An Australian weevil. I’d order this one as a 12×18″ print on lustre paper with the 3/4″ standout mounting.
Spring is here, the insects are waking up, and in honor of the season I’m having a sale. If you’re looking for a gift for your graduating entomologist, this is for you! Click on the link to visit the gallery:
Insect Print Sale!
Thirty images, including fifteen chosen by readers, are now available as high-quality art prints at up to 60% off my regular prices, starting at $3.99 for a 5×7″. The sale started yesterday-we’ve already sold 20(!)- and will run until April 30th. International orders are accepted.
Now, some details.
I have partnered with Bay Photo Lab in California for printing. Bay’s color reproduction and paper quality is consistently excellent, better than I have been able to manage myself. In fact, I’m giddy every time prints arrive in the mail!
Bay’s options for mounting and framing are simple but good quality. I especially recommend the 3/4″ standout mount for the 8×12″ and larger prints. The mount has the effect of turning a photo into a museum-quality piece, and if you order a number of prints you’ve got your own gallery.
Paper choices are lustre and metallic. Lustre is standard, high-grade photo paper. Metallic is contrasty and luminous with more “zing”, and they are… well, metallic. Whites come out as silvery, for example. Personally, I find the effect a bit too much for most photos. The metallic papers perform better for a subset, such as the metallic beetle and the ants on black.
I am happy to sign prints for an added $25 (potentially more for international orders). Allow an extra week for delivery, as the print must be shipped here before I send it out. To order a signed print, just send me an email and I’ll put your order in.
Do let me know if you have any questions.
Dedicated insect photographers normally employ specialized macro lenses to focus on their tiny subjects. These can be pricey. My MP-E lens cost $900, for example, and my 100mm f/2.8 is $500.
But macro does not have to be expensive. Consider the effect of a single extension tube mated to a regular 35mm lens:
The Canon EF 35mm f/2 lens can focus this close, but no further.
The same lens on a 12mm extension tube allows for a macro shot approaching 1:1.5.
What is an extension tube? Continue reading →
[the following is a repost from the Scienceblogs network]
Polistes dominula, the European Paper Wasp, captured with an iPhone
As an insect guy, the first question I ask about any camera is: Can I shoot bugs with it?
To my great disappointment, the answer for most cell phones is no. Cell phone cameras are normally fixed to focus at distances useful for party pictures and street shots. Fixed-focus simplifies the mechanics of the onboard camera, but it also makes close-ups of small subjects impossible. Even Apple’s iPhone 3GS- which has variable focus- doesn’t focus quite closely enough do anything but the largest insects. So when an aphid plague unexpectedly hits town, to name one real-life example, I have to go home and haul out my camera bag. No easy snaps.
An unmodified Apple iPhone 3G depicts the same wasp shown at the top of the post like this:
As you can see, the plane of focus falls behind this barely-visible insect. That’s no good.
There’s a simple solution. A magnifying lens placed over the onboard lens will move the focus point close to the camera. With an insect sitting nearly on top of a small lens, the resulting image is magnified to impressive size. The home-made rig looks like this:
I used a $20 lens and some masking tape, but any hand-lens should do. This arrangement allows the iPhone to cozy right up for some intimate bug portraits. I’ve posted a sampling below: Continue reading →
What are all the black specks in this thistle head?
The prairie is covered this week in shining flower beetles (Olibrus, in the family Phalacridae). They are aggregating in nearly every composite flower head, with a fair number just floating about among the grasses. The adults feed on pollen, and their sheer numbers make me wonder if there will be enough pollen left over to perform the plants’ reproductive functions. Here are some shots from Meadowbrook park.
Scaling the stamens
Olibrus, up close
Canon EOS 7d camera
(top 2) Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens
ISO 800 f/5.6-f/10 1/160 sec
(bottom 2) Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens
ISO 100 f/13 1/250 sec
A perk of being at a major university is photographic access to the wild and wonderful diversity of insect research subjects studied by various biologists in the department. This week Andy Suarez returned from Ant Course/Borneo bearing live ant colonies. They were exported under research permits for studies of genome size and for the biomechanics of ant mandibles.
But the ants were also available for a leisurely photo shoot before being shipped down the science pipeline, so I spent Tuesday afternoon with my camera gear up in the lab pretending like I was exploring the jungles of southeast Asia. I even stole tropical leaves from the plant biology greenhouse to serve as rainforest backdrops. It was a reasonable facsimile, except for the air conditioning, internet access, and coffee shop up the road, of course. Sometimes I prefer my jungles to be civilized.
Anyway. The next few days I’ll be posting shots from the session. Borneo has some freaky amazing ants. Like this big-eyed hunting ant Harpegnathos venator.
Some day I’ll get to Borneo myself. My interest is certainly piqued now.
-more Harpegnathos photos here-
*update – ok, maybe not venator. Anybody need a taxonomic research project?
If you’ve spent time looking at my photo galleries, you’ll know most of my macro images are lit with an off-camera flash. While I’d like to claim that flash is my personal style, the reality is that flash is more convenient. Flash provides the control to take a consistently well-exposed photo in any place at any time of day. Images look exactly like I want them to, whether shot in the harsh glare of midday or the black of midnight.
Sunlight by itself, though, does marvelous things twice a day. At sunset and sunrise light goes sideways, leaving long gentle shadows. The quality of natural light at these times is superb for flash-free photography, and yesterday evening I went to Meadowbrook park with my 100mm f2.8 macro lens to capture the prairie as the sun went down.
Continue reading →
grass flowers: prettier than you'd think
This shot may look like it came from an exotic location, but in fact I snapped it not three hours ago in our prairie garden. The sideoats grama is flowering, and its tiny blossoms are positively buzzing with miniature halictid bees, each barely half a centimenter long.
Canon EOS 7D camera with a Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens
ISO 500, f5.6, 1/200 sec
diffuse overhead flash, handheld
In the comments, Ted observes astutely:
Okay, I have to ask – do you give your subjects a “bath” prior to photographing them? I’m thinking in particular of the caterpillar hunter – there’s not a speck of anything on him. I think I just figured out one of the keys to your superb photos.
I noticed a while back that insects shot in the home studio were a good deal dirtier than insects shot out in the field. How could this be?
Most insects are meticulously clean animals, constantly stopping to groom themselves and remove bits of crud from their bodies. In the wild I don’t as often encounter dust-encrusted insects unless grubbiness is a regular part of their natural history. And regardless, I feel a loyalty in those circumstances to capturing scenes as I see them rather than grooming them down to a cleaner abstraction.
The trouble comes when transporting insects to the studio. I use a vial or old plastic food container, usually with a bit of moist paper to keep the humidity at a healthy level. Confined to such a small space the animals have a harder time keeping up their standards of hygiene. Dust sticks to everything. Vials roll and tumble in transport. Paper fibers cling to body hairs. And the poor insects emerge from their trip looking rather more disheveled than when they started.
So yes. I almost always clean animals before the indoor shots. It’s a simple process. By holding a leg between my fingers I can keep an insect still long enough to give it a few puffs with the same air blower I use to remove dust from camera lenses. Or I just co-opt my aspirator by operating it in reverse. A couple seconds later the insect is clean and ready to shoot.
From some of my recent photos. Click on each to enlarge.
more below the fold: Continue reading →