Category Archives: invertebrates

The Week on Sunday #40

Welcome to another Week on Sunday!

With winter fast approaching, my mind begins to turn to how I will continue to explore the macro world from inside the home. While I do have a lot of  accumulated photographs to work on, I know I will soon be itching to bring out the camera and face the fascinating world of bugs again. This winter, photomicroscopy and focus-stacking will fill some of the time, but I know that I will  be missing field trips out in the real green and pulsing world before long.

♦ Here’s a look at how one person spends his time in the house…

♦ See more of Boris’s beautiful macro and video work at his website: The Godfroid Brothers.

♦ A detailed look at Sam Droege’s macro focus stacking set-up at Coleoptera.  This includes a photo of the set-up used by the U S Army Institute of Public Health. (I, despite the news lately, can’t help but be impressed by a country that invests in bug photography! Are you listening Canada?)

♦ Another killer of pines hitchhikes on Beetle: this time a tree-killing worm.

♦ And to end this 40th edition of  The Week on Sunday–Bill Moyers and a short documentary on the plight of bees…

Bill presents and introduces the short documentary Dance of the Honey Bee. Narrated by Bill McKibben, the film takes a look at the determined, beautiful and vital role honey bees play in preserving life, as well as the threats bees face from a rapidly changing landscape. “Not only are we dependent on the honey bee for much of what we eat,” says Bill, “there is, of course, a grace and elegance they bring to the natural world that would diminish us all were they to disappear.”


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Also posted in Apidae, arthropods, Autumn, Bugs, Coleoptera, Documentary, Environment, Feature Photographer, Focus stacking, Gastropoda, Hymenoptera, Insect, Links, macro, Mollusca, photography, Science, Season, Web LInk, Week on Sunday Tagged , , , , , , , , |

We need to Inspire with Nature

With generations of our youth increasingly becoming captive to the digital world, we need to spend more time showing kids how awesome nature really is. The long-term consequences of raising a generation that has no appreciation for nature will be catastrophic.

Here is a video from the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation which explores what can happen when you place something as simple as a sweep-net in the hands of a young ‘un…

“In this collaborative storytelling project, the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation explores the moments of personal discovery and transformation that occur as young people connect with the natural world at BioBlitz.”

Inspired by Nature: A Collaborative Storytelling Project of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation from E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation on Vimeo.

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Also posted in Biodiversity, Bugs, Conservation, E.O. Wilson, Education, Inspiration, Science Tagged , , , , , , |

The Week on Sunday #34

Finally back with another look at articles that caught my attention in the last week(s). I’ll lead off with a new series narrated by the great Sir David Attenborough:

◊ David Attenborough is hosting Micro Monsters 3D, which began on Sky TV on June 15. Check out this article at the Mail Online for more on the series, including photographs.

Edward O. Wilson with paleontologist Louise Leakey. Wilson received the National Geographic Society’s highest honor — the Hubbard Medal — at the Society’s 125th Anniversary Gala in Washington June 13. Photo by Mike Busada.

Edward O. Wilson with paleontologist Louise Leakey. Wilson received the National Geographic Society’s highest honor – the Hubbard Medal – at the Society’s 125th Anniversary Gala in Washington June 13. Photo by Mike Busada.

◊ Along with to explorer and filmmaker James Cameron and oceanographer Sylvia Earle, National Geographic has honored E.O Wilson with the Hubbard Medal for his lifelong commitment to the planet’s rich diversity through his research and writing. The Hubbard Medal is awarded by the National Geographic Society for distinction in explorationdiscovery, and research. The medal is named after Gardiner Greene Hubbard, first National Geographic Society president. E. O Wilson has been an inspiration for me, and I am glad to see him honored with this prestigious award.

On his first trip to Gorongosa (and Africa), scientist and author Edward O. Wilson uses an experienced nose to identify a foam grasshopper. It’s named for the smelly, poisonous foam it emits.  Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic

Wilson received the National Geographic Society’s highest honor — the Hubbard Medal — at the Society’s 125th Anniversary Gala in Washington June 13. On his first trip to Gorongosa (and Africa), scientist and author Edward O. Wilson uses an experienced nose to identify a foam grasshopper. It’s named for the smelly, poisonous foam it emits.
Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic

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Also posted in Attenborough, Bugs, Insect, Inspiration, macro, Mollusca, News, photography, Spring, Week on Sunday Tagged , , , , , , , |

What’s In My Camera Bag 1 – Essentials

Just what do I take with me on a typical macro field trip?

There are three types of sorties that I generally make into the field. One is a light-weight kit that I use for a short outing of  under 2 hours where I do a quick walk through an area, photographing whatever is incidental on the walk. The second is a medium-weight kit for a trip up to half a day in length, where I can slow down and take more time looking for subjects. The third is more intensive: if I have over half a day to spend outdoors and I need not walk far, then I carry the full kit-and-kaboodle.

But before I list what is in these kits, it would be good to see what my essential equipment is, the kit that goes with me on almost every outing:

What a lot of stuff!

What a lot of stuff!

And not pictured:

  • DSLR viewfinder
  • wireless flash triggers
  • Op/tech rain sleeve
  • knee pads
  • white bowl*
  • pill containers*
  • soft brush*

It looks like a lot, before even adding a DSLR and lens, but most of this fits in the accessory pockets of a  single Toploader Pro AW. The Olympus 4/3 camera and doo-dads fit in a small clip-on LowePro pouch. The last three items (*) are specifically for bugs, and tucked into vest pockets. Because almost all new cameras now have video capability, I include a DSLR viewfinder and an accessory microphone for improved sound recording.

Next: The Light-weight Kit, and some details on the uses of the items I do carry, and things I do when in the field.

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The Week on Sunday #28

On with some inter-web finds from the last week…

♦ If you are a macro photographer, one of the best ways to increase opportunities to photograph insects is to have a diversely planted naturalistic garden. You need only step outside your door for subject matter: so easy when you can’t find the time to get out to wilder places. For an example of what you can do, check out this video by John Dunstan, for his proposed “Insect Garden Channel‘:

♦ Here are some timely fact-sheets for spring, from the Xerces Society, which is devoted to invertebrate conservation:

  • Nests for Native Bees
  • Tunnel Nest Construction and Management

and for those with sub-urban, acreage or farm properties:

Be sure to visit the  Xerces Society for more information on how to make your local environment more friendly to butterflies and bees.

♦ As I have mentioned before, I have yearned to do high-speed in-flight insect photography since I first read Stephan Dalton’s book, S. DaltonCaught in Motion. High Speed Nature Photography 30 years ago. Stephan Dalton’s system was engineered from the ground up, at an estimated value of over $30 000 dollars! How times have changed…

Cognisys, manufacturers of Stopshot and Stackshot now have the magic ingredient for successful daytime high-speed in-flight insect photography: a high-speed shutter. That means the Stopshot system can now be sold as a new package, the Cognisys Insect Rig. Here is what it looks like:

Cognisys Insect Rig

Visit Linden Gledhil’s Insects in Flight gallery to see what can be done. This rig is sold at a cost of a mere $2300!

(No doubt well worth the price, but,… ahem…would anyone care to sponsor me to obtain this delightful system?)

♦ An interview I had earlier this year is now an article at PhotoEd Magazine. PhotoEd is a Canadian magazine aimed at educational institutions and features established and up-and-coming Canadian photographers. It’s a good article with excellent photo reproductions and  am very pleased with the results. Below is a glimpse of the article. The magazine can be purchased at Chapters/Indigo or through subscription at PhotoEd. I will also have free copies available for anyone who attends the next few small-group workshops.

img011img009 img008-001Spring/Summer 2013 PhotoEd Magazine

When Felix Rosso sent his questionnaire he included the following statement, which not only goes to the heart of why I began blogging, but speaks to all photographers, artists and any one else who has taken the path of self-directed learning:

“I like your logo quote “Splendour awaits.” It does not come to us – we need to search it out. Your self-directed learning is inspiring – education is too important an endeavour to put in the hands of others. I have been in education for over 40 years and have always recognized the power of the individual following his/her interests. “

“It does not come to us – we need to search it out.”

Words to live by.


♦ And ending on a personal note: how fairs the season for bugs and blooms?

The last week has seen a warming trend, but still far below seasonal averages. The week ahead looks more promising:

from the department formerly known as 'Environment Canada'
from the department formerly known as ‘Environment Canada’

I may be able to get the pond ‘flowing’ again and begin the many garden chores of spring. Most yards that are not facing south will still have lots of snow cover, or be wet, so this is not the time for lawn care (if you still have such an archaic feature in your garden)! Soil compaction can be a danger now, so use a planks to create walkways to do your chores if the soil it still wet. In central Alberta and north , this will be the week to:

  • complete pruning of trees and shrubs
  • renovate old  hedges
  • clean-out eavestroughs
  • set-up rain barrels
  • clean-out and/or place nest boxes for birds
  • set up new bee hotels, renovate old bee hotels
  • clean and fill bird-baths

So far few bugs, one lone centipede that scurried away as I moved an old clay pot. Looking forward to more soon!


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Also posted in Alberta, Bugs, Canada, close-up, Conservation, Equipment, garden, Hymenoptera, Insect, Inspiration, Links, macro, photography, Season, Spring, Web LInk, Workshop Tagged , , , , , , |

Free eBooks by Jean-Henri Fabre.

Fabre at home.

Fabre at home.

I was only about 12 years old when I first heard about Jean-Henri Fabre, while reading about Gerald Durrell‘s childhood in the book Birds, Beasts and Relatives. Gerald’s brother Lawrence, recognising his interest in bugs, gave him a copy of  The Sacred Beetle and Others

by E. J. Detmold: Fabre's Book of Insects.

by E. J. Detmold: Fabre’s Book of Insects.

Forgetting my food, I tore the parcel open, and there inside was a squat, green book entitled The Sacred Beetle and Others by Jean Henri Fabre. Opening it, I was transported by delight, for the frontispiece was a picture of two dung-beetles, and they looked so familiar they might well have been close cousins of my own dung-beetles. They were rolling a beautiful ball of dung between them. Enraptured, savouring every moment, I turned the pages slowly. The text was charming. No erudite or confusing tome, this. It was written in such a simple and straightforward way that even I could understand it. ‘Leave the book till later, dear. Eat your lunch before it gets cold,’ said Mother. Reluctantly I put the book on my lap and then attacked my food with such speed and ferocity that I had acute indigestion for the rest of the afternoon. This in no way detracted from the charm of delving into Fabre for the first time. While the family had their siesta, I lay in the garden in the shade of the tangerine trees and devoured the book, page by page, until by tea-time – to my disappointment – I had reached the end. But nothing could describe my elation. I was now armed with knowledge. I knew, I felt, everything there was to know about dung-beetles. Now they were not merely mysterious insects crawling ponderously throughout the olive groves – they were my intimate friends.

At that time, in South Africa in the early 1970’s, I had no access to Fabre’s books.  They had no copies in the library (my second home for most of my youth), and the internet and ebooks were not even a twinkle in someone’s eye.

Thoughts of reading Fabre faded…

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Also posted in Amateur Entomologist, Behaviour, Coleoptera, Collection, Entomology, Habitat, History, Hymenoptera, Insect, Inspiration, Links Tagged , , , , , , , |