Tag Archives: Alex Wild

The Week on Sunday #37

Welcome back to the Week on Sunday!


 Spiny Oak Slug by C.H. Ernst. Imsage used with permission.

Spiny Oak Slug by C.M. Ernst. Image used with permission.

♦ LOOK! The BugGeek is reborn, with a dazzling new photographs of one of the most bizarre buggy sights you are ever likely to encounter! This caterpillar is so ridiculous that it got me to pick up my camera (and a short tale about teaching).”  I am thrilled to see Crystal back and hoisting a camera once again!

♦ And speaking of rebirth, Alex Wild’s blog Myrmecos has suffered a near-fatal crash.  He has had to rebuild his site, and he has come up with a new design. Want ot learn more about how Alex switched tracks from ant sicience to bug photography? Listen to a great interview on Age of Discovery Podcast by Adrian Smith that will tell you more about his firefly photography, piloting airplanes(!) and the origins of Myrmecos. Don’t miss this interview!

♦ Matt Cole does great macro work on the other side of the Atlantic – check out some of his jumping spiders – click to enlarge and take a close look at the highlights in the eyes. Can you guess what flash and diffusion system he is using? See the details of his system at Macro Flash Diffusion.

♦ Sunsets are a great to work with when it comes to making dramatic insect images. One of my most popular shots at recent exhibits has been the Sunset on a Bumblebee. The trick here is to balance the flash-output with the warm light of the sunset – go take a gander at how Ted MacRae handles it with his cool photo of a male Agrilus walsinghami preparing to bed down for the night.

♦ Now here’s a sequence! We often hear about the possible consequences of affinity when it comes to spider courtship. Now Sean McCann peeps in on the wooing of a pair of Cross Orbweavers, Araneus diadematusand it turns out to be a case of fatal attraction.(…for the spider, not for Sean!)

♦ Piotr Naskrecki never fails to delight with his photographs, taken on his world-wide travels as a photographer with the  International League of Conservation Photographers and in his role as an entomologist. Recently he visited (relatively) close to home and photographed another relict species – the fascinating Greater grig (Cyphoderris monstrosa) that he found in the Cascade Mountains near Seattle.Beautiful photographs and fascinating natural history.

♦ I think as macro photographers we all have to occasionally wrestle with the black bug of depression. Why do we continue with this often frustrating hobby/business when the world seems to be saturated with excellent bug photography? For myself, I go through this regularly. The best remedy: I recall my original motivation: bugs are fascinating! Then I go out and observe and photograph more bugs! For another perspective on photographic image overload (newly coined by me – let’s call it ‘PIO’), see: Why Bother? 



♦ Canada has bugs in amber too! Ryan McKellar and co. have a paper on a new trap-jawed ant from Canadian late Cretaceous amber. Read Chris Buddles’ interview at ESC-Blog to learn more about it, and see the paper available for free during the month of September.

♦ Now that’s old! Check out this 350 million years old fossil scorpion, from Gondwanaland, when Africa was still part of the super-continent  Pangaea.

♦ And to close, a brief video on the rare Grylloblattids, which hopfully still have populations here in Alberta. I will be in search of these soon…


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Posted in Alberta, Arachnid, Araneae, Autumn, Behaviour, Blog Link, Blog Roundup, Bugs, Canada, Insect, Inspiration, macro, National Park, photography, Season, Week on Sunday | Also tagged , , , , Comments Off

BugShot is Back!

Don’t miss this!

There can be no better place in the world to learn more about bug photography!

I, on the other hand, will be waiting for the video…

Click on the image for the BugShots‘ official website, and visit Myrmecos for more.

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Posted in Bugs, macro, photography, Web LInk | Also tagged , , , , , , Comments Off

Which Way to Go?

Bees on Echinops bannaticus 'Blue Glow'

Bees on Echinops bannaticus 'Blue Glow'

What better to do on these cold winter days than ponder the future?

In the past few months I have been viewing focus-stacked images by Thomas Shahan, Brian Valentine and Mark Plonsky (see MacroWeb page) that raised a niggling doubt in my mind. These photographers create amazing work with image stacking techniques — work of such high quality that when you see it for the first time it really does set you back on your heels. The doubt that arises is, “Why do I even bother?” These photographers have raised the bar on what excellent photomacrography is. Yet, the focus-stacking technique does have limitations: it requires a subject that is not moving and in the case of most photomicrography and all SEM images (see MicroWeb page), it requires dead subjects. This limitation leads to photographs that give detailed representations, but often tell us little about their lives or habitats or behaviour.

Despite their excellent work (and that of the myriads of other people now practicing bug photography), there is still room for new ideas, new methods and new subjects. What these photographers have shown is the level of quality that is achievable and that anyone entering the field expecting some sort of recognition will have to, at the very least, match that quality.

However, there are still new fields that can be approached. For instance, how many bug photographers out there are recording the fascinating aspects of insect behaviour? How many have moved beyond the craft and into art? What about the photography of insects in flight, or aquatic invertebrates or life cycles? Or macro panoramas? The field is still very open to explore new ideas and to create unique images.

One of the more inspirational of the photographer/bloggers out there is Alex Wild who writes at Myrmecos. Alex is a myrmecologist —  an entomologist who specializes in ants. His photography is not only technically supurb; it is also often highly creative. He has moved his photography well beyond a technical scientific record and into the art of photography. His science also gives him an insight into insect behaviour, which allows him to photograph aspects of the lives of his subjects of which most of us are not familiar.

I am amazed at the quality of the photography and the sophistication of the technique that can now be found on the web. I am not ready to throw away my macro gear just yet, but I have seen such brilliant work ‘out there’ that it has made me pause for a while to reconsider my own approach to photomacrography.

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Posted in Blog Link, close-up, macro, Microscopy, Technique | Also tagged , , , , , , , , 3 Comments

White Backgrounds – Part I

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)

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Posted in Arachnid, Equipment, Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Insect, macro, Technique | Also tagged , , , , , , , , 1 Comment