Specialization and opportunism


Last summer I had some fun with taking macro shots of insects.  I sat in on a session with an entomologist and a professional photographer who has done a few books of insect photographs. Here on WordPress I followed a few people who take macro shots and entomologists who study and take photographs (such as http://beetlesinthebush.wordpress.com/, http://bugphoto.net  and http://macrocritters.wordpress.com ) but there are many, many others that focus on photographs of insects and spiders.

I found myself taking pictures of things I could not identify and discovered http://bugguide.net  where entomologists professional and amateur review your photographs and help you identify the subjects. I read up on optics and formulas on http://www.cambridgeincolour.com. Entomologists, mostly want lateral or top down shots (the better to identify animals). In my case I prefer portraits and to see the critters in context.

So I set my standards high in an area of photography where the challenges of narrow depth of field, lack of light, and need for a speedy shutter is important. My rules today are animals in context, not behind fences or in cages, at feeders, glued, pinned to a board or fast frozen. What this has meant is several days of effort on a single series of photographs, sometimes weeks (see my galleries on Ambush Bugs or Grasshoppers at www.rakmilphotography.com ). The variables that made it time-consuming were not just my ignorance in macro photography, but wind/rain, accessibility and a need for patience often in uncomfortable positions.

You have to find the little guys and most books and experts are far from clear on their habits etc. Once you find them, you need to think of their size versus your ability to get close and magnify; your ability to steady your gear and get light on subject. Then there is the skittishness of the bug involved. Think of Gulliver hanging over you with a menacing claw, and flashing light.

You need to know your subject, your gear and the circumstances in which you are going to work. There are lots of photographers who are entirely opportunistic and do a great job taking spectacular photographs even of bugs. There can be equal pleasure in taking the time to tell a story, providing more than one viewpoint, learning a new skill, and to do one series of photos well. Having been primarily an opportunistic photographer, I am now trying to build series (not just macro photographs), to stretch myself. I think it has been worthwhile and rewarding. Of course the penalty is never having the right equipment with you for all the things you might want to shoot.

6 responses

  1. I like your standards of not behind fences etc. – I just can’t bring myself to do it.


    February 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    • I hope to write later on ethics. But this point may have gone too far when what I meant was held inhumanely.


      February 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm

  2. Fabulous shot Victor and an interesting post!


    February 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm

  3. Thanks for the mention, Victor. I’d say off the top of my head wind is the biggest, or at least the most consistently present, problem in taking bug shots; patience is the biggest asset. Well, patience and wonder. Good read. I am hoping to become a bit more opportunistic outside of the bug realm myself.


    February 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm

  4. Nice shot.


    February 21, 2013 at 2:21 am

  5. Great shot Victor!


    February 21, 2013 at 8:27 pm

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