Showcase 2021 Winner: Steven Long

“Zebra Longwing Caterpillar on Passionflower Vine with Empty Egg Case,” Clermont, Florida, 2021 Showcase, First Runner-Up, Macro/Micro/All Other © Steve Long
“Zebra Longwing Caterpillar on Passionflower Vine with Empty Egg Case,” Clermont, Florida, 2021 Showcase, First Runner-Up, Macro/Micro/All Other Wildlife © Steven Long

Artist’s statement

In macro-photography of insects, one often has to choose between science and art. Making a bug pic artistically appealing is a special challenge probably because many of us simply find bugs creepy. (Why doesn’t my wife want to hang this great spider photo in our bedroom?)  Both the art and science are legitimate approaches, and each has its place. Macro photography of insects becomes special when we can capture the beauty without losing the functional and behavioral detail. My goal is to look at these tiny creatures in new ways from a different perspective; often that requires moving beyond the view we typically have – the back of a running bug just before we squash them with our boot. In this photo the empty egg case and emerged caterpillar come together with curve of the host plant in a special way that honors both the science and beauty of nature. 

How I got the shot

I had been documenting the lifecycle of zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia) butterflies, spending hours in front of this particular vine. I spotted the empty egg case in the minuscule spiral of the vine, and thought it would make an interesting shot.  Then I noticed the newly hatched caterpillar crawling into view. I snapped a few quick shots, hoping for the best. Fleeting moments like this are so rare in the field, and even harder to capture given the size (only a few millimeters) of the moving subjects, an unsteady photographer, and the credit card thin depth of field in macro photography. 

What I used

I captured this with my Canon 60D and MP-E 65 lens, at ISO 400, f/9, 1/125, with a Canon EM24 twin flash and a homemade diffuser. The final image was a stack of four separate images using Zerene Stacker.  

About me

My home is in Lady Lake, Florida. I have only been seriously shooting nature photography for the last five years and consider myself somewhere between a part-time professional and hobbyist. We live on some acreage and many of my shots come from here, but my wife and I regularly camp in state parks, which provide plenty of opportunities to find macro subjects. People often ask where I find the insects I photograph. My answer: just stop and look closely. They are all around us.  I also love to shoot lightning, landscapes, and larger critters when the opportunity presents.

Most of my adult friends are surprised to discover I was a pastor.  My Christian beliefs are a lens through which I see nature, and unashamedly so. In my latter teen years an acquaintance held up a dragonfly and said, “Doesn’t it look like somebody made it?”  That moment shattered my worldview as I thought to myself, “It really does.” In my photography I strive to show both the intricacy and beauty that most people overlook, especially in the smallest members of our world. Anything that is unusual or rarely seen grabs my attention. 

My photographic journey

A few years ago I took pictures of all sorts with a cheap point and shoot camera. My wife suggested buying a better camera. Not long after I saw bug eye photos on the internet and thought, “I want to learn how to do that!” On a whim, I emailed Alex Wild (an ant entomologist and prolific bug photographer). I was surprised when he responded, and I did an online lesson with him. I then attended several Bugshot workshops with Alex, Piotr Naskrecki, Thomas Shahan, and John Abbott. These lessons have made a huge impact on all of my photography. 

NANPA and me

I have been NANPA member for since 2016. This is my first Showcase competition.

Learn more

Website: https://stevenlongphoto.com
Facebook: @Steve.Long.319

See more of Steven’s images

  • Zebra Longwing Caterpillar on Passionflower Vine with Empty Egg Case, image by Steven Long
    Zebra Longwing Caterpillar on Passionflower Vine with Empty Egg Case, Clermont, Florida, 2021 Showcase Judges' Choice, Macro/Micro/All Other Wildlife © Steven Long