Failed Photography: The Worst of Myrmecos

[I’ve been getting plenty of fan mail recently. So I thought I might stem the tide by reposting The Worst of Myrmecos, from 2008]

I have thousands of absolutely awful photographs on my hard drive. I normally delete the screw-ups on camera as soon as they happen, but enough seep through that even after the initial cut they outnumber the good photos by at least 3 to 1. Here are a few of my favorite worst shots.

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Thinking that nothing would be cooler than an action shot of a fruit fly in mid-air, I spent an entire evening trying to photograph flies hovering over a rotting banana. This shot is the closest I came to getting anything in focus.


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That’s a nice finger in the background. It’s mine, you know.


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Imagine how much fun it is to shoot Australia’s most painfully stinging ants, only to discover later that one of your arm hairs was in the way for most of the key shots.


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I love photos of ants. Most of you love photos of ants. But this shot of a small brown ant on brown dirt doing nothing is hands-down the most boring photograph I’ve ever taken. The fruit-fly at least had potential as abstract art. This, not so much.


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The contorted front legs of this tiger beetle are the giveaway that I’ve just pulled it half-frozen from the fridge in an effort to slow it down. Yet, I still didn’t get the head in focus, so it looks both dead and blurry.


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Speaking of that fresh-out-of-the-freezer look….


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Dramatic shots of gliding Cephalotes ants only work when you get the ant in the frame. I’ve got hundreds of these- this one at least has most of the ant in it.


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Hmmm… Ants? I think.


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I’m not sure which is more pathetic: the fact that I wanted to photograph a dead velvet ant, or the fact that I thought putting it on some sand would make it look alive.

18 thoughts on “Failed Photography: The Worst of Myrmecos”

  1. From what I read, I am the least knowledgeable reader of this site. I know nothing of photography or ants, but I enjoy reading about them.

    Are many of the ants you photograph dead? I know many of the photos include staging, but I hadn’t considered that they don’t have to be alive.

    1. The only dead ants in my galleries are the obvious ones.

      I will, as a last resort, occasionally stick an ant in the freezer for a few minutes to slow it down (this is about 5% of my white-background ant shots). But usually the resulting photos look wrong.

      The velvet ant, on the other hand, was genuinely deceased. On that day I was shooting a series of several living specimens in the lab (here’s a sample from that session). One of the insects expired before I got to it. Yet that didn’t deter me from trying, apparently.

  2. The little brown ant appears to be Nylanderia faisonensis depositing trail pheromone on a weathered board. I love it – Awesomely cool!

    (See, you just can’t bate the enthusiasm of die-hard fans.)

  3. Love it! I’m so happy you posted these so the rest of us mere mortals feel a little better about the number of out of focus, cruddy photos we take. It’s always good to know that even a pro, at least occasionally, takes some less than perfect shots!

  4. @TheGoodMan: Heck, practically the only thing I know about ants is that they’re Hymenopterans and a great example of kin selection for altruism … but I also love this site šŸ˜€

  5. That gave me the giggles! I hope you post more in the future. And, p.s., this entry just made me fangirl you even more. šŸ˜‰

  6. I actually liked the “fresh out of the freezer look.” But maybe it was the other shots leading up to it. LOL!

    Thanks so much.

  7. šŸ™‚ Thanks for the laughs! I just spent 2 hours sitting in the dust of a riverbank, trying to photograph very active solitary bees–with out much to show for it.

    Misery loves company… šŸ˜‰

  8. Would you please help me with a website or any group concerned with butter flies classification. i have a wonderful collections of them from South Sudan although i know nothing about their classification……?

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