When most people think of wildlife photography, birds, large mammals, and possibly reptiles come to mind. But in the grand scheme of things, these are a small fraction of the picture. Insects and other arthropods constitute the vast majority of animals, both in numbers of individuals and numbers of species. These small creatures show huge diversity in anatomy and behavior, and make fascinating subjects for nature photographers. What’s more, they’re accessible. With millions of individual arthropods in a typical acre, you don’t have to travel far to find subjects. But photographing them requires different techniques than larger subjects. Here’s how I photographed a live centipede collected from my yard.
When possible, I like to photograph arthropods in their natural environment, unconfined. But that wasn’t going to be practical with this constantly moving specimen. I needed a way to keep it confined in a small area, rather than letting it run to the nearest shelter to hide. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have a helper who can gently stop a subject from running too far. This time I was working alone, and needed a containment device of some sort.
I had a small petri dish over which I could place a large clear photographic filter as a lid, and I put the centipede into this enclosure. Photographing through the optically flat filter gave a clear, undistorted image, and the glass dish let light in from the sides, while the filter was too heavy for the centipede to lift and escape. A ceramic plate made a white background.
Ferns – Multiple exposure with spin to highlight patterns and texture.
What does interpretive nature photography mean? Nature is nature, art is art, and never the two shall meet, right? For some, perhaps this is true. But only for those who have never walked in the woods, sat in a flower garden or watched the sun meet the day or settle in for the night. Or for those who have never stopped long enough to explore a dandelion or to watch a butterfly break free of its chrysalis. Nature IS art, in its finest and purest form. Capturing this essence is what nature photographers live for. It is what makes us unable to imagine doing anything else. It is what brings me peace, healing and joy. It is what pushes me as an individual to be present in the moment and to slow down long enough to see and feel and connect.
So, how do we do this and what do the results look like? Most of us begin our photographic journey with our eyes, hands and mind — seeing something, grabbing the camera and figuring out how to set the camera correctly. This is natural, as we need to see our subjects and to learn how to use our equipment to capture the moment. The sticky piece in this equation is “correctly.” True, technical knowledge is necessary. What is missing, and what makes our work express the “art in nature” is vision and heart. When we see and connect at the heart level, our work begins to shine, and what we share with the world resonates at a deeper level than a pretty picture. Continue reading →
A Metallic Green Bee (Augochloropsis metallica) visits a Black-eyed Susan.
Since Niall Benvie and I first developed Meet Your Neighbours in 2009 I’ve seen my fair share of amazing, beautiful and sometimes bizarre creatures. From the beginning, I’ve worked almost exclusively in the land that surrounds my home near the Southern Appalachians in upstate South Carolina, USA. Rather naïvely, I suspected that after a short period of time I would begin to run out of subjects to photograph but nothing could be further from the truth. Seldom does a day go by that I don’t see a creature or plant that I’ve never seen before in the wild, anywhere! As Piotr Naskrecki points out in his fantastic book The Smaller Majority, “Over 99% of life on Earth is smaller than your finger.” It’s little wonder then that the careful observer will be awarded with a lifetime of discovery.
Another rainy night rolls into the early morning hours, and I anticipate the end of the storm as the sunlight begins to break through the clouds. It is about 7:30am and the first glimpse of light beams through the thick blanket above. As it reaches ground level, the light reflects off of the colorful flowers in my garden, creating the most beautiful sparkling bed of jewels. Each time this happens, I am inspired to grab my macro lens and my tripod and head outdoors for a photo shoot.
I have always been fascinated by the magical images that can be created with water drops, reflections and refractions, so a few years ago I began experimenting with different ways of capturing this beauty in my garden or even in my home. The images below demonstrate a few of the techniques that I use for this type of macro photography:
The 7up Technique: For this image I filled a very clean glass with 7up (you can also use plain seltzer water). Then I inserted the pink gerbera flower in it while the bubbles were still very fizzy, and used a tool called the McClamp to hold the flower in place. After a few minutes the bubbles start to settle on the flower. I highly recommend using manual focus for this technique and it is also helpful to use a tripod and cable release to prevent any camera shake. Continue reading →