Insects a Challenging but Rewarding Subject

posted on 7th of may, 2009

Insects are an especially challenging subject to photograph for several reasons. They're small and flighty, which poses a need for balance between depth of field and fast shutter speed while trying to get close enough for a full-frame shot without startling the subject out of its momentary repose.

For the butterfly pictured, a Zephyr Anglewing (Polygonia gracilis zephyrus) subspecies of the Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis), I found such a balance by taking advantage of the bright midday sunlight. I set the ISO to 400 and used a 75-300mm telephoto lens fully-zoomed to 300mm. I set the camera to shutter-preferred setting with a shutter speed at 1/320 second, which maintained an aperture around F/13. A faster shutter would have necessitated a wider aperture that would result in a limited depth of field, while a broader depth of field would make the shutter speed too slow for maintaining stability, and hence a sharp, stable shot. A monopod provided additional stability. A +0.3 step exposure compensation was perfect for my Canon EOS 40D. Of the 93 shots I took of this butterfly (all within about 3-4 minutes), I picked the best five for submission to Dreamstime.

The Broadnose Weevil (Dyslobus) was a different story. After finding it inside my house, I placed it on my tabletop mini-studio for photographing, where lighting was more controlled and special macro-lens attachments were used.

The most interesting, and probably the most gruesome, was the Robber Fly (Proctacanthus occidentalis) that I captured through the lens while it processed one of its victims, an unfortunate bee. I found it in flight while I was walking on a hiking trail. I followed it to where it landed, then laid down on my stomach to get a ground-level shot of the insect from about 10 inches away as it slowly devoured its lunch.

Robber flies attack and devour other flies, beetles, butterflies and moths, various bees, dragonflies and damselflies, Ichneumon wasps, grasshoppers and some spiders, by injecting them with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which paralyze and digest the insides. The robber fly obtains its nourishment by sucking out the resulting fluids. [Source: Wikipedia]

For a different effect, I photographed this water strider, not so much for the insect itself, but more for the interesting ripple pattern it made on the water as it skimmed along its surface.

This Giant Lacewing (Polystoechotes punctata), measuring 2 inches long, was found on a co-worker's back inside a manufacturing facility at the Bend Municipal Airport, 7 miles east of Bend, Oregon, October 9th, 2008.

Below are other exceptional examples of insects.

© Bulus (Help)

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Photo credits: Wenbin Yu, Fouquin Christophe, Tibor Fazakas, Jeridu, Jun Mu, Dana Kenneth Johnson.

About me

Dana Kenneth Johnson is an independent freelance photographer and writer living in Gowen, Michigan, and specializing in photographing toy cars and die-cast models, animals and wildflowers, scenic landscapes and nature details.

Gowen, Michigan, US

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