Chrysochus auratus (Fabricius 1775), the Dogbane leaf  beetle escapes irritating photographer

Escapes irritating photographer

Posts will be infrequent and short as I work on other projects.

So, in case you missed it before, this Dogbane leaf beetle — tired of posing — lifts its elytra and unfolds the flight wings to head for the hills.

Posted in Alberta, Behaviour, Canada, Chrysomelidae, Coleoptera, Diversion, Edmonton, macro, photography, Season, Summer Tagged , , |

Hammock Spider, sans hammock.

This may well be my only submission for Arachtober! This is what Gary calls an End-of-the-season-geez-thanks-for-at-least-a-live-arthropod Spider, but hopefully I will have more arthropods to share before the season ends.

Pityohyphantes costatus  is a Hammock Spider, a sheet web weaver in the family Linyphiidae. As the name suggests, these spiders spin a horizontal web like a fine gauze sheet and then lay in wait under a nearby leaf. When prey lands on the web, the spider will run out and capture it from underneath. I spotted this one while looking up under leaves while walking the Amisk Wuche trail in Elk Island National Park.

Immature female Pityohyphantes costatus (Hentz)


Immature female Pityohyphantes costatus (Hentz)

Pityohyphantes costatus (Hentz)

Thanks to Don Buckle and Robin Leech for the ID!

More on hammock spiders at Bug Eric and a short page on this species at Spiders, an Electronic Field Guide.

(Canon 70D with MP-E85mm lens. ISO 200, 1/250 sec. @ f16. Lighting with diffused pair of Canon 270 EXII flashes.)

Posted in Alberta, Arachnid, Araneae, Autumn, Bugs, Canada, Edmonton, Equipment, Linyphiidae, macro, MP-E65, photography, Season Tagged , , |

Six Tips to Improve Your Bug Photography


I have been teaching workshops for a couple of years now, I have gained some idea of the most common areas that many aspiring macro photographers need to work on to improve their photography.

  1. Compose — first compose yourself, then work on your composition. The more excited you are about a subject, the more likely you are to make errors. Take a deep breath, check your equipment and settings, take a test shot then plan your approach before moving in to take photographs.
  2. Get down — down to the level of your subject: it’s eye contact you want. While other viewpoints can be interesting or helpful for identification, it is eye-to-eye contact that allows viewers to connect to the subject.
  3. Eyes in focus — in most instances, the lack of depth of field in macro photography is rendered acceptable when the eye is in focus. However, to make maximum use of limited depth of field, in may be best to focus at a point in front of, or behind the eye so that more of the subject falls within the zone of focus.
  4. Use a flash — learn to use flash to freeze your own magnified movements and the movements of the subject. Without good diffusion and an understanding of how shutter speed affects flash exposure, flash photos can appear harsh and unnatural. With good technique, the image should appear as if you have only one light source, without  blown-out highlights, deep obscuring shadows or black backgrounds. More on this in a future post.
  5. Work your subject— a quick glance at the LCD will tell you if your exposure is right. Now forget chimping and keep shooting: focus variation of fractions of a millimeter can determine the success of your photograph. Repeated shooting gives you a better chance of finding that magic zone. Staying with a cooperative subject often opens up new possibilities to produce better compositions or more interesting behaviors. Move yourself, your camera, and your light source to focus, to find a better plane of focus, to improve composition and lighting and to find better backgrounds that emphasize the subject.
  6. Practice — Finding your subject, approaching it, getting close enough, holding the plane of focus while you move and/or when your subject moves–all the while still paying attention to composition and good exposure is a challenge. Living in Canada, I have to deal with 4 or 5 months where there are no bugs to be found outdoors. Every spring I enter the field impatient and raring to go…and find that I have fallen out of the ‘groove’ and am making silly errors. Practice when you can: with table-top photography in the home, in the garden, at a local park or a nearby nature reserve. Don’t expect great results if you only do photography on a few weekends and vacation.

Despite all precautions and preparations and often a great deal of effort, there will be days when you come home with no outstanding results. Don’t despair, remember that you had the privilege of spending time in nature and that your failures are all part of the regular process of learning. Eventually, your patience and persistence will be rewarded.

Posted in Bugs, Equipment, macro, photography, Student, Technique, Workshop Tagged , , , , , , |

Last Scheduled Macro Workshop of the Year.

Introduction to Close-up and Macro Photography

Totaling 11 hours, this course covers all the macro essentials. We meet at the Centre for the Arts and Communication at MacEwan University on Thursday, October 1 for three hours to cover equipment, accessories, composition and basic skills. The following Saturday we will visit a natural area (or Muttart Conservatory) for 5 hours to practice macro techniques on a variety of subjects. Finally, on Tuesday, October 5 we meet again for 3 hours at the university to do photo and assignment reviews, share image processing tips and then take a brief look at more advanced techniques.

From the MacEwan University Continuing Ed Course Calendar:

Take a closer look at the wonder and diversity of nature with macro photography. Learn to capture amazing detail of flowers, fungi, insects and more with this hands-on workshop and location shoot. Working with natural light and electronic flash; you will learn various techniques to make the most out of magnification. Demonstrations, assignments and image discussions focus on both the art and skills of macro photography as well providing tips for low-cost equipment alternatives. Prerequisite(s): DSLR camera, SLR I or a good understanding of manual mode required. Participants are responsible for transportation and entrance fees to the location site.

Visit the MacEwan website for registration information.

Posted in Accessories, Alberta, Autumn, Bugs, close-up, Composition, Edmonton, Education, Equipment, General, macro, photography, Season, Technique, Workshop Tagged , , , |

Workshop: Macro Photography in the Garden

Still a couple of spots left in the Macro Photography in the Garden Workshop at the Ellis Bird Farm.– Saturday, beginning at 9 AM! Registration information below…



To register for workshops or for more information, email or phone Ellis Bird Farm at 403-885-4477.

Posted in Alberta, Canada, macro, photography, Season, Summer, Workshop

Keep that big green stinkbug at arm’s length

...with North Saskatchewan River background.

…with North Saskatchewan River background.

A quick macro photography tip: when your subject is slow and compliant, and when regulations and common sense allow you to pull a branch, side shoot or flower stem from a plant (in your garden, or with weeds…don’t try this with wildflowers in any protected area!), try holding the subject at arm’s length against a distant backdrop, then move it slowly closer to the lens to find focus–you’ll be surprised at the results you get. This true bug, (Chlorochroa sayi Stål, 1872) was found on blooming Dogbane, sharing the flowers with a large mite.

Posted in Alberta, Bugs, Canada, Edmonton, Hemiptera, Insect, macro, Pentatomidae, photography, Season, Summer, Technique Tagged , , , , , , |