"...mysterious and little known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions.”
E.O. Wilson (Biophilia)
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DISCLAIMERI am a photographer, not an entomologist. I do my best to have professionals assist in identifying the subjects of my photographs. However, positive identifications can not always be done unless the specimen is dead and viewed under a microscope. If you do find an error, or have doubts about the identification provided, please let me know in the comments or by email.
Tag Archives: Alex Wild
I have long admired the clean white backgrounds that studio photographers use to feature items for catalogues or advertising, or as produced for the Eyewitness educational series by Dorling Kindersley Books. Most have probably already seen the work of Alex Wild, with his excellent ant and insect photography, many skilfully done with a white background. Just a few months ago I heard of the work done by the Scottish photographer, Niall Benvie, who takes his studio into the field to photograph flowers, insects and arachnids. I wanted to start using this technique myself, on a macro scale, so I began looking for simple, portable solutions as a starting point. I had decided a plastic bowl would be ideal, because it would help confine the bug and be light and easily transportable. I found a translucent, almost white plastic bowl with a flat bottom at the local dollar store and it provided my first experimental ‘white’ studio.
The background is only one part of the requirements. Supplemental lighting is needed and for most moving bugs and that means flash. In the studio, the white box can be lit from the inside – directly or by bouncing; or from the outside through the white material; or by a combination of inside and outside lighting. My macro ‘white’ bowl is small so only light from outside and/or above will do. I found I obtained the best results by using the Lumiquest Softbox on my SB-600 flash as the sole light source – attached to the camera on a flash bracket. Examples of my first attempts can be found here and here. The gallery that follows show some recent photographs, where I attempted to photograph the smallest ants (2-3mm long) in my garden. I also tried a yellow/green bowl for some pictures – which attracted the uninvited guest you can see in the last frame – a winged aphid:
(Picture 4 in the gallery was taken with the white bowl nested in the yellow/green bowl – creating a green shadow.)
The bowl I use is not truly white, so I am still on the look out for an opaque or translucent plastic white bowl with about a 15 cm ( 6″) diameter and having a truly seamless, edgeless interior. The whiter your background at the onset, the less you will have to manipulate the photograph later. Glossy sides may cause some glare, but they also make it difficult for the subject to escape.
A bowl is one solution, but anything white will do at a stretch. Some, like Alex Wild, use white paper. I have also used white perspex and even bark from a paper birch, which was used for the pseudoscorpion in my header.
Part II will deal with a collapsible white box I have made to deal with larger and more active bugs…I call it, ‘The White Box For Larger and More Active Bugs‘ …coming soon the Bug Whisperer:)
N.B. Late addition – James Glasier, a MSc student at the University of Alberta has identified this as a Yellow Meadow ant (or a Volcano Ant, from the one entrance mounds it makes), a Lasius species, possibly L. neoniger or L. crypticus.
(Gallery images taken with a Nikon D80. Lenses were an old 50mm Zuiko lens reverse-mounted on a Tamron 90mm macro lens on a Kenko Pro 1.4x tele-converter)
- Carol Freeman – Photographing Endangered Species (nikonusa.com)
- The Jungleamongus: 5 Tips for Great Insect Photography (rsmithing.wordpress.com)