Working it out

Here is a brief example of how I might approach a co-operative subject:

When I find an interesting insect to photograph, my first shot is considered as a record only. I keep shooting, trying each time to improve the shot over the previous attempt. In this case the first attempt is sharp, but the composition is bad and the background is cluttered.

ISO 200, f16 @ 1/60 sec.

 

The background can be improved in a number of ways: by changing the position of the camera (right or left, higher or lower), by changing the lens to narrow the perspective (ie. changing from a 50mm macro to a 180mm macro), by opening the aperture to get less depth of field, by physically changing the background (by moving the plant stems – risky) or by adjusting the lighting so that the background is not so well lit. In my case, I opened up the aperture, lowered the camera, moved it slightly to the left and forward, and then I centered it.

ISO 200, f11 @ 1/60 sec

The background is smoother and darker, without descending into black. However, there is still some distracting material in the bottom of the picture, and the composition could still be stronger, so I moved the camera in closer…

ISO 200, f16 @ 1/200 sec

…cropping out the stem and most of  the calyx. Then I raised the shutter speed to let in less ambient light. Now, I am happier with the result. Minor changes could still be done in the future with software, but with the lens I have on, this is as close as I can get. I tried to move into a head-on view, but my subject finally lost patience and flew off. When I arrived home a few days later, I cropped the last image to show more detail on the little bee.

Don’t I have the cutest little puppy nose?

Of course, the camera is hand-held, and the movements are small, so all this took less time than it took me to post  one image in this article. Keep in mind that with almost all insects, the closer you get, the more likely they are to take flight or hide. I could have moved in immediately, only to fail. This is a Sweat Bee (Halictidae), Halictus sp. Thanks to BugGuide for the ID.
(Photographed in Cypress Hills Provincial Park, 17 September, 2011. Canon 5D Mk II, Tamron 180mm f 3.5 macro lens, diffused Sigma EF-530 DG.)
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