"...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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© Adrian Thysse and Splendour Awaits, 2009 - 2015.
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DISCLAIMERI am a photographer, not a biologist. 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 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: Darkling beetle
(N.B. 12 Nov 2013. I now use this white box.)
Due to overwhelming popular demand (thanks, Ted!) I have been discussing how I make bug images with white backgrounds without the need of tedious PhotoShop work. In the first part of this series, I showed just how easy it is to produce a white background with the use of a bowl, or paper, or even birch bark. In fact it is so simple that some may have been questioning my sanity that I posted an article on the subject at all. After all, white backgrounds are easy – it is getting your subject onto the background and keeping it in focus that is difficult! To that end I made a white box that confines¹ the subject but still allows access for the camera lens. It is cheap, collapsible, light-weight and suitable for in-field use. While the bowl was a studio for photomacrography, the size of this white box is more suitable for close-up work.
The material I used was white Tenplast (or Coroplast), a cheaply available material often used for temporary signage and found at most hardware stores. Because I anticipated the chance that I may want to change background color, or that the box may become dirty with use, I based my design on a sheet of 11 x 17″ paper (‘B’ size or tabloid), which I use to line the bottom of the box. The paper curves nicely at the back much like a studio scoop (or ‘shooting table‘), and it hides the lower edge. The box tapers towards the lens portal, which provides a bit of inducement for the critters to stay on their side of the box. Below, the box is opened up, you can see the pattern I used. Tenplast is twin-walled corrugated plastic and easy to cut with a hobby knife. I cut through one layer only to allow the box to fold into shape easily. The walls of this prototype model are held in position by pins and an elastic band, which will be replaced by adhesive velcro tape when I make the ‘production’ model.
The box can be used for low angle shots through the portal, and for higher angle shots from above. If your subject is a flier or jumper, a clear sheet of plexi can be laid across the top to prevent escape. While the box can be back and/or side lit with flashes, I have found that a single flash in a softbox positioned above the box is sufficient.
The measurements for my whitebox are 5″ (12.7 cm) wide at the narrow end, 11″ (28 cm) at the wide end, 14″ (35.5 cm) long and walls 5″ high. The lens portal has a diameter of 3¼” (8.3 cm). Of course, the size can be enlarged or decreased according to your own requirements – just keep in mind the lens-to-subject distance of your own particular close-up or macro lens. Refinements to consider would be adding a sleeve for the lens so that the portal is effectively blocked, and using curved rather than right-angle walls.
I am sure that many will think of refinements for this design – if you do pursue this project in someway, please share your design and your results. Others may arrive at simpler, more practical solutions – let us know!
After production is simple, any basic photo-editing program will do, including the free Picasa. It requires boosting the hi-lights to hide seams and weaken shadows, erasing specks and then playing with contrast and colour saturation until you have the picture you expect. The darkling beetle above and the centipede in the previous post were taken in the white box.
¹ I hope that anyone who pursues this type of project will keep the welfare of the subject in mind. Don’t photograph the model for too long. If it doesn’t settle down quickly, release it before their agitation causes them damage. When you release them return them to where you found them. Keep in mind that many arthropods, especially those found in humid environments (and that can mean those found under stones or in the earth) can desiccate easily and should not be exposed for too long.
- The Sun Shines On The Righteous! (andrewskelton.net)