Showcase 2019 Winner Profile – James Zablotny

Showcase 2019 Top 100 winner: "Goldenrod Soldier Beetles," Owosso, Michigan © James Zablotny.

Showcase 2019 Top 100 winner: “Goldenrod Soldier Beetles,” Owosso, Michigan © James Zablotny.

Bio:

Jim Zablotny is an entomologist living in Fenton, Michigan and provides insect identifications and macro-photography for a government agency.  Jim earned an MSc in Zoology and doctorate in Entomology from Michigan State University.  While pursuing his college degrees, he also produced scientific and anatomical illustrations for several Zoology department faculty members at MSU.  He specializes in macro or close-up photography, but also incorporates the photography of birds and occasional wildlife images in his portfolio.

Your Name: James Zablotny

Title of Your Winning Image: Goldenrod Soldier Beetles

About your winning Showcase image:

1)  How I Got the Shot

On that day, I was working on getting some photos of dragonflies when the sun moved behind the trees and the odonates settled in for the night. I headed over to the north side of the pond and found wild carrot plants in full bloom.   Although not a native wildflower, wild carrot is favored as a nectar and pollen source for many interesting insects. I observed several soldier beetles resting along one edge of the flowers.  I set up the tripod and camera and rocked the camera back and forth into position for focusing. Using a fairly long macro-lens (180mm f3.5) helped soften the background and provided ample working distance so the soldier beetles were not frightened by my presence.  I captured the male beetle guarding the female from other males with an ideal background of out of focus white flowers.   Some fill flash brought out the yellow hairs on the beetles’ elytra. I did not realize how good this image was until I examined the RAW file later that night.

2)  What I Used

For macro work, I prefer to utilize long focal length lenses over anything shorter than 100mm. For the soldier beetle photograph, I used a Pentax K-5IIs and a Sigma 180mm f3.5 macro lens.  Additional fill light was provided with an off camera flash with a home-made concave diffuser.

This exposure was at 1/20th of a second with lens aperture set at f14 and ISO at 500.  The lighting was not ideal for capturing fast moving insects as you can see from the long exposure time.  Initial processing was done in Lightroom and final sharpening and dust removal was taken care of in Photoshop.

3)  About Me

I’m located in Fenton, Michigan and am a part timer regarding nature photography.  I work full time as an entomologist for a government agency.  I started working in macro photography in the early 1980’s. I visited Costa Rica with an old Pentax Me Super and a 50mm f2.8 lens.  It was an eye-opener and, with little money for the proper equipment, I improvised work arounds while out in the field. I remember finding a piece of discarded bell wire along one of the trails at Monte Verde and hot-wired a Minolta flash for off flash photography of a small tree frog.

I prefer visiting prairies and fens which have high species diversity in Michigan. For macro work, I enjoy photographing tree frogs, insects, and wildflowers.  Dragonfly images seem to be my best sellers.  Recently, I have been studying how to do high speed flash photography for hummingbirds and hope to revisit Costa Rica for some of the tropical species of birds and insects.

4)  My Photographic Journey

I have always been a fan of nature and became interested in birds at a fairly young age.  There’s always something new to see whenever I head out with the camera.

While in graduate school, I purchased John Shaw’s Closeups in Nature and learned the techniques of macro-photography from his writing and photos.  I also joined an online photo critiquing website (Nature Photographers Network) and began posting images.  Those critiques enabled me to refine and perfect my methods for producing better nature photographs.

5)  NANPA and Me

I joined NANPA in July, 2018.  I have not served in any volunteer capacity so far, but hope to become more involved in the near future. This is my first Showcase entry.

6)  Where Can People Learn More About You? 

I have many of my images available at https://jim-zablotny.pixels.com/  and please feel free to contact me at zablotn1@msu.edu.  I now have an Instagram account and can be reached at jameszablotny.

My NANPA Portfolio is: http://www.nanpa.org/portfolio/james-zablotny-2019/