photography

Coming Soon: the Spring Print Sale

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You guys were tremendous during my first-ever insect print sale last December. You ordered several hundred prints, quite literally an order of magnitude more than I’d anticipated.

So I’m doing another one. The spring print sale will go online in mid-April with 30 selected prints discounted severely, starting at $3.99/each for a 5×7.  Here’s the new bit: this time I am crowd-sourcing part of the selection.

15 of the 30 images I’m leaving open for you guys to decide. If there’s a particular photograph you’ve been eyeing, let me know via email, facebook, or the comments below.

Trap-jaw ants, open and closed

trap-jaw ant
Odontomachus rixosus

A perk of being in Urbana is the accessibility of Andy Suarez’s University of Illinois ant lab. Yesterday, I borrowed a few of grad student Fred Larabee’s trap-jaw ants for a studio shoot. I was mostly aiming for stylized portraits like that above, but I couldn’t pass up capturing the ants with their trademark mandibles open and closed:

Odontomachus rixosus, mandibles open (top), with trigger hairs visible, and closed (bottom).

These and other new images are now posted in my galleries.

What’s the deal with trap-jaw ants? Have a look:

A tropical insect photo safari with Piotr Naskrecki, Thomas Shahan, John Abbott, and… me

belize_graphic2a

Ok, enough silliness. I have news.

I am positively tickled to announce our little BugShot family is expanding. Who have we added? None other than Piotr Naskrecki!

Piotr is a master conservation photographer, a katydid expert at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, author of “Relics” and “The Smaller Majority”, and a founding member of the International League of Conservation Photographers. I’ve long been a fan of Piotr’s distinctive wide-angle macro style. And now, he is bringing it to BugShot’s newest tropical workshop. I couldn’t be happier!

BugShot/Belize will be held September 22-29 2013 at the remote-yet-comfortable Caves Branch Lodge in Belize. We will be spending a week with army ants, orchid bees, glasswing butterflies, cave crickets, and countless other arthropod treasures. The safari will be a mix of entomological and photographic instruction, and in the tradition of BugShot each of the instructors brings a different talent. John Abbott is a talented high-speed action photographer, Thomas Shahan is an intimate portraitist, Piotr Naskrecki is a master of capturing arthropods in their habitat, and I do… something with ants, I think.

For more details, and to register: BugShot Belize 2013

Our last Belize workshop sold out within 2 weeks, so if you’d like to join us I recommend signing up sooner rather than later.

For a preview of our venue and event, here’s a slideshow:

[portfolio_slideshow]

For an in-depth look, I’ve uploaded more photos to the BugShot Belize Gallery.

I hope to see many of you there!

Microstock photography, pest insects, and copyright

royalty_free_ant_pictures

I enjoy the dubious distinction of being the most infringed photographer I know. Every week I send at least a dozen takedown notices to commercial entities using my photographs without permission. I’ve sent one this morning already. My photos end up in youtube commercials, on coupons for pest services, in website banners, in company blog entries, on product labels. If every commercial infringer paid my usual commercial rates, I calculated once, I’d be making a comfortable 6-figure annual salary.

Of course, not every infringer has the budget for my standard rates, and that might explain why they take without paying.

The trouble is that the photography market isn’t a single market. It is several distinct markets- an art market, an editorial market, a microstock web market, and others- each with its own culture and pricing structure. I sell primarily to magazines & textbooks, I sell at market rates (typically $60-$400/image), and I have few if any infringement problems in that market.

My pest images could also be sold in the cheap and fast microstock market. This new arena includes the folks who create local exterminator websites and who are used to paying a few cents to a few dollars for an image. Web designers think $100 for an image is insane, even though publishers routinely pay more than that. I’m not going to price my regular photos down out of the market that sustains me just because web designers trained on microstock think I’m nuts. That’d be professional suicide.

I can, however, run an experiment. What if I take a pile of forgotten, unused photographs and offer web-resolution versions at microstock prices? After all, the images aren’t doing any good gathering dust on my hard drives.

The graphic at the top shows 21 of the most common pest ants in North America, covering the bulk of my infringement headaches at the species level. None of the images appear in my regular galleries. For a variety of reasons they did not make the cut for my high-res work, but as small 400-pixel pictures they’re great for display in a blog post. The whole pest ant composite can be downloaded as a royalty-free stock image for $34.95. This works out to under $2 per ant.

Will anyone license this graphic? Beats me. But it’ll provide insight as to whether infringers take my images because they can’t afford them, or because they’re just very, very bad people*.

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Individual ants in the graphic appear at this resolution.

*Kidding! I’m just kidding! Many infringements stem from a widespread misperception that anything on Google is public domain. 

A decade of photographing

Ten years ago I bought my first digital SLR, a 6-megapixel Canon D60. I wasn’t good at it, but my lack of skill didn’t deter me from carrying the new camera all over California to photograph ants anywhere I could find them.

I still discover forgotten gems hidden among the archives. This 2004 photograph shows myrmecologists Brian O’Meara and Phil Ward on a collecting trip to Mojave National Preserve.

Last day to pick yourself up a holiday sale print!

Just a reminder that my 80%-off holiday print sale ends this evening. I’ll be pulling down the gallery at 6pm EST, so this is your last chance (for a few months, anyway) to snag an Alex Wild original for as little as $2.99 for a 5×7″. You’ll still be able to order prints after today, of course, but at the usual prices.

My photo lab made at least one error during the sale, and fortunately it was for an order I placed myself. Expecting a giant print of a spider, I opened the package to find a lovely HDR photograph of someone else’s pickup trucks. The lab sent me the correct print straight away- great!- but someone out there on the other end of the swap must have gotten a big surprise. I hope they weren’t overly arachnophobic.

Anyway, please contact me if you had similar troubles, as the sooner I know the sooner I can get you the right print.

And, thanks for your support! I still have a hard time believing how much interest all of you showed in my photography. We’ll certainly be doing this again!

*update* – sale done! Thanks guys!

Show us your best science/nature images of 2012!

Over at Compound Eye I am collecting a list of everyone’s “Best-Of” 2012 science/nature photographs. If you’ve got a blog or gallery with your own favorites from the year, let me know by email or comment and I’ll share it with readers of the Scientific American blogs:

If you are a science or nature photographer and you have made a Best-Of-2012 selection of your own work, blogged your best effort, facebooked your favorites, or otherwise reported your prime cuts in an online medium, share your link in the comments!

Alternately, if Sci Am’s comment system is giving you trouble, you may email your link to me ( alwild -at- myrmecos.net ) with “Sci Am 2012 Best” in the subject line.

The rules are as follows:

  1. The subject matter must cover a science/nature theme.
  2. The work must be your own.
  3. The content must be hosted publicly online – lone photos emailed to me won’t be considered.

Once a sizable list has accrued I will curate your links in a new post. I know many of you are brimming with talent- I am excited to see your best!

(link)

The 5 most popular photos…

…according to what we’ve been shipping out during the insanely-discounted Holiday Print Sale:

The only image that hasn’t sold yet is the bed bugs. Not even as an irony gift.

Since I am an ant photographer, I’ve been a little surprised that only 1 of the top 5, and 4 of the top 10, are ants. Perhaps I should read that as a call to diversify.

Sale prints start at only $2.99, and the sale will go until January 1st.