their ability to keep their entire body above the water surface if the water stuck and weighed down the body". Now it seems to me that they actually have several different types of hairs: the sequence below starts at the top and goes down to the bottom. They're much denser at the bottom. I wonder if their functions are slightly different, maybe the top ones are designed to specifically make the water roll off (ie keep them as light as possible so they don't sink), but the bottom ones designed like ducks feather to actually repel water and keep it off? Don't know, perhaps someone knows. Secondly, the colouring is pretty interesting from a biology point of view. Dark at the top and light at the bottom - camouflage in action. Looking down they're quite hard to see (that dark colouring), but looking up they blend in against the sky. Good biology stuff.
Technical: I did 2 things new for this picture. First of all I got hold of a 100mm non macro tube lens, which allows me to put my Nikon 10x/.25 ∞ plan objective in front and because of this thing's excellent optics, get a 5:1 ratio out of it. With the CSJ 135mm it was 6.25:1 which was just a little too big for my purposes currently. So a real win, and thanks to Algernon for supplying me the tube lens. It had to be the non macr 100mm because you want the entrance pupil to be close to the objective: on the 100mm macro I have it's just too darn far back. It will be interesting to see if this makes a difference on a reversed lens too.
Secondly, I made myself work with substacks on this. So instead of just pressing the big shiny "make me a pic with pMax" button, I divided it up into 20 substacks and dmapped those together. Significant difference, glad I tried it, and thank you to Elf for making ZereneVS. Doing photos like this with substacks makes a shot like this into a 2 evening exercise rather than 1, but I think it's worth it.
Lighting: 4 flashes, 3 at the top and 1 at the bottom with baffles to control spillage: polystyrene "french fries cone" from eBay: background is from a SmallHD DP7 CS3 output. I need to work a bit on background because I'm still not getting the crispest edges I'd like but that's more due to my lighting I think. 121 shots combined (not quite enough), step size of 22μm. Finished off using CS3, Topaz detail and NoiseNinja.
Link to full pic: farm9.staticflickr.com/8160/7006280180_a7ea56f0b0_o.jpg