Category Archives: invertebrates


I am privileged to have the opportunity to follow my interests in what most would call a ‘full-time’ capacity. While many have the drive and the focus to follow their passion from the earliest age and then turn it into a career, due to a variety of circumstances I came late in life pursuing what I love. Since 2008, when I shook off the last ties to a steady income, I have worked at making macro a business. In an era when even established photographers have had to re-think and rebuild their business due to the digital onslaught, what made me think I could survive as a new entrant into a niche market? And within that market, with (as far as I know of)  only one person that actually makes his living as a photographer of insects, and one other who survives as a general macro photographer (there are probably more out there, I would like to hear about them!) …what made me think I could pull this off? With a home base in frigid Alberta and its short bug season, with a (relatively) scant bug population that seems to desperately want to stay in hiding…what sort of madman would think that a career in macro photography is even conceivable?


Yuet Chan

Well, I did. Frankly, it may not be possible to make a reasonable income through macro photography in Alberta. Regardless of the final outcome, I know I would only live with deep regret if I did not at least make the attempt. For this opportunity I am thankful for the community of support around me. First and foremost has been my  wife, Yuet Ching Chan. I simply could not have begun pursuing this idea without her financial support and forbearance. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride (my reciprocal role as chief cook and bottle washer has not always met her strict guidelines…), but she has been there at my side, with good ideas, professional support (she is a graphic designer and photographer herself), a lot of nudging and a general acceptance that my meandering efforts might actually lead to something! Thank you Yuet, for letting me have this opportunity.

1-Newfoundland (739 of 1818)-001

Arwen in character…

And behind the scenes, quietly supportive and at the very root of my quest, is Arwen Thysse, my daughter. Back in the days when I was a ‘working’ man, I consoled myself with the Walter Mitty dreams of being a nature photographer whose work would be appreciated by artists and scientists alike. I have dozens of notebooks outlining those plans, written on breaks and in stolen moments. I was going to be Oxford Scientific Films, Freeman Patterson, Stephen Dalton and Heather Angel all rolled into one superpower of nature photography…I was always better at dreaming than acting, until Arwen came along. I became a Dad. Admittedly I had a lot to learn and things did not always go smoothly, but we raised Arwen with all the supports and boundaries that we could so that she would be able to  be the type of person who had the tools to pursue her dreams. And, by Gad! it worked! We have a lovely, talented daughter with a heart of gold¹, boldly yet calmly pursuing her interests at university… You can’t raise someone like that without soon realizing you are a fraud. How could I have so much expectations from Arwen when I my own were constantly suppressed? Thanks, Arwen, for helping me grow up.

I hardly know where to continue, but perhaps a looking back to early days would be best.

Sorry, this is going waaay back!

1960’s — Thanks to Jacque Cousteau, Daktari, Willard Price, National Geographic, Gerald Durrell, David Attenborough, David Hosking, South Africa and the myriad of other influences that inspired me toward a love of nature and imagery.

1970’s — Thanks to my Dad, who introduced me to photography and who gave me my first good manual reflex camera, a hand-held light meter and then left me to figure it out for myself. Everyone should start that way.

1980’s — Thanks to all the nature photographers and writers who shared their talents through books prior to the age of WWW. They inspired me to dream on.

1990’s — Thanks to all the excellent photographers who began to share their photographs and there skills freely through blogs, forums and galleries on the internet. They helped me grow.

2000+ —

  • Thanks to Heather Proctor and Richard Palmer at the U of A for inspiring me in my open studies courses.
  • Thanks to David Walter and Heather Proctor for taking me seriously when I couldn’t do so myself, and for prodding me to go outside my box. I will always appreciate that.
  • Thanks to all the contributors at AltaBugs  and AltaLeps who have helped and continue to help identify subjects in my photographs: John Acorn, Gary Anweiler, Charles Bird, Matthias Buck, James Glasier, John Hancock, Gerald Hilchie, Robert Holmberg, Greg Pohl, Janet Scott, Felix Sperling and all the many others who have contributed to bug ID’s and in being generally helpful with information over the years.
  • Thanks to the bug and macro photography bloggers and enthusiasts who have helped when I contacted them directly: Ted MacRae, Sean McCann, Piotr Naskrecki, Alex Wild, Lord V., Kurt Orion, and others…thanks for that and for the regular inspiration you still provide.
  • Thanks to the Entomological Society of Alberta, Greg Pohl and the 2012 JAM committee for taking the risk in allowing an ‘outsider’ to contribute. I hope I wasn’t too embarrassing or aggravating…
  • Thanks to Chris Buddle, Morgan Jackson and Tintin Crystal Ernst for inviting me on board the ESC-Blog. I have failed totally to take advantage of this opportunity in 2013, however I hope to correct this in the forthcoming year.
  • Thanks to Shelley Barkley and Scott Meers for inviting me to Brooks to lead a workshop there, it was a fun day that I think we all benefitted from. Shelley…thanks for kicking-off the workshop idea to begin with!
  • Thanks to Charles Bird for inviting me on my first butterfly count, taking me into his home and introducing me to Myrna Pearman at the Ellis Bird Farm. You are an inspiration.
  • Thanks to Myrna and the Ellis Bird Farm for inviting me to the Bug Jamboree and the following macro workshop. It was great being able to talk to bug enthusiasts, meet the other participants and show and sell prints. I hope we do this again!
  • Thanks to David Lawrie, Gary Anweiler and Shelley Ryan-Hovind for hosting the Devonian Botanic Garden Moth Night. It didn’t convert me into being a moth fanatic, but your combined knowledge and enthusiasm was inspiring none the less. Thanks for that magical night.

    Moth light, moth night. Devonian Botanic Garden

    Moth light, moth night. Devonian Botanic Garden

  • Of course, thanks to all the other non-buggy friends and family–you know who you are, and I can’t list you all–your support is much appreciated
  • And last but not least…thanks to Dan Johnson: ecologist, Alberta’s go-to guy for Orthoptera info and general all-round polymath. Your willingness to stand-up for reason , science and the environment when so many others prefer to stay safe in the background is inspirational.  Your broad interests and your devotion to your kids never cease to amaze me. Proud to know you.

When you stop to think of it,  a great community of support exists out there, and I am glad to be part of that community. Apologies to those I have missed.


¹And if anyone thinks this is merely the a proud father speaking, I would gladly send you the evidence from those who have taught her and worked with her… some are even on Video! 🙂

PS. Why am I doing this? No, I am not dying (at least not immanently, as far as I know), and I am not giving up! I just want to be able to do this while I have the chance. Have a great New Year everyone!

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Also posted in Alberta, Bugs, Canada, Diversion, Edmonton, Education, Entomological Society of Alberta, Insect, Inspiration, International, Joint Annual Meeting, Opal Natural Area, Overview, photography, Season, Winter Tagged , , , , , |

A Migratory Grasshopper One-hander

Grasshoppers can be a nuisance to photograph sometimes…

Melanoplus sanguinipes – migratory grasshopper

Melanoplus sanguinipes – the migratory grasshopper

Melanoplus sanguinipes (1 of 1)

Sidling ‘hopper


Even when you approach them as slowly and discretely as possible, you will find them sidling over to the other side of the stem–that’s if they haven’t already jumped and/or flown off. One solution to the sidling reflex is to carefully move a hand or an object behind the hopper (but out of the cameras field of view) to make it move into view again. That’s how I managed to photograph this migratory grasshopper down in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park earlier this year.

This illustrates another point: learning to use your macro-rigged camera with one hand gives you a wealth of opportunities to do something else with the free hand. That is why camera choice is important–find the camera that is comfortable in your hand when it is fully rigged for macro. For many people, that means a full-frame camera with a flash on a bracket and a long 150mm macro lens will be out of the question–it will simply be too heavy. Others may decide that an added battery pack may give the grip they need to solidify single-hand holding of a smaller camera. Sometimes it is easy to dismiss the weight because you can hold it for a single shot, but then imagine you are shooting hundreds of shots over a few hours (which many macro photographers do!)…how will your hand and arm strength hold up then?

Do yourself a favour: learn to one-hand your macro camera rig and it will open new opportunities for improving your success with macro photography.

More on what you can do with your spare hand in a future post!

Thanks to Dan Johnson for the ID. For all your prairie hopper ID’s please join Dan’s Orthoptera Facebook page. You can also download Dan’s pdf agri-booklet on grasshoppers for free!

(Images date: 16 September, 2013, 7:06 PM. Canon T2i with Canon EF 100mm f2.8 macro lens and diffused flash.ISO 200, 1/200 sec. @ f14)

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Also posted in Acrididae, Alberta, arthropods, Camera, Canada, Equipment, Flash, Insect, Lenses, macro, Orthoptera, photography, Prairie, Provincial Park, Season, Summer, Technique, Workshop Tagged , , , , , , |

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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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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