Posts tagged “insects and spiders

Crab Spider

Crab SpiderTo view more of my photography please click on

It is indeed a crabby looking spider. Not everything in nature is pretty some things just need to look mean to get their point across. This spider looks like he is wearing a clown mask, a pretty fearsome one. I found the spider wandering all around the point of this leaf, it stopped briefly but it was intent on going up and down over and under. It seemed he was looking for something that wasn’t there or maybe for something he could scare.

Crab Spider

Crab SpiderTo view more of my photography please click on

This is one of those occasions when someone says “hey look at that” and you swing your camera in the hope of capturing whatever it is.

That is exactly what happened here and I was lucky to get the shot before the spider sped off out of view. It looks like its spinning its web.

Normally given the very short timespan to get the shot it would be missed, but in this case I was taking macro shots and thankfully no big adjustments were needed. The narrow depth of field reflects what happens close up at f8.

The person who pointed the spider out to me said the season for these spiders was just beginning and that they would be plentiful in a week. If so I missed them. Looking forward to next summer!

A Common Problem

A Coomon ProblemTo view more of my photography please click on

You get in the habit of following an animal with your lens until just the right moment when you have an unobstructed view of the eyes and face. In the case of insects they do not always have the sense of place and situation we do and the photograph above is one of those results where you get everything you want except that your subject chooses to hang rather than chill (and for those about to suggest it, turning the photograph a 180 degrees looks even odder). Still it shows their industry!


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,  and ) 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  where entomologists professional and amateur review your photographs and help you identify the subjects. I read up on optics and formulas on 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 ). 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.

The Lepidopterist


Note: I have moved my photo galleries to Smugmug ( and I would welcome visits and comments.

One of the things I am enjoying about photography is the people you meet.

When I was out shooting my series on the Painted Lady butterflies:

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I came across a butterfly expert (my first Lepidopterist) identifiable by her net and notebook. The scene was almost Victorian and given the days I had spent in that garden figuring out the best way to take pictures of butterflies, I could not resist speaking to her.

It turns out she writes erudite articles on butterflies for scientific journals and was looking for some uncommon varieties of butterflies. I was, she told me, shooting one of the most common of breeds. At this time they were in greater than average number due to our record warm summer. It was her study technique that was intriguing. She caught the butterfly and took it to her car where the air conditioner was on high, thus cooling and slowing the butterfly down to the point where it could be studied without fear of it flying off. When she was done she would roll down the window and with the butterfly in her palm, let it warm up and fly off.

Noting that I was taking photos of butterflies and waiting for them to alight in interesting places she pointed out that they were addicted to salt and when they land on the ground between the flowers it’s hard to distract them as they pull salt from the sandy earth. She also pointed out that that is why a steady, but sweaty palm, will attract butterflies.

My rule is to take pictures of insects and animals in their natural state in the wild and I know from experience it’s frustrating. But is also nice to know as much as possible about the behavior of what it is you intend to photograph.  Her advice was vastly more useful than the earliest advice I had on shooting butterflies, which was to find a bush and wait for the beast.