A Pursuit of the Insect World
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My interest in macro photography has led me to me to meet a number of entomologists and seize an opportunity to visit the Canadian National Collection (CNC) of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes (the latter is an amazing national treasure started in 1883 it has more than 16 million specimens).
In an earlier post I mentioned a number of sources that help me identify what I see, but more importantly I am on the path to knowing where to look for various insects and spiders. (Just to illustrate how ignorant I was I had no idea that spiders were not insects, and bees are related to ants.)
Many books on butterflies give examples of the kinds of bushes or plants that a given type of butterfly will find attractive. It is not always the case for other insects and local knowledge seems the key, hence my searching out and meeting entomologists and other nature types. They can help you discover, for example, that tiny (8mm) ambush bugs, like goldenrod and what damage they can do to you (painful but harmless injections etc.)
Most modern macro/micro lenses are only going to get you a life size shot which fill the frame with your subject, at its closest focus point. In other words the longer the lens the farther you are from your subject at your maximum magnification, which is a good thing if the insect is not pleased. You can shorten the focus distance and improve your magnification with extension tubes. I use a 105mm lens with Kenko extension tubes. As far as insects go you are probably as close as you want to be!
Strange things happen in macro photography, your depth of field becomes minuscule even at F11, and as you step down past F11, you can soften the photo by an optical phenomenon called diffraction. Secondly, light is at a premium and you will need some form of artificial light. In an early post I suggested where to go to learn about these things (especially how to create the tools yourself – an entomologist I know uses a pop bottle and some paper to focus his flash).
Photographing insects in the wild is challenging but fun and if you are lucky you get to meet interesting people like entomologists