A Final, at least for now, word on Insects and Bugs
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Entomologists find it hard to identify an insect or spider unless the view is top down or side on. Not taking an entomological approach has the advantage of giving you more latitude in what is in focus (in that a smaller portion can be in focus). Put another way, our focus is our point of interest and the shallow depth of field highlights that focus.
Insects and spiders are ruthless war machines; they use chemical warfare, camouflage and lots of other techniques to survive. This means getting familiar with how to protect yourself from bites, ticks etc. Camouflage makes some insects not just hard to see but sometimes misleading as to which end is up or down. In some cases they may have more than one eye, but in cases where they have only two they may be hard to find. Therefore, a little study can help to figure which side is up.
Some insects have compound eyes or they may be “liquid” filled. In the former this means challenges for your lighting and in some of my photos what appear to be irises are in fact reflections of my flash off a portion of the compound eye. In the case of “liquid” eyes (this phenomenon can occur in dragon flies) getting the eyes in focus is impossible. Your focus might be better a few millimeters back.
Getting eye level with a bug is a challenge if the bug is skittish. Knowing how the bug behaves helps. Damselflies and some other insects get skittish, fly away and return to the exact same spot! Some spiders, grasshoppers, cicadas, and beetles freeze and hope you will not notice them. Other times it is just a matter of moving very slowly. Ants pose a real challenge, as in addition to lifting many times their weight they can sprint like Olympians. Insects and spiders in general move more slowly in the cooler parts of the day.
Some people prefer handholding their macro rig (light camera etc.) others use a tripod. For static ambush type bugs, a tripod is certainly easier. You can buy (not cheap) a focus rail for a tripod. This enables fine tuning your focus by moving your camera very slightly and precisely. Another useful tool is a “plamp” – that tool to hold a branch or plant still, usually by attaching it to your tripod or a stick in the ground (expensive if bought, can be jerry rigged). Something large and stiff like a piece of cardboard will help block the wind and breezes.
You may have guessed that the above paragraph points to the real challenge of photographing bugs. Blocking the wind, stabilizing your camera rig, and the branch/bush your subject is on becomes the challenge even before we compose the picture. You can shoot at higher shutter speed, especially with flash, but there are trade-offs. With flash, light fall off may mean darker backgrounds; higher shutter speed without flash means higher ISO, and higher ISO may mean more noise.
Ah yes but when it all comes together, now that’s satisfying, dirty knees and all.