alexwild

Dung Beetles on the Cover!

I am extremely pleased to have had the opportunity to custom-shoot a cover for this week’s Science magazine:

The research comes from Armin Moczek’s lab at the University of Indiana, known for pioneering studies on the evolution of novel structures. In this case, they figured out that horns are built by co-opting gene networks normally involved in wing development.

To produce this cover, we created dozens of alternate compositions, species, and concepts, including live beetles and focus-stacks of preserved specimens. Which I’d love to show you, but they’re contractually under wraps until the new year. Bear with me…

On the Cover of Current Biology

I am extremely pleased that Current Biology has featured my focus-stacked yellow fever mosquito on this week’s cover!

This image challenged me. The small size of the animal required a motionless (=dead) subject for focus-stacking dozens of input photographs. But mosquito bodies are so delicate, so fragile, that they dry out and collapse in a matter of minutes. I burned through a few samples getting the lighting and levels right before finally nailing this one.

The cover accompanies new research from Joshua Raji et al in Matt DeGennaro’s lab showing how mosquitoes find us using our stinky acidic volatiles.

BugShot returns to California – May 9-12, 2019

I am very pleased to announce my return to the fabulous BugShot photography workshops!

This May we’ll be in the stunning Anza Borrego desert in southern California, a landscape that typically resembles Mars but in rainy years bursts into a flurry of life and color. And this has been an exceptionally rainy year! We expect a full buggy explosion.

Click to register.

BugShot is now eight years old. What started as a one-off weekend course in St. Louis has grown to an international community of nature and photography lovers. If you are already part of our community, we’d love to see you again! If you are new, we’d love you to join!

Winter Ants Testing the Boundaries

Following my gallery opening last week in Minnesota, I was privileged to spend a couple hours poking around at Macalaster College’s beautiful Ordway Field Station on the banks of the Mississippi. Fall had advanced suddenly and the temperature was too cold for much insect activity. Of course, the ubiquitous cool-tolerant winter ants, Prenolepis imparis, were foraging.

Along the trail we happened across an unusual sight. About 100 ants in a cluster on the forest floor, moving cautiously around each other, sometimes lunging with open mandibles, sometimes cautiously tasting other ants, moving from ant to ant.

I am not 100% certain what they were doing, but the scene looked a great deal like the ritual battles known from other ant species. When two ant colonies meet, they sometimes estimate each other’s strength by engaging in a bit of pushing and shoving, apparently tallying the size and number of the opposition. This behavior is thought to allow them to retreat in the face of a stronger opponent before matters escalate into loss of life (see this 1981 work by Bert Hoelldobler for an example from honeypot ants.)

 

Photo details- Panorama: iPhone

Macro photos: Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens on a Canon EOS 5D Mk IV, f/13, ISO 200, 1/200sec, diffuse twin flash.

Myrmecos in the Twin Cities

Click to view large!

Here’s something unusual: an actual gallery of printed, high-quality Alex Wild prints!

Where is this rare beast? In Minnesota:

Smail Gallery – Olin-Rice Hall, Macalester College
Saint Paul, Minnesota
September 2018 to August 2019

As you may know, I am a digital creature. I do not often translate my files into physical prints. But my streak of lasting a decade as a pro photographer without staging a large showing has broken. Macalester College in Saint Paul has worked with me over the past few months to bring you “Ants: Alien Civilizations Among Us“. It features 70 of my pieces on metal or canvas, including a giant panoramic focus-stack I created specifically for the showing.

800 individual photographs were composited in a stacked micro-panorama of Messor cephalotes, an African harvester ant.  I created this nearly 5-foot wide piece, printed on a metal plate, exclusively for the Smail gallery. 

At the gallery’s heart is the Diversity Wall. Ants from all over the world, photographed alive and scaled proportional to actual size, are printed on high-quality aluminum plates and interspersed with softer images on canvas of ant scientists working. The effect surpasses even what I had planned. It looks stunning!

A few ant action shots.

The gallery is located in the atrium of Macalester’s science building, Olin-Rice Hall, and will remain until August 2019. If you are in Minnesota this year, I encourage you to have a look.

Facebook

At 10:15 this morning I deactivated my facebook account. I’ve had the account for over a decade. No more.

I can no longer in good conscience participate in a company whose actions- wittingly or no- have served to increase social and political ills around the world.

What could replace the facebook-sized void, which isn’t really a void since I don’t use it much anymore anyway? I don’t know, but let’s dust off this bloggy blog.