The Return of the Week on Sunday

Summer is beginning to burn-out into Fall, the nights are becoming pleasantly cool, and Splendour Awaits will change with the seasons and return to The Week on Sunday.

♦ Spiders in the News? Nora Bryan spins an article on spiders in the garden, giving them the PR they deserve! Check out her article and the slide-show in the Calgary Herald.

Misumena vatia on Aster

Misumena vatia on Aster

♦ And speaking of spiders, go and check out Sean McCann’s post on Spider Fieldwork at Island View Beach, Part 1. He has some fascinating photos of one of the most feared (and misunderstood) spiders in North America – the beautiful black widow!

♦ There has been a lot of attention paid to the approach of certain photographers in Asia who are manipulating their subjects in unnatural ways and then promoting the images as natural. The practices of many of these photographers have been exposed by a Chinese photography site, and then translated into English at Within the Chronicles’ Frame in the article Pseudo-nature Photographers. Alex Wild has also pointed out some of the macro-trickery that can be seen online in his posts This… I… um… What? and A Fake Makes it to the Smithsonian’s Photo Contest Finalists.

♦ And speaking of Alex Wild… Over at Compound Eye, Alex triggered a debate on insect photography and the ethics of bug killing. I have been asked many times to provide specimens of insects or spiders I have photographed so that the correct ID can be determined. I have yet to do this because…

1. … a lot of my photography is done in National, Provincial Parks or Natural Areas where bug collecting can’t be done without a permit (never mind that my car has probably blitzed dozens, if not hundreds of bugs on the drive to, and in the park)

2…. I don’t particularly like the idea of deliberate killing! This is a personal foible – I love and respect the collections built-up by entomologists, and I understand their importance†. However, as one who appreciates them for the fantastic beauty and complexity of their lives, I find it hard to bring myself to remove the light from their eyes! Just call me spineless…(but that’s not an insult anymore)

But he laid out some scenarios, and here is my response to each:

  1. The insect is a mosquito, and you are photographing her as she feeds from your arm. After snagging  a decent shot, do you squish the mosquito? If not, do you typically avoid swatting mosquitoes?
    Ans: I don’t squish mosquitoes – I perform a mercy-killing to save them from the agony that would result from dining on my chocolade-laced Dutch blood! (Actually? I flick them off.)
  2. Your insect is so active it makes Speedy Gonzalez look like a Sunday driver. Yet, your project requires a close-in face portrait. Do you kill the insect to arrange in a lifelike manner so the resulting image appears alive? Would your answer change if you were being paid for the image?
    Ans: I don’t photograph dead insects, and I definitely would not pass them off as live if I had done so!
  3. You receive an inquiry from a pesticide company’s marketing department requiring a photograph of their product killing a cockroach, so the point of the photo is to show the death of the insect. Do you accept the assignment?
    Ans.: No.
  4. The insect is a species you have never seen before. Do you kill it to take a specimen for easier identification? After all, specimens are usually preferable to photographs for identification.
    Ans: I might
  5. The insect is a species you recognize, but you suspect it might not have been recorded from that particular location before. Do you take a specimen as a physical record of the observation, even if you already logged the coordinates of the photograph?
    Ans.: If I have a definitive photograph or photographs of the species, I would not then kill it for a record.
  6. The insect is a species you recognize, the location is new, but you also know this species is especially long-lived and may take three or more years to reach maturity. Does the biology of the animal affect your decision?
    Ans.: Yes. If I had such knowledge I would not take a specimen.
  7. You know enough about your subject to suspect it may be a new, undescribed species. Do you kill the specimen for taxonomic research?
    Ans.: Yes. In the unlikely event that I would ever have enough knowledge to ascertain that a bug is an undescribed species, and that it is not possibly subject to the biological limitations as mentioned in #6, I would take the photographs first, and then, if  I could collect the specimen properly, I would indeed kill it for taxonomic research.

I don’t know if any of these responses are good enough to prevent me being struck down by the God of Invertebrate Macro Photography, but I am pretty sure the God of Entomologists will go easy on me. 🙂

♦ From Why Evolution is True: one of the most amazing optical illusions ever:


I should mention in closing that August was a good month for me:

♦ On August 10, I  participated in the Bug Jamboree at the Ellis Bird Farm, Lacombe County, Alberta.This is an afternoon festival celebrating all things buggy. Along with John Acorn, Dr. Charley Bird, Dr. Ken Fry, Joe LeBlanc, Joey Temple and Margaret Stevenson, we shared our particular buggy specialties in this family-oriented event. Read more about it in the Lacombe Globe.

♦ Then, on August 24, and also at the Ellis Bird Farm, I held the Macro Photography with  DSLR  workshop  This was my first ‘class-size’ workshop (rather than my usual ‘small-group’ workshop), with 11 participants attending. The location was perfect – the visitors centre was in the centre of lush, blooming gardens, and farm was closed to the general public for the day. Although my drive down from Edmonton had a portent of doom, with overcast skies and scattered showers, the day soon opened up to be fine and sunny with partially cloudy skies. The participants ranged in experience from DSLR newbies to veteran photographers all of whom were eager to learn more about how to get ‘closer to nature’. After a slide-show and introductions, I gave a presentation on the different ways of making macro, how to use natural light as well as the use of macro flash. Then I worked on setting-up  every participant with the ability to focus closer and use diffused flash, creating diffusers on the spot. Later, I shared lenses and flashes to let all those interested so that they could try different set-ups. After lunch I made a presentation on how to approach the subject in terms of the photographic frame, followed by advice on composition and technique. Then there was more practical photography time outside.  I tried to spend time with each participant – helping solve problems and showing various little tricks and techniques that make the craft easier. Later in the afternoon we closed with another slide show and some parting advice . As the evaluation forms indicated, the workshop was very successful, but it still needs elaboration and expansion in certain areas. I want to thank Myrna Pearman for inviting me down and for all the wonderful support she has given. She captains a great ship with a great crew at the Ellis Bird Farm, and it is a pleasure to be associated with them.

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