Female Flower Fly
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This is a fly only its mother could love, it is just plan ugly and hence a little black background (from the fall off of the flash) compliments her murderous appearance and specifically what appears to be a sagging serrated jaw. In other words a captivating or dramatic subject can sometimes make the background irrelevant.
I queried bugguide.net on this beast and was told it was most likely “a female Hydrophoria lancifer, a European species introduced c. 1920 that has become common in human altered habitats near wetlands.” In short it is another harmless flower fly. I have had no luck in determining any more history or what “introduced” means, but it most likely landed in some shipment coming from Europe. The human altered wetlands makes sense, this photograph was taken between the site of a now demolished power dam and a new water treatment plant (construction of the first created an artificial ridge on the river side and the latter a lake).
Trying to find out more on-line led me down a dark and confusing taxonomy hole. This fly is a member of the “flower fly” family (Anthomyiidae). Several members of this family specialize in specific plants (just like butterflies and some bugs do). Identifying wild flowers with the guides I have found is not a whole lot easier than doing the same for insects. But it opens the door to new avenues to explore (e.g. find the plant, find the animal, or vice versa).
As for the technique behind the photograph, I was still experimenting with diffusion of flash. There is a small soft box that covers the flash that is on an arm off to one side and above the camera, that softbox has modified the light to make it more like a cloudy day and overpowered the daylight. There are no blown out highlights. The flash is off to one side avoiding unrealistic shadows and highlights.
In the end it’s a highly detailed picture of a fly. The same fly could land on our palm and we would not see this detail, this is the wonder of macro photography.